Photo: Omara García (AIN)

The MS Empress of the Seas made its first stop in Havana on April 23. This is the second cruise ship of the U.S. company Royal Caribbean to arrive at this destination, which has been consolidated among traveler preferences in the Caribbean cruise sector.

Mark Tamis, senior vice president of Hotel Operations at Royal Caribbean International, noted that this is the first stop of many for this ship, carrying 1,500 passengers, and thanked Cuban authorities for their support to make it possible.

Greg Purdy, Senior Vice President of Marine Operations of the company, expressed his satisfaction with the secure conditions in which they traveled through Cuban waters, where they expect to return frequently.

Mark Tamis and Ángel Díaz Albertini, president of the Aries Transporte, S.A. corporation, cut the inaugural ribbon at the Sierra Maestra Cruise Terminal.

Albertini pointed out that cruise travel increases the possibility of more U.S. citizens visiting Cuba and learning about its reality.

However, he recalled that U.S. citizens are still banned from traveling to the island as tourists, and must apply for licenses within 12 categories as approved by their government. This policy forms part of the prohibitions included within the blockade imposed on the island by Washington for more than five and a half decades.

The president of Aries Transporte, a Cuban company responsible for all cruise activities on the island, stressed that despite blockade restrictions, an increase in operations is expected in 2017, supported by qualified personnel and a high level of security.

We hope that the inaugural visit by the Empress of the Seas will contribute to supporting the process toward the improvement of bilateral relations between Cuba and the U.S., Albertini expressed.

Royal Caribbean presents a stopover program to the port of Havana from Miami, which will continue this year with the Azamara Quest, the first of its cruise ships to stop at the Cuban port on March 31, and the Empress of the Seas.

Roberta Jacoboy, Managing Director of Global Tour Operations at Royal Caribbean Cruises, noted that Havana offers markedly different characteristics than the rest of the company’s Caribbean destinations.

The music, architecture, food, general culture and the people especially have excited us and we are very happy to be here, she stressed following the inaugural six-hour stopover in the Cuban capital.