Travel to Cuba or Bahamas from Florida by Ferry

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Contributed by:  Martin Allred  www.floridaography.com

The (South Florida) Sun Sentinel reported last year that four companies have received licenses from the U.S. government to run ferries between Florida and Cuba. Overnight trips from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and perhaps Tampa on vessels holding 300 to 500 passengers. Ferry prices are expected to start at around $300 round trip.

Just be patient, ferry services  probably won’t start until late this year or early 2017, and could take longer, according to companies involved in the ventures.

Spain’s ferry veteran Balearia said that it has proposed to invest more than $35 million to build a ferry terminal and related facilities in Havana to help speed the start of Florida-Cuba service. Havana has to approve that project because Cuba needs to develop terminal facilities for proposed ferries from Florida, complete with customs and immigration processing and room to handle passengers and freight. That requires millions of dollars in investment.

I personally think the Balearia Ferry will be one of the first ships to sail to Cuba because it’s operated by Spain and doesn’t have all the U.S. Government restrictions in place to overcome.

I know that the Balearia Ferry operating out of Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas is a very nice ship and about the size of a smaller cruise ship.  Last spring the ship had 1st class accommodations with really good food in the dining room too.  We paid about $165 each for a 1st class ticket to Ft. Lauderdale from Freeport, Bahamas. The journey was approximately 4 hours.

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A regular ticket on main deck is somewhere around $75 now to the Bahamas.  I don’t know if they still have 1st class, but an “Economy Premium” ticket is $110. Also, full service bars with other cheaper fare was available if we had opted to budget or skip the fine dining.  A round trip ticket with departure taxes and all is approximately $232 if you select economy premium status now.

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Havana Ferry Partners’ boat, with capacity for 160 passengers. It would cover the Key West-Havana route in less than 3 hours, at a possible cost of only $300 (roundtrip). Image taken from HFP’s Facebook page.
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Havana Ferry Partners LLC has said that they will be confirmed at a later date, but will include regular passenger ferry service between Port Everglades, FL and Havana.
The other company that has been granted a license is Baja Ferries USA, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) from Texas, which is already active in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
I figure tickets will range between $250 to $350 depending on the perks available. As more companies compete for the ferry shuttle service to Cuba, the prices may drop slightly.

About chowjudge

Martin Allred is a professional photographer and frequent traveler. His assignments cover most of the U.S. and Canada. Martin is a native of New Orleans and currently resides in the Sarasota/Tampa Bay area of Florida.
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