(4:20 p.m. EDT) -- International Expeditions will offer several small-ship sailings focused solely on Cuba in late 2015 and 2016.
The three 10-day programs, to take place in December, January and March, charters Panorama, a 48-passenger three-masted sailing ship owned by the Greek cruise line Variety Cruises.
The trip starts in Miami, where passengers take a charter flight to Cuba to Cienfuegos, an art-infused city that's an UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a day trip to Trinidad – another World Heritage Site – and stops at the island of Cayo Largo and Maria La Gorda, the ship sails to Havana. Passengers spend three days in Cuba's capital, using the ship at anchor as a base for exploration.
International Expeditions, which has been offering land tours of Cuba since 2003, has a "people to people" license, which means Americans will be able to book the trip and travel the itinerary without restrictions. Cultural exchanges with Cubans will be held throughout the cruise to comply with people-to-people education requirements.
Since President Obama lessened the restrictions on travel to Cuba in January, the Caribbean's largest island has become a hot topic in the cruising world. Until Congress officially lifts the embargo, American-owned mainstream cruise lines cannot offer sailings to Cuba (which may be a long time coming, as some lawmakers have introduced legislation to roll back Obama's attempts to normalize relations).
In addition, many of Cuba's ports are too shallow for large cruise ships. Cuba Cruise, a Canadian company, has offered two seasons of Cuba sailings on 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal (now renamed Celestyal Cristal).
For more about cruising to Cuba, check out Cuba Cruising Basics, a Cuba cruising Q and A, 10 Things Americans Should Know about Cruising to Cuba. 10 More Things Americans Should Know about Cruising to Cuba and the Cruise Critic Cuba Forum.
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor