21 October, 2010
(6:45 a.m. EDT) -- Tropicana Cruises, a new cruise line, will start
services from Havana, Cuba on November 6 -- if it can fill its ship.
The Belize-registered company, which has offices in London and St.
Petersburg, has bought a vessel, set up its itineraries, obtained the
necessary certificates to operate, and cruised the vessel from France,
where it was based, to Havana, all in the space of a few weeks.
Now the challenge is to sell cruises, from a standing start, on the
maiden voyage, which departs in just over two weeks.
The vessel, the 4,490-ton, 300-passenger Adriana, is the former Adriana
III, previously operated by French line Plein Cap. It's an elderly ship,
built in 1972, with fairly basic facilities. But in Cuba, it's the
itinerary that counts and Adriana will sail from Havana to Cayo Saetia,
Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad and Hueva Gerona, all in Cuba, as well as
Ocho Rios in Jamaica, where passengers can board as an alternative to
embarking in Havana.
"Nobody really 'does' Cuba apart from one-day calls to Havana and this
is an opportunity to cruise all around the island and see the culture,"
a spokesman for the line told us today.
As well as choosing these fairly cutting edge ports of call, the
fledgling cruise line is taking a risk with its passenger mix. The
cruises will be marketed in Russia, as Russians have a strong affinity
with Cuba (many did their military service there and the island is
served by direct Aeroflot flights from Moscow). At the same time, the
Spain, German and the UK are being targeted.
The cruises will not be marketed in the USA as American citizens can't
visit Cuba without a license from the US government -- and there are no
direct flights from the USA to Cuba.
"We may break down the cruises so that we have a Russian week, then an
English-speaking week, and so on," the spokesman continued. This may be
essential to the line's success; whether Brits and other Europeans would
enjoy a cruise on which the majority of guests were Russian is
debatable, as there are strong cultural differences, not to mention a
Although plans for this new operation sound rather vague, and the maiden
voyage is, we're told by the line, far from full, specialist cruise
agents in the U.K. are enthusiastic about Tropicana. Kevin Griffin,
managing director of London-based The Cruise People, told Cruise Critic:
"The Adriana had developed a very good name in the French market where
she had been operating for Plein Cap since 1997."
Cruises are priced in Euros and will start from €785 per person for a
seven-night voyage, cruise-only, in a four-berth cabin (€995 in a
two-berth); not cheap when you bear in mind that Thomson sells a
fortnight on Thomson Dream with two days in Havana from £1,215 and Fred.
Olsen's three Cuban cruises, with two nights in Havana, cost from
£1,559, also including flights.
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