HAVANA – As passengers cheered, Carnival's Fathom Adonia arrived at Havana harbor on Monday, officially re-establishing the U.S. cruise business in Cuba.
The voyage of the Adonia, with about 600 passengers aboard, was the first trip from Miami to Cuba in more than 50 years, and the importance of the historic trip wasn't lost.
(The most recent such cruise, from another U.S. port, was in 1978.)
Aboard the ship, passengers waved Cuban and American flags. Carnival Corp. President and CEO Arnold Donald was on the bow of the ship as it came into the harbor.
"It was a very special point of view and a very special moment — to feel the emotions of everyone on the ship and then feel the emotions of the people on shore, too."
Arnie Perez, Carnival's chief legal counsel, also on the bow, said he was moved by the groups of Cubans along the shore who clapped and cheered. "It made me feel at home," he said.
After the ship officially docked at 10:24 a.m., Perez and his wife, Carmen, both born in Cuba, were first to disembark.
Moored at Havana's westernmost terminal, the imposing blue-and-white ship was clearly visible as it loomed above the Malecon.
After an efficient customs procedure, passengers were greeted with rum and Cokes. Several groups of dancers entertained.
A large crowd of Cubans waited across the street from the terminal, many snapping cellphone pictures and shouting "bienvenido" as the passengers began hitting the streets of Old Havana.
The weeklong cruise will circumnavigate Cuba and will also stop in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. As a people-to-people trip, the voyage is supposed to encourage interactions with the Cuban people.
All the cabins were sold for the maiden voyage, although single occupancies meant the ship traveled somewhat below its 704-passenger capacity.