The 700 passengers -- 20 of whom were Cuban- Americans -- aboard the first U.S. cruise ship in 57 years to berth in Cuba, relished the atmosphere that surrounded the occasion.
The arrival of the cruise ship Adonis, belonging to the Carnival subsidiary company Fathom, was seen as a symbolic manifestation of the decision announced on December 17 2014 by both countries to reestablish bilateral diplomatic relations.
The visitors, on a cruise that has a strong cultural content, were welcomed by traditional Cuban dancers.
The first to disembark were members of the Carnival management team, two of whom carried the flags of each nation whilst the others spoke to the press.
A further touch of spice was added to the arrival by the nostalgia of Cuban-Americans such as Milly Martin on the cruise, who had not set foot in her homeland since she was four years old and was now returning in her role as an official of Carnival. She shared the joy of her return with the media present.
The Carnival supplied t-shirts worn by passengers were emblazoned with “Fathom, Making History, Inaugural Voyage Cuba 1-8 May 2016”.
Notable amidst many declarations of excitement by those returning to the country after decades, was that of Carnival’s executive director and president, Arnold Donald, who spoke of the pride he felt that the trip had been executed by his company, an experience he described as “unforgettable”.
He expressed his hope that many more North and Cuban Americans would soon arrive, saying that this was indicative of a bright future for the two countries.
He referred to growth trends within tourist related industries but said that the human link between two great peoples was of even greater significance.
Víctor Velozo, president of the Cuban tour operator Havanatur, expressed his hope that on the basis of this inaugural voyage, Carnival would form part of the new range of businesses included in his company’s portfolio of products on offer.
He explained that Fathom line cruisers planned fortnightly weeklong cruises visiting Havana, the central city of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba in the east, before sailing again for Miami, the port of departure.
Even though 12 regulations have slightly eased such contacts, the restrictions by the U.S. administration on free travel to the Island by U.S. citizens are still to be removed, which form part of the unilateral economic and commercial sanctions imposed on Havana by Washington for more than 50 years.
Cuban spokespersons said that cultural exchanges such as the present People to People program now form part of the first phase of a new Havantur agenda, which foresees the arrival of a further 10,000 such U.S. visitors during 2016.
Velozo is of the opinion that the number of North American visitors should continue to rise with consequential economic benefits on both sides.
He emphasized though that the single most important things arising from the cruises were the opportunity to show visitors how beautiful Cuba is, and for the two peoples to share this moment in time.
The arrival of the Adonis follows the signing of contracts between Carnival and Cuban firms on March 22 to commence operations between the U.S. and Cuba from May 2.Share on FB Share on TT