Cruise lines say visiting Cuba by ship is safe

Three big cruise companies with itineraries that include calls in Havana said their ships are a safe way to visit the island, even though the U.S. State Department is warning Americans against going.

The warning is in response to illnesses reported by diplomatic workers in Havana attributed to some sort of sonic weapon. The attacks, which began last November, are thought to have occurred in residences or in a hotel that houses diplomatic personnel on temporary assignment.

In response, the U.S. government has withdrawn most of its diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Because some of the attacks occurred at a hotel, the government also warned tourists.

The government of Cuba has denied any involvement in the attacks, an assertion that hasn’t been challenged by the U.S.

Carnival Cruise Line sails to Havana from Tampa with its Carnival Paradise ship. In a statement, it said that it would continue its cruises to Cuba for the moment.

“While members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits,” the Carnival statement said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), which also takes passengers to Havana from Tampa on the Royal Caribbean International ship the Empress of the Seas, said it was aware of the State Department warnings.

“Since the warning is due to the events that occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens, we do not feel they pose a risk to our cruise passengers,” an RCCL statement said. “Our guests explore Havana on escorted tours and do not visit hotels.”

Norwegian Cruise Line, which visits Havana on its Norwegian Sky ship from Miami, said its cruises there continue to operate as scheduled.

“There have been no reported incidents involving tourists or other cruise ship passengers,” said a Norwegian statement that also noted incidents have been isolated to diplomats and government officials residing on the island. “Our shore excursions and tour locations have been thoroughly evaluated,” the statement continued. “We continue to believe that the best way to travel to Cuba is via cruise ship and look forward to continuing to offer our guests the opportunity to explore Cuba’s beauty, culture and friendly people.”

Asked about cancellations or a slowdown in Cuba bookings, a Norwegian spokeswoman said there was “nothing to note at the moment.”

Spokeswomen for RCCL and Carnival declined to comment on bookings.


Norwegian is still “a plus” on it!

Norwegian Star in Cabo san Lucas, Photo by Dave Jones

After the great success of Premium All Inclusive, Norwegian Cruise Line is now a step further and presents new Premium All Inclusive Plus. In addition to the existing inclusive services, guests of the international shipping company now benefit from five additional extras per cabin which are valid for selected cruises of nine days or longer:

  • 120 minutes telephone package
  • 250 minutes internet package
  • 50 USD credit for land excursions per port
  • Hotel vouchers of up to 80 EUR in selected ports
  • Flight vouchers up to 150 EUR

“We receive very positive feedback from Premium All Inclusive from our customers as well as from our sales partners. With the offer our guests always keep their costs in view and can concentrate on board so completely on their cruising experience. With Premium All Inclusive Plus, we are now creating further incentives for our long journeys, “said Christian Böll, Managing Director EMEA at Norwegian Cruise Line.

Premium All Inclusive Plus applies to numerous cruises in the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the Canaries, South America, along the Panama Canal and the Asia-Pacific region.

Premium All Inclusive
In addition to a varied dining experience and the spectacular entertainment program, Premium All Inclusive includes a wide selection of spirits, barrels and bottled beers, wines in the glass, various cocktails (each up to US $ 15) and coffee specialties in the restaurants as well soft drinks. Also the crew tip as well as drinking charges for inclusive services are included. There is also a bottle of water per person and day on the cabin.

With some Caribbean ports knocked out, cruise lines make wholesale changes

The cruise port in Nassau, Bahamas, has escaped hurricane damage. Photo Credit: Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have announced itinerary changes for cruises scheduled to depart into October that steer ships clear of storm-ravaged destinations in the eastern Caribbean.

The changes affect nearly half of Carnival’s fleet of 25 ships. The cruises, with departure dates ranging from Sept. 20 to Oct. 1, will visit ports in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic and sail to ports in the western Caribbean, including those in Jamaica, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and the Cayman Islands.

One ship, the Carnival Vista, will visit the southern Caribbean on an 8-day roundtrip Miami itinerary that includes La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Aruba and Curacao.

The Carnival Paradise will offer a five-day roundtrip Tampa cruise departing Sept. 25 that overnights in Havana.

Other affected ships and their departure dates are: Carnival Ecstasy (Sept. 20), Carnival Sensation (Sept. 21 and 30), Carnival Splendor (Sept. 23 and Sept. 30), Carnival Conquest (Sept. 24), Carnival Magic (Sept. 24), Carnival Pride (Sept. 24 and Oct. 1), Carnival Victory (Sept. 25) and Carnival Glory (Sept. 30).

Carnival said the Sept. 24 cruise of the Carnival Fascination, which sails from San Juan is contingent on the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday. Carnival said it will continue to monitor the hurricane and will confirm the itinerary once a post-storm assessment has been completed.

Royal Caribbean said that it will skip Key West on departures of Empress of the Seas through Oct. 11, but that it plans to visit Havana as scheduled on Empress departures that have it as part of the itineraries.

Five Royal Caribbean ships have modified itineraries to substitute other ports for stops in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Key West.