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Royal Caribbean International’s plans for 2018 to 2020 include doubling its presence in Cuba and bringing the first Quantum-class ship to Alaska.
For Cuba sailings, the line is continuing its policy of scheduling cruises that combine popular ports in the region. This summer, Royal Caribbean will continue to send the 2,350-passenger Majesty of the Seas to Havana, while the 1,602-passenger Empress of the Seas will visit an expanded list of ports, including Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba on Cuba’s southeast coast.
The two new ports, both of which are home to UNESCO World Heritage sites, will significantly increase the opportunities for guests to experience Cuban culture. Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city, is a focal point of the country’s cultural and religious development, as well as the birthplace of great poets, bolero music and dance and other signature Cuban music. It is the most African of Cuba’s population centers and was a cauldron of the Cuban Rebellion, as well as a center of colonial architecture and Cuban rums.
Meanwhile, Cienfuegos, known as “the pearl of the South,” is a city dubbed “Cuban Paris” because of its French influences, which manifest in charming sculptures and beautiful gardens.
Empress will operate five- to eight-night cruises with differing degrees of immersion in Cuba. Year-round sailings out of Miami include a five-night cruise with an overnight in Havana and a call in Key West, Fla.; the seven-night Best of Cuba itinerary, which combines Cienfuegos and Havana with Nassau, Bahamas; and an eight-night cruise that calls in Cienfuegos; Santiago de Cuba; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Labadee, the company’s longtime private beach resort in Haiti.
From April to October this year, Majesty will maintain its schedule of four- and five-night cruises from Tampa, Fla., focusing on daytime and overnight visits to Havana combined with Cozumel, Mexico, and/or Key West. From November to March 2019, Majesty will cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., visiting Havana, Key West and Nassau.
“Cruising remains the easiest way to visit Cuba, and with both Empress and Majesty sailing there in 2018 and 2019, we hope to make it that much easier for adventure seekers to experience the legendary island,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean.
Likewise, next year, cruising options in Alaska will also expand. Royal Caribbean’s 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas, the line’s third Quantum-class vessel, will make its U.S. debut in Alaska, moving from Sydney to Seattle. Ovation launched in 2016 for the Chinese market and has been sailing in Australia and Asia, where its new sistership, Spectrum of the Seas, will debut next year.
Ovation will sail seven-night roundtrip Seattle itineraries to destinations including Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia. Ovation, which will include features such as the North Star observation capsule, the skydiving simulator and robotic bartenders, will replace Explorer of the Seas, joining the 2,501-passenger Radiance of the Seas in the Alaska market.