This May, for the first time in more than 50 years, travelers will be able to board a ship in the United States and cruise to Cuba. On Monday, Carnival Corporation announced that their new Fathom line has been granted approval to visit the island and will be sailing on May 1st from PortMiami on its inaugural trip.
Because of the long-standing trade embargo, cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports have been forbidden to call at the island since 1960. Those restrictions were eased with the restoration of diplomatic relations last year, and in July, Fathom received permission from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (which administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions) to take passengers to the island. But the company still needed approval from Cuba.
That permission came during this week’s historic visit by President Obama and his delegation, which included Carnival CEO Arnold Donald and Fathom President Tara Russell. Fathom's 705-passenger Adonia is now authorized to stop at three ports—Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba—during weeklong cruises. The line, which will assist passengers with Cuban visas, has arranged a number of activities in each destination, including transportation. The specifics of these excursions aren’t all available yet, but they will be the kind of "people-to-people" experiences that are allowed by the new U.S. rules. (The Treasury Department allows people to travel to Cuba for any of 12 specific purposes, including educational activities and support for the Cuban people.)
The Adonia will depart Miami for Cuba every other Sunday. (On alternate weeks, the ship will sail to the Dominican Republic.) Passengers will arrive at Havana late Monday morning and spend two days there on various excursions. These activities may include a walking tour of Old Havana and a stop at Plaza de la Revolución, a chance to delve into a community arts project, or a visit to the home of an artist or musician. After lunch at a paladar (a privately run restaurant), they may learn about agriculture at an organic farm. Hemingway fans will have a chance to visit Finca Vigia, his Havana home, and the fishing village of Cojimar, a favorite haunt of Hemingway’s and the setting for his novel The Old Man and the Sea. There will also be optional night excursions that include a visit to the famous Tropicana Cabaret and rides in classic cars.
After Havanna, the Adonia will head to Cienfuegos, on the south coast, in the heart of Cuba’s sugar, tobacco, and coffee country. After a day of cultural immersion there, the ship will call at Cuba's second city, Santiago de Cuba, where Fidel Castro launched his nationalist revolution. After a day spent visiting the city (perhaps including a trip to a museum that commemorates Castro’s attack on Batista's troops at the Moncada barracks), the ship will head back to Miami, arriving early Sunday morning.
Fares start at $1,800 per person, double occupancy, excluding Cuban visas, taxes, fees, and port expenses. Several on the ground, people-to-people activities are part of the price. Fares vary by season.
This week when the trip was announced, Fathom president Tara Russell said there are still some spaces available on the May 1 inaugural voyage, but added: "It will sell quickly."
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Anne Kalosh doesn't count the cruises she’s taken, though there have been hundreds—including five years as a shipboard newspaper editor, sailing the world. She loves the experiences sea travel offers. Her byline has appeared in many major publications, and she's on top of the latest cruise developments as the long-time U.S. editor for Seatrade-Cruise.com and Seatrade Cruise Review.