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Are Cruises From Galveston to Cuba on the Horizon?

President Obama made a surprise announcement when he revealed plans for the United States to normalize relations with Cuba.

The island nation just 90 miles from U.S. borders has long been romanticized in American culture. Known for delicious rum, fine cigars, beautiful women, and antique cars, many Americans have longed to travel to explore Cuba.

But since the 1960s, Cuba has been one of the few places on the planet where it was all but impossible for most Americans to visit. Now, with relations seemingly getting better, does that mean you could see Havana as a stop on Galveston cruise itineraries?

First things first is to understand that many laws and regulations put in place in the past 50-plus years will have to be changed. Just because the President makes a statement doesn’t automatically make something the law of the land.

According to law firm Holland & Knight, however, one of the restrictions that will likely be lifted concerns ships stopping to port in Cuba:

“The restriction on foreign flag vessels calling on the U.S. if they have called in Cuba in the last 180 days will be modified in the case of vessels that called on Cuba and engaged in certain “humanitarian” trade. It is not expected that this restriction will be lifted on cruise ships in the short term, however, it is possible if there is pressure from the cruise lines.”

As well, U.S. citizens are still prohibited from most purchases in Cuba, which will have to be adjusted before American cruise passengers could reasonably expect to visit the island:

“U.S. citizens, permanent residents, companies organized under the laws of the U.S. (and their foreign subsidiaries), and persons or entities located in the U.S. are still largely prohibited from engaging directly or indirectly in any transactions with Cuba, unless such transactions fall within a general or special License.”

In short, don’t expect to lounge on Cuban beaches this summer. But we wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 5-10 years there are some cruises that begin traveling to the country as the rules are changed.

And frankly, Galveston would be an ideal port for trips to Havana/Cuba. Havana is just about 900 miles from the Texas coast — only 100 more miles than Cozumel. It is easily within sailing distance for a 7-day cruise.

Add to that the fact that competition for cruising dollars is heating up in Texas. Between Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, and Norwegian, cruisers have a wide choice of which line to sail. That means the cruise lines will look for any way possible to differentiate themselves — including being the first to add exotic Cuban ports to their itineraries.

We’re excited about the possibility of opening up Cuba to American vacationers. We know it won’t happen overnight, but it’s likely that Galveston will be one of the first ports to service the area.

10 Responses so far.

  1. Klaus Imberger says:

    I am interested in a short cruise from Houston to some place interesting innthe caribian – preferably of course Cuba.
    Is something available for tourist to Houstan

  2. Galveston Cruise Tips says:


    Not at the moment. There are still no cruises to Cuba from the U.S. just yet. If you want to sail from Houston or Galveston, there are several cruises that go to Roatan, Honduras and Belize City, Belize. Both are interesting destinations.

  3. Chuck Taylor says:

    If conservative Texas governor can go to Cuba, why can’t we? You better get on this fast, or we’ll all be flying from Mexico! W’ve waited long enough.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Carnaval just sailed from Miami to Cuba. Can Galveston be far behind ?

  5. Galveston Cruise Tips says:

    We think it will still be at least a couple of years. First, this is a small-scale, specialty cruise that went to Cuba. We would expect to see traditional Carnival/Royal Caribbean ships sailing from the Miami area to be the first large ships to sail to Havana. Once you see that, then we think cruises from Galveston to Cuba will be on the horizon.

  6. Calvin Click says:

    I feel that the cruise lines treat Galveston as a captured account.We need new ports i.e.Cuba and a few 10-14 day cruises to different ports.I have taken a half dozen”Get Out Of Dodge” cruises but I am getting tired of the same old ports and am seeking other easy access trips.Perhaps Miss.River cruise.

  7. Galveston Cruise Tips says:

    I don’t think that’s the case — I think cruise lines are doing what the market will bear. There’s a lot more demand for shorter cruises than longer cruises, when people don’t have the time to take off. That said, it would be nice for more ports. Cuba could be down the road. Right now only ships out of Miami sail that route. Give it a few years for them to get the process down and we bet there will be sailings to Cuba.

  8. Gilbert Dick says:

    Looking for a cruise from Houston to Cuba this winter

  9. Stephanie Borgman says:

    Galveston is a nationally competitive port. We have friends from the SF Bay area who came here last year for a repositioning cruise. Other friends (a large multi-family group) from up and down the west coast are doing a 7 day out of Galveston in late November. We want to do a 7 to 10 day cruise that includes Cuba. We have sailed close enough to Cuba on a Royal Carib cruise out of Galveston to see the shore birds wading in the breakers. The demand is here and the itineraries should reflect it. There is no good reason for the cruise lines to hold off. I asked for this through travel agent oven 10 years ago. Industry knew this market would open up and has had plenty of time to prepare.

  10. Galveston Cruise Tips says:

    We are too! No cruises from Galveston to Cuba just yet.

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