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    Cruise ship from Miami arrives in Havana for historic trip to Cuba

    Cruise ship from Miami arrives in Havana for historic trip to Cuba

    “We’ll never forget this day”
    Cubans along the shore whistled and waved
    First U.S. cruise ship to visit island in half a century
    BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
    mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

    HAVANA
    As passengers cheered, Carnival Corp.’s Fathom Adonia arrived at Havana
    harbor on Monday morning, officially reestablishing the U.S. cruise
    business in Cuba.

    The voyage of the Adonia, with about 600 passengers aboard, was the
    first trip from a U.S. port directly to Cuba in more than 50 years, and
    the importance of the historic trip wasn’t lost on anyone.

    By 7 a.m., the first hazy outlines of the Havana skyline appeared on the
    horizon and excitement aboard the Adonia began to build.

    About 7:45 a.m. when the city was still about seven or eight miles away,
    Captain David Box came on the public address system, noting the great
    dome of Havana’s Cathedral was clearly visible and pointing out that
    Havana, founded in 1515, was once known as the “Rome of the Caribbean.”

    “We’ll never forget this day,” he said.

    The ship arrived at the mouth of Havana harbor, but had not docked as of
    9:30 a.m.

    Although the Adonia is a small cruise ship — it has to be because a
    tunnel passes under Havana harbor, making it inaccessible for larger,
    deeper-draft vessels — it has a loud horn that it sounded as it slowly
    glided into the harbor around 9 a.m., where it stopped before it was to
    head to the Sierra Maestra terminal.

    “Our ship is small but our ship’s horn is huge and will reverberate
    across the world,” Box said.

    Cubans along the shore and workers at a restaurant at El Morro Castle
    whistled and wave as the Adonia entered the channel on a bright, sunny day.

    “Good morning, Cuba,” exclaimed Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald as he
    invited guests to an 8 a.m. poolside party as the ship neared Havana.
    “Just enjoy this very special day.”

    The band started playing and drinks started to flow more than three
    hours before the passengers were allowed to disembark for their first
    day of people-to-people tours.

    The week-long cruise will circumnavigate Cuba and will also stop in
    Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. As a people-to-people trip, the voyage
    is supposed to encourage interactions with the Cuban people.

    While baking on the beach is not part of any people-to-people agenda, a
    wide variety of cultural and artistic activities are permitted.

    “It’s exciting to be part of this historic voyage,” said Shirley
    Thurman, a retiree from St. Augustine who was making the trip with her
    husband. “I am so glad we are normalizing relations with Cuba. I think
    the common people in Cuba have been the ones who have suffered over the
    years.”

    Thurman said she had no desire to come to Cuba before the U.S.
    government began liberalizing travel rules, making it easier for a
    greater variety of Americans to travel to the island as part of an
    opening toward Havana that began on Dec. 17, 2014.

    But the night that Carnival announced the Fathom Adonia would be making
    its first voyage to Cuba, her husband was on the phone making
    reservations for the cruise.

    All the cabins were sold out for the maiden voyage, although single
    occupancies meant the ship traveled somewhat below its 704-passenger
    capacity.

    Two Cuban-born passengers, Arnie Pérez, Carnival’s chief legal counsel,
    and his wife Carmen, were scheduled to be the first off the ship. Both
    were born in 1960. His family left Cuba when he was 9 months old; hers
    when she was seven years old.

    Pérez hadn’t been back since last year when he began helping negotiating
    the deal that led to the Adonia’s entry into the Cuban market.

    The only member of his immediate family who remains in Cuba is an
    89-year-old aunt who lives outside Santiago de Cuba. When the Adonia
    stops in Santiago, he said he is going to make it a point to see the
    aunt he has never met.

    The first meeting with Cuba as Fathom tried to forge a cruise deal was
    back in July and final approval didn’t come until mid-March, he said.

    However, Carnival and Fathom executives didn’t count on the type of
    backlash they would get in Miami when they started to deny Cuban-born
    travelers passage on the ship. They were abiding by a Cuban policy from
    the Cold War era that bars those born in Cuba from entering or leaving
    the island by vessel, making a cruise an impossible journey for those
    born on the island.

    But Cuban exiles swung into action, protesting what they saw as a
    discriminatory policy that didn’t put the Cuban-born on equal footing
    with other travelers. Two lawsuits were filed against the cruise lines
    and opposition to the cruise began piling up.

    Carnival shifted gears, saying it would sell tickets to Cuban-born
    travelers and would delay the Adonia’s first trip, if necessary, until
    Cuba changed its policy.

    “We made it clear we wouldn’t go if they didn’t change the policy,” said
    Pérez, who was involved in the last-minute negotiations.

    On April 22, a statement that appeared in Granma, the Communist Party
    newspaper, made it clear that cruise liners and merchant ships would no
    longer be subject to the policy.

    “Yes, it should have been done earlier. They realize that,” said Pérez.
    But he said on Sunday, the day the Adonia left PortMiami, he got a
    message from the Cuban Embassy in Washington expressing hope that the
    cruise would go well.

    “The time is now to do something different toward Cuba,” Pérez said.
    “We’re engaging with people and we are hoping for the best.”

    Source: Cruise ship from Miami arrives in Havana for historic trip to
    Cuba | In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article75096132.html

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