Friday, April 29, 2016

First cruise from U.S. to Cuba in over 50 years to set sail Sunday

First cruise from U.S. to Cuba in over 50 years to set sail Sunday

About 700 passengers, including photojournalist Joe Cavaretta and
reporter Mike Clary from the Sun-Sentinel, will be aboard for the
historic sailing to Cuba in more than 50 years.
Mike Clary
Sun Sentinel

Editor's note: When the first cruise ship to sail from the United States
to Cuba in more than 50 years leaves port this Sunday, the Sun Sentinel
will be there. Throughout the May 1 to May 8 voyage, staff writer Mike
Clary and photojournalist Joe Cavaretta will be sharing all the flavors,
sights and sounds from aboard the 700-passenger Adonia and its ports of
call. Join us on this historic journey in the newspaper and by going to

After navigating a sea of controversy over a now-rescinded ban on
travelers born in Cuba, the Carnival Corp. ship Adonia is set to weigh
anchor for Havana on Sunday afternoon, becoming the first cruise ship to
make the voyage to the island from the United States in more than 50 years.

About 700 passengers — including at least a few native Cubans — are
expected to be aboard for the historic sailing under the banner of
Carnival's Fathom brand, which markets cruises aimed at travelers more
interested in cultural involvement than conventional tourism.

In the first of what it calls social impact cruises, Fathom in mid-April
docked in the Dominican Republic, where passengers volunteered to work
with locals in planting trees and making water filters during a
week-long visit.

There will be no such joint projects between Cubans and visitors from
the U.S. on the inaugural week-long cruise to Cuba, labeled a
people-to-people visit that includes a two-day stop in Havana and then
briefer visits to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

Instead, the cruise is "a kind of a hybrid," said Carnival spokesman
Roger Frizzell. "The Cuba traveler is traveling on a Fathom ship, but it
is not the Fathom experience.

"Cuba is much different [from the Dominican Republic]," he said. "This
is more like the traditional cruise experience. We will see the sights,
visit with the people and take tours."

At a cost of $219 per person, travelers can take in the show and travel
to the nightclub in a classic American car from the '40s or '50s.

In arranging the tours, Fathom has partnered with Havanatur, one of
Cuba's main state-run tourism companies, officials said.

Prices for the cruise start at $1,800 per person for an interior cabin,
excluding visas, taxes, fees and port expenses, according to Fathom's

There are no plans for travelers to visit one of Cuba's white-sand
beaches, since leisure activities do not fall under one of the 12
reasons the U.S. accepts for allowing its citizens to travel to Cuba.

Adonia passengers will spend twice as much time on the ship during the
week sailing around the 750-mile-long island than they will spend on the
island itself, according to the schedule.

During those days at sea, passengers will be offered a menu of
Cuban-themed programs that could include classes in mixing a mojito, how
to play dominoes or dance salsa. There are also plans for a book
club-like discussion of Cuban-American writer Cristina Garcia's 1992
novel, "Dreaming in Cuban."

Also available will be traditional cruise ship activities such as
swimming in the pool, sunning and working out in the gym.

The Adonia, which is smaller than many cruise ships, has no casino and
no Broadway-style shows.

Passengers will spend two days — and only one night — in Havana. In the
capital city they will be able to stroll the Malecon, the famous
waterfront thoroughfare, take in the faded glory of many of the
buildings and dine at private restaurants, called paladares, that are
far too pricey for most in Cuba, where an average government salary is
about $20 a month.

The ship will leave Havana Tuesday evening and head around the western
end of the island for Cienfuegos, on the south coast.

The schedule calls for six hours of sightseeing in Cienfuegos, a small
city noted for its 19th century French-influenced Neoclassical architecture.

Next, after eight hours at sea, the ship is to dock in the island's
second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba, on the far eastern end of the
island. There passengers can take in the tomb of Cuban patriarch Jose
Marti, the location of the Battle of San Juan Hill, and nearby, La
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, built in 1926 and a
sacred pilgrimage site for Catholics on the island and many who now live
in the U.S.

The tours and lectures arranged by Fathom are not mandatory, Frizzell
said. Passengers have the freedom to wander off on their own during the
approximately 50 hours they are on Cuban soil. Nor is there a curfew
Monday night when the ship is berthed in Havana.

The opening for U.S.-based cruise ships to sail to Cuba emerged after
the December 2014 announcement that the two old foes would re-establish
diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961. Both nations reopened
embassies in each other's capitals.

In July 2015 Carnival announced it would launch cruises to Cuba this
spring. But in mid-April controversy erupted when the Doral-based cruise
line said it would honor a Cuban government regulation banning
Cuban-born visitors from arriving by sea. After demonstrations outside
Carnival's Doral headquarters, and local and national political
pressure, Carnival officials said they would postpone the cruise unless
Cuban policy changed.

Cuba relented and on April 22 announced it would drop the ban.

The aim of the Cuba cruise is to provide travelers with a "cultural
immersion," according to Fathom president Tara Russell, Global Impact
Lead of Carnival Corp.

"We believe there is tremendous pent-up demand in the marketplace to
visit this extraordinary country — particularly in the U.S. where
travelers are eager to experience Cuba — so we wanted to share as much
of the country as possible," Russell said in a news release.

The Adonia returns to PortMiami on May 8. The schedule calls for
weeklong cruises to Cuba every other week.

Source: First cruise from U.S. to Cuba in over 50 years to set sail
Sunday - Sun Sentinel -

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