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Carnival to sail the first cruise ship to Cuba May 1

Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise company, will sail a ship to Cuba on May 1, the first cruise voyage from the U.S. in more than 50 years, the Miami company's chief executive announced from the island nation.

During a conference call from Havana, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said that the Adonia, part of the company's Fathom cruise brand, will leave from Miami, carrying 704 passengers for a week-long trip to Cuba.

Donald made the announcement as President Obama was wrapping up a visit to Cuba to push for normalizing relations with its communist government.

The Adonia ship will make ports of call in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The ship will sail every other week.

"It's an extraordinary day," Donald said. "We are truly honored."

Although the Adonia is one of the smaller ships in the Carnival fleet, the chief executive said he hopes the first cruise can pave the way to bring Carnival's larger brands to the island.

"You are not going to see this financially move the needle,” he said, adding that including Cuba to its ports of call will increase interest in cruising.

Under federal laws, U.S. travelers must meet 12 specific criteria to visit Cuba. But Tara Russell, president of Carnival Corp.'s Fathom brand, said the cruise company will help passengers fill out all the needed paperwork.

"We do make it very easy for our passengers,” she said.

Prices for the seven-day trip start at $1,800 a person, excluding Cuban visas, taxes, fees and port expenses and including all meals on the ship, on-board experiences and several on-the-ground activities.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering applications from United, American, Southwest, JetBlue and other carriers to launch 20 daily round-trip flights to Havana, and 10 flights to nine smaller airports across Cuba. The agency plans to award a share of the routes to the individual airlines this summer.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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