The voyage is the first of what Carnival says will become week-long cruises to Cuba twice a month, with the goal of promoting cultural exchange between the two countries. For the time being, Americans can travel to Cuba only for cultural, academic, sports-related or religious events. Before the 1959 Cuban revolution, cruise ships regularly traveled from the U.S. to Cuba, with elegant Caribbean excursions departing from New York.
Cruise ships stopped crossing the Florida Straits from the U.S. after a brief window in the late 1970s when President Jimmy Carter allowed virtually all U.S. travel to Cuba. U.S. cruises are expected to bring Cuba tens of millions of dollars in badly needed foreign hard currency if traffic increases as expected. More than a dozen lines have announced plans to run U.S.-Cuba cruises. The cost of a ticket on the cruise ranges from $1,800 to $7,000 per person. Cruise traffic is key to the government’s reengineering of the industrial Port of Havana as a tourist attraction.