Last updated: 04:48 PM ET, Mon April 18 2016

Travel Agents, Cuban Americans React to Fathom's Cuba Cruise Stance

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Jason Leppert | April 18, 2016

Travel Agents, Cuban Americans React to Fathom's Cuba Cruise Stance

Photo courtesy of Fathom

Carnival Corporation today announced that it will hold off on sending its latest brand Fathom to Cuba until which time Cuban-born American citizens will also be allowed to join itineraries to the Caribbean country. The cruise line’s new stance potentially affects all passengers scheduled on the May 1 inaugural cruise and beyond.

Initially, Fathom was upholding a Cuban government policy that blocked Cuban-born Americans from sailing to the island nation, even though they were allowed to fly there. The line stressed that this was a government policy, not one it implemented, and was hopeful that eventually everyone would be permitted. Now, Carnival Corp. is forcing the issue, but it’s unknown whether it will be resolved in time.

The scheduled May 1 Cuban cruise is expected to be a historic occasion as it marks the first time in over 50 years that a U.S. cruise company is allowed to sail stateside to Cuba. However, the voyage will only depart if the government permits all passengers to come along for the ride.

READ MORE: Cuba Cruises are Officially on the Way in May from Fathom

Annie Hernandez, a partner with Holland & Knight and the president of the Cuban American Bar Association says, “CABA is encouraged by the statement that Carnival issued this morning reversing its discriminatory policy and allowing Cuban-born citizens to now book passage for these trips to Cuba.“

Similarly, Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, also says, “we applaud Carnival Corp for standing up to allow all Americans to sail to Cuba on Fathom – this is a stand to bring the world closer together through travel. Ultimately, we hope Carnival Corporation’s size and power can help allow Cuban-born Americans to sail on Fathom’s Cuba itineraries. Hopefully Carnival won’t have to delay its voyages and it will all be ready for the May 1 sailing, but it’s hard to predict how this will evolve, so we will all have to wait and see.”

Hernandez is not sure it will happen immediately. She adds, “the Cuban government does not bend to public opinion or pressure, much less pressure perceived to being exerted by the Cuban-American community in Miami. Given that there is an economic incentive for the policy to be changed, we are hopeful that this will occur in the near future, but it is doubtful that the policy will be changed in time for [the] original May 1st departure.”

READ MORE: Fathom Earns Kudos For Customer Service After First Cruise Canceled

As to how passengers feel about it, Garcia says, “We have heard from some Cuban-born American travelers who had booked Fathom Cuba sailings and then were denied the right to go, so opening it up to all U.S. travelers wanting to sail to Cuba will be beneficial.” As it stands now though, guests who currently hold reservations will also feel the burden.

Carnival Corp. is optimistic that discussions with the Cuban government will soon result in everyone’s favor, but the company’s president and CEO Arnold Donald says, “if Cuba’s decision is delayed beyond May 1, we will delay the start of our sailings.”

If that happens, Fathom will likely make the planned Cuba sailings ones to the Dominican Republic instead, offering that alternative or refunds to guests. The line’s other destination is scheduled every other week in between Cuban departures and just embarked on its first there yesterday, with TravelPulse managing editor Barry Kaufman onboard to cover the experience.

Of course, time will tell as to what will actually transpire regarding cruises to Cuba. In the meantime, Fathom is now taking reservations from every American, Cuban-borns included, in the hopes that it will all work out in the near future.

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