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When I was reading about Cuba around the time I visited there (2008), I got the impression that the only way in is by air.

Now, as of 2012, is this (still) the case? Or are there any cruises, ferries, or other sea travel options for reaching Cuba, legally, from some of the nearby counties? (Either for a day-trip or a longer visit.)

I mean, Mexico is close. So are Jamaica, Bahamas, and many other island nations. (And Florida, of course, but I suppose we can count that out for now.) You can easily fly to Havana from e.g. Kingston, Nassau, or Cancún—it'd only make sense if you could take a boat too.

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Image from Bing Maps

(For the purposes of this question, assume that the Cuban tourist card/visa is already sorted out.)

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Most of the time you will see huge cruise ships in Havana. But this is part of a cruise and even though you will have a day or two in Havana, you will not be allowed to stay on the island.

If you have your own boat you can just sail to Cuba but have to arrive at one of seven ports. There is some good information about this at cruisingincuba.com

I don't think there are scheduled ferries to anywhere, when I was in Cancun some years ago I was looking for a boat to Cuba and couldn't find any.

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(Hm, didn't see any when I was there.) Anyway, are you sure the cruise ships are American? To me that would be surprising given that for most Americans it's (near) illegal to visit Cuba. (Or are the visitors all Cuban-Americans etc? Or does the US embargo make an exception for cruise visits? Or they just visit without license?) –  Jonik May 24 '12 at 20:56
    
Oops, I should have investigated more. I'm sure I've seen some cruise ships when I was on Cuba in 2004, but you are right they are not American. The BBC has a bit about this: bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12133640 –  Peter Hahndorf May 24 '12 at 21:14

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