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Carnival Corp.’s hoped-for 7-day sailings to Cuba beginning in 2016 for its new Fathom brand wouldn’t just be Port of Miami to Havana affairs but could include calls to three of the island’s 11 cruise ports, an official said.
Tara Russell, president of Fathom and Carnival Corp.’s global impact lead, said in a conference call today that Carnival is actively engaged with the Cuban government in trying to win approvals, and would determine precise itineraries once the cruise line is authorized by Cuba to sail to the country.
The Fathom brand, which will also separately sail to the Dominican Republic, is focused on attracting socially conscious cruisers who are willing to work on projects on the ground in the Dominican Republic and Cuba for at least eight hours per day.
While the onboard experience and Dominican Republic projects are already set, both Russell and Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said the cruise line would have to work it out with the Cuban government as to what sorts of humanitarian programs are needed there.
Donald said Carnival isn’t approaching Cuba with preconceived notions and will undertake projects that are important to Cuba.
Russell said Carnival officials have “an enormous amount to learn” about Cuba as part of the process.
Prior Experience in Cuba
It won’t be a blank slate, though.
Donald pointed out that Carnival’s Costa Cruises brand actually managed the Havana cruise terminal before the 1960 U.S. trade embargo was imposed. This was before Carnival acquired Costa in 2000. Carnival’s AIDA Cruises brand in Germany has experience in Cuba, as well.
Premium Prices for Cuba
The 7-day Cuba sailings on the 710-passenger ship MV Adonia won’t necessarily be cheap.
The Cuba itineraries will start at $2,990 per person, excluding taxes, port charges and other fees, and that compares with $1,540 per person for the week-long sailings to the Dominican Republic. The port fees and other charges for the Cuba sailing haven’t been determined yet pending approval by the Cuban government.
Asked about the pricing discrepancy between the Fathom sailings to the Dominican Republic and Cuba, Russell said, “We believe the price is sort of well-positioned in the market.”
Russell added that the pricing premium is not only tied to the attractiveness of visiting an historic destination but also pertains to costs in Cuba, which have yet to be fully determined.
Cruisers on these sailings to Cuba would travel based on the existing U.S. governmental restrictions, which authorizes travel for people with family ties as well as visits for humanitarian projects and professional, cultural and religious purposes. Carnival will help passengers ensure that they have all the proper documentation for permitted visits.
Donald, though, hopes this is just the beginning and that Carnival would be able to offer regular sailings to Cuba once the embargo is lifted.