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Will Carnival's cruises to Cuba spoil everything? Maybe not

Just what you didn't want to see happen in Cuba: the coming of cruises disgorging thousands onto the shores of the island nation. But hold the phone.

The announcement Tuesday that Carnival Corp. will begin sailing to Cuba in May may have raised the "that-will-spoil-everything" alarm, but Carnival is deploying its new Fathom brand, using a relatively small (710-passenger) ship that parts ways with the concept of cruises that party hearty.

Unlocking Cuba: A guide to the nation that's more open to travelers

Passengers sailing on Fathom, a brand introduced last month, are part of a movement to address concerns of the country or community where they're sailing.

The first Fathom trip -- which will be aboard the Adonia, a ship borrowed from another Carnival brand -- will sail in April from Miami to the Dominican Republic, where more than a third of the country lives in poverty.

Cuba itineraries will start the following month, assuming discussions with Cuba for final approval go as planned. 

Fathom cruises are designed to provide "cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens," Carnival said. Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba under these types of trips, typically called people-to-people tours.

Prices for weeklong cruises to Cuba start at $2,990 per person, excluding port fees and taxes. A deposit of $600 will hold a spot.

Carnival isn't the only company in the Cuba cruise business.

In 2013, Canadian-based Cuba Cruise started taking travelers from Jamaica to the ports of Havana, Maria la Gorda, Cienfuegos and Santiago. Weeklong trips start at less than $1,000 per person, depending on the dates you choose.

Additionally, the U.S. Treasury said it approved licenses for six passenger vessels but didn't specify which ones, according to the Associated Press. So there may be more cruise companies set to sail to Cuba.

The news comes after the Obama administration on July 1 announced that the U.S. and Cuba would reopen embassies and reestablish diplomatic relations after half a century. The change in diplomatic status is set to begin July 20.

Earlier this year, the administration eased rules for Americans who want to travel to Cuba. Now it wants Congress to lift the economic embargo against Cuba, a move that seems unlikely any time soon.


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