U.S. Approves Carnival Corp. Cuba Cruises
Cruise News – July 7, 2015
Carnival Corporation has been granted the American licenses it needs to operate direct U.S.-to-Cuba travel for the purpose of providing cultural exchange. The company plans to send the ship from its new brand, fathom, on weeklong sailings from Miami to Cuba beginning May 2016.
Launched June 4 as Carnival Corporation’s 10th global brand, fathom is designed for “social impact travel” – enriching the lives of its travelers while driving large-scale, sustainable social improvements. With confirmed plans to launch sailings from Miami to the Dominican Republic beginning in April 2016 aboard its one ship, P&O Cruises’ Adonia, fathom expects to attract 37,000 annual travelers who could spend a collective total of more than 100,000 days a year either volunteering or immersing themselves in educational and cultural exchanges with local communities.
Note that while the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce have granted approval for the company to begin travel to Cuba (for the purpose of providing cultural, artistic, faith-based, and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens), Carnival Corporation is still in active discussions with Cuban authorities so that Cuban approval will be granted as well.
Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, said that while you can never predict regulatory approvals, the company has every intention to begin sailing May 2016, and he believes that gives officials plenty of time to work it out. (If, for some reason, it doesn’t work out, deposits will be refunded.)
“We are excited about receiving U.S. approval as the very important first step to ultimately take travelers to Cuba under the existing 12 criteria for authorized travel,” said Donald. “We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural, and humanitarian exchanges between U.S. citizens and the people of Cuba a reality. We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society.”
Following April’s inaugural voyages to the Dominican Republic, fathom intends to offer both Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a regular, alternating weekly basis, giving travelers the opportunity to choose from two destinations and a range of activities.
“After establishing the Dominican Republic as our first partner destination, Cuba represents an important step for us to expand our ability to offer meaningful and enriching experiences to purpose-driven travelers,” said Tara Russell, president of fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation. “We are looking forward to building what we intend to be a beautiful and lasting friendship with the Cuban people.”
Russell noted that there are 11 ports in Cuba that can potentially work for the itinerary, which is still being planned, but ideally they’d like to call on three different locations. Donald added that the ports visited will be decided with the help of Cuban authorities and that Havana will almost certainly be one of those ports.
Regardless of which ports are visited, Arnold noted that the company “will ensure that the guest experience will be high level and up to the standards we hold for all of our brands.”
When it comes to determining on-the-ground experiences, both Donald and Russell noted that those experiences will be determined after working closely with the people of Cuba to determine specific needs. “We are not coming in with preconceived notions about what to offer,” said Donald.
Added Russell: “We are just beginning discussions to really understand the country, and still have an enormous amount to learn in Cuba to prioritize what they need.” She said that in Cuba, the requirements are different than in the Dominican Republic. U.S. regulations require that travelers to Cuba spend eight hours a day on the ground participating in people-to-people activities.
Russell also noted that fathom will fully comply with all requirements for travel to Cuba and that they will make it easy for travelers to comply as well when planning their cruise.
Prices for the 7-day trip to the Dominican Republic start at $1,540 per person, which includes an exterior cabin with a view, all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, three on-shore social impact activities and related supplies, taxes, fees, and port expenses. (Prices will vary by season.)
Prices for 7-day itineraries to Cuba start at $2,990 per person, excluding taxes, port and other government and related fees, and including all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences and certain on-the-ground cultural immersion activities.
Reservations are currently being taken online at fathom.org, through your travel agent, or by calling 1-855-9fathom.
Photos: RF, David Steele
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