Cruise lines could tie up in Cuba — eventually
Don't expect to hit the island nation right away, even if the travel ban is lifted.
A car rolls down a street in Havana, Cuba in this 2002 file photo. (PHIL VELASQUEZ, CHICAGO TRIBUNE / December 16, 2002)
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Heartened by news reports that Cuba had agreed to release 52 political prisoners and by increasing congressional support for ending the American travel ban, Sasso foresees the day when Cuba will be on the Caribbean itinerary of every major cruise line.
"Right now, though, they lack the infrastructure and facilities to handle the huge influx of vessels and visitors," he said. "It'll probably take one, two or maybe three years before the necessary developments are completed. Lots of work has to be done. We also have to be sure there'll be no political backlash."
The association chairman, one of Celebrity Cruise line's founders, came out of retirement several years ago to serve as president of the Mediterranean Shipping Co.'s North American section.
The State Department has called the prisoner release "a positive development."
Senators of both political parties have indicated they have sufficient votes to lift the American travel ban to Cuba.
President Barack Obama modified the travel restriction last year, allowing Cubans to visit relatives in Cuba, but he declined to rescind America's half-century embargo before the Caribbean nation ends its prosecution of political dissidents. Human rights long have been a sticking point in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Under existing law, American journalists and people on humanitarian missions are permitted to travel to Cuba.