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Carnival Gets U.S. Approval To Begin Cruises To Cuba In May 2016

Fathom will embark on voyages from PortMiami aboard the MV Adonia. // Courtesy Carnival

 

Americans could be cruising to Cuba as soon as next year. 

Carnival Corp. has gained the U.S. government’s permission to offer social-impact cruises from Miami to Cuba starting in May 2016, the travel company announced Tuesday. 

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Carnival’s new purpose-travel brand, fathom, would operate seven-night “people-to-people” tours to Cuba aboard the MV Adonia. The small-scale, 710-passenger ship has been operating cruises for Carnival’s UK brand, P&O Cruises, and will be repurposed for fathom.

Fathom’s itineraries are designed to facilitate cultural and educational exchanges, with the goal being for travelers to “immerse, learn, serve,” according to Tara Russell, president of fathom.

These trips would comply with current guidelines for U.S. travel to Cuba, which allows for people-to-people exchanges like this one. The island is still closed to general American tourism.

Carnival Corp. said it is engaged in active discussions with Cuban authorities to gain their approval next.

The Associated Press reported that foreign cruise lines based in Canada and Greece have launched cruises to Cuba, but Carnival’s fathom would be the first American company to visit the island since the embargo began. 

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said there is strong demand from travelers for cultural immersion in Cuba. About 1 million people demonstrated interest in this type of trip during the market research stage, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“[T]his is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society,” Donald said in a press release.

 Donald told USA Today this could be a precursor of what’s to come.

"We can only do so much under the cultural exchange [style of travel],” he said. “Right now we only have the one ship. Once the embargo is lifted you will have many, many ships going."

Fathom is set to debut trips in April 2016 with itineraries to the Dominican Republic that start at $1,540 per person.

Prices for fathom travel to Cuba will start at $2,990 and include all meals on the ship, onboard immersion experiences and other on-the-ground activities. This excludes taxes, port and other government fees.

U.S. travelers can now begin making reservations for trips to Cuba by putting down a $600 deposit.

For more information, visit fathom.org/Cuba/.