SEATTLE – Holland America Line has received approval to begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday cruise aboard ms Veendam. Holland America Line becomes Carnival Corporation’s third cruise line to be approved to sail to Cuba following the company’s historic inaugural sailings to the island last year.
The addition of Veendam itineraries will help meet the growing demand for premium cruise experiences to Cuba. Nine seven-day itineraries will feature the capital city Havana, and three of these will add another Cuba call at Cienfuegos, known as the model of early 19th century urban planning in Cuba. The 12-day holiday cruise showcases both Cuban ports. Depending on the departure day, cruises include the Cuba ports, as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
“For many, travel is about seeking new places to explore and discovering meaningful new cultural opportunities, and Cuba is one of the most sought-after new destinations for many of our guests,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We are excited to finally be able to include Cuba in our itineraries, and our guests and travel partners have been anxiously awaiting a premium cruise experience to this relatively undiscovered Caribbean treasure.”
As leaders in destination immersion and experiential travel, Holland America Line adds Cuba to its itineraries in order to provide guests with a thoughtful cultural exchange experience. Most itineraries include an extended call at Havana, allowing guests the time to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site and immerse themselves in a wide array of historical and cultural adventures. Additionally, a stop at Cienfuegos presents the opportunity for a special visit to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cuba’s province of Sancti Spiritus.
The series of Cuban cruises will debut with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Georgetown. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.
On board, the Cuba experience will be enhanced through the line’s Explorations Central, or EXC, program, featuring EXC Guides who will bring the destination to life through presentations and EXC Talks that will enable guests to deepen their understanding of the Caribbean’s largest island. Also enriching the Cuba experience for guests are EXC Port Maps created for the Cuban calls, EXC Encounters that will showcase the culture and history of Cuba to guests before they visit the ports, and much more. In addition, educational and cultural EXC Tours are being developed in and near Havana and Cienfuegos with a highlight being Trinidad, one of the best-preserved historic towns in the Caribbean.
Bookings for Holland America Line’s cruises to Cuba will open May 26, 2017. Guests booked on Veendam’s previous deployment will be given a full refund and opportunity to book on another Holland America Line voyage. Fares for Cuba cruises begin at $899 per person, double occupancy. Taxes, fees and port expenses are additional.
The visits to Havana and Cienfuegos comply with regulations of the U.S. Department of Treasury that permit travel operators to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The deployment of the 1,350-guest Veendam to Cuba adds Holland America Line to the historic launch of cruises to the island nation from the U.S. by Carnival Corporation sister brands Fathom and, more recently, Carnival Cruise Line.