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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After it received critical public backlash, Carnival Corporation has changed course and say they have now opened their bookings on cruises to Cuba to everyone.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who was spoke out against Carnival, was pleased to hear the news.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Originally, the company said they would adopt a policy set forth by Cuba and not allow those born in Cuba to visit the island on their ships. Last week, the Coral Gables commission passed a resolution which urged Miami Dade County, the state of Florida and the United States Government to “review denying” Carnival Corporation’s access and use of the Port of Miami for any cruises where national origin discrimination occurs.
A federal civil rights lawsuit was also filed against the cruise line.
Gimenez said Carnival’s previous decision “was a clear violation of our human rights ordinance” that bans discrimination based on national origin and threatened possible financial sanctions.
“As Mayor of a predominantly Cuban-born population and City, I am glad to see them take this position of opening bookings for Cuban-born guests pending a change in Cuban policy,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, “I will also like to thank Mayor Carlos Gimenez for his role and leadership in this manner, and stance with this issue.”
On Monday, the Doral-based company said they are confident that everyone who wants to travel to Cuba on their new Fathom line, including those who are Cuba-born, will be able to do so. They said they are continuing to have discussions with Cuba’s government and have asked that travel by ship be on a level playing field with air charter service to the island which has no restrictions.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called Carnival’s decision a popular victory.
“The people have spoken out and the industry has taken note,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
The congresswoman also quipped that Carnival has reaped huge amounts of free publicity from the controversy over the cruises and will probably sell a lot of trips to Cuba.
The company’s cruises to Cuba are scheduled to begin May 1st.
“We want everyone to be able to go to Cuba with us,” said Carnival Corporation Arnold Donald in a statement. “We remain excited about this historic opportunity to give our guests an extraordinary vacation experience in Cuba.”
Should a decision by Cuba be delayed past the May 1st, Carnival said they would delay the start of their cruises to Cuba accordingly.
“I’m happy that if the Cuban government doesn’t change their policy or their law, the cruises will be canceled,” Gimenez said.
Carnival’s Fathom brand plans to sail its 704-passenger Adonia ship to Cuba every other week, marking the first time in over 50 years that a cruise ship has sailed from the U.S. to Cuba.
During each sailing, Fathom will visit Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
Prices for the seven-day cruise start at $1,800 per person, excluding Cuban visas, taxes, fees and port expenses. Prices will vary by season.