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Adriana Cruises has Cuban approval for sailings to start in January

Adriana - to embark US passengers in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, just south of Cancún
Adriana Cruises has Cuban authorities' approval to operate seven-day itineraries and will begin sailing in late January, Seatrade Cruise News has learned.

The 350-passenger Adriana will embark US passengers in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, for people-to-people cruises, and other passengers, mainly Europeans, in Havana, according to Ilya Nikitin, vp Worldwide Network Ltd., a division of INFLOT Worldwide.

Adriana will spend Saturdays and Sundays in Havana, Mondays and Tuesdays anchored off Maria La Gorda, an emerging destination famous for diving and nature, and Wednesdays and Thursdays at Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancún.

Starting Jan. 31, weekly departures are planned through June.

Nikitin said the excellent airlift to Cancún will make Puerto Morelos a convenient embarkation port for Americans.

At Maria La Gorda, one day will be dedicated to snorkeling and diving on what is regarded as among the world's most pristine coral reefs. A second day will feature the beautiful, nature-rich peninsula of Guanahacabibes, a national park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. An excursion to Pinar del Rio will take passengers into the heart of Cuba's tobacco-growing region.

During the stay in Havana, the people-to-people program will include a city tour featuring architecture, home visits and other activities, Nikitin said.

From the US side, as earlier reported here, a special license is no longer required by vessel operators sailing to Cuba provided they carry US citizens who comply with one of the dozens of types of US-sanctioned travel.

The Worldwide Network/INFLOT team have been at Cancún Travel Mart this week, after exhibiting at the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference and Trade Show in Cozumel last week. Nikitin said there's strong interest in Cuba among US travel agents and tour operators he's visited in Miami and New York.

Adriana's Cuba cruises are priced starting at $885 per person in an inside cabin and at $949 in an ocean-view room, and range up to $1,208 per person for a deluxe ocean-view cabin.

Besides its competitive pricing and distinctive itinerary, Adriana is known for its friendly atmosphere and its welcoming mostly Ukrainian crew, Nikitin said. Plus, the company is already a seasoned Cuba operator.

The 1972-built Adriana is owned by Capt. Sergey Ponyatovsky, chairman and ceo of INFLOT Worldwide.

The ship previously operated Cuba cruises in 2011, calling at such ports as Havana, Trinidad, Isle of Youth, Santiago de Cuba and Nipe Bay's Cayo Saetía, formerly a private government game preserve where Fidel Castro had a holiday home. Nikitin said his company was the first to bring tourists there.

Adriana currently sails weekly from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, marketed by West Indies Cruise Line. Ponyatovsky said those southern Caribbean voyages will continue after the Cuba season.