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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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Update as of 2016 Dec 14

According to this page (in Spanish): http://cartasdesdecuba.com/turismo-a-cuba-en-yates-de-lujos/

The company Sailo (boat rental) is offering trips to Cuba from Florida.

There have also been news about cruise ships that include Cuba in their itinerary (also in Spanish): http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1481146729_27256.html

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According to the Helms-Burton Act, ships docking at Cuban ports are not allowed to dock at U.S. ports for six months (these restrictions have been eased by Obama's administration, but with Trump's election there is no way to know what will happen next).

On top of that, there is a law in Cuba that forbids Cuban nationals from boarding a ship without a special permit from the government. For these reasons, traveling to/from Cuba by sea has become very rare.

  • Your statement: "traveling to/from Cuba by sea has become very rare" is false. It has become MUCH more common and has always been a thing with cruisers/yacht owners. Hundreds of US boaters a year enter/leave Cuba without issue. Many fly without issue by way of other countries. Keep in mind, for the most part Cuba doesn't care about our law and they won't enforce it. The USCG will on occasion. While boat travel is frequent, a lot of people do get caught and fined and very rarely their vessel gets seized by USCG. Technically, you have always been able to visit. Spending money is illegal. – maplemale Dec 15 '16 at 0:35
  • It is getting better with recent laws passed by Obama, that's what I wanted to reflect on my latest edit, but just a few more years back, it was indeed rare. Cruises were a thing at some point, about 10-15 years ago, but they stopped for many years until very recently. – yms Dec 15 '16 at 2:22
  • I see your point... though even 15 years ago I knew the occasional American who would vacation there regularly by way of Canada. Not sure on yacht owners 15 years ago. But, in the last 6-8 years allot of them make the trip semi-legal I guess. – maplemale Dec 15 '16 at 4:37

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