Pearl Seas seeks to sail to Cuba

Pearl Seas Cruises, which offers sailings to the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, New England, Caribbean and Panama Canal, plans to add a series of seven- to 10-night cultural voyages to Cuba during the spring of 2016.

The cruise ship operator is seeking a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to operate the cruises under the “people-to-people” provisions of the Federal regulations that govern travel to Cuba. Under those regulations, OFAC considers people-to-people contacts to result from activities that allow individuals from the United States and individuals from Cuba to interact on a direct and individual basis, generally do not involve meetings with Government of Cuba officials and contribute to humanitarian efforts and the development of civil society in Cuba.

The Pearl Mist
Trips licensed under the people-to-people provision must be educational in nature and often include participation with the Cuban people in joint activities, including seminars, lectures, workshops or similar activities, according to the OFAC.

If approved by the appropriate authorities in both the U.S. and Cuba, the sailings will take place aboard the 210-passenger Pearl Mist, a brand new luxury cruise ship whose small size will make such people-to-people contact easier than with larger vessels.

“[The] Pearl Mist allows access to more of Cuba’s ports and regions, while providing a relaxed means to engage directly with Cubans and explore the rich history and fabric of Cuban culture,” Charles Robertson, President of Pearl Seas Cruises, said in a statement provided to TheTravelPro.

The Pearl Mist features 105 staterooms and suites, all with private verandas and large sliding glass doors or opening picture windows to capitalize on panoramic views. The ship is fully stabilized for cruising comfort and offers the latest technology in safety and environmental standards.

The company plans round trip voyages from South Florida and will visit several Cuban ports including Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Pearl Seas Cruises plans itineraries on both the Southern and Northern coasts of Cuba and plans to include people-to-people cultural exchanges to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Despite President Obama’s announcement on December 17, 2014 of a 13-point plan to reestablish relations with the island nation more than 50 years after the embargo was put into place and despite the U.S. government’s May 4 approval of ferry service between the two nations, little has changed.

The Code of Federal Regulations “Cuban Assets Control Regulations” were amended in January “to implement policy changes announced by the President to further engage and empower the Cuban people,” but still require that Americans who wish to visit Cuba legally fall into one of a dozen categories, which include people-to-people programs. Freewheeling tourism is still considered a violation of those regulations.

Pearl Seas Cruises is an affiliate of American Cruise Lines, which operates eight ships throughout the United States. Chesapeake Shipbuilding is an industry leading designer and builder of commercial ships with a specialization in cruise ships, ferry boats and tugboats.

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Photo courtesy Pearl Seas Cruises
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