Carnival to begin cruises to Cuba in May

The Carnival Corporation announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce have granted the company approval to begin travel to Cuba.  

Carnival intends to begin cruise trips from Miami to Cuba as early as May 2016, becoming the first American cruise company to visit the country since the 1960 trade embargo was implemented.  

The week-long Cuban itineraries will fall under Carnival’s new “fathom” brand, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there, according to the Associated Press.  

“We’re incredibly excited and humbled by this potential opportunity to help travelers experience the amazing beauty and culture of Cuba, while being able to provide educational and cultural exchange activities that will benefit both the traveler and the Cuban people,” fathom president Tara Russell said in a press release.  

Passengers will travel aboard a 710-passenger vessel called the MV Adonia.  

Despite recent efforts by the U.S. government to normalize relations with Cuba, there are still stringent guidelines American travelers to Cuba must follow. Leisure tourism remains illegal. Visits to the country must fall under one of 12 categories, including humanitarian projects and “support for the Cuban people.” According to Carnival, its new Cuban itineraries will comply with those guidelines. 

“We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society,” said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp. 

Each day, under U.S. regulations governing Cuba visits, passengers will have to spend at least eight hours involved in some type of cultural experience, the Associated Press reported. Carnival will be working with Cuban authorities to receive approval on that end and to help facilitate social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between citizens of the two countries, according to the company. 

The fathom brand also includes seven-day cruises on the same Adonia vessel to the Dominican Republic, which will begin in April 2016, leaving from Port Miami.  

Prices for the week-long cruises to the Dominican Republic start at $1,540 per person, while prices for the seven-day trip to Cuba start at $2,990 per person, excluding taxes, port and other government and related fees, and including all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences – such as Spanish classes – and on-the-ground cultural immersion activities. 

The fathom brand expects to attract 37,000 travelers annually. 

According to a report by the Associated Press, the Treasury Department has recently approved licences for six passenger vessels, including Carnival’s, to visit Cuba only.  

MSC Cruises recently announced plans to base a 2,120-passenger ship in Cuba. The Swiss-based company will offer itineraries that feature a stop in Grand Cayman.  

The new Cuba routes are making some in Cayman uneasy. Tortuga Rum President Robert Hamaty says Cayman needs to do more to court the cruise industry, especially as it looks to expand to Cuba. It is just another reason, he says, to push through plans to build a new cruise ship dock in George Town. 

Neither the Ministry of Tourism nor the Cayman Islands Tourism Association responded to calls for comment by press time. 

The week-long Cuban itineraries will fall under Carnival’s new “fathom” brand, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there, according to the Associated Press.  

Carnival Corporation has announced that its 710-passenger ship Adonia will begin carrying passengers to Cuba from May 2016. – PHOTO: Carnival Corporation via AP


  1. This is just some of the reasons why building the cruise ship dock would have been a bad idea. How much bigger Cuba is than Cayman? How much further Cayman is from Miami , than Cuba? How long will they continue to go to Cuba before everyone can get to see Cuba? How many ports can a cruise ship visit in Cuba ? This would be all big profits for the cruise line /wear and tear on the ships. The decision is made by the cruise line, and they don’t care what expenses and what you destroy to accommodate them, because the decision is made by the cruise line to say what port/ country these ships visit.

  2. I disagree Cuba has a long way to catch up to the rest of the caribbean. I love the people and the country but they need to do a lot with their facilities. A/c ,room service, being on time , painting, structures need upgrading.
    They don’t want to be owing anybody anything. Even tho they are going broke.Toilet paper is available in hotel and casa particular. But in other venues you’re charged by the square divided. Windshields and car repair don’t have parts .
    But these are the things that impress me about the people.They will somehow from somewhere make it work.
    Don’t get me wrong the gov’t is opening up and improving and when all the freedoms are given it will be better then Miami.
    But that is no excuse for us not to build a cruise facility like everyone else in the caribbean and central america. We need to move forward and be ready when communism kicks them out. No one tells Fidel,Raul or the communist party how things go. If they don’t like it they will shut it all down.
    Thats when people like ourselves should be ready. If not they’ll probably go to Panama.