Carnival Cruises got the OK from U.S. authorities to operate Cuba cruises, and, assuming it gets the nod from Cuba, it could start cruising next May. Bobbi Rebell reports.
Cruising to Cuba from the U.S. may soon be a reality for Carnival Cruises. The U.S. Commerce Department and Treasury Department have approved Carnival's plans to operate cruises to Cuba, staring in May. The company is still waiting for the ok from Cuba. Reuters' Dan Trotta. SOUNDBITE: DAN TROTTA, REUTERS CHIEF CUBA CORRESPONDENT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Carnival has had its eye on Cuba for many many years. It hopes, eventually, that Cuba will be a very profitable business for them. A number of other ferry companies also have permission from the U.S. government to bring Americans to Cuba by sea. However, all of them, like Carnival, still do not have permission from the Cuban government. That is no small matter as the Cubans have a reputation for taking a long long time to approve such matters." The move comes after the two countries formally agreed to restore diplomatic relations last month. Morningstar's Jaime Katz. SOUNDBITE: JAIME KATZ, ANALYST, MORNINGSTAR (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's obviously an easy next step for the cruise lines, because Cuba is so close. And there is so much interest in Americans in traveling to a place that has really been prohibited for the last fifty years." Americans are still banned from visiting Cuba as tourists. But they are allowed to go for a variety of reasons, that include visiting family, or participating in religious and educational programs. And so that's the catch with Carnival. The company says, the cruises will focus on education, the environment, and economic development. They will feature Spanish lessons and workshops on the country's heritage. The cruises will launch under the Fathom brand, which is set up to run cruises with humanitarian and cultural themes, and currently sails to the Dominican Republic. SOUNDBITE: JAIME KATZ, ANALYST, MORNINGSTAR (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think, until those restrictions are lifted, you are really looking at a much smaller target audience for people who want to do good and give back to the community, but, I think, once some of those restrictions are repealed, you have a much larger and wider target audience, and Carnival maybe setting themselves up to be the first mover to build that brand goodwill with Cubans out of the U.S. cruise operators." Prices will start at just under $3,000 per person excluding taxes and fees.