Is this our ferry in Havana?

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Prepare for some updates from my cruise on board Spirit of Adventure in the Greek islands. I have been on board almost a week since joining the ship in Istanbul last Friday, and some account of what we have been up to is overdue.
But first, let me relate an astonishing series of coincidences.
As regular readers will know, just a few weeks ago I was in Cuba on board Saga Pearl II – the ship which next year will be re-named Quest for Adventure and will replace Spirit in this sub-brand of Saga Cruises.
On Wednesday, Spirit was berthed in Souda Bay, Crete. Across the other side of the quay was a much bigger vessel, the 38,260-ton ferry El Venizelos. It sported the blue and yellow colours of ANEK, but did not appear to be loading passengers or vehicles and sat there all day apparently doing nothing.
This morning I discovered on the excellent Maritime Matters website that cruise entrepreneur Bruce Nierenberg is hatching a plan to run a service from Tampa, Florida to Havana, Cuba as soon as the US government lifts restrictions on travel by sea to the island.
He plans to use converted Danish ferries to operate the route – and what is the vessel illustrated in the colours of his proposed United Caribbean Lines? None other than El Venizelos, which already has something of a chequered history.
Ordered by Stena Lines in 1979, it was not until 1984 it was launched as Stena Polonica, but remained undelivered. In 1988 the still-incomplete vessel went to Fred. Olsen and was renamed Bonanza, and in 1992 it was moved to Greece, where it gained its current name.
Although Nierenberg has used the vessel for illustrative purposes, he has not confirmed that a deal has been done to purchase or charter the ship, and ANEK deny any agreement.
Part of the plan is for the UCL vessels to run between Tampa and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. While that route would carry vehicles, none would be taken to Cuba. Instead, the car decks would be used to transport goods such as bedding, appliances, medicine and clothing which are either expensive or unavailable in Cuba.
Fares for the 18-hour journey are expected to be $350 return in a cabin, or $150 for a lounge seat.
Cuba entertains about 2.5 million tourists a year, mostly from Canada, Europe and Latin America. The number could almost double if Americans were allowed to visit – but there is insufficient hotel accommodation on the island, so arrival by cruise ship would be preferable.

By | 2011-04-22T09:22:58+00:00 22 April 2011|Cruise news, Cruise ships|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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