Victory Cruise Lines, a small ship company started in 2016, has received approval to bring their sole ship, Victory I, to Cuba.
In addition to Havana, the line plans to bring its 202-passenger vessel to Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba and Maria La Gorda. While itineraries aren’t set yet, the line wants to have overnight stops in at least three ports, said Bruce Nierenberg, president and CEO of Victory Cruise Lines.
“Being a small ship company, we will be seeking most of our berths in the smaller less visited ports as we can fit into all the ports in Cuba that would be able to host a cruise product,” he told Cruise Critic in an email. “We will work closely with the Cuban authorities to come up with the best combination of ports and cruise lengths that our client demographic looks for.”
The future of Cuba cruising has seemed uncertain in recent weeks, as cruise lines waited to see if President Trump would drastically roll back travel to the Caribbean’s largest island. Last Friday, Trump said that he would crack down on independent travel, but that group travel through people to people — which most cruise lines sailing to Cuba had adopted — would be allowed to continue.
Nierenberg said that Trump’s statements last week would benefit his line. “We are all inclusive so we have total control over the tours ashore, their content, the way they are managed, the personal involvement of our tour leaders and all related issues of participation,” he said. “The fact that the tours are included in the price of the trip in every port will insure that our guests can comply with the US regs.”
Nierenberg went on to say that there’s nothing to stop passengers from traveling on their own, albeit on a cruise — and that a small ship line would be the best way for an individual traveler or a family to see the island.
“Yes, the American T-shirt buying crowd looking for a beach and a bar may find it a bit more difficult to go to Cuba,” he said. “But the passengers we cater to, looking for a real opportunity to meet Cuban citizens, learn about the history and culture of the country will still have the opportunity through products like ours.”
Victory Cruise Lines emerged from the ashes of Haimark, which went bankrupt in late 2015; Nierenberg used to work there and Victory I is the former Saint Laurent. Since launching last year, the line has been sailing primarily in the Great Lakes, on its own and as a charter. The line had planned on starting Cuba cruises last year, but didn’t receive the required approval until now.
The company is still determining the start date and itineraries for its Cuba cruises; Nierenberg is currently in Havana working out the details. The ship will sail from Miami, with the aim of establishing 14-day cruises that circumnavigate the island. “Seems to be a lot of interest in our mature market getting a taste of the whole country,” he said. “Tell your readers we will have the details out within the next two weeks.”