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Carnival Corporation’s new social impact brand Fathom has gained breakthrough approval to become the first US cruise line to serve Cuba.
The first departure using specially adapted P&O Cruises’ small ship Adonia is to sail from Miami from May 1.
The green light for the first cruises between Miami and Cuba in more than 50 years came as President Obama made a two-day presidential visit to Cuba.
The seven-night Fathom cruises to Cuba will alternate with departures to the Dominican Republic which are due to start next month.
Cuban trade embargo restrictions with the US mean that Fathom passengers will be restricted to taking part in 12 types of approved activity including humanitarian work.
Cuban authorities from Havanatur Celimar, various other agencies and Carnival Corporation today signed agreements enabling cruising by Carnival Corporation to Cuba.
The 704-passenger Adonia will call in Havana as well as Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Carnival Corporation chief executive Arnold Donald, speaking from Havana, said other brands in the group could follow Fathom to Cuba in the future.
He said: “Over time there will be more ships coming into Cuba. It will be a real economic benefit because it will be another refresher for the Caribbean.
“It will be many months before one of the other brands sail here,” he explained, adding that existing itineraries for other ships would not be changed in the short term.
However, Donald said that Cuban officials were “definitely open” to other Carnival Corporation brands visiting the island.
He added: "We are excited about Cuban approval and are ready to take travellers there through an extraordinary guest experience on the beautiful MV Adonia.
"This is a historic opportunity, and we know there is pent-up demand amongst Americans who want to experience Cuba.
“We believe there is no better way to experience so much of Cuba in seven days. Everyone who sails with us with Fathom to Cuba will have a very special, rewarding and enriching experience with our Fathom brand."
Tara Russell, president of Fathom, said: "Our Carnival Corporation and Fathom brand teams have worked closely with Cuba throughout this process and we are thrilled to begin regular sailings to Cuba from Miami starting on May 1, 2016.
“We have been told that we will be the first cruise line to sail from the US to Cuba with our historic inaugural sailing.”
Activities on board include an orientation to Cuba's history, customs and culture, geographic-inspired entertainment, to casual and fun personal enrichment activities, to conversational Spanish lessons, to guided sessions with the Fathom team.
Cruise-only prices for the Cuba cruises start at $1,800 per person, including “several” land-based activities – double the cost of Fathom’s Dominican Republic cruises.
Donald described the Cuba pricing as “competitive” given the multiple ports covered and activities planned when compared to other ways of travelling to Cuba from the US.
Russell said bookings had been strong since the Fathom concept was announced last July but up to now the first Cuba cruise had not sold out.
"It’s not too late to book,” she said.
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