MSC Cruises Havana

(12 noon GMT) -- MSC Cruises will homeport MSC Opera in Havana, Cuba from the winter 2015-16 season -- the first mainstream cruise line to do so.

The line will operate 16 Caribbean cruises on the 2,120-passenger ship, including stops in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico -- with two nights and two and a half days in the Cuban capital.

Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises, said: “We are particularly proud to make this exciting new destination available to our guests. The move to Cuba proves our commitment to offer our guests and holiday-makers the best and most sought-after destinations as they become accessible.”

The first cruise will depart from Havana on 22 December 2015, following MSC Opera's Grand Voyage to Cuba from Genoa, departing on 2 December 2015. The Grand Voyage will include a call in Havana on 18 December, and continue its itinerary in the region before heading back to Cuba for its final call of the journey on 21 December.

On 12 April 2016, the ship will leave Havana for a Grand Voyage back to Europe, with Warnemünde (Germany) as its final destination, arriving on 7 May 2016.

The sailings will be available to UK passengers on a cruise-only basis, going on sale across all channels on Thursday 9 July.

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To offer local ground services and shore excursions MSC Cruises will partner with Cubanacan.

MSC Opera's original winter 2015-16 schedule in the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco has been cancelled.

Passengers who have already booked a Canaries sailing for winter 2015-16 will have the opportunity to get a full refund or transfer their holiday to alternative MSC Cruises Mediterranean itineraries, with the offer of upgrades or on-board credit as compensation. Alternatively, passengers can switch their booking to Cuba. Fly-cruise customers will be charged a low rate fixed fee (approximately £285 per person) to account for the difference in flight costs.

--By Adam Coulter, UK Editor