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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hola Havana.
Doral-based Carnival Corp. has announced that it has received permission from the U.S. government to operate cruises to Cuba as a cultural exchange program provider.
The company, however, is still waiting for approval from Cuban authorities. They are also awaiting the results of a survey of infrastructure at ports where the ship might call.
If all goes as planned ‘fathom’, company’s new “social impact travel” brand, will begin operating week long cruises to the island nation in May, 2016.
According to a release from Carnival:
Beginning in April 2016, fathom will embark on weekly seven-day voyages from Port Miami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises (UK) brand. fathom’s first impact destination will be the northern region of the Dominican Republic, where Carnival Corporation’s new port of call, Amber Cove, will serve as home base.
Following the inaugural April month of voyages to the Dominican Republic, fathom intends to offer both Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a systematic and regular basis, giving travelers the opportunity to choose from two destinations and a range of activities from social impact in the Dominican Republic and educational and cultural exchanges in both countries designed to have a positive, transformative effect on the lives of the travelers.
“The true value of your fathom voyage to Cuba will be to connect to the heritage of Cuba though an immersive program that encourages cultural, artistic, faith-based, and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens,” according to fathom’s website.
“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,” said Arnold Donald, President and CEO of Carnival Corporation in a statement.
At the Versailles Restaurant in Miami, reaction was mixed.
“It’s excellent, it’s about time,” said Alez Perez. “It’s going to be good for the economy of South Florida and the economy of Cuba.”
“I’m opposed to going to Cuba. It’s all the money for the government, that makes it worse,” said Willie Hernandez.
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of the Treasury said citizens didn’t need to apply for special licenses to go to Cuba if they fell under 12 authorized travel categories which included educational activities, humanitarian projects and people-to-people programs.
“Your on-board journey will include an orientation to the country’s history, customs and culture, including guided sessions with the fathom team to share your insights, ideas, and opportunities about the future of cultural exchange travel to Cuba,” according to fathom’s website. “On shore, you’ll put that orientation to good use as you get involved in people-to-people experiences that include a variety of cultural, artistic, educational and humanitarian activities.”
Those booking a cruise to Cuba will have to certify that they are traveling under one of the authorized categories. Prices for seven-day cruise will start at $2,990 per person. The fare does not include taxes or fees.
Rival Miami-based cruise companies Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International have also expressed interest in Cuba. Last week, European operator MSC Cruises announced that it will base a 2,680-passenger ship in Havana this winter.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.