Carnival Corp. said in a statement today that the cruise line would allow anyone to book passage on its cruises to Cuba, including Cuban-born passengers who according to Cuban law are not allowed to return to Cuba by ship.

The rule had resulted in criticism from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and was the subject of a lawsuit filed by two passengers last week.

Carnival Corp.’s new Fathom brand is the first U.S.-based cruise ship scheduled to visit Cuba, departing Miami on May 1. Carnival says that it is in talks with Cuban officials about letting all passengers travel to the country. If it does not receive approval by the May 1 departure, Carnival says it will delay the first cruise.

“We want everyone to be able to go to Cuba with us,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation in a letter to employees. “We remain excited about this historic opportunity to give our guests an extraordinary vacation experience in Cuba.”

Fathom plans to cruise the 704-passenger Adonia on 7-day trips to three Cuban ports leaving Miami each Sunday.

The full text of Donald’s statement is below.

Dear Colleagues:

Today we issued a news release announcing several developments regarding our voyages to Cuba on our Fathom brand. This has been a much-discussed topic in recent days, so I thought it would be helpful to provide some background.

We are privileged to be the first cruise company to be taking guests from the U.S. to Cuba and back in over 50 years, as travel is one of the great equalizers in bringing the world closer together.

As you may know, although Cuba-born travelers everywhere are allowed to enter and leave Cuba by air, Cuba has for decades not allowed Cuba-born individuals to enter or leave the island by sea. This applies to all those born in Cuba whether they reside in Cuba or anywhere in the world — not just Cuban-Americans who were born in Cuba.

We have been in dialogue with Cuba to allow Cuba-born travelers wishing to sail with Fathom the same opportunity afforded those travelling by air. We remain confident that our discussions will lead to a positive outcome and that we will be able to sail with Cuba-born travelers, starting with our historic inaugural voyage on May 1.

This issue has been a top priority for us, and our team has been working hard and continues to work hard to reach a positive outcome.

As we continue our discussions with Cuba, and in anticipation of Fathom travelers being on equal footing with those who travel by air, we are accepting bookings from all travelers, including Cuba-born individuals. However, if Cuba’s decision is delayed beyond May 1, we will delay the start of our sailings.

We take great pride in our diversity as a corporation. With 120,000 employees representing more than 60 countries from around the world, respecting the sensitivities of people from all backgrounds is a core value.

We have an obligation to all our employees, and to the communities in which they work and live, to be the best corporate citizen we can be. We believe this approach best supports that objective.

Again, we remain confident that we will reach a positive outcome and we continue to work full speed ahead in preparing for our every-other-week sailings from PortMiami to Cuba.

I hope this background is helpful and appreciate all of your excellent work and commitment to our company and, most importantly, to helping make sure our guests have the vacation of a lifetime on our 10 world-leading cruise lines.

Sincerely,

Arnold Donald
President & CEO, Carnival Corporation

Photo Credit: The Adonia is sailing for Fathom, Carnival Corp.'s newest brand. Carnival Corp.