I have written a couple of articles about the the cruise industry and Cuba lately, U.S. – Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana and Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants. Notwithstanding the U.S. embargo of Cuba for over the past four decades, there is no question that U.S. based cruise ships will stop in Havana as an integral part of their Caribbean cruise itinerary in the near future. Old man and evil dictator Castro was not a cruise ship fan, complaining that the cruise passengers brought little money but a lot of trash to his decrepit island. But his younger and more pragmatic brother has signaled that cruise ships are welcome in Cuba.
But when will it happen? President Obama promised to improve better relations with Cuba which is just 100 miles from Key West – about the same distance from Miami as Disney World in Orlando. But so far, nothing.
The newspapers have recently been filled with articles about cruise ships from other countries, like England, Canada, and Russia, sailing into Cuba. The U.K.’s Guardian carried the headlines "Cubans Give Warm Welcome to British Cruise Liner," the Latin America Herald Tribune declared "Cuba Expects Rise in Cruise Visits," and the Cuba Press blasted "Cuba Trying to Attract Canadian Cruise Tourists."
One of my favorite cruise bloggers, Captain Greybeard in England, wrote about a British cruise ship, the Thompson Dream, receiving a warm reception in Havana last week:
"Cuba rolled out the red carpet for Thomson Dream and her 1,500 passengers yesterday on the cruise ship’s first call at the capital, Havana. Showgirls in sequined bikinis and feather head-dresses, a salsa band and dancing schoolchildren were among the welcoming party, and disembarking passengers were handed shots of rum." Sounds like fun.
So what is the U.S.’s problem? The world wants to know.
Frank Barrett, Travel Editor of the the U.K’s Mail On Sunday, today writes an amusing yet insightful blog on the issue of cruising to Cuba. He asks "why does America treat its neighbour like a pariah state?" His solution, "send in the cruise ships and watch change come." I agree. Here is his most excellently written article:
"As 95 per cent of Americans are apparently unable to locate Texas on a map and think that Illinois is a country in Africa, you have to admire the persistence with which the US government has maintained its hate campaign against Cuba (for American readers: Cuba is an island 100 miles south of Key West. Again for American readers: Key West is the nethermost point of Florida, a US State).
Walk down the main street of Big Butt, Idaho (a US State) and my guess is that 99 out of 100 people would have no idea where Cuba is, or who Fidel Castro might be (Clue: nothing to do with engine oil).
And yet, in certain recondite corners of the American government Dr Strangeloves let their missile launching fingers stray towards the red button whenever anyone mentions the word ‘Havana’ (capital of Cuba).
American diplomats spend so much of the world’s resources in the Middle East trying to broker peace amongst the Israelis and Palestinians, you wonder that they don’t think about declaring peace nearer to home.
But still Americans risk being burned at the stake for the mere heresy of looking at a Cuban holiday brochure. If they dared to travel there, they would promptly be zapped by a drone missile.
In terms of size and population, Cuba is less significant than a US state like Ohio, and yet it is treated with all the severity of Iran.
Cuba ought to be a key stop on Caribbean cruise itineraries. Yet no American cruise company can touch it with a barge pole.
So three cheers to Thomson for last week including Cuba on the itinerary of the Thomson Dream, the first large cruise ship to visit the island for five years.
Barack Obama came into office promising to build bridges with Cuba – and seems to have done almost nothing. Thomson has done more with one cruise ship visit.
America needs to learn that, when it comes to fostering political change, tourism is the most effective weapon. Trying to isolate Cuba has simply strengthened the Cuban will to resist. Send in a thousand American cruise ships and revolution in Cuba will be inevitable . . ."
Havana Poster cruiselinehistory.com
Photo AP via Fort Mills Times