Ater a first Cuba cruise from Miami on April 19, Royal Caribbean International’s Empress of the Seas will sail to the island from its new homeport, Tampa. Bookings opened today.
The April 19 cruise from Port Miami lasts five nights.
The ship will then reposition to Port Tampa Bay, offering two itineraries with calls at Havana on April 30, a seven-night sailing, and May 20, a five-night sailing.
Empress of the Seas will remain in Tampa for the 2017 summer season in the line’s first summer program from there, with a series of four- and five-night cruises, including calls in Cuba.
Details of the summer itineraries will be released at a later date.
Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told Seatrade Cruise News the company has a framework for a long-term agreement with Cuba, and is working on the details of future sailings.
The line’s people-to-people experiences for passengers include exploring Old Havana and some of its most notable squares, historic neighborhoods and an artisan market, Havana’s rum museum and Hemingway’s former residence and favorite haunts.
Cuban culture will extend to Empress of the Seas, from cortaditos and café con leche in Café Royal to salsa music and other activities developed to bring the island to life during the entire journey.
Two other Royal Caribbean ships, Rhapsody of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas, will cruise from Tampa during the winter.
‘The Tampa Bay market has always been important to us, and the entire family at Royal Caribbean is excited to give our guests great year-round options to travel on one of our beautiful ships from a world-class port like Port Tampa Bay,’ RCI president and ceo Michael Bayley said. ‘We are thrilled to introduce culture-seeking travelers to Cuba from Tampa and we look forward to continuing to grow our business in Tampa for years to come.’
Port president and ceo Paul Anderson welcomed the news as ‘truly historic for Port Tampa Bay to have cruises to Cuba, and we are thrilled that Royal Caribbean has chosen Port Tampa Bay to offer the largest ship to sail to Cuba from the United States.’
The 48,563gt Empress of the Seas underwent a $50m refurbishment earlier in the year after coming back to the Royal Caribbean fleet following several years of service for Pullmantur. It has double-occupancy capacity for 1,602 passengers.