Lifting the US trade embargo against Cuba would open up a whole new category of cruise travel for Americans — ocean-going ferries. The possibilities are mind-blowing.
You just know that Carnival and Royal Caribbean and all the other major cruise lines out there are poised and waiting for the US government to retire one of the last of its remaining policy relics of the Cold War, the US trade embargo against Cuba.
But the cruise lines aren’t the only ones waiting at the dock. There are some big-time entrepreneurs out there who want to run ocean-going ferries between Florida ports and Havana.
You can read an Orlando Sentinel report on this concept here.
Aside from giving the cruise ships a serious run for their money, this would open up a whole new type of cruise vacation to the American traveler.
If the idea of taking a ferry from Florida to Cuba sounds far-fetched to most Americans, it’s because we’re not familiar with the kinds of ocean-going ferries that have been plying the waters of northern European and elsewhere for decades.
I’m not talking about the little open through-deck putt-putts that shuttle cars and pedestrians across the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Algiers. These are legitimate sea-going vessels, many of which look like cruise ships built on a smaller scale, more than capable of holding their own on the open ocean.
In fact, the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship I ever saw dock in San Diego back in the day turned out to be a converted ocean-going ferry.
We’re talking fully enclosed decks, safe from the weather — or in the case of the Caribbean, the blazing summer sun and humidity. Bars, restaurants, shops, casinos, swimming pools. Even cabins.
So what? you say. The cruise ships have all that already. But here’s what they don’t have — a deck to let you drive your own car on and off the ship.
This opens up all manner of possibilities for the traveler.
Imagine not only being able to cruise to Cuba, but to roll into Havana with your wheels, ready and able to explore the island nation at will in your own car or 4×4, maybe even your own RV.
Also, ferries tend to have shallower draft than full-sized cruise ships which means they can dock in smaller, shallower harbors that the big boys can’t use.
Here’s another option: A relaxed ferry ride from Miami, Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale to Havana on the ferry, then roll out on your bicycle for a leisurely bike tour of Cuba.
Prefer walking to rolling? Then make it a ferry-backpack trip.
However you chose to do it, it would be at rates cheaper, potentially substantially cheaper, than cruise ship fares.
Indeed, ferries would enable you to do Cuba as a day-trip out of Miami, which has hosted day cruises to the Bahamas for decades.
And that’s without resorting to a high-speed catamaran ferry, which could make the run from, say, Naples, FL to Havana in about five hours.
Don’t feel like going it alone? You wouldn’t have to; you just know that tour companies would be all over this.
Click on the pic of that blue-ad-white Greek ocean-going ferry with the cargo truck loading on board. Now replace the 18-wheeler with an air-conditioned tour bus. Imagine it:
Buy a Cuba tour package. Roll with the tour group on your US-based tour bus, straight onto the ferry. Chill out on the cruise, then roll into Havana on your own bus, with your own guide, everything pre-paid. Return home the same way, the same day.
Want to stay longer? buy a bigger package.
Apart from opening up major new opportunities for travelers, a ferry link between Florida and Cuba could create a cash infusion into Florida’s travel industry the likes of which it hasn’t seen since the debut of Disneyworld.
New jobs? Hundreds, potentially thousands.
All that’s required is for our policymakers in Washington to wake up, man up and kick our obsolete embargo to the curb.
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