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What's New: Cruise Ship Vacations To Cuba Starting May 1 That Include Volunteering

On Monday, March 21, Carnival Corporation announced a signed agreement with the Cuban government allowing its Fathom cruise line to provide service to port destinations in Cuba beginning May 1, 2016. Carnival received approval by the United States government in July, 2015. With approval by both countries' governments, cruise sailings can soon begin. This will be the first time in about 50 years that passengers can sail from the United States to Cuba.

Fathom cruise line logo Tara Russell, president of Fathom cruise line said in the announcement:

"Our Carnival Corporation and Fathom brand teams have worked closely with Cuba throughout this process and we are thrilled to begin regular sailings to Cuba from Miami starting on May 1, 2016... We have been told that we will be the first cruise line to sail from the U.S. to Cuba with our historic inaugural sailing."

The history-making sailings will be made by the 704-passenger MV Adonia cruise ship. Based in Miami, the MV Adonia will sail to three port destinations in Cuba: Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. To celebrate this historic event, the itinerary will include a Cuban experience with onboard seminars about Cuba’s history, customs, and culture plus conversational Spanish lessons, Cuban music, films, and Cuban menu options.

What distinguishes Fathom from other cruise lines is the concept of "impact travel." The site explains:

"Fathom was created for the passionate and growing number of travelers seeking mindful, purpose-driven and easily accessible travel programs that allow them to make an impact on the world... Fathom offers consumers authentic, meaningful travel experiences to enrich the life of the traveler and work alongside locals as they tackle community needs..."

Those programs include activities such as planting trees, building and installing water filters, teaching grade-school to read, and more. So you can mix volunteer work with your vacation. That's definitely a different cruise-ship vacation.

Carnival Corporation owns several cruise lines, including Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, and its new Fathom cruise line. How did Fathom start? There's a robust discussion by consumers on the Cruise Critic social site. One person offered this perspective:

"... I live in New Orleans... the origin of Fathom was born out of Carnival's experience during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. To support first responders, Carnival made the decision to reallocate 3 Fantasy Class vessels to New Orleans to provide safe infrastructure (housing, food, communications etc). The city had zero support systems in place (destroyed by the levy breaking) to provide those services for at least 90 days after Katrina. Contrary to popular outcry, Carnival had enough excess capacity fleet-wide to absorb guests (who expressed the willingness to be flexible) who were displaced by this action. Katrina proved to be be the greatest outpouring of volunteerism in the history of this country. Every year since Katrina, thousands of volunteers return to continue to help rebuild. Carnival Corporation learned from that experience. Thru the concept of Fathom, it can bring hundreds of volunteers with various skills and passions to any destination that can be reach by a cruise ship and a workable port of call... or in Cuba's situation to help rebuild a long decayed infrastructure... I think this will be a major hit...it will change the paradigms of how the younger generation views vacations. I applaud Carnival for doing this..."

The MV Adonia will make 7-day sailings departing Miami on Sundays. The Fathom cruise line will also provide service to ports in the Dominican Republic. Prices for 7-day sailings to Cuba start at $1,800.00 per person, excluding Cuban visas, taxes, fees, and port expenses. The prices include all meals on the ship, onboard experiences and on-land activities. Prices will vary by season. To book a sailing, a $600.00 per person deposit is required, and final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

This is exciting news. I look forward to experiencing what Fathom has to offer. You can learn more in this video:

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