The world’s largest cruise line is the latest entrant to the Cuban travel market. Carnival Corporation announced Tuesday that it had received permission from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Department of Commerce to launch cruises to Cuba beginning in May 2016.
Carnival’s newly launched Fathom brand, which aims to provide travel with social impact, will operate the seven-day cruises out of Miami. Cruise activities will include eight hours per day of “people-to-people exchange”—a requirement under current U.S. travel regulations, which prohibit outright tourism.
Fathom will alternate trips to Cuba with trips to the Dominican Republic on the Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel currently being used for UK cruises. Prices for the week-long cruises to Cuba start at $2,990, not including taxes or port fees.
Carnival president and CEO Arnold Donald said the licenses to Fathom represent an opportunity for American travelers to experience Cuba, as well as a business opportunity for Carnival as it looks toward the future.
“We’ll learn a lot more about the ports [and] we’ll be working with the Cuban players in the country to make certain that as things evolve… we’ll have an opportunity to input and help contribute,” said Arnold.
Cuban authorities still have yet to give Carnival the go-ahead. Donald said the company is currently in “active discussions” with the Cuban government, but he is confident the May 2016 launch date gives the company enough time to obtain the needed permissions. Carnival is already taking reservations, but deposits are fully refundable.