The company will be the first cruise line to travel to Cuba from the US after decades of travel restrictions and under a new social impact initiative, which also includes the Dominican Republic.
By Georgina Lawrence
Carnival Cruise Corporation is about the make history. Starting in May 2016 the cruise giant will be offering trips to Cuba from Miami after 56 years of travel restrictions to the island.
The company’s new brand, Fathom, addresses a new category of travel focusing on social impact. These experiences include cultural and humanitarian exchange, as well as direct contact with the communities they visit. Marketing analysts argue the project caters to young travelers, millennials and Generation X.
The colorful streets of Old Havana
Even though the initial destinations include Cuba and the Dominican Republic, there is no doubt the big novelty will be seeing—after 56 long years--an American cruise ship in the port of Havana full of enthusiastic tourists who will get to know a land and a people that have been isolated from global communication for more than five decades. Ecotourism, volunteering, cultural exploration and people-to-people exchanges will keep travelers busy on the enchanting island.
A street view in Cuba
The project’s creators hope to promote—in both countries—encounters between the travelers and small local entrepreneurs, participation in artistic, ecological, educational and humanitarian activities, as well as visits to historical landmarks.
Fathom will begin operations to the Dominican Republic in April, and to Cuba in May. The seven-day cruises will depart from the Port of Miami twice a month abroad the Adonia, with capacity for 710 passengers. Part of Fathom—a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.—Adonia boasts a pool, spa, gym, several restaurants, and a library.
View from inside a classic car in the island of Cuba
Carnival Corp. has served the beautiful ports and beaches of the Dominican Republic for many years, but this is the first time the company visits Cuba. The trip was made possible after the historic decision between the US and Cuba to open embassies in each other’s countries on December of 2015. After the significant thawing of relations, Cuba has become one of the world’s most attractive destinations.
The cultural and humanitarian essence of the cruise to Cuba allow passengers to travel under one of the 12 categories established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to visit the island from the US. Carnival secured a license from OFAC in 2015 that allows the corporation to transport US visitors to three of the most beautiful cities on the island: Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba.
Fathom’s “social impact” initiatives vary from island to island. In the Dominican Republic, they are centered on social commitment programs such as reforestation, environmentalism, access to clean water, support for local small businesses, arts and sports, English teaching, and support of local initiatives.
Ministry of the Interior building on the Plaza de la Revolución, Havana
In Cuba, the visitors will be able to discover the island’s rich cultural heritage, its architectural patrimony, as well as its folklore. Passengers will be able to admire from baroque palaces and 16th-century fortresses the contrasting architecture of pre-revolutionary Cuba. They will also enjoy touring the city on marvelously preserved 1950’s convertibles under perfect weather conditions, and appreciate the music, arts, and lifestyles of the Cuban people, something that has been forbidden since the early years of the 1960s.
The cruise will be a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the lifestyle of the local population, engage in conversations with the new business entrepreneurs, and—why not—witness the final remnants of the Cold War.
Carnival Corp.’s executives view this opportunity as a way to position the company as a leader in the Cuban market before the travel restrictions are lifted. “We are excited and grateful to help travelers experience the incredible beauty of Cuban culture while offering cultural and educational exchanges that will benefit both the visitor as well as the Cuban people”, says Tara Russell, president of Fathom.
The coast of Cabarete, a town in the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic
For the company—after making its debut in the Dominican Republic—Cuba represents a unique option to broaden their social immersion initiative. “Our objective is the same for both destinations. We want to allow our passengers to learn, serve, and immerse themselves in the project to help them make lasting contributions on a sustainable platform, adds Russell. “We continue working on a beautiful and consisten friendship with the people of Cuba.” ■
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