New cruise routes from Tampa to Havana begin soon

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Travel options for a trip from Tampa to Cuba are about to expand.  Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise line are adding new routes to the communist-ruled island.

It will be the first time in more than 50 years you’ll be able to hop a ship in Tampa and travel to Havana.

Royal Caribbean will inaugurate service at the end of April, and two months later, Carnival will depart the port for the trip to Havana.

For decades, cruise ships have been forbidden to dock in Cuba and were forced to go around the huge island, just south of Florida.

That is no longer the case.

Cuban-American native, Mario Nunez, pointed to a historic ship’s manifest, documenting a 1915 crossing from Havana to Tampa.

His great-grandfather is listed as a passenger.

Nunez is excited about being on board a cruise ship, making a similar journey.

“The opportunity to be on the water and see the route that he took, and experience it in real time, I think is going to be really special,” said Nunez.

Starting June 29th, the Carnival Paradise will do just that, with four and five-day trips to Havana and back, including an overnight stay in the harbor.

“Which gives people plenty of time in the evening to enjoy all the evening activities, whether it be going ashore for a restaurant, or whether it be going to the famous shows like the Tropicana,” said Carnival’s Senior Vice-President Terry Thornton.

To go, you’ll need a passport. Fares start at $449 for 4 days, and $549 for 5 days.

“People born in Cuba can definitely go. And we want to encourage them to go,” said Thornton.

The cruises offer another way to experience the food, music and culture of Cuba.

“The sooner we can get there and engage with these people, Peter, you’ve been there, I’ve been there, these are the most wonderful people, really and truthfully.  They’re ready to go,” said Nunez.

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