Will low demand force cruise ships to stop sailing to Cuba?

Travel expert weighs in about benefits of sailing to Cuba

HAVANA – When commercial flights to Cuba began to rise, major cruise lines followed suit, creating itineraries to the communist island, but low demand forced flights to stay grounded.

Now the question remains: Will cruises have to pull out of port as well?

Local 10 news reporter Hatzel Vela spoke to one travel expert about the benefits of sailing to Cuba.

Local 10 News was on board when the first cruise ship docked in Havana last year.

Now the three largest U.S. cruise lines are stopping on the island, possibly bringing hundreds of thousands of passengers to Cuba and millions of dollars for the mostly state-run Cuban economy.

"It is one of the few undiscovered international destination for many Americans," travel analyst and expert Henry Harteveldt said.

Harteveldt said he's not surprised by the interest from cruise ship companies.

But he said that like airlines, cruise ship companies have to be careful in their strategy toward Cuba.

Carnival has announced that its Fathom brand will stop coming to Cuba in June.

"The demand was not as quite as strong as they had hoped. Pricing was not as strong as they'd hoped. They had to reduce prices, and I just don't think it was quite the success that Carnival had (hoped) for the line," Harteveldt said.  

When it comes to Cuba, a country with a challenging infrastructure, cruise ships do have an advantage over airlines.

"Their guests can enjoy the accommodations and dining on the ship, which doesn't put as much strain on Cuba in terms of the need for hotel accommodations and other things," Harteveldt said.

American credit cards cannot be used on the island, and having to carry Cuban cash is always challenging for travelers.

But the travel analyst said Cuba continues to have an appeal.

"A lot of Americans want to be among the first to visit the country and, frankly, enjoy Cuba before it becomes a homogenized destination," Harteveldt said.

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