Half a century since the disintegration of U.S.-Cuba relations set off the trade embargo, the first U.S. cruise service to the tiny island nation could well take place next year. After announcing on Tuesday that it obtained a license from the U.S. government to offer "social impact" cruises, the giant cruise company Carnival aims at launching Miami-Cuba cruises in May 2016 with a focus on humanitarian outreach.
Still awaiting approval from Cuban authorities, the seven-day trips from Miami to Cuba would take place through Carnival Corp.'s new brand, fathom, which organizes cruises for volunteer work and cultural immersion. Passengers on the cruise trips to Cuba would set sail on the relatively small 710-passenger deluxe ship MV Adonia. There won't be any casino or Broadway-esque shows: in its place will be Spanish-language lessons, and workshops on Cuban culture and heritage.
Fathom President Tara Russell, citing a "hunger" in the U.S. to visit a highly restricted and romanticized nation, said, "there's enormous demand from the U.S. side for this experience." Carnival is expecting high demand for the excursion, the Washington Post reported. Prices would start at $2,990 per traveler, including taxes and port fees.
A new era in Cuba-U.S. relations.
President Obama's announcement last year that his administration will re-establish diplomatic ties with neighboring Cuba caught many flat-footed, but it was a welcome change. After decades of what Obama labeled "failed policies" on the communist country, both nations are working on lifting the many restrictions in place, including for travel. Currently, unless Americans planning to travel to Cuba have family there, vacations to the island are restricted, save for approved cultural or humanitarian trips.
[Cover image via Flickr/El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video]