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Maritime Law--Carnival Announces Cruises from Miami to Cuba

The world's largest cruise ship operator could be heading to Cuba by May 2016. Various sources report that Carnival Corp. has received U.S. government licenses to offer "purposeful" cruises from the U.S. to Cuba for people-to-people, humanitarian and other exchanges. Carnival says it would become the first American cruise company to visit Cuba since the 1960 trade embargo. The trips will be through its new "fathom" brand, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there.
The weeklong cruises are reported to be aboard ADONIA, a small cruise ship which carries 710 passengers. ADONIA is relatively small for the industry, as ships sailing under the company's namesake line can carry nearly 3,000 passengers. ADONIA is a deluxe ship that offers no casino or Broadway-type shows but rather features Spanish classes and workshops on the island's art and heritage.The itinerary is still being finalized, as Carnival is awaiting approval from the Cuban government. The ship is expected to visit several ports and passengers will sleep onboard each night. Carnival is expecting high demand for the voyages and has priced them accordingly. Prices start at $2,990 per person plus taxes and port fees. A similar service-oriented trip on the same ship to the Dominican Republic starts at $1,540 per person.
Cuba is still closed for general tourism for Americans under the terms of the U.S. embargo against communist-led Cuba, unless they have family on the island. This measure must be lifted by Congress. Nevertheless, new rules permit U.S. visits to Cuba without a prior license in 12 categories of travel, including the people-to-people type tours now planned by Carnival. Carnival's license comes as part of recent approvals for six passenger vessels from the Treasury Department. The U.S. government has not named the companies who have received these licenses, though as I previously blogged on May 6, 2015, Airline Brokers Co., Baja Ferries USA, Havana Ferry Partners, United Caribbean Lines and America Cruise Ferries have all announced that they have received these licenses. See that article here => Ferries Between Florida and Cuba.
Of the six that have received the licenses, four of them are reportedly authorized to allow passengers and crew to spend the night aboard. The vessels are not allowed to stop at other countries, so an ADONIA cruise from Miami to Cuba will not be a typical Caribbean cruise where the ship will stop at four or five other ports. 
There is a lot of interest in waterborne travel to Cuba. Tourism is reportedly a $2.6 billion-plus industry in Cuba and has been one of the main economic drivers keeping Cuba's economy sputtering along. Last year, the country reportedly welcomed a record 3 million visitors. Several sources report that Cuban officials estimate that 1.5 million Americans would travel to the island annually if all restrictions were removed, potentially adding some $2 billion a year to Cuba's economy.
There are many challenges ahead for the country as it opens up to U.S. visitors. There is not enough infrastructure to handle the demand. Reportedly major travel companies including Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International have been closely eyeing developments in Cuba. JetBlue, which has run charter flights from Florida to Cuba for years, just launched a new nonstop flight from New York. It is only open to travelers who are approved to visit Cuba. American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines also offer charters.
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