French cruise line approved to sail Americans to Cuba next year

Sailing yacht Le Ponant will start taking Americans around Cuba in 2017.

Sailing yacht Le Ponant will start taking Americans around Cuba in 2017.  (Ponant)

Luxury cruise line Ponant has been granted approval to bring Americans to Cuba starting early 2017.

The French cruise line is the second cruise company that has been given permission from the Cuban government in the past month. Carnival’s Fathom—a new brand focused on voluntourism and cultural experiences—was granted permission March 21.

Unlike Fathom’s excursions, which sail directly from the U.S., Ponant will fly guests from Miami to Havana, where they will board the intimate 64-passenger sailing yacht Le Ponant for seven- or eight-night itineraries, reports the Miami Herald.

"Ponant has been introducing Europeans to Cuba in the past and we are now delighted to offer Americans this enriching opportunity," said Navin Sawhney, CEO of the Americas for Ponant.

Non-Cuban born Americans are eligible to participate in “people-to-people” exchange trips as one of the 12 designated visa categories that allow American travel to Cuba. But people born in Cuba who are now U.S. citizens are ineligible for cultural exchange visas

Cruise Critic reports that a third cruise line, Pearl Seas Cruises, is currently selling cruises to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale—but has not officialy announced whether the Cuban government has approved the itinerary. The cruise line has since been forced to cancel the first two planned sailings. But if you’ve already made it to Cuba, U.S.-owned International Expeditions runs people-to-people cruises out of Havana for American visitors.

Ponant will start operating Cuban excursions from early January 2017 through April 2017. Stops include Havana, Isla de la Juventud, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. The trip starts at $8,190 per person, including airfare.