Cuba Cruise Canadian Office Closing

Open Jaw

Dugald Wells

The Canadian who conceived and co-founded Cuba Cruise, the cruise program offering circumnavigations of Cuba for the past 2 winters, is no longer running the company.

Open Jaw has learned that Dugald Wells is out and the Canadian office of Cuba Cruise will close tomorrow. One insider described the circumstances as a 'coup' by Wells' partner in the venture, Cyprus-based Celestyal Cruises, formerly Louis Cruises. Sources say that Wells remains a shareholder in the venture.

Wells approached Louis Cruises in 2011, with the concept of Cuba circumnavigations. The complicated program finally set sail in winter 2013/2014 and ran again this past winter, using the 1,200 pax Louis Cristal, originally built in 1980 as the MS Viking Saga and which later sailed as MS Leeward for Norwegian Cruise Line.

Celestyal Cruises is a Cyprus-based line that operates cruises from Cyprus, France, Italy, India and Greece. The company also charters ships to Thomson Cruises.

Cuba Cruise, which targeted Canadian and European travellers, enjoyed plenty of attention in its 1 st 2 seasons, especially after the December, 2014 announcement of a rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S. Just a few weeks ago, Cuba Cruise announced details of its 3 rd season and Wells enthused about the prospects to U.S. travel trade publication TravelPulse.

“Since December, when the 1st big announcement was made, our web traffic from American locations has gone up 1,200%, just a huge increase. Initially it seemed to be a curiosity and we got a lot of phone calls with general questions, but after the 2 nd announcement came in January, our call centre traffic and our daily web traffic both doubled. We had to put extra people on the phones, and we started taking bookings."

In late January, after the U.S. had loosened travel restrictions to the island, Cuba Cruise posted information on its website detailing how Americans could legally take one of its voyages .

“We only had 5 departures left in the season, but those last couple of departures went full. We turned people away," Wells told TravelPulse.

Conjecture leads sources to believe the lure of major traffic from the U.S. has made the Canadian operation less attractive.

The 3 rd season of Cuba Cruise is scheduled to run between 18DEC15 and 28MAR16.

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