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Cuban Cruising Causing Angst in Florida

The fight to cruise Cuba is on and the battleground, which may or may not surprise you, is Florida.

As the U.S. and the Communist country 90 miles from its southernmost shore inch towards normalizing relations, Florida sees some of its cruise stakes slipping away, like fragments of driftwood floating into the Gulf of Mexico.

The two imminent victims are Tampa and Key West.

While they aren't exactly hot ports of the industry, both have enough of a cruise-ship presence that if it should go away, there would be an impact on each's economy. While places like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are clearly poised to send Varadero

-Henryk Kotowski photo

ships full of passengers to Cuba, the concerns of Tampa and Key West have nothing to do with their geographical desirability, which both have with regards to Cuba.

It has to do with ships.

In Tampa, the port is not equipped to handle the biggest cruise ships, and when Cuba is finally on-limits you can anticipate there will be a rush. (As an aside, there has been talk of Tampa being the northern terminus for ferry service from Cuba.) Tampa's ineligibility for cruise ships is tied to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which isn't high enough. If you can believe it, government officials are looking at raising the bridge!

In Key West, a frequent port on many Caribbean cruises, the concern is that it will be replaced by Havana and other Cuban ports less than 100 miles away. So it's "problem" is being "attractive" beyond making channels wider and deeper, although that's part of the equation. Can Key West compete with Cuba…when the time comes?

Meanwhile, to the West, Florida's "enemy" for Cuban business is lurking. Mobile, New Orleans, Galveston and Houston right now are better equipped to serve Cuba with larger ships than either Tampa or Key West.

With friendlier relations between the countries inevitable, the clock is ticking for two Florida ports.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth
11 nights
January 10, 2014
LondonNew YorkFort Lauderdale
Balcony: $1,299
Cost per day: $118
www.cunard.com

Norwegian Mirrors its Ships of a City with Getaway, Miami and Latino Influence

 

When Norwegian's Getaway makes its grand entrance — Norwegian ships always do — come January in Miami, it will mirror its sister Breakaway in many ways…starting with philosophy. Breakaway is New York's ship and Getaway is Miami's ship and because they're from the same generation of the family, the features will be legendary.

So will the connection to the respective cities.

There is no mistaking that Breakaway is a New York ship — the tip-off is the Manhattan skyline and statue of Liberty, painted on the bow. On the bow of Breakaway Hullthe Getaway, it's more subtle that this is a Miami ship…perhaps because Miami has so many ships. The bow artist (Cuban-American David Le Batard) appears to have skipped the skyline and opted for the South Beach sun, water and mermaid effect.

On board, the decor will feature Miami's past, with nostalgic photos of Miami Beach in its heyday. Nostalgic photos are a specialty of Norwegian's boss, Kevin Sheehan, something that impressed us on the Epic, which might be called every city's ship. It's easy to spend an hour or more perusing them, and memories of Miami are certain to decorate the Getaway.

The same goes in the kitchens.

In the Tropicana Room, a complimentary restaurant on Deck 7, featured menu items will reflect the favor of Miami — ceviche de camaron, churrasco com chimichurri (steak), arroz con pollo. In the Flamingo Bar & Grill, a complimentary restaurant on Deck 16, Latin food will be served all day.

Of the watering holes, the Sunset Bar on Deck 8 is a Hemingway haven. The renowned author had a permanent residence in Key West, where he drank Ernest Hemingwaymany a daiquiri (it was no secret he was a heavy drinker), and one he's said to have inspired is on the menu. At the Sugarcane Bar, there is a Cuban influence — coincidentally, Hemingway also had a home in Havana — with banana leaves on the walls and mojitos on the menu. No, no cigars.

To cater to its clientele, every ship's cook pays attention to appropriate menu items. Then there are clients like us…we enjoy eating just about anything.

One of us loves Mexican food. If there was only one type of food available on earth, Mexican would be fine. The "other half" smiles and goes along with the idea, so long as it's not every day of every week of every year. And it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the lover of all Mexican offerings would have her taste buds dancing over anything with a "Latino" culinary influence.

Dancing? Can the flamenco be far behind?

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
December 8, 2013
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau
Inside: $459
Cost per day: $65
www.ncl.com

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