It's official: Carnival Cruises will ship American travelers to Cuba this May.
Carnival Corporation now has the thumbs up from the U.S. and Cuban governments to send ships to Cuba, an island that has been off-limits for more than 50 years.
But don’t expect to spend an afternoon in Havana sipping daiquiris and sunbathing on the Lido Deck. Carnival, like other travel companies, will need to adhere to the Department of Treasury’s strict regulations permitting Americans to visit our island neighbor for humanitarian, artistic, faith-based, and cultural exchanges.
That’s where Carnival’s new “social impact travel” brand, Fathom, comes in. Passengers embarking on Fathom’s itineraries will be engaged in an upscale brand of voluntourism. The Dominican Republic, and now Cuba, will be the first ports-of-call for this immersive educational and cultural experience.
“Cuba is a beautiful country with tremendous opportunity for Fathom travelers…to grow and to flourish,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald told Travel + Leisure. “Fathom intends to create opportunity that will benefit both the lives of its travelers, and also its new Cuban friends.”
Unlike most standard tours, a trip to Cuba on Carnival’s first Fathom ship, the Adonia, will provide travelers with unusual flexibility in regards to daily activities. Onboard, guests can select from a variety of activities and programming, such as Cuban-inspired music, workshops, and performances. On-the-ground experiences in the ports of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba, will likely be mandatory in compliance with the U.S. travel regulations.
For travelers eager to make a difference, Tara Russell—Fathom’s president and Carnival’s Global Impact Lead—says this opportunity will allow passengers to make a meaningful contribution through a trusted, safe, convenient exchange of people and ideas.
"Over time," suggested Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, "other Carnival brands will sail to Cuba." As travel regulations continuet to loosen, it's likely the next step for the cruise industry will be to offer quintessential leisure cruises (i.e. frozen cocktails and beach cabanas) to the Caribbean country.
Update: Carnival announced March 16, 2016, they are now taking reservations for their first sailing to Cuba, embarking on May 1. The seven-day itinerary will start at $2,320 per person. On March 21, the major cruise company got the final appoval from the Cuban government to operate bi-weekly cruises between Miami and the island nation.