Travel Options Abound Between Tampa Bay and Cuba

Tampa International Airport’s continued standard of excellence in customer service, on-site retail/restaurant options and overall traveler amenities made it an international travel hub. This year, elevated its worldwide reputation when it announced that Southwest would begin providing service from Tampa to Havana. The first commercial flight between to the two cities took off on December 12.

Southwest offers daily nonstop service and affordable fares to Havana.

The airline offers 1 nonstop trip a day to Havana, which departs Tampa at 6:15am. Prices range anywhere from $87 to $350 for one way trips. To be allowed entrance into Cuba the US Government requires that each passenger certify that they are eligible to travel to Cuba under one of several general license categories or a specific license. Southwest customers traveling on general license will certify their reason for travel to Cuba during check-in at TPA.

The general license categories as outlined by the US Treasury Department are:

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations.
  3. Journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings.
  4. Educational activities.
  5. Religious activities.
  6. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions.
  7. Support for the Cuban people.
  8. Humanitarian projects.
  9. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  10. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials.
  11. Certain authorized export transactions.


That’s not the only way to visit Cuba. Royal Caribbean announced it’s Empress of the Seas vessel will begin service to Cuba in 2017. The first trip will depart from Miami on April 19, taking visitors to Havana, Cuba and Costa Maya, Mexico.

Enjoy a luxurious sea expedition to Cuba.

The 1,602-passenger ship will then head to the Port of Tampa Bay offering two trips to Havana. One will be a seven-night trip which departs Tampa on April 30, and a five night trip, which departs on May 20. These voyages mark the first trips to the country from Tampa in nearly 50 years.

The cruise line received travel approval in early December.

Royal Caribbean was granted permission to sail to Havana by the Cuban government on Dec. 7. The calls by the cruise line will operate as people-to-people exchanges between Americans and Cubans as allowed by U.S. rules governing visits to Cuba.

Tom Popper, president of insightCuba, a nonprofit travel organization, defined what people-to-people trips entail to the Washington Post back in March:

“The bottom line is for a people-to-people trip to be compliant — the activities or the trip in its entirety can’t be for tourism purposes . . . The intent is to not just do tourist activities but to meet Cuban people and to exchange, talk about life in the United States, learn about life in Cuba. This can be done across the country.”

Fares for Royal Caribbean’s new Cuban trips begin at $415 per person for the five night trip. You can learn more about costs and what is included in the trip on their website.

Written by Brian Bailey


Brian Bailey is the founder of I Love the Burg and That's So Tampa. In addition to regular contributions to each blog, he's been featured as a commentator to Bay New 9, The Tampa Tribune, The Tampa Bay Times, The Tampa Bay Business Journal and The Business Observer as well as national outlets including The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.