One of the best-kept news secrets: In 2015, the U.S. State Department gave several ferry companies permission to begin sailing between South Florida and Cuba, pending approval from Cuban authorities.
Ferry travel could be the wave of the future for Americans who want to see the communist island, and it could be a tourist bonanza for South Florida as a “gateway destination” — particularly if hotels in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key West are willing to offer packages that include a few days in Cuba.About Travel says when ferry service does launch, expect it to go to Havana from at least two Florida destinations: Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and Key West. Miami, Port Manatee, Tampa and St. Petersburg are other departure points being considered by ferry companies. U.S. ferry service is being eyed for the historic, south coast port city of Santiago de Cuba as well as Havana.
“I can hardly imagine anything more exciting than uniting two countries that are so close, and yet have been cut off from each other for more than 55 years,” says Matt Davies, managing director of Direct Ferries, a global booking site for ferry service that will offer Cuba reservations by clicking here.
“We expect Cuba to sign the bilateral agreement very soon, and we will be ready with the widest selection of ferry routes to Cuba.” About Travel believes service could actually begin by the end of 2016.
Where you depart from will make a big difference in your travel time to Cuba: a traditional ferry from Port Everglades to Havana would take about 10 hours one way, according to Direct Ferries. However, the Spanish ferry company Baleària plans to operate a high-speed ferry between Key West and Havana that would make the crossing of the Florida Strait in just three hours.
Fares aren’t likely to be prohibitive, says About Travel. Look for them to start at around $300 roundtrip, car included.
Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News
August 24, 2016