Cruising to Cuba: It’s Personal

The day we met Frank Del Rio, he was the founder of Oceania Cruises. Three years later, he is the head of the Norwegian cruise conglomerate. And any day or week or month now, he is poised to take a cruise ship to Cuba.

It’s inevitable that mainstream cruise ships will be taking passengers to the one remaining Caribbean island none of them is allowed to visit. It’s just a matter of when.

Nobody is more anxious than Frank Del Rio.

Frank Del RioWe knew he lived in Miami and his surname should have been a giveaway, but it didn’t occur to us that the Del Rios were Cubans. Not only that, Frank Del Rio escaped to Miami with his parents — as so many Cuban expatriates did — and has lived in South Florida ever since.

It goes without saying that cruising to Cuba, once the embargoes are lifted, is important to Del Rio. Judging from that desire plus his personality, it’s safe to assume that he also wants to be FIRST.

“My unfulfilled dream is to be on the bridge of one of my ships coming into Havana harbor,” he told CBS station WFOR-TV.

First, of course.

Despite all his preparation — proposed itineraries, multiple ports to visit, making it possible to change a ship’s schedule  on short notice — there are still some issues. From all reports, Cuba is not ready for big cruise ships. The infrastructure probably isn’t there yet for the volume of ships and passengers, from port facilities to the ability to process and protect passengers to the on-island transportation needs.

One legal mind is already cautioning the cruise industry to take it slow and easy. Those two characteristics would never apply to Frank Del Rio, who says he’ll be ready “at the drop of a hat.” He has more reason to be passionate about it than his competition.

The race is soon to be on.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Star
11 nights
April 27, 2015
Miami, Ponta Delgada, London
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $36
www.ncl.com

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