Carnival Cruises to Cuba: What Passengers Should Know Before They Go

On March 21, 2016, Carnival Cruise Line officially gained approval from the Cuban government to set sail to Cuba. Now that they have been approved, what does this mean for potential passengers?

Since the enactment of the Embargo more than 50 years ago under the Helms Burton Act and the Cuban Democracy Act, U.S. based cruise lines such as Carnival, have been prohibited from traveling to Cuba. However, in July of 2015, Carnival Cruise line made history when it became the first U.S. cruise line to be approved by both the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce, to offer cruises to Cuba.

This cruise, however, will be unlike the others as it is being offered under Carnival’s newly created Fathom brand. The Fathom brand houses but a single ship, known as the Adonia, with a capacity of seven hundred and ten passengers. This brand is distinctive from the other ships in the Carnival fleet, possessing a single mission, which is to offer “cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens.”

Carnival specifically created this brand to “cater to the growing market of consumers who want[ed] to have a positive impact on people’s lives” explaining the companies vision that “travel [was] a meaningful way to allow for personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world.” The Fathom brand will assist consumers in achieving this positive impact by offering various experiences such as “helping locals to develop their English skills, participating in restoration projects and creating and delivering water filters in communities.”

Appropriately, this mission created by the Fathom brand, fulfills more than one of the 12 categories of permission granted under the Embargo, specifically, people-to-people travel and Humanitarian projects. This allows Carnival the opportunity to legally offer these cruises to Cuba. Because all forms of tourist travel to the island are still currently prohibited by the Embargo, Carnival is barred from offering ordinary cruises, including visits to Cuba’s beaches for now. Additionally, potential passengers will need to apply for and be granted a general license under one of the 12 categories of permission before they can set sail on the cruise ship.

The lifting of the embargo is a delicate matter and should continually be monitored by both Carnival and citizens of the U.S. However, for the first time in over five decades, American citizens can now explore a country that lies less than ninety miles away from Key West but has seldom been traveled.

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