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A little over a month ago, Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company, announced its new alternative cruise line, fathom. And just this morning, Carnival announced that it received approval from the US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of Commerce to begin sailing to Cuba on the fathom line beginning in May 2016. Previously, the company announced that fathom would begin sailing to the Dominican Republic in April 2016, offering itineraries that focus on volunteering and culturally enhancing activities.
Cruisers on fathom’s first ship, the 710-passenger Adonia will spend seven days on the ship and visiting multiple ports in Cuba. The Adonia will alternate weeks sailing to the Dominican Republic and Cuba from its home base in Port Miami. The seven-day cruise is slated to start at $2,990 per passenger, before the to-be-determined taxes and fees. In comparison, the Dominican Republic itineraries will start at $1,540, including taxes and fees. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said that a large portion of the price difference was due to real costs in planning more on-ground immersive experiences.
The Adonia is different from most cruise ships today — weighing in at just over 30,000 gross tons, it’s puny compared to the 225,000 gross tons of the Oasis-class Royal Caribbean ships. It won’t have a casino or Broadway-style shows on board, but that’s the point. Activities on board and on shore will be socially immersive, and aimed at offering cruises an enriching experience. Donald assures that it will “still be fun.”
The objective of the Cuban itinerary would be people-to-people educational and cultural exchanges, Donald said. While docked in Cuba, Donald says that cruisers will spend eight hours a day engaged in social-impact activities on shore, as mandated by current US regulations based on the 12 forms and reasons of travel to Cuba allowed.
He believes that when travel restrictions to Cuba are lifted, the company, among other cruise lines, would certainly incorporate Havana into Caribbean itineraries as a port of call. Additionally, he added that they remain committed to the fathom brand in Cuba, as well as to expanding it to other destinations as the concept is proved in the upcoming years.
While the US government has approved the trip, the company had just begun negotiations with the Cuban government, nothing has been finalized, including taxes and fees, itinerary and ports of call. While the company is beginning to accept reservations now, Donald said that if Cuban approval falls through for any reason, all deposits will be refunded.
Costa Cruises, another brand under Carnival, used to sail to Cuba and managed the cruise terminal in Havana prior to the US embargo on Cuba. Donald believes that this in-house experience, while dated, will be valuable moving forward.
The culture there is one of the reasons TPG loves visiting Cuba, and hopefully this offers vacationers a new, fulfilling and socially responsible form of cruising and a fresh way to visit Cuba.
It still remains to be seen if any other cruise lines would begin itineraries to Cuba, but as the United States and Cuba resume their diplomatic relations, it seems inevitable that it will happen in the near future.