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A new option for travel to Cuba offers balconies and beaches, in addition to Havana and historic cars.

Canadian-based Cuba Cruise this winter started offering seven-night sailings around Cuba, with boardings in both Havana and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The majority of passengers were Canadian and European, according to a spokeswoman. About 10 percent were Americans.

The Calgary-based tour company chartered the 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal, owned by Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. In this, its inaugural season in Cuba, the ship is sailing through March; it will start up again in December.

Seven-night itineraries include daylong stops at Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city; Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Holguin, where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492; and Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth. In addition, the ship spends one day in Montego Bay, where independent American travelers typically board.

Americans who book the cruise on their own are likely in violation of U.S. law, which generally prohibits individual travel to Cuba (but it’s worth noting that the prosecution of leisure travelers is almost nonexistent, according to experts).

There are ways, however, to take a Cuba Cruise through licensed U.S. travel companies. Boston-based Road Scholar ( last year offered five nights aboard the ship as part of a 12-night Cuba tour and is planning to offer a similar itinerary again later this year (with rates starting at about $4,795).

In addition, Insight Cuba will likely offer several nights aboard the ship as part of a longer tour, though the details are still being worked out, according to Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba.

If you book yourself, rates for the cruise start at about $800 per person for an inside cabin; the company is running a buy-one cruise, get-one free promotion through


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