First American Cruise Ship arrives in Cuba

Following our previous blog, which outlined details of the first cruise itineraries to sail from Miami to Cuba, passengers have celebrated the arrival of the first American-owned passenger ship into Havana. 700 passengers were able to enjoy the arrival on board Adonia, which transferred from P&O Cruises to Carnival’s new and unique impact-travel line, fathom, earlier this year.

The arrival follows 50 years of post-Cold War disputes between USA and Cuba, which saw considerable restrictions on trade and travel. Although Cuba and the US restored diplomatic relations in 2015, there were still many embargoes in place. Over the last 12 months, a number of American cruise lines have sought to introduce itineraries to the largest Caribbean island – with many complications along the way.

Despite the ban, many Non-American-owned lines such as Star Clippers, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and MSC Cruises have operated itineraries to Cuba for many years. Carnival Corporation, which owns familiar cruise lines such as P&O Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, was the first American cruise company to be given permission by both the US and Cuban governments to sail between Florida and Cuba.

However, a Cuban government rule stated that Cubans could only leave the nation by plane. This created issues for many Americans of Cuban origin, who would have been unable to leave the island upon arrival and, ultimately, led to the line not being able to take such bookings. Fortunately, Cuban authorities lifted the ban just last week – giving the green light for Adonia to become the first ship to reach the shores of Havana.

Since Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, assumed office in 2008, tensions have become more and more relaxed and Cubans have started to enjoy a higher quality of life. The improvement in diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba has seen tourism reach record numbers.

Prior to the Cuban Revolution, which saw Fidel Castro rise to power in 1959, the Caribbean island was a popular destination for tourists and many cruise ships and ferries operated sailings across the Florida Straits. The arrival of fathom’s Adonia into Havana is considered to be a benchmark, which will see the arrival of thousands of visitors.

Adonia will operate seven-night sailings on a bi-weekly basis to Havana, with guests having the unique opportunity to participate in humanitarian work. Fathom’s emphasis on impact tourism has been integral in gaining the approval for sailings to Cuba, although it is hoped that many more opportunities to visit Havana via a cruise will appear in the coming months.

Although this may not have a direct impact on British cruisers looking to experience the culture and traditions of Cuba, it does mean that we could see popular American-owned cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line bidding to offer sailings to Cuba in the coming years.

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