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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Get ready to set sail to Cuba, no matter where you were born.
Cuban-Americans born in Cuba will now be allowed to enter via cruises, clearing the way for Carnival Corporation’s planned sailings to the island.
But that’s not all. Cuba also said they will allow Cubans to travel on the cruise as long as they have a visa for the country to which they are going visit. Also, Cuban residents will be allowed to work as crew members on cruise ships as long as they are hired through Cuban employment agencies.
The changes go into effect April 26th.
The press announcement also stated that Cuba will gradually create the conditions and begin authorizing Cubans living on the island to come and go on recreational boats (yachts) either as passengers or crews. The implementation of this measure will be announced “in a timely manner”.
Originally, Cuba said native Cubans would not be allowed to enter the island on the cruises. When Carnival adopted that policy, it was met with a vocal backlash and lawsuits.
On Monday, April 18th, the Doral-based Carnival changed course and opened bookings to everyone on their new Fathom line. The company said they were confident Cuba would change its position. Company officials had said they were talking with the Cuban government, arguing that travel by ship needed to be on a level playing field with air charter service to the island which has no restrictions.
Cuba finally relented and on Friday announced the policy change.
“I want to thank Cuba for taking this step. All along we felt very positive this would happen. We weren’t quite sure of the timing, but we were confident all along and even though there was a lot of noise generated, which made us kind of nervous and thought it might disrupt the process, in the end it didn’t,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation.
“I’ve been here since 1960. I don’t recall one time where an American corporation was able to affect change in the policy of the Cuban government,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
As for the lawsuits filed, attorneys said they will not be withdrawn until Carnival and Cuba come through in practice on the policy change. They want to see it actually happen.
Carnival’s Fathom brand will 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.
“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,” said Tara Russell, president of Carnival Corporation’s new Fathom brand. “We have been told that we will be the first cruise line to sail from the U.S. to Cuba with our historic inaugural sailing.”
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.