TORONTO — Canadians need only wait a few more weeks until the inaugural voyage for Cuba Cruise sets sail on Dec. 16. As part of its final promotional blitz leading up to the momentous event, the company held an official launch event in Toronto to spread the word that all systems are a go.
Cuba Cruise President Dugald Wells, formerly of Cruise North Expeditions, drew similarities between the two companies. “With Cruise North Expeditions, we worked with the local Inuit people to offer expedition-type cruises to the Canadian Arctic,” he said. “We wanted to bring the same kind of cruise experience to Cuba, where it really is all about adventure travel. There’s a lack of infrastructure in Cuba, which makes cruising an ideal option since the cruise ship provides all the facilities needed.”
Wells went on to say that there is currently very little cruise ship activity to the country, and yet there are millions of Canadians visiting. This untapped market offers huge potential for travel agents, tour operators and local tourism.
“Together with sales and marketing, we think we’ve got a great team to start this product. I know many Canadians who’ve been to Cuba five, six times but have never seen the country like this. Our cruises offer travellers a new way to see Cuba that’s never been done before,” he added.
Tour operators and airlines like Hola Sun Holidays, Transat Holidays and Exclusive Tours have already started packaging Cuba Cruise. According to Wells, early sales are ahead of expectations, with over 200 tour operators currently offering the product.
The company has partnered with Louis Cruises to offer seven-day sailings onboard the Louis Cristal, departing every Monday from either Havana or Montego Bay. The ship is currently in dry-dock, undergoing rebranding and renovations that include the conversion of a lounge and restaurant into a quintessential Canadian sports bar and an Albertan Prime steakhouse, respectively.
Unlike the country’s land resorts, the ship is able to bring onboard its own food and beverages, assuring cruisers a top-notch dining experience.
In addition to any last-minute ship renos, the company is currently filling all onboard positions; it recently interviewed 200 Cubans for 70 jobs. Approximately 20-25% of the crew will be Cuban, many of whom will have front-of-the-house positions to provide a more authentic cultural experience for passengers.
Onboard entertainment will also feature a unique fusion of Cuban and Canadian culture. Cirque du Soleil-calibre artists will be part of the entertainment lineup, while flamenco dancers and members of the Cuban Circus are expected to board the ship at various ports. And if that weren’t enough to entertain guests, the onboard casino will do the trick, which Wells referred to as “the first casino in Cuba since the revolution.”
“Cuba has been a favourite destination for Canadians for so long, so we’re happy to have something new in the market to offer them,” said Nieves Ricardo, Marketing Assistant for the Cuba Tourist Board. “We believe in the product and we’re very excited about it.”
Cruises are fully commissionable to travel agents at 12%, with land excursions and beverage packages commissionable at 8%. For more information visit yourcubacruise.com.