A ship carrying roughly 700 passengers arrived in Cuba this morning, making it the first time in more than 50 years that American tourists traveled to the island by way of commercial cruise liner. The MV Adonia, part of Carnival Cruise Co.'s Fathom brand, left its homeport in Miami on Sunday afternoon and was greeted by a crowd of welcoming Cuban citizens the following morning as it dropped anchor in Havana.
Reporters on the ground witnessed Cuban bystanders gathering along the shores of Havana, waving interlocked Cuban and American flags as they welcomed the incoming travelers. According to one report, a selection of Cuban cigars and rum awaited the passengers for purchase upon arrival at the dock in Havana.
"We are so honored that Carnival Corporation and our Fathom brand can be part of such a meaningful milestone," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, in a press release earlier today. "Our arrival today in Havana is a special moment in history that contributes to a more positive future."
On its inaugural weeklong voyage, the MV Adonia will cruise the island that had once been highly restricted to American travelers. In addition to making stops in Havana, the ship will also dock in the cities of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
Aboard the ship, passengers will be able to learn about Cuba's history, customs and culture, including Cuban food, films, music, dancing and lessons in conversational Spanish.
While the voyage serves as an opportunity for all Americans hoping to travel to the island, it holds an even greater significance for Cuban-born Americans who—for the first time in decades—will be able to sail to and from their homeland without risking persecution by the Cuban government.
"We are ecstatic that this historic opportunity is open to everyone who wants to travel to Cuba," said Tara Russell, president of Fathom, in a press release. The statement came after Cuba announced it would lift its longtime ban on Cuban exiles traveling back to their homeland by boat. After facing pressure from Cuban-Americans and Secretary of State John Kerry, Carnival announced it would cancel the voyage unless Cuba granted passage to all Americans, regardless of birth origin.
The entire voyage has been designed to be in compliance with U.S. Treasury Department regulations regarding People to People tours by American citizens to Cuba. Carnival says it has made the process easier for Americans by overhauling the extensive application processes required for U.S. travel to Cuba.
"When you travel with Carnival, all the details will be handled by us: the affidavit process, the visa, insurance. And we will explain the reporting requirements for all our travelers," said Russell when Carnival announced the first voyage last March.
Weeklong cruises to Cuba aboard the MV Adonia will depart from Miami every other week. The voyage starts at $1,800 per person, but prices will vary by season.