Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

A veteran travel editor recently lamented to me the expense of cruising to Cuba, and wondered why it is so pricey.

There’s no doubt that at this stage, the choices for cruising to Cuba are not cheap.
For example, Vacations by Rail’s recently announced Cuba by Rail & Cruise itinerary, which involves two days of rail travel and a 10-day cruise around Cuba, was priced starting at $5,353 per person.

Part of it is the odd rules that govern U.S. tourism to Cuba. They almost require that cruise lines include shore excursions in the price, which is not customary in the contemporary cruise segment, where prices are cheap.

The underdeveloped ports in Cuba also accommodate small ships, which don’t benefit from the economies of scale that help make fares cheap on a Carnival or Royal Caribbean ship.

Cuba is becoming well supplied with cruise options in the 49- to 200-passenger range, but for bigger ships being marketed to Americans, the choice boils down to Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand, which isn’t yet sailing, and Cuba Cruise by Celestyal, which starts its seasonal cruises in December.

The Cuba Cruise begins at $1,263 for an inside cabin on a seven-night cruise during low season aboard its 960-passenger Celestyal Cristal ship. Fathom’s rates begin at $1,800 for an inside cabin during its off-peak cruises on the 710-passenger Adonia, starting next April.

While researching another story recently, I came across a 1929 newspaper ad for a Cunard Line cruise to Cuba aboard its 1,550-passenger RMS Caronia.

The fare for a 13-night New York-Havana roundtrip cruise was advertised as $210; adjusted for inflation, that cruise would be priced at $2,922 today.

Now compare that to an upcoming Queen Mary 2 cruise, which covers six Caribbean ports from New York over the same time frame. Cunard still lists space on the Nov. 12 departure with an inside cabin starting at $999.

The only hitch is that Havana is not among the six ports visited. One can only hope that someday there will be a boat leaving from New York that will stop in Cuba like it did 86 years ago.
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