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The Emotional Story Behind Norwegian’s Big News

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Sometimes, even the biggest and most unexpected news developments have, at their heart, very personal stories behind them. And that has proven to be the case where Norwegian Cruise Line’s announcement that it should soon be sending ships to Cuba was concerned.

At the end of 2015, Frank Del Rio, head honcho of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, told the folks at Travel Weekly magazine why he was so excited about the possibility of the line’s ships sailing to Cuba. “The last time Cuba was open to Americans,” he said, “the cruise industry as we know it today didn’t exist.” He went on to say that he believed “some time in 2016, an American cruise ship will sail into Havana harbor.”

Well, since that time, Carnival’s impact travel line, Fathom, began regular sailings to Cuba… and it looks like Norwegian will be next via their Oceana division. Del Rio told reporters that he is “literally waiting for the phone to ring to get the final, final approval from the Cuban government” so that the Regatta could begin Cuban voyages, hopefully before the end of the year. A second ship, the Oceana Marina — slightly larger than her sister — would hopefully begin visiting the country in early 2017. And while no specific dates were revealed, the exec also caught a few folks off guard by adding, “We also have plans to send Norwegian Sky to Cuba!”

Why It’s Personal

In September of 2015, Del Rio paid a visit to Cuba, and it was something of a homecoming for him: It was the first time he had been to the land of his birth since he was seven years old. In a New York Times piece published back in 2011, Del Rio wrote, “My family emigrated from Cuba when I was almost 7, after the failed Bay of Pigs mission. We had a nice life in Cuba. My father worked for the Coca-Cola Company, and we’d spend weekends at our beach house. But my parents didn’t support Fidel Castro and wanted safe passage out of the country at that point.”

In the extremely personal piece, Del Rio went on to explain that each member of his family “had taken just one suitcase… because my parents thought Castro couldn’t possibly stay in power long.”

After returning to his ancestral home last year with his wife and daughter, Del Rio admitted, “It’s an incredible place. I cried there more than once when I went [back].” And even while awaiting word on when his cruise line might be able to help others visit, he admitted to planning a return trip for this coming September.

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