Adonia, until earlier this year the baby of P&O Cruises’ fleet, started her new life this week taking passengers on an “impact travel” cruise to the Dominican Republic.
And operator Fathom has now achieved a major concession from the Cuban government over a passenger ban that was threatening to scupper cruises to Havana. It will now become the first ship to carry American passengers to the island in more than 50 years.
The ban brought threats of legal action from Cuban-born passengers prohibited by Cuban law from travelling as guests on the 700-passenger ship.
After initially refusing to accept bookings from Cuban-born passengers, Fathom opened bookings to all, and determined to persuade the Cuban government to change its mind in time for the first cruise to go ahead.
Carnival’s chief executive, Arnold Donald said earlier: “The conversations are really good. We expect everything to be fine. We expect to sail on May 1.”
His optimism was well-founded, as Cuba backed down today. “We made history in March, and we are a part of making history again,” said Donald.
Fathom boss Tara Russell had pinned her hopes on a Cuban government re-think, and says there is potential for more Carnival ships to join her brand, whose policy is “travel with a purpose, travel that transforms lives.”
It’s not all been plain sailing. An inaugural seven-day cruise had to be cancelled when a US Coastguard inspection in Miami discovered the ship’s watertight safety doors did not operate under emergency power.
In the Dominican Republic, Fathom passengers are assisting with community projects including schools, housing schemes, and a women’s co-operative chocolate factory.
Planned activities in Cuba include visiting a ration store – supplying restricted quantities of everyday essentials – eating with locals in their own homes, and seeing Cojimar, the fishing village that inspired Ernest Hemingway to write The Old Man And The Sea, and where he kept his own boat.