Saturday 4th December, 2010
Cuba is hoping to grow its cruise industry on the back of growing demand
and the arrival of a new ship using Havana as a home base.
The arrival of the 800-capacity Spanish cruise ship Gemini in the Cuban
port of Havana Bay may be a sign of better days ahead for the Cuban
cruise industry, which has suffered badly in recent years.
In 2005, Cuba was visited by 102,000 cruise passengers, but by 2007 that
figure had fallen to 11,000 and kept falling through 2009. Cuba has
never been a major Caribbean destination due in large part to the 1960s
US trade embargo.
The Caribbean cruise market is dominated by US cruise lines, notably
Carnival, and the US embargo forbids US companies from trading with Cuba
and prevents ships that have visited Cuba from entering US waters for
Cuba's cruise industry was therefore set back when the Spanish cruise
company Pullmantur was bought by Royal Caribbean Cruises, a US-based
company. This vastly reduced the countries cruise business as Pullmentur
was one of the only companies basing their cruises out of the Communist
UK-based Thomson Cruises has been using Havana as a home port for some
of its Caribbean cruises, but recently announced it would be relocating
to the Barbados in 2012.
However, the Gemini, run by Spanish start-up Happy Cruises, may replace
the lost business and lay the groundwork for future expansion.
Cuba earned US $2 billion from tourist revenue in 2009, making the
industry one of the primary means of hard currency for the isolated