Cruising around Cuba became a reality when a new cruise line, Cuba Cruise, launched Havana-to-Havana cruises in December 2013. The Canada-based company has confirmed that it would run a second season from December 2014 through March 2015.
Cuba Cruise chartered Louis Cruises' 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal and rebranded it with some pretty bright flowers and a number of new restaurants. The ship makes quite an entrance when it pulls into ports that – in some cases – had never welcomed a cruise vessel.
The weeklong cruises begin in Havana (or Montego Bay, Jamaica, depending where you choose to board) and circumnavigate the island clockwise, stopping at Antilla, Santiago de Cuba (passing Guantanamo Bay on the way), Montego Bay, Cienfuegos/Trinidad and La Isla de Juventud.
The ship stays late in port in Havana (1 a.m.) and Santiago (9 p.m.), allowing passengers to get a real feel for these cities.
Cuba Cruise is unique in that it is the only line that circles the island, allowing you to discover places that would take days to reach by car because of the poor roads. It also offers fine shore excursions, which allow you to get to know both the culture and rhythms of this extraordinary island, as well as getting to know its inhabitants.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor; slideshow images by Mark Hakansson