Cuba ferry services could be carrying seaworthy tourists by late-2016

Posted: 01-Sep-16 11:07

Pending approval from the Caribbean island’s authorities, new waterborne routes could arrive in Havana from Florida before the end of the year. The ferry routes would depart from Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, and Key West, Miami, while further departure ports are also being considered.

Cuba ferry services could be carrying seaworthy tourists by late-2016

According to a story on the Florida-based website Sunshinestatenews.com, a little-known decision by the U.S. State Department, approving a number of ferry companies to begin routes from the southern state to the communist nation, could well see boats leaving for Havana before the end of the year.

The move may surprise some, given the long-standing history of poor diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. In the past, tight travel restrictions have been in place on American citizens looking to visit the tropical country, with a ban on the transportation of Cuba’s most famous export – cigars – back to America. The latter has also been lifted, allowing tourists to bring back a small amount of tobacco, along with alcohol, from their trip.

Overall this is a sign not just of how many steps are being taken towards improving the relationship between the two nations, but also Cuba’s apparent keenness to open up to the world and begin welcoming larger numbers of tourists. Experts have already predicted the island will become a vacation hotspot within the decade for those interesting in visiting lesser-trodden regions of the Caribbean.

As per About Travel, it is expected that routes will depart from at least two Florida ports – Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, and Key West. Miami, Port Manatee, and St. Petersburg are amongst the additional departure points also being considered by the ferry operators. The historic city of Santiago de Cuba, in the south of the island, may also becomes landing point at a later date, although there are no specific details on that.

Matt Davies, managing director of Direct Ferries, a global booking site for ferry services that will offer reservations on routes to Cuba, said:

“I can hardly imagine anything more exciting than uniting two countries that are so close, and yet have been cut off from each other for more than 55 years."

The routes could differ significantly in terms of journey times. The ten hour crossing on a traditional ferry from Port Everglades to Havana, for example, is far longer than the predicted three-hour crossing from Key West to Havana, which involves high speed ferries run by the Spanish company Balearia, taking advantage of shorter distances on the Florida Strait and high-tech vessels.

The routes are also expected to provide a boost to Florida’s tourism economy, with the state pegged to become a "gateway destination" for passengers en route to Cuba, not least if hotels in the ferry departure towns begin offering package deals, for instance bed and breakfast with ferry tickets included for a set price. Either way, one thing is certainly for sure – it’s only getting easier to get to Cuba, and as such visitor numbers are almost guaranteed to begin growing in the next five years.


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