First cruise in decades departs from US to Cuba

The Fathom cruise ship Adonia leaves Miami for a historic departure to Cuba, marking first of its kind in decades.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The Fathom cruise ship Adonia departs Miami Beach, Florida with fanfare and water cannons on her inaugural seven-day voyage to Cuba on May 1, 2016.

Passengers have set sail from Miami on a historic cruise to Cuba, the first in decades to depart from a US seaport for the communist island nation.

Carnival Corp.'s 704-passenger Adonia left port Sunday at 4:24pm local time, bound for Havana. Carnival's Cuba cruises, operating under its Fathom brand, will also visit the ports of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba on the seven-day outing. Several Cuba-born passengers, among hundreds of others, were aboard.

The cruise comes after Cuba loosened its policy banning Cuban-born people from arriving to the country by sea, a rule that threatened to stop the cruises from happening.

Restarting the cruises was an important element of US President Barack Obama's bid to increase tourism to Cuba after the 2014 decision to restore diplomatic relations.

Cruises dwindled in the years leading up to the Cuban Revolution and ended entirely after Castro overthrew the US-backed government.

Before the 1959 Cuban revolution, cruise ships regularly traveled from the US to Cuba, with elegant Caribbean cruises departing from New York, leaving twice a week from Miami, said Michael L. Grace, an amateur cruise ship historian.

Aiming to revive diplomatic relations and make ways for economic normalization, Obama approved US cruises to Cuba in 2015.

Cruise traffic is key to the Cuban government's reengineering of the industrial Port of Havana as a tourist attraction.

TRTWorld, AP