HAVANA — A $3 million yacht left Key West this week with two barbecue grills, 250 channels of satellite TV and a just-in-case plan for rescuing stranded Cuban rafters encountered in the Florida Straits.

After four hours smooth sailing, the Still Water tied up at Havana’s Hemingway Marina. The well-heeled passengers breakfasted on smoked salmon and pastries, then boarded an air-conditioned Cuban government bus for a day of touring the city.

The Cold War made the Florida Straits into a stage for nuclear showdown and a graveyard for thousands of Cuban rafters seeking better lives in the United States. Now, normalization of the U.S.-Cuba relationship is transforming the 90 miles between the U.S. and Cuba back into a playground for hulking cruise ships and sleek yachts,

For the first time in decades, the U.S. government is authorizing a wide range of large-scale sea travel to Cuba. Since declaring detente in December, the Obama administration has issued permits to dozens of sailboats, at least five ferry companies, four cruise lines and the Palm Beach-based yacht broker that chartered out the Still Water. The 78-foot yacht features satellite Internet, four staterooms and a wet bar.

“It’s a little bubble. You can have the comforts of home in Havana,” said Jim Friedlander, president of Academic Arrangements Abroad, which helped organize the trip.

Cuban tourism officials and U.S. boating aficionados and entrepreneurs are salivating about a possible return to the go-go days before Cuba’s communist revolution, when thousands of well-heeled Americans a year sailed to Havana for long weekends of tropical leisure.

“What’s the natural market for nautical tourism in Cuba? The United States of America – the No. 1 country in the international yachting market,” said Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, commodore of the International Hemingway Nautical Club of Cuba. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of yachts that might come.”

Fidel Castro in 2005 called cruise ships “floating hotels” that “leave their trash, their empty cans and papers for a few miserable cents.” But under his brother and successor as president, Raul Castro, the government appears to have no such reservations. Cuba has been rapidly approving port calls by U.S. cruise ships and planning new marinas with thousands of slips for yachts in the polluted Bay of Havana and at the resort of Varadero, 90-minutes away.