Celestyal Cruises Pulls out of Cuba

January 30, 2018
Celestyal Crystal

(8:55 a.m. EST) -- Celestyal Cruises is pulling out of Cuba for the rest of this year and next but will "keep the door open" for a return to the island in 2020.

The Greek cruise line, which has based Celestyal Crystal in Havana seasonally for five years, will instead be concentrating on its core area -- the Aegean.

Celestyal is still one of the few lines which offers cruises that travel the entire way around Cuba, leaving round-trip from Havana. Most major lines just offer a stop in Havana as part of a wider Caribbean itinerary, or just the top ports of Havana, Cienfuegoes and Santiago de Cuba.

A statement from the line read: "Once the season is complete, Celestyal Crystal will return to Greece to perform the highly anticipated new Idyllic Aegean cruise program.

"Our focus for 2018 is shifting to meeting demand for Greece with the goal of year-round sailings in the Aegean as record numbers of travellers continue to look to our home waters for the travel experience of a lifetime.

"With demand for travel to Greece so high, our key priority is to increase awareness of our distinctive, destination-focused 'all-inclusive' cruises that sail throughout the Aegean and showcase our amazing cities and breathtaking islands."

A spokesperson added: "We are leaving for this summer and next season, but we don't close the door for 2020 -- it depends on many factors."

Celestyal first leased Crystal to a Canada-based line called CubaCruise before taking over the operation in 2015.

The ship is based in Havana and offers weeklong eastbound cruises around the island, stopping in the second city of Santiago, as well as Cienfuegos and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Until last year, the line had little competition, with just MSC Cruises operating a ship based in Havana year-round. But the loosening of restrictions for U.S. passengers has led to a wave of lines cruising to Cuba, including all the major U.S. lines.

The final cruise takes place on February 12, before the ship repositions to Athens, Greece.

--By Adam Coulter, Managing Editor, UK