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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Carnival unveils ‘cultural’ cruises to Cuba

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Cruise ship Cuba
With hotels in Cuba in short supply, Carnival Corp.’s new brand, Fathom, offers travelers another option. Photo: Carnival

Carnival Corp., which already docks at Progreso, Yucatán, has won approval to send tourists from Miami, Fla., to Havana, Cuba starting in May.

But the deal struck means less recreation and more learning for passengers taking cruises to Cuba.

The world’s largest cruise line must package excursions as a “cultural exchange,” using its new small-boat line called Fathom, which carried only 704 passengers. Most cruise ships, such as the ones typically pulling in to Progreso, bring about 3,000 people to port.

And guests won’t be getting massages on the beach. Instead, they must spend at least eight hours each day involved in some type of cultural experience.

Still, with hotels in Cuba in short supply, the ship is a good option for vacationers.

No casinos or shows

The M/V Adonia will be Fathom’s initial ship in the market. There are no casinos or Broadway shows on board, but rather “special onboard programming.” That includes an orientation to Cuba’s history, customs and culture, geographic-inspired entertainment and conversational Spanish lessons, according to the company. Even the movies screen onboard will be Cuban-themed to set the mood for learning and cultural engagement.

Cuba cruise mapInitial itineraries will begin on Sundays at Miami, Fla., setting sail at 4:30 p.m, and arriving at the first destination, Havana, the following morning at 11. The Adonia will return to Miami the following Sunday after disembarking at Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

Shore excursions

Publicity materials list sample itineraries in Cuba: “Visit the Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana’s largest square and Cuba’s current administrative center. Afterward, join a local guide to tour the highlights of Latin America’s most important cemetery, the massive baroque-style Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón.”

Then, passengers are guided to a local community arts project, the home of a local artist, or the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. “After lunch at a local paladar restaurant, visit a nearby organic farm and learn more about the art of sustainable agriculture, Cuban style.”

Afterwards, the group is taken to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s former home in Havana. “Then join an excursion to the small fishing village of Cojimar, one of Hemingway’s favorite haunts and the setting for The Old Man and the Sea.”

Prices for the seven-day voyages start at $1,800 per person, considerably higher than Caribbean voyages of similar length, but less than the $2,990 Carnival originally sought when it received a license from the U.S. government in July.

The prices will vary by season. A $600 per person deposit is required for all cabin categories and occupancy levels.

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