Dawn of a Destination: Chartering Cuba

As Cuba opens its borders to luxury charter, top-notch yachts are becoming available for bookings.

Cuba, Charter, Travel, Yachting

Havana Panorama in the evening

Cuba is a hot spot for luxury yacht charter destinations.Courtesy Fotografia Inc.

Almost two years have passed since the United States began to normalize relations with Cuba, setting off a frenzy among ­Americans wanting to charter in the long-forbidden destination. While other Caribbean islands remain ­welcoming, ­Cuba’s siren song is mesmerizing: a chance to meander amid the architecture and classic cars in Old Havana, smoke a cigar with the virtuoso who rolled it or simply follow in Hemingway’s wake (from the fishing grounds straight to the bars for a Bucanero or mojito).

Demand for charters has far outpaced supply as yacht managers and captains untangled the red tape that had tied everyone’s hands in a kind of tourism hostage situation. For the current winter season, we’re finally starting to see serious availability — and in fact, several yachts offering Cuba itineraries are from such top builders as Benetti, Trinity, Feadship and Westport. The thing to keep in mind is that Cuba still comes with conditions. Yes, the yachts and crews are international-caliber, but the Cuba charter experience is still an evolving concept. For starters, last-minute bookings are virtually impossible.

Charter managers and captains need a good three weeks or so to get all of the paperwork organized to keep a Cuba itinerary legal.

Second, expect a more regimented experience than you have found aboard charter yachts in other destinations. Visits to Cuba require “people-to-people” exchanges, which means guests need to go beyond typical tourism activities. Whether it’s visiting a school, meeting with artists or some other cultural interaction, the exchanges are required and must be documented.

Third, choosing the right charter yacht is paramount. While the rest of the Caribbean has marina infrastructures to support luxury yacht charter, Cuba, for the most part, does not. Book a charter yacht that has everything you could want or need.

That is, with the exception of the local congri (a tasty plate of rice and beans) and son cubano music. For those, you will have to take to the streets, where you can rejoice.

GETTING THERE

Benetti Ulysses

Benetti Ulysses

This 183-foot Benetti is with Fraser Yachts at a lowest weekly base rate of $270,000.Marc Paris

One of the challenges with the emerging vacation market in Cuba is that five-star accommodations are hard to find ashore. Ulysses is a yacht that eliminates this problem. Her interior decor is rich, traditional and regal.

Westport Second Love

Westport Second Love

Paul Madden & Associates offers this 112-foot Westport at an inclusive weekly rate of $116,000.Courtesy Westport

Cuba is less than 300 miles from South Florida, a distance that feels considerably shorter aboard a charter yacht with a top hop of 24 knots. That's what Second Love provides, at a rate that includes Cuba fees, gratuity and more.

Dunya Axioma

Dunya Axioma

This 236-foot Dunya is with Yachting Partners International at a base rate of about $549,000.Jeff Brown

Not only does Axioma have the infinity swimming pool that you can see to the right, but inside, her main salon spans two decks with an open mezzanine at the top. Few yachts in the world's charter fleet can offer this ballroom effect.

Trinity Aspen Alternative

Trinity Aspen Alternative

Superyacht Sales & Charter promotes this 164-foot Trinity at a weekly base rate of $225,000.Jim Raycroft

A baby grand piano in the main-deck salon is just one of the amenities charter guests will find aboard Aspen Alternative. She also has a sun deck hot tub and a seating area on the main deck aft that is ideal for checking out Cuba's scenery on the hook.