PHOTOS BY YANIEL TOLENTINO
Making History in Havana
Only 90 miles from Key West, Cuba has been a forbidden island to most U.S. travelers since the days of the Cold War. But Carnival Corporation’s newest brand, Fathom, made history on May 2, 2016, when it sailed into Havana Harbor. Until that time, no cruise company had sailed from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 40 years.
Fathom was created to combine purpose and giving back with travel to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic, Fathom takes guests to areas in need and works with on-the-ground partners to help local communities. The cruise provides the opportunity to become immersed in another culture and work alongside its people to create enduring social impact. In Cuba, Fathom is all about People-To-People exchanges and includes a genuine cultural learning experience through immersion activities such as exploring the cuisine and visiting historic sites.
In creating Fathom, Carnival Corporation has pioneered a new cruise category: social impact travel. “We are so honored to be a part of making history. More importantly, we are contributing to a positive future. We want to extend our sincere appreciation to Cuba and to our team who worked so hard to help make this happen,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation.
The seven-day historic sailing from Miami to Havana was sold out, filling MV Adonia’s capacity of 704 guests from all over the world. The guests were no ordinary travelers, apart from having fun and discovering new places, they wanted to make a positive impression in the community they were visiting.
As the ship approached Cuba, the excitement of guests and crew heightened. Hundreds of Cubans were lined up for miles along the Malecón cheering on while the MV Adonia entered Havana Harbor and docked at Sierra Madre Port Terminal. Aboard the historic cruise was Arnaldo “Arnie” Perez, Carnival Corporation’s General Counsel and Secretary, and his wife, Carmen, who are both Cuban-born. They were the first ones to step off the MV Adonia onto Cuban soil. A truly historic moment indeed for Carnival Corporation, Arnie, Carmen, and Cubans everywhere.
The first port of call was the capital city of Havana. Guests explored Old Havana and visited historic sites where they saw incredible pieces of Caribbean architecture like the Gran Teatro de La Habana and the Plaza de la Revolución. The cultural immersion included sampling some of the best Cuban cuisine recipes with a true traditional mojito. As part of the People-to-People experience, guests took part in unique opportunities to talk to dozens of people about the historical impact of the cruise.
The experience was not only based on the visits to the Island, but it began on board the ship. Guests had cultural immersion sea days that included activities such as practicing elementary Spanish and participating in workshops on how to catalogue travel photos. They also had the opportunity to dance the night away with Cuban musicians who sailed on the ship from Havana to Cienfuegos and from Cienfuegos to Santiago de Cuba.
The adventure continued in Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Pearl of the South, where guests were amazed by the French-influenced, neo-classical buildings like the Palacio Azul and the Club Cienfuegos. Guests also had the opportunity to visit the Teatro Tomás Terry and enjoy a Cantores de Cienfuegos’ performance as they also shared stories about their interesting lives.
The final stop was Santiago de Cuba where guests toured the main historic attractions like San Juan Hill and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca. There they viewed examples of Spanish-American military architecture and artifacts. They also had time to explore the music culture of Santiago de Cuba and continued tasting different flavors of Cuban cuisine.
Every corner of Cuba had a welcoming smile for guests who were excited about taking part in the new cultural exchange that Fathom is making possible. Fathom is providing an opportunity for that very sort of experience. Fathom not only provides travel, it provides social impact travel experiences. It gives the opportunity to have immersed cultural exchanges to purpose-driven travelers who want to make a difference in the world. Fathom is dedicated to ensuring lively entertainment on board and on ground with a key mission of giving back. Its purpose is based on the belief that People-To-People connections are among the strongest catalysts for transformation, and this objective impacted the guests as well.
In the first year, Fathom is expected to bring more than 18,000 guests to Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba, which will create lasting memories for the guests and the Cuban people. “I have always wanted to do something meaningful to give back,” said a Fathom guest.”This type of trip is the best combination in the world for families who want to give back. You are making a difference, you are changing a life. This cruise is an eye opener and at the same time, you are going to enjoy yourself immensely. Cuba is beautiful and there is so much to see and explore.”