12/24/13 - Vancouver Sun - Cruise ship will circumnavigate Cuba
Cuba is getting a fancy new resort this winter where you can eat Alberta
prime steaks, drink Canadian beer and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat
the Ottawa Senators, but the resort doesn't guarantee that outcome.
There'll even be a casino, although Fidel Castro banned gambling on his
island after the 1959 revolution. This casino, however, can't open until
the Louis Cristal has slipped her lines and moved away from the dock.
Toronto entrepreneur Dugald Wells will introduce a revolutionary new way to
learn all about Cuba this year. He has hired the 1,200-passenger cruise
ship Louis Cristal to circumnavigate the island each week pulling into some
of its most exotic ports - including Havana - so tourists can head out on
The famous Bay of Pigs - scene of a botched CIA-led invasion in 1961- is
not on the itinerary. "We asked to go to the Bay of Pigs and also
Guantanamo Bay, but, so far, they're off limits," said Wells. 'But we have
a variety of other ports and areas of Cuba that are quite diverse in
geography, history and culture."
It's the first ship tours of Cuba since Castro's 1959 revolution.
Wells' idea for Cuba ship tours was sparked by Toronto home builder Craig
Marshall. The two have been close friends since they were teenagers.
Marshall builds luxury homes in Toronto. He went to Cuba to entice its
burgeoning entrepreneurial class to import Ontario lumber and other
building materials for new home construction.
A government official asked him to look at a new cruise terminal the
government had built in Havana harbour that was sitting empty and unused
because no cruise ships were coming to Cuba. They considered converting the
terminal to condominiums.
Back home, Marshall mentioned it to his high school buddy, now a maritime
engineer who had grown up through the shipping industry to own and operate
Cruise North Expeditions Inc. which conducts small-ship tours into the
Wells thought Cuba offered excellent cruise opportunities and Cuban
officials liked how Wells worked with the Arctic's Inuit residents.
Eventually a touring agreement was signed.
Wells said his passengers will learn much about Cuban culture both on shore
and at sea. The Louis Cristal will be crewed by many Cuban natives from the
engine room up to the navigation bridge.
And there'll be plenty of Canadian culture aboard too - such as NHL games
via satellite TV in your suite, plus an Alberta steak house, maple syrup
and other traditional Canadian foods.
"We'll also serve a wide selection of Cuban and Caribbean dishes," said
The onboard entertainment will be a mixtof Cuban, Caribbean and Canadian.
Wells said Canadian gymnasts will be doing Cirque de Soleil-type
Prices start at $586 Canadian and you can board the Louis Cristal in either
Montego Bay, Jamaica or Havana.
There is a wide selection of land excursions offered by Wells' cruise team,
such as touring historic Havana in a 1950s era American-built car. These
vehicles are a marvel of ingenious engineering and mechanics often held
together by binder twine and twisted coat hangers.
When your cruise starts in Havana you'll sail for a day to Holguin on
Cuba's north shore. Christopher Columbus claimed it to be "the most
beautiful land ever seen by human eyes" when landed there in 1492. It still
boasts some of Cuba's finest beaches and the UNESCO biosphere of Chuchillas
de Toa is one of six world heritage sites listed among Cuba Cruises'
Wells says for vacationers at beach resorts along Cuba's Veradero Peninsula
getting to these interesting and isolated sites means many hours on
pothole-filled roads in challenging vehicles.
"Our ship will visit all areas of Cuba and our passengers will get a taste
of the diversification of this island nation" said Wells.
Santiago De Cuba is on the south shore and is considered Cuba's music
capital. It's also Fidel Castro's home town.
If your cruise leaves from Havana you'll call at Montego Bay in Jamaica
after Santiago De Cuba. Some Cuba Cruises start in Montego Bay. Passengers
have the option of picking their disembarking port and the Jamaica port has
more air connections from Canada. Montego Bay is also renowned for its duty
Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth sits 50 kilometres off Cuba's south
coast. You'll see why it used to be called the Isle of Pines. The island is
home to Presidio Modela, a prison operated by Cuban dictator Batista and
one of its prisoners for two years was Castro after his failed attack in
1953 against a police barracks in his home town Santiago De Cuba.
Wells said Louis Cristal's 480 cabins are larger than traditionally found
on cruise vessels. The cruises run weekly to the end of March.
Visible links 1. http://www.yourcubacruise.com/
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