It was supposed to happen last winter, but for some reason did not, but now Louis Cristal is being prepared for her Atlantic crossing, followed by a first season of cruises that circumnavigate Cuba. She was due to sail from Greece on 24 November 2013 in an arrangement that has been variously described as a charter or a joint venture.
Louis provided the crew and the ship, which had not been used in cruise service in 2013. Cuba Cruise is a Canadian-based organisation offering one-week cruises around the island, with boarding points in Havana as well as Montego Bay, Jamaica, the only port used that is not in Cuba.
The island is still a no-go area for US citizens, but the company expects the majority of passengers to come from Canada and Europe for a cruise season that lasts from 16 December 2013 to 31 March 2014. It is expected that the ship will return to Greece at the end of this programme.
Built as Sally Albatross in 1992 on the lower hull of the 1980-built Viking Saga (then named Sally Albatross and largely destroyed by fire), the ship has had a fairly chequered career, having spent some time as NCL’s Leeward and Star Cruises’ Superstar Taurus, before heading back to her Baltic routes as Silja Opera. Louis acquired her in 2007 as a direct replacement for Sea Diamond, lost earlier that year.