Carnival Corp. receives approval for cruises to Cuba

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Carnival cruises have the green light to go to Cuba.

The U.S. government has authorized Carnival Corp. to operate between U.S. ports and Cuba, beginning next year, according to the Maritime Executive.

The U.S. Department of Treasury now allows licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba, provided they engage in activities that support the Cuban people.

Carnival is expected to begin service in May, using its Fathom brand. Fathom provides travelers the experience of working with nationals to assist in the development of regional areas.

The Fathom brand is expected to see about 40,000 travelers annually who will volunteer and engage in educational and cultural exchanges in Cuban communities.

In April, Carnival also will begin voyages to the Dominican Republic, and Fathom will offer Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a regular basis.

"We’re very interested in exploring the prospects of expanding our partnership with Fathom to include Cuba, building new impact programs and lending our assistance to strengthen existing initiatives that will help educational, cultural and humanitarian efforts already going on in Cuba,” said David Luther, founder and executive director of IDDI, a non-profit organization with the mission of helping to alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas in the Caribbean.

During the past year, the Obama administration has taken major steps to improve relations with Cuba. It eliminated the need for U.S. travelers to obtain a license from the Treasury Department to travel to the island nation. Last week the administration said it will restore diplomatic ties between the two countries by reopening the U.S. embassy in Havana and a Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C.

The boating and cruise industries have welcomed the possibility of U.S. tourism in Cuba.

Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival, said in a statement that Fathom represents Carnival’s first efforts in Cuba, which will pave the way for the company when the embargo is lifted.

Fathom’s seven-day Cuba cruises will accommodate 710 passengers.

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