Ferry operators eye new Florida-Havana service

By Bob Schulman

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If all goes well – and right now it looks like it will – passenger ferries should be zipping across the 230-mile run from Miami to Havana a little later on this year. U.S. approval for the new service has already been granted, and Cuba is expected to give the go-ahead “very soon,” according to Matt Davies, managing director of Direct Ferries (www.directferries.com), a worldwide seller of ferry tickets.

When service to Cuba begins, Direct Ferries will sell bookings on participating lines on a website (www.cubaferries.com) it already owns and operates. “Several major ferry companies are already on board, and additional companies are signing on as fast as they can,” a spokeswoman for Direct Ferries said. She reported that the Port of Miami is considering building a new ferry building.

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On the Cuba end, Baleària, a Spanish shipping company now operating ferry service between Port Everglades and The Bahamas, reportedly will build a new state-of-the-art ferry terminal in Havana.

Last year Direct Ferries booked 1.6 million ferry passengers on 143 lines serving 187 countries and islands around the world. When Cuba flashes the green light, the rush will be on to enjoy the romance and comfort of ferry service to Havana for the first time since the 1950s. “The buzz about the potential for profit in shipping and tourism is poker hot for (other) Florida port cities too,” the Direct Ferries spokeswoman noted.

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Among other ferry operators, Baja Ferries, which currently serves Pacific ports in Mexico and California, reportedly plans to offer Miami-Havana service. America Cruise Ferries, well known to passengers traveling between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, will offer service between Miami and Havana and plans to carry vehicles as well as passengers.

“I can hardly imagine anything more exciting than uniting two countries that are so close, and yet have been cut off from each other for more than 55 years,” said  Davies.

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Photos courtesy of Direct Ferries.

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