Hannah Sampson, Skift - Feb 15, 2017 6:00 am
With Carnival Cruise Line now in the mix, all the major mass-market
cruise lines now have Cuba on the horizon. The question now is how
travelers will respond.
— Hannah Sampson
More than a year after Carnival Corporation first sent a cruise ship to
Cuba, the operator will finally sail its namesake line to the island.
Carnival Cruise Line announced Tuesday that it got the green light from
Cuban authorities to sail to Havana and stay docked overnight on a dozen
voyages between June and October of this year.
The cruise giant hopes those dozen sailings are just the beginning.
"We're very much in this for the long haul," said Terry Thornton, the
line's senior vice president of port operations. "Obviously we don't
think 12 cruises is the end game here….We have a much longer-term vision
Carnival Corp.'s newest brand, Fathom, was the first modern U.S.
operator to visit Cuba in the spring of 2016. It will sail its last trip
to the island in May before the 704-passenger ship returns to its former
line in the UK and Fathom transitions to branded experiences instead of
a cruise line.
Tuesday's news about Carnival comes after rivals Norwegian Cruise Line
and Royal Caribbean International both announced expanded Cuba plans
through late 2017, including overnight stays in Havana, earlier this
month. Both originally received permission in December to sail to the
island along with some higher-end brands.
Thornton said the company believes there is plenty of interest to go around.
"These 12 cruises are going to be extremely popular," he said. "We have
no concerns about the demand for it."
He said Carnival hopes the sailings will also attract travelers who
haven't taken cruises before.
"We've been interested as a company for a very long time in trying to
attract more first-time cruisers," he said. "We're hoping that having
Havana and Cuba in our mix will keep encouraging people to give cruise a
try for the first time."
Carnival Paradise, a 2,052-passenger vessel, will visit the island from
Tampa on four- and five-day trips. The shorter cruises will spend a day
and night in Havana and visit no other destinations, while the five-day
trips will also stop in Cozumel or Key West.
The vessel had originally been scheduled for four-day sailings that
visited Cozumel and five-day itineraries that went to Cozumel and Grand
Carnival's cruises to Cuba will be different than Fathom's, which had a
personal enrichment focus and fewer traditional onboard experiences.
There was no casino, for example, and entertainment was limited.
Carnival Paradise, on the other hand, has four pools, a water slide,
activities for kids, comedy and stage shows, and other entertainment.
Still, Thornton said Fathom's experiences in Cuba will help Carnival
prepare guests for the experience, which requires more red tape than
most Caribbean cruises. Because of the embargo against Cuba, visitors
from the U.S. cannot simply go to the beach as tourists; they must
participate in sanctioned forms of travel. Most cruise passengers visit
for cultural purposes.
"Because of the learnings from Fathom, we are really in a better
position to make that as easy for our guests as possible from a shore
excursion standpoint," Thornton said. "We know what worked wth Fathom,
what didn't work, we know the process that has to go into place, all the
Like other major cruise lines that have announced Cuba itineraries in
recent months, Carnival is staying in Havana rather than venturing to
other cities in the country. Fathom has been the exception, visiting
ports in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
"Right now we believe that most consumers today have an interest in
visiting Cuba for the first time to see Havana," Thornton said. "There
will be a lot of time and appetite for guests to see Cuba; we think,
over time, that will develop."
Source: Carnival Cruise Line Will Join the Crowds in Cuba – Skift -
https://skift.com/2017/02/15/carnival-cruise-line-will-join-the-crowds-in-cuba/ Continue reading
HOST AGENCY & CONSORTIA TRAVEL LEADERS GROUP ROBIN AMSTER FEBRUARY
Nearly 22 percent of its leisure-focused travel agents have already
booked clients for Cuba travel in 2017 while more than 59 percent said
clients are interested in going this year, according to a Travel Leaders
Travel Leaders Group noted that its survey results corroborate data from
Cuban officials. Josefina Vidal, Cuba's chief negotiator in talks with
the United States, who said recently that the combined total of visits
by Cuban-Americans and other U.S. travelers last year was 614,433, a 34
percent increase over 2015.
This hike in demand comes despite the continued U.S. government
restrictions limiting approved travel to the island nation via 12
authorized categories, said Travel Leaders Group.
"While there is some uncertainty about the views of the current U.S.
Administration on the future of Cuban relations, the momentum of public
opinion among the American traveling public for unfettered access to
Cuba continues," said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko.
"Based not only on our survey, but also on anecdotal feedback travelers
are giving to their travel agents, more Americans are taking advantage
of the avenues available to them to legally travel to this once
forbidden island that is less than 100 miles from Key West, Florida," he
"Our travel agent experts are continuing to assist clients who have a
desire to visit Cuba this year by observing the existing law, and they
are preparing travelers for culturally-immersive experiences that these
travelers will remember for a lifetime."
Travel Leaders Group also pointed to statistics from a Pew Research
Center national survey, conducted in December. The survey found that 75
percent of U.S. adults approve of the decision last year to re-establish
U.S. relations with Cuba and nearly as many (73%) favor ending the
long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
READ MORE Travel Costs Falling in Cuba
Travel Leaders noted that there is now regularly scheduled air service
to Cuba for the first time in 50 years. Delta Air Lines opened the first
U.S. airline ticket office in Havana last November, American Airlines
will operate 10 daily flights to six Cuban cities this year, and United
Airlines, as well as five other U.S.-based carriers, will have regularly
scheduled flights to Cuba.
Major cruise lines also are sailing to Cuba this year. Royal Caribbean
International and Norwegian Cruise Line have scheduled sailings through
In the Travel Leaders Group survey, 1,097 leisure-focused agents were
asked, "Are clients expressing interest in traveling to Cuba in 2017?"
The responses included:
Yes, we've booked many clients already.
Yes, we've booked some clients already.
Yes, we've booked a few clients already.
Yes, but interest has not yet translated to bookings.
For clients interested in traveling to Cuba this year, the top five
responses for when they'd want to go were:
1. When they can do it as an independent trip rather than
people-to-people exchange program
2. Right away before Cuba changes dramatically
3. As part of a cruise vacation
4. When the prices decrease
5. When they can enjoy it as a regular beach vacation
The Cuba findings are part of a comprehensive travel trends survey of
nearly 1,700 U.S. based travel agents from Travel Leaders Group's
flagship Travel Leaders brand, All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists,
Nexion, Protravel International, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel
Leaders Network, and Tzell Travel Group. It was conducted from Nov. 17
to Dec. 9, 2016.
Source: Agents Seeing an Explosion of Cuba Bookings | TravelPulse -
http://www.travelpulse.com/news/host-agency-and-consortia/agents-seeing-an-explosion-of-cuba-bookings.html Continue reading
TOUR OPERATOR DAVID COGSWELL FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Prices for travel in Cuba have gone down for the first time in a very
long time, as we've been used to constant—and sometimes steep—increases.
"Prices in Cuba have been going up, up, up, up, up and up and up and
up," said Tom Popper, president of InsightCuba. "But like everything,
there is a ceiling. We got used to hotels being sold out 12 months of
the year. Now things are starting to balance out a little."
As prices have lowered on the ground in Cuba, InsightCuba has been able
to re-price its Cuba tours to incorporate savings of $250 per person on
eight of its tour packages scheduled for travel in the coming spring,
summer and fall.
Popper told TravelPulse that prices in Cuba have risen at rates from 100
to 400 percent since former President Obama's announcement on Dec. 17,
2014, that his administration was reducing restrictions for Americans
traveling to Cuba.
Obama's announcement set off what Popper calls "a mad rush" for tours to
Cuba. Demand went through the roof, reaching its peak in summer 2016.
"In years past we were used to seeing hotels from May to December at
40-50 percent occupancy," said Popper. "For the last two years, they
have been pretty much full."
The Cuban Minister of Tourism told Popper and other tour operators in
February 2015 that hotel prices would be jumping 100 percent in response
to the overwhelming demand that followed the announcement of normalization.
Hotel prices continued to leap periodically since then, rising 15-20
percent each time throughout 2015 and 2016. Standard room rates for some
top Havana hotels rose from $150 to $650 per night. Taxi fares also rose
"One of my directors was taking his daughter on a classic car ride and
discovered that the price, which had been $20 for an hour, had gone up
to $60," said Popper.
Now, all of the prices have shown downward motion for the first time in
The industry can only guess at the causes. The hotel capacity issue was
relieved a little by the entrance of cruise ships, which provide
off-shore lodging, to the market, but that additional capacity only
helped to accommodate some of the additional demand.
The rise of private inns in Cuba could have also accommodated some of
the additional demand, but would not have been enough to greatly change
the supply/demand ratio in the face of vigorously rising post-détente
In February 2016 InsightCuba was booking 100 passengers a week. After
summer demand started to wane. Then three weeks ago, about the time of
President Trump's inauguration, bookings spiked again to the 100/week
rate. The next week they dropped again.
"There wasn't any particular reason that we could see," said Popper. "It
didn't correspond to any news cycle. It just seemed to happen."
President Trump's election introduced a new element of uncertainty into
the Cuba market because of his campaign pledges to renegotiate travel
and trade restrictions with Cuba, but that uncertainty might have been
expected to stimulate demand for people who saw that the opportunity
might be closing.
Trump's travel ban introduced a second element of uncertainty to the
travel market, but its possible effect on the Cuba travel market cannot
"The travel ban has had an impact on buying behavior in many
industries," said Popper. "I think people are evaluating the situation.
There are trepidations about traveling internationally. We see it in
phone calls and emails as people are making their decisions."
Typically, the diverse market forces interact in such complex ways that
no one can fully explain the results on the ground except to attribute
them to the mysterious, invisible hand of the market.
Two things are certain, though: Prices are down for travel in spring,
summer and fall, and, as always in the Cuba travel market, nothing in
the future is certain. For Popper, it always comes back to this: now is
the time to travel to Cuba. The future is unknown. We never know if or
when the door may close again.
"Now is the best time," he said. "As far as choosing a destination, Cuba
is a great choice. There are no safety concerns. It is easy to get there."
Plus, prices are as low as they are likely to ever be again.
Source: Travel Costs Falling in Cuba | TravelPulse -
http://www.travelpulse.com/news/tour-operators/travel-costs-falling-in-cuba.html Continue reading
February 14, 2017
By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — On February 7th, the Cuban Communist Party's (PCC) press
published several articles about the reporting behavior of young people
belonging to the government's journalism sector. Before that, on January
20th, a comment made by Yeilen Delgado Calvo in Juventud Rebelde under
the heading "I declare myself a dissident" caught a lot of attention.
It's clear why the aged leadership is concerned with the behavior of
their inevitable successors.
Basically, the cited journalist is referring to a friend, annoyed
because after criticizing problems which were never specified in a
direct and clear manner, he was called a dissident. His response, always
using the same lingo and characteristic allegories of the Cuban
"communist" press, can be summarized as the following:
"I know he is a dissident of many things: of wrong-doings, sloppiness,
conformity, people who talk a lot about the Homeland but don't hold this
within their hearts."
"The question isn't about being a dissident, but in what being a
"We have let ourselves get carried away with the word "dissident" by
those who know very little about principles and patriotism. A dissident
is somebody who dissents, to dissent is to separate yourself from the
mainstream doctrine, belief or behavior."
"I am a dissident of stagnation, of demagogy, of complacent people, as
well as of hypocrites, of those who hide information, of empty speeches,
of a lack of effort, of scarce commitment, of inertia…"
What do you make of that sentence? It's hard not to be in favor of this
in theory, but as Marx and Lenin hammered home hard, the issue has to be
resolved in practice, the criterion of truth.
That's why Jesus Arencibia Lorenzo's review about an intervention made
before February 7th, where renowned reporters from Latin America's
left-wing press attended, Stella Calloni and Alberto Salcedo Ramos, was
surprising. The former was an Argentinian, too closely linked to the
Cuban government to say anything interesting. That wasn't the case with
the Colombian though who ended up moving away from what Yeilen labeled
"common doctrine, belief or behavior", talking about his and our country."
Among other things, repeated by Arencibia Lorenzo in Juventud Rebelde on
February 7th, Salcedo said:
"I'm a journalist because I like to listen and tell stories. Because I
like to know what is going on beyond my nose. Because it's extremely
hard for me to keep quiet. Because I like to leave memories behind, a
testimony which can help us understand what we're like, where we come
from, why we are the way we are."
"I believe that this profession has been wasting a lot of time trying to
make affirmations. It's always seemed very suspicious to me that
philosophers doubt and journalists affirm."
"I like journalists who go out looking for the truth, but I don't trust
those who believe they have found it."
"It's about writing stories, chronicles, articles, to place the news
within a context, within a reason of why it's happening, that goes
beyond the basic facts."
Dealing with the country's current reality, it can be concluded: no
philosophical truths which have been placed in doubt for some time now,
zero phrasing and a lot of concrete, raw reality, just like we are
The Colombian journalist, used to risking his life in an extreme
country, ended by saying: "And I believe that no tricks, from any
ideology, are good."
It seems that there is a call for dissidence within the PCC press, but
those who really practice this aren't rubbing their hands together just
yet because in Cuba, from time to time, a lot of noise is made but
that's all it is, noise.
It is simply needed to cool the pressure cooker because real dissidents
within the world of Cuban information are increasing everyday, including
irreverent young people who are working for government media, some of
whom are made an example of and punished for their daring behavior.
For now, signing off this present article, I will also take what was
written in Juventud Rebelde as my own: I also declare myself a dissident.
Vicente Morin Aguado: email@example.com
Source: Official Journalism in Cuba: Empty Nutshells - Havana Times.org
- http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=123647 Continue reading
El cantante y compositor Leoni Torres se presentó el martes en la noche en su primer concierto en vivo en los Estados Unidos en una actuación en el James L Knight Center en Miami.
Torres, quien recientemente fue firmado por MAGNUS, una compañía creada por Marc Anthony, subió al escenario a sala llena, acompañado por su banda.Continue reading
cancer seeks investors
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
A joint venture between the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo,
New York, and the Center for Molecular Immunology in Havana could open
its doors to new U.S. investors as early as April.
"We hope that by the first of April this will be incorporated in Cuba …
and at that point we would be looking for investors," Thomas Schwaab, an
oncology professor and the institute's director of strategy and business
development, told a gathering Tuesday.
The joint venture — the first in the field of biotechnology — would be
based in the Mariel Special Development Zone west of Havana and would
produce vaccines to fight cancer developed with Cuban technology. U.S.
clinical trials of the Cuba-produced CIMAvax vaccine against lung cancer
began in January, under an authorization from the Food and Drug
"This joint venture will not only be a basic research and R&D facility
but also will allow our scientists to collaborate," Schwaab said. "It
will allow us to buy Cuba biotech and bring it into the U.S., apply for
FDA approval, have outside investors investing in this joint venture
corporation and then take a drug like CIMAvax, that has been given to
thousands of patients globally, and bring it to the U.S. market. I don't
have to tell you the opportunity it is, in terms of returns of investments."
The conference in New York City was organized by the Americas
Society/Council of the Americas and Corporación Andina de Fomento
CAF-Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina, known by the Spanish acronym
CAF, a lending institution owned by 18 countries and 14 private banks in
Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Spain and Portugal.
Germán Ríos, CAF director of strategic issues, underlined the importance
of Cuba in the region and the desire to support Cuba's efforts at reforms.
"Our goal is for Cuba to become a CAF member, and we are working on
that," Ríos said. CAF Executive President Enrique García visited Cuba
last week and met with several cabinet ministers as well as the
president of the Central Bank. He also signed a cooperation agreement
with the University of Havana to establish a training center for
managers in different sectors.
Ríos told the conference that the project would receive $300,000 in
financing over three years. Overall, CAF will disburse $1 million for
technical aid to Cuba.
Several people who participated in the event called on both the U.S. and
Cuban governments to eliminate obstacles to commercial relations.
Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer said there's support in the U.S.
House and Senate "if not to eliminate the embargo, at least to eliminate
some parts of it in the short run."
Emmer, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, also mentioned the
uncertainties surrounding the new administration's approach to Cuba.
"The administration obviously is a wild card. We'll see; so far I know
everybody is nervous," he said. "But keep in mind the president himself
has said we are going to negotiate a better deal. Good. That doesn't
tell me we are done talking. That tells me we're going to be talking."
Emmer, who said he would be traveling to Cuba in coming weeks with other
newly elected Republican members of Congress, added that the Cuban
government has a long way to go to attract U.S. investments.
A portfolio of investment opportunities prepared by the Cuban government
each year is a "beautiful book with 300 some pages with colored pictures
and descriptions," he said. "They pushed it across the table and they
said 'We have all these projects ready to go, we just need your money.'
It doesn't work that way. And having two forms of currency, it was
stunning to me."
Investors, Emmer added, have two questions: "Can I expect a reasonable
return to my investment? And will my investment be safe? Unless you can
answer those questions, you know what? Build Mariel, put out beautiful
glassy pictures, etc.," but there will be no substantial investments in
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres
Source: U.S. and Cuba experts to produce and sell cancer fighting
vaccines | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article132688024.html Continue reading
JORGE ENRIQUE RODRÍGUEZ | La Habana | 15 de Febrero de 2017 - 13:53 CET.
"Now the race to get an almendrón (taxi) will be liked a marathon,"
warned writer Yani Monzón on the social networks last weekend.
Private-sector workers holding "transport operation" licenses, cab
drivers known as boteros, have been hit by another act of Government
meddling: new regulations enacted last week Transport Authority in
Havana effectively lowered taxi rates 5 pesos on each fare.
"When I heard the news, for a moment I was glad for my mother and all
everyday Cubans. But later I realized that those boteros are also
everyday Cubans. And that the social manipulation the Government
practices, though supposedly favoring the people, does not favor
anything or anybody, except for them," affirmed Monzón.
Although the rate reduction imposed on taxi drivers has been portrayed
as a boon for Havanans, its consequences constitute a true concern.
"It is a clear message sent by the Government against the self
employed," declared Eladio Zúñiga.
"The short-term benefit of saving 5 pesos on each fare is undeniable.
But what about the long term? Last year when the Government took
measures against the boteros' irregularities, getting around town was a
genuine ordeal, and now it could get worse," he stated.
"What is so great about imposing a price cap on a private-sector service
when the Government does not even have solutions to guarantee regular
transport for working people?" Pedro Salinas asked.
"The truth that it's hard to come up with 10 or 20 pesos just to get
around, but neither is it easy to be a taxi driver, or a street vendor,
or a cart driver, or a waiter, or a carpenter. It's not easy to be an
entrepreneur in Cuba when every six months the State invents new some
new regulations that hurt you," he complained.
Lidia Santana, a secretary at a capital bank, stated that she is "all
mixed up," unable to decide "who's right and who's wrong."
"I suppose that the Government plans to distribute Chinese bicycles
through workplaces again, as the outlook is going from bad to worse, and
I can assure you that there is no a 'plan B' if the boteros, as a result
of this, decide to strike back. This five-peso discount will be the
world's most expensive in the medium term," she predicted.
"The question is not who is right, but who ends up paying the price. We
are survivors, taking advantage of each other, as this Government has
taught us to," she added.
The taxi drivers defend themselves
A graduate in Industrial Design, five years ago Orestes decided to join
the private sector as a botero, with the dream of eventually managing "a
fleet of three or four automobiles."
"Cubans who play along with the Government, and make us out to be the
bad guys, have short memories. Who can get around in a taxi with foreign
currency? Who in this city remembers empty bus stops, and dependable
urban transport? When a Cuban asks those questions to the right person,
and in the right place, I will lower my rate one peso in his honor," he
Alberto Malo is a taxi driver who covers the Old Havana-Alamar route. He
says he's not "distressed by this Government abuse," and has faith that
"things will pan out."
"But I would like to send a message to my compatriots, to refresh their
memories: there are no medicines, there are no materials with which to
repair your houses, there are no school uniforms, there is no nutritious
food… and all we are forced to scrap to get these things. Everybody
knows whose fault this is, but everyone bites their lip. But they point
their fingers at our taxi drivers, and, by extension, all those who are
self employed. It's quite a way to be cowardly."
In the middle of the bustling El Curita Park, one of Havana's busiest
private taxi stops, several drivers complained about what they view as
"The store shelves full, people with their shopping bags full, everybody
all dressed up, and with fancy cell phones. But everyone is bothered
that the taxi drivers can make a living and support their families,"
"Those five pesos that they think they are saving with us, are spent on
all the stuff that the State sells, and you don't hear a peep when they
raise those prices, despite all the junk there is," added Damián.
"For me it is clear that it is not a crusade against the boteros, but
against all the self employed. It's a pity that Cubans fail to realize
that their trick, in the end, is to pit us Cubans against each other…
that is what it's really about, and not saving 5 or 10 pesos."
Source: Taxi drivers: 'Their trick, in the end, is to pit Cubans against
each other' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1487163180_28966.html Continue reading
La líder de las Damas de Blanco, Berta Soler, y María Cristina Labrada Varona, en representación del movimiento femenino, se reunieron en la mañana de este miércoles con el arzobispo de La Habana, Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez.
Soler informó a DIARIO DE CUBA que la cita se concretó "a pesar de una vigilancia extrema por parte de la policía política" desde que salieron de la sede nacional en Lawton hasta que llegaron al Arzobispado.Continue reading