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MSC first to base cruise ship in Cuba

Street scene, Cuba                 Photo: GarryRF / TravelGumbo


MSC Cruises, currently Europe's top ocean cruise line, is responding to constantly-increasing European interest in Cuba (and possibly getting ready for U.S. travelers in the future) by basing one of its ships in Havana for the coming winter season.


MSC Opera, a 2120-passenger ship, will operate 16 cruises from Havana, visiting ports in Mexico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. MSC will be selling tickets that include onboard port time in Cuba, as well as cruise-only tickets. Europeans, including especially Britons, are the target audience.


At this point, U.S. passport holders are prohibited by U.S. regulations, but that may change along with other changes in U.S.-Cuba relations. Carnival's Fathom brand is now offering "voluntourism" cruises for U.S. citizens that meet the regulations.


MSC Opera's schedule will start and end with cruises to bring the ship to Cuba from Genoa on Dec. 2, and return it to Germany in May to prepare for the summer cruise season. The Cuba basing cancels a number of cruises the ship would have operated to the Canaries, Morocco and Madeira; passengers are being offered a choice of switching to other MSC itineraries with upgrades, or staying with Opera for a Cuba-based cruise.


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