HAVANA – The MSC Opera cruise ship, which arrived Friday at the port of Havana after a 22-day crossing from Italy with 1,749 passengers aboard, is the largest ever to dock at the island, the official Cuban press said.
The Cuban capital will be the ship’s port of call for its winter season in the Caribbean, until April 2016, with other stopovers in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico, according to the executive director of the Italo-Swiss firm MSC Cruises, cited by state news agency ACN.
The majestic cruise ship, with a maximum capacity for 2,600 passengers, will dock every week at the port of Havana, where tourists will board after arriving by air, chiefly from Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Britain
The head of MSC Cruises, among the four largest cruise ship operators in the world, said the season will begin Dec. 22 and said the Opera will make 16 stopovers in Havana, where tourists will remain two nights and two days before continuing their cruise to other destinations in the area.
For its part, representatives of state-owned travel agency Viajes Cubanacan called this “one of the most important” opportunities they have had, which “from now on bodes success for the island’s current cruise season.”
Cubanacan director Oscar Mederos said about 600 tourist packages have been sold and that they include excursions around Havana in vintage cars and visits to the famous Tropicana cabaret.
According to official figures, as of October of this year, Cuba had welcomed some 20,000 tourists from cruise ships.
On Nov. 16, the island had received a record 3 million foreign tourists, 45 days earlier than in 2014, the increase coinciding with the thaw in its relations with the United States and the increase in the number of Americans arriving in Cuba.
In 2014 Cuba for the first time crossed the threshold of 3 million foreign tourists.
Officials forecast an even better year for 2015, not only in the number of tourists but in revenues generated, which this year are estimated at $2.7 billion.