Royal Caribbean International finally received long sought after approval to sail to Cuba this week, but the Miami-based cruise line will be offering most of its voyages from Tampa instead.
Royal Caribbean announced Friday that its 2,270-passenger Empress of the Seas, a 26-year-old ship that was renovated early this year and sailing from PortMiami, will sail one five-night voyage from Miami on April 19. The trip will include a stop at Puerto Costa Maya in Mexico.
Then Empress will move up the western coast to Tampa for two Cuba itineraries: a seven-night April 30 sailing with stops in Cozumel, Mexico, and Belize City, Belize, and a five-night May 20 voyage with stops in Key West and Cozumel. Trips start at $519 per person.
On the island, tours will include visits to Old Havana, local artisan markets, Havana’s rum museum and Ernest Hemingway’s apartment in the Cuban capital.
Empress will then homeport in Port Tampa for the summer season, sailing four- and five-night trips with stops in Cuba. The cruise line said summer itinerary details will be released later.
Early this year, Empress of the Seas underwent a $50 million renovation to transform the former Pullmantur Cruises ship (a Spanish cruise line owned by parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises) into a Royal Caribbean International ship.
Empress of the Seas will also get some additional Cuban sazón for its new itineraries. Café Royal aboard the ship will serve cortaditos and café con leche. You can bet on salsa music.