French luxury cruise line gets approval to take Americans to Cuba

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The port of Havana is about to get more crowded.

French luxury line Ponant earned approval from the Cuban government Thursday to start taking Americans to the island in 2017, making it the second cruise line to gain the opportunity to take U.S. travelers to Cuba.

 The 64-passenger yacht, Le Ponant, will take Americans to Cuba starting in early 2017. Ponant is the second cruise line to earn approval to take U.S. travelers around the island. Guillaume Plisson, Guillaume Plisson PONANT / Guillaume Plisson
The 64-passenger yacht, Le Ponant, will take Americans to Cuba starting in early 2017. Ponant is the second cruise line to earn approval to take U.S. travelers around the island. Guillaume Plisson, Guillaume Plisson PONANT / Guillaume Plisson

Carnival Corporation’s Fathom brand obtained Cuban approval on March 21 to carry U.S. passengers to Cuba beginning May 1, marking the first time a U.S. cruise line will sail to the island nation in more than 50 years. While Fathom will begin sailing from Miami, Ponant will fly guests from Miami to Havana, where they will board the ship.

The cruise line, which has previously taken Europeans to the island, will operate seven- and eight-night itineraries aboard its 64-passenger sailing yacht, Le Ponant, with trips that include airfare to and from Miami and the voyage around Cuba to various ports.

The 64-passenger yacht, Le Ponant, will take Americans around Cuba in early 2017. Philip et guillaume plisson
The 64-passenger yacht, Le Ponant, will take Americans around Cuba in early 2017. Philip et guillaume plisson

“Ponant has been introducing Europeans to Cuba in the past and we are now delighted to offer Americans this enriching opportunity from a most comfortable setting aboard a cruise on Le Ponant,” said Navin Sawhney, Ponant’s CEO for the Americas.

Non-Cuban-born Americans will be able to participate in people-to-people trips, one of the 12 visa categories authorized for American travel to Cuba. Travelers who were born in Cuba and later became U.S. citizens cannot go on the cultural exchange trips.

Sailings on Le Ponant will run from January to April of 2017 and 2018. A sample eight-day itinerary includes stops in Havana, Isla de la Juventud, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba before flying back to Havana and then Miami. The trip starts at $8,190 per person, including airfare.

Fathom’s seven-day trips will leave from Miami and include a two-day stop in Havana and one-day stops in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The 704-passenger Adonia will take passengers on cultural immersion trips every other week beginning in May.

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