Ever been on a cruise?

No nor have I.  Can’t say the idea appeals to me, but obviously some people like it.

On Monday evening the first cruise ship in nearly 40 years arrived in Cuba, from Miami, with 700 yanks, and 6 Cubans on board.

It has now joined the 2 regular cruise ships that visit Havana weekly from the Caribbean. More tourists jamming the old town coffee shops.

When I asked one of my Cuba partners what they thought of the cruise ship from Carnival arriving, the response was –  it’s the first “ferry service.”  A cruise is it not. Maybe there’s something in that comment?!

The ship very nearly didn’t sail.  A big fuss blew up because of a historic Cuban law that banned people born in Cuban from arriving on the island by boat.  To comply with the law the cruise operator Carnival refused to sell tickets to Cuban Americans.  And this prompted a flurry of protests, a discrimination lawsuit, and eventually John Kerry waded into the debate.

So the Cuba government scrapped the law, and Carnival announced they would allow Cubans to travel.

So 706 happy cruisers disembarked this week in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba.  Spending dollars, buying cigars and rum, and enjoying the delights of this great unspoiled paradise.

More will follow.

3.5 Million visitors last year, of which a measly 160,000 were from the USA.  It’s going to skyrocket in the coming years, particularly with the investment that’s hopefully going into accommodation.  Nearly 4,000 new hotel rooms this year, over 5,000 rooms upgraded, with a further 14,000 homestay rooms available.  But that’s a drop in the ocean and there’s a wave of investment on the horizon.  There’s demand for so much more.

It really is all happening in this amazing island right now and these are momentous, historic times.  Last month Obama became the first US president since 1928 to visit Cuba.  Last week UK foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was there to make some trade deals.

And as the last great hidden economy emerges from the shadows it’s attracting the cool crowd.  It’s the thing to go to Cuba right now – the UK’s Rolling Stones were there last month and the US’s Major Lazer the month before.  Both were standing room only with over half a million in the crowd.

There’s an odd looking fella called Lagerfield who looks like a little old lady in a gestapo uniform.  He’s just held a fashion show in Havana for Chanel “inspired by the colours of the Caribbean and classic aesthetics of Cuba”.  Wonder what the Cubans made of that?

Dave Matthews has just been there.  Apparently he doesn’t want his fellow Americans following him – he’s worried about Americanisation and the arrival of big brands like Starbucks and McDonalds.  “I want to get a megaphone and scream, emergency, the Americans are coming” he apparently said.

From my experiences with Cuba – This is NOT going to happen any time soon.

And Smokey Robinson was there too.  “I hope this is the beginning of an entire love relationship” were his words to reporters.

The reason the world’s looking at Cuba right now is that these days will not be around for ever.  These are precious rare moments, as a country comes in from the cold in its own unique way, guided only by how the Cuban Government want it to happen, not the Americans.

And as the high profile visits from Presidents to Motown singers show, it’s a country on everybody’s lips.

I’m pleased to be part of helping Cuba find its way in the world by investing in businesses that help its economy grow. Watch this space.

mm
Written by David Lenigas