The Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel ponder, “Imagine boarding a deluxe ferry boat at Port Everglades or the Port of Miami one evening, settling into a cabin or a reclining chair and sailing into Havana harbor as the sun rises the next morning, all for $150 to $300 roundtrip. Florida port officials are planning for this tantalizing prospect, while ferry operators push the Obama administration to allow them to make it a reality.”
It seems that ferry operators would like to compete with the increasing number of airports that are now obtaining rights to direct flights to Cuba. Apparently, the market is there, with a constantly growing traffic to Cuba, which is overwhelming air charters. The article says, “Port officials want to position themselves to tap a potential burst of leisure travel if the U.S. ban on tourist trips to Cuba is ever lifted.”
Besides tapping into the profits to be made with leisure travel, having a ferry service would be a cheaper way for thousands of Cuban Americans and other passengers scrambling for seats on charter flights to get to Havana and other ports. Air-charter operators with service from airports in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles estimate the number of passenger trips per year since 2009 have has roughly doubled to about 400,000. “Business is booming,” reports Tessie Aral, president of ABC Charters in Miami, which flies to Havana five times a week. “The flights are full. We have more demand right now than we have flights.” This increased demand is putting pressure on the government to allow ferry service from Florida’s seaports.
Bruce Nierenberg of Orlando, a former cruise-line executive, has applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for permission to establish a ferry line to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Miami. He explains, “The Cuba part requires government approval, but we are talking about ferry service throughout the Caribbean.” He would offer a low-cost service for consumers, “especially Cuban Americans in South and Central Florida, who might travel more frequently if they could avoid the round-trip airfares of almost $400.”
Nierenberg envisions oceangoing ferries to Cuba carrying about 1,200 passengers who would pay $150 for a reclining chair or about $300 for a cabin. He hopes to start with service to Cuba as early as this year and to begin ferries to other Caribbean countries and Mexico in 2012.
Port official in Tampa and Port Everglades are ready to embark on the project, saying that they have the terminal facilities and the potential customers. Carlos Buqueras, Port Everglades’ business development director, exclaims, “It could be an explosion in the market once people see the convenience of being able to drive to the port, get on a ferry and—after a nice dinner and a bit of sleep—arrive in Cuba.”
Vintage postcard from http://viewlinerltd.blogspot.com/2010/08/vintage-florida-cruises.html