Ferries to Cuba
Passenger and cargo ferry service between Florida and Cuba could soon resume, after a 50 year hiatus.
The U.S. government granted licenses Tuesday to at least five companies -- Airline Brokers Co. of Miami, Baja Ferries USA, Havana Ferry Partners, United Caribbean Lines and America Cruise Ferries of Puerto Rico -- to begin offering ferry service, reports the Miami Herald.
Now the companies must negotiate access with the Cuban government.
The United States still doesn't allow Americans to go to the island for tourism, but it does allow family visits and educational, professional and other purposeful travel as long as it falls into 12 approved categories.
Reviving this previously popular mode of travel is an example of the people-to-people contact that is the cornerstone of Obama's engagement policy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Since travel restrictions were loosened several years ago, Americans have been able to take charter flights to Cuba. The ferry service would be offered at about a third of the cost, according to one potential operator.
Unlimited luggage allowances could be another lure for travelers who regularly lug cargo to the island -- including televisions, mechanical parts, paint and food -- paying hundreds of dollars in overweight fees, notes the New York Times.
Cubans born on the island cannot arrive or depart by sea, according to Cuba government regulations. However, the Miami Herald says there are indications that regulation might soon be changed.
Tampa is a potential U.S. port for the new ferry services. Unlike the hard-line Miami Cuban community, the Tampa Cubans are friendlier towards rapprochement with the Castro government. The Miami Herald explains that Cubans in Tampa pre-date the revolution, leading to a distinctly different view. Tampa could become the new gateway to Cuba, and some Tampa leaders are even angling for a Cuban consulate.
The Washington Post has a feature on the decayed Cuban town of Hershey (renamed Camilo Cienfuegos by the revolutionary government), which was founded a century ago by the American chocolate magnate of the same name, and has since fallen into complete disrepair.
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