Carnival Wins Cuban Government's OK to Begin Cruises to Island

  • First U.S. ship in 50 years to call on Havana and other cities
  • New stops will expand travel options in biggest cruise market

Carnival Corp. said it won Cuban government approval to begin sailing to the Caribbean island nation, allowing its Fathom division to become the first U.S. cruise line to dock there in more than 50 years.

Carnival and officials from various Cuban agencies signed the agreements authorizing the trips, according to a statement Monday. The world’s largest cruise operator is now cleared to take the 704-passenger MV Adonia to Cuba through its newest brand Fathom.

The action opens a new territory for Carnival in the Caribbean, the world’s biggest geographic market for cruises. The Miami-based company said in September its Fathom ships for socially conscious travelers will call on three Cuban ports -- Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos -- starting in May.

“This is a historic opportunity, and we know there is pent-up demand amongst Americans who want to experience Cuba,” Arnold Donald, Carnival’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Prices for the seven-day cruises range from a low of $1,800 for an inside cabin to $8,250 for a suite in peak season, according to the Fathom website. The agreement coincides with President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba, the first by a U.S. president in 88 years.

Carnival introduced the Fathom line in June, with plans for weekly trips to the Dominican Republic starting in April. The cruise operator intends to alternate voyages between the two countries.

Social Tourism

The company is working with IDDI, a nonprofit based in the Dominican Republic that seeks to alleviate poverty in the Caribbean, to develop excursions related to education and cultural exchanges.

Onboard programming will include an array of subjects, ranging from Cuba’s history, customs and culture, to geographic-inspired entertainment, the company said. Fathom plans Cuban- and Caribbean-inspired music and film options, as well as Cuban-inspired menu options.

Carnival was little changed at $49.78 Monday in New York. The stock has declined has 8.6 percent this year.

Other travel-related businesses have announced plans to expand in Cuba with the thawing relations between the two countries.

Marriott International Inc. said yesterday it received government approval to develop hotel operations in Cuba following the normalization of relations between the two countries. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which has agreed to be bought by Marriott, said over the weekend that it would manage three hotels there.

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