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Will Relaxed Laws for US Citizens Increase Cuba's Status as a Luxury Yachting Hotspot?

By Rebecca Bradbury   13 November 2015

Cuba’s luxury yacht charter industry could be on the cusp of a revolution as diplomatic ties between the island nation and the United States are revived.

At the start of 2015, full diplomatic relations were restored between the United States and Cuba after a 50-year hiatus. As a result, the severe travel restrictions enforced by the US government, which prevented its citizens from legally traveling to Cuba, have been lessened.

Yet, there are still some strict limitations, most importantly being that US citizens are still not allowed to visit Cuba for the purposes of tourism. This rules out the option for Americans to undertake a yacht charter vacation in Cuban waters purely for tourist activities such as relaxing on the beach or snorkelling in the coral-rich waters.

Travel is only legal if a US citizen engages in one of 12 activities outlined by the US Department of the Treasury. Categories include business, family, religion, education, research and humanitarian projects.

There is one category, however, that has the potential for tourism to grow in Cuba under a different guise. ‘People-to-people travel’ as it is known, demands that travellers participate in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activity.

Its aim is to bring Americans into closer contact and interaction with Cuban citizens and, subsequently, a handful of tour operators have developed itineraries around ‘people-to-people’ offerings, which include visits to theatres, orphanages and museums.

A US citizen participating in one of these tours will have to comply with the whole programme or they will be breaking the law.

Americans eager to discover this fascinating country on a luxury yacht vacation will be pleased to hear that, in August 2015, the first US yacht charter in 50 years entered Cuban waters, and its passengers and crew were travelling on a people-to-people permit.

To arrange the trip, Palm Beach yacht broker, Paul Madden teamed up with a New York City operator called Academic Arrangements Abroad, which takes cultural organisations and alumni associations on tours around the world.

Although the permit took seven months to secure, it’s a sign that the new tourism laws could open up unprecedented opportunities for US citizens to engage in full schedules of engaging and immersive cultural exchange experiences in Cuba while on a yacht charter.

It’s currently a fantastic time to visit Cuba as the nation shakes off the shackles of its rocky political and economic past. However, visiting the Caribbean island is like stepping back in time and this forms much of its appeal. In cities such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba, vintage American cars crisscross streets lined with Spanish colonial buildings while horse and carts clatter through the countryside.

There is, however, plenty more to discover than this old-style charm. Pristine beaches line the coast, lush rainforests are home to tumbling waterfalls, imposing mountain ranges contrast with rolling plains and a 200-mile-long string of cays forms the stunning Jardines de Rey archipelago.

Indeed, Cuba makes for ideal cruising territory and can cater for superyachts at two marinas. There is the recently completed marina at the Varadero resort on the east coast of Havana, which can accommodate superyachts of up to 60 metres, as well as Marina Hemingway, situated to the west of the capital and suitable for luxury yachts measuring up to 70 metres in length.

Plus, the fact that the historically-renowned 99m/325ft superyacht ‘Christina O’ is one of the luxury yachts available to charter in Cuba is a sign that the country’s status as a luxury yacht destination is on the up.

Owned in the 1950s by Aristotle Onassis, the personality that established the ‘jet set’, Christina O has been beautifully restored to combine the resonance of her unique past with the latest luxurious amenities. She certainly offers the opportunity to experience the Cuban coast in the upmost style and glamour.

If you are interested in a Cuban yacht vacation, please get in touch with your preferred charter broker.

Alternatively, browse and compare all luxury yachts available to charter in Cuba.

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