Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
By December this year, US citizens will be able to access Cuba via Jamaica's tourism capital, Montego Bay, on the luxury cruise ship, Louis Cristal.
Canadian-owned cruise company Cuba Cruise, will commence cruise excursions via the western city's cruise ship pier as of December 20, days after the 2013/2014 winter tourist season kicks in.
Cuba Cruise has unveiled an itinerary that includes Cienfuegos/Trinidad, Isle of Youth, Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.The boutique ship has the capacity to accommodate some 1,200 passengers, plus crew.
The ship's representatives were on the island for the 23rd annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), the country's premier tourism marketing event for suppliers and buyers, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, April 28-30.
According to Craig Marshall, director, Cuba Cruise, one of the main reasons for embarking on this partnership with the destination was to get the Americans onboard. "This is great port facility as well," said Marshall, adding that Jamaica could fully become the gateway to Cuba.
For several years, Americans have been coming to Jamaica, then flying into Cuba. This is the first time that a cruise line has embarked on the same type of venture.
Both Americans and Canadians will fly into the Sangster International Airport in order to board the ship. Some of them will have access to visiting local attractions with the option to vacation here.
On the other hand, the boat is open to Jamaican families, who may wish to vacation in the land of one of its closest neighbours.
"It will be a wonderful opportunity to promote cruise and stay two week packages to the Canadians for example," said Jamaica's director general of tourism, Carrolle Guntley.
Excited about the prospects, Guntley said this was a ball game with a difference for the industry.
About Louis Cristal
Louis Cristal is a luxurious cruise ship with a unique yacht-like modern design and a cruising speed of 18 knots. She features an array of amenities with all the comforts of an upscale vessel: spacious staterooms and suites, elegant lounges and restaurants, Internet corner and open promenades.
All 480 staterooms are equipped with shower, wash closet, wash basin, telephone, hairdryer, and TV and can accommodate maximum 1,200 passengers on board.
Louis Cristal offers delicious variety of food at buffet Traviata or passengers can dine more formally in the elegant La Scala and Alberta Steakhouse restaurants.
There is a Riviera pool bar, for sun and breeze, or just sipping your favourite drink at their Romeo and Juliet bar. The 480-stateroom cruise liner promises lots of fun in the Metropolitan Show Lounge and Stars Lounge & Disco, with a fantastic view of the starlit night and the endless ocean.
Other facilities feature Monte Carlo casino, Internet corner, two conference rooms, photo gallery, duty-free and travel value shops, swimming pool, whirlpool bath, fitness centre, beauty salon, spa and massage. The vessel is fully air-conditioned, has stabilisers, telephone, fax and satellite telephone.