Upgraded cruise ship could be primed for Cuba

Posted: 25-Mar-16 13:43

With the investment of millions of dollars in upgrades, Royal Caribbean International appears to be paving the way for a Cuban cruise ship. With shorter excursions and by planning just a few months out, Royal is seemingly positioning itself to take advantage of the destination in anticipation of American cruise ship travel restrictions being eased in the near future.

Upgraded cruise ship could be primed for Cuba

By investing millions of dollars to remodel the Empress of the Seas, Travel Weekly reports that Royal Caribbean International may soon be poised to take on travellers to Cuba.

In a recent online story posted to the Travel Weekly website, writer Tom Stieghorst explained that the company is redesigning the ship’s staterooms, the on-board Chops Grille Restaurant, plus remodelling its casino. The ship will also gain the addition of a Boleros Latin Lounge. More importantly, however, the article points out the ship’s schedule; or rather the lack of it in contrast to other cruise lines which have their itineraries planned until Spring 2017.

According to Travel Weekly, the cruise line is now offering five-night cruises from Key West to Cozumel, leaving at the end of March. But, unlike some competitors that have cruises scheduled out through April 2017, the Empress of the Seas only has a schedule through July. Stieghorst sees this as a sign the ship is being groomed for Cuba once restrictions imposed on American-based cruise lines are lifted.

The website quotes Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Services for Royal, Vicki Freed, recently telling some travel agents that Empress cruises will likely be planned out for now on a month-to-month-basis. During a CruiseOne/Cruises Inc. training seminar, Travel Weekly reports Freed said,

“We’re not going out too far, because we’re waiting for Cuba to open up. The minute Cuba opens up, we know this is the right-sized ship for Cuba.”

Until that happens, Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., as quoted in Travel Weekly:

“As of this moment, the Cuban government has not granted permission for any America-based cruise line to call to Cuba.”

A few months ago Royal publicly announced it was transferring the Empress over from Pullmantur after eight years of service. Pullmantur is RCCL’s Spanish brand. Since it downsized to just two ships the Empress is returning to four and five-day cruises out of Florida.

In the meantime, Royal just recently offered a low promotional rate for passengers to book the Empress and boosted commissions for travel agents to fill the cabins. The company is also marketing the ship as an “endless weekend” with daily brunch, including complimentary drinks and longer stays in port.

According to the article other cruise lines, like Crystal Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, may also be interested in sailing to Cuba once restrictions are eased.


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