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Gene Sloan, USA TODAY 8:23 a.m. EDT May 24, 2016

ABOARD HARMONY OF THE SEAS -- Royal Caribbean could be sailing to Cuba
as early as July, the line's top executive said this weekend.

Speaking at a press conference on board Royal Caribbean's new Harmony of
the Seas, CEO Michael Bayley said the company is just waiting on
approvals from Cuban authorities to start up regular sailings to the
country from Miami.

Confirming months of speculation, Bayley said the company likely will
deploy its 2,020-passenger Empress of the Seas on the Cuban runs. The
26-year-old ship is scheduled to emerge from an extended renovation next
week and spend the next two months operating short voyages out of Miami
to the Bahamas, Mexico and Grand Cayman. It has no sailings on the
docket beyond July.

Bayley suggested the line would go ahead with all of the sailings
currently on Empress' schedule even if the approvals for Cuba trips come
through soon.

"We wouldn't be going (to Cuba) until the end of July (or) early August,
assuming we get the correct permission from the Cuban government," he said.

When asked when the company expected approval, Bayley was circumspect.
"Tomorrow would be good," he said. "Hopefully it will be soon."

Industry giant Carnival Corp.'s new Fathom brand earlier this month
became the first cruise line in years to sail from the USA to Cuba. The
company received Cuban approval for the trips in March. Small-ship line
Ponant also has received Cuban approval for trips from the USA to Cuba
but doesn't plan to start them until 2017.

Unveiled in 1990, the 48,563-ton Empress is rejoining the Royal
Caribbean fleet this year after sailing for Spanish line Pullmantur for
eight years.

The press conference this weekend on Harmony came as the ship prepared
for its first sailing with paying passengers. At 226,963 tons, it is the
largest cruise ship ever and more than four times the size of Empress.

Source: Royal Caribbean could launch Cuba cruises by July -
http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/cruises/2016/05/23/royal-caribbean-cuba-cruise/84787332/


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