Carnival Corp.'s Cuba license expires in May

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"The future is going to take a little time. Their call. You just have to put yourself in their shoes," Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said.
"The future is going to take a little time. Their call. You just have to put yourself in their shoes," Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald indicated that the company's authority to sail to Cuba will expire next May unless it is renewed.

"Nobody has approval, including us, for sailing to Cuba past May," Donald told travel agents at the CruiseOne/Cruises Inc. national conference aboard the Carnival Vista.

Donald's comments, delivered Dec. 3, indicate that the authority granted by Cuba for Carnival's Fathom brand to sail between Miami and Cuba last year had only a one-year term.

Carnival Corp. recently decided to return Fathom's sole ship, the 700-passenger Adonia, back to its previous operator, P&O Cruises, and reconfigure Fathom as a shore-excursion experience offered by multiple Carnival brands. The change coincides with the May anniversary of Fathom's initial voyage to Cuba.

In remarks to agents, Donald said the road forward to further cruises in Cuba is not clear.

"The future is going to take a little time. Their call. You just have to put yourself in their shoes," Donald said.

He said Carnival Corp. is working to get approval for another ship to take the Adonia's place, but it's tricky. "They're an island. There's still sensitivities. You can have planes coming in and they carry 200 people at a time, they go through a single entry point, etc. Pretty easy to monitor and manage. When cruise ships roll in -- right now Adonia is small, 700 guests -- but to expand it to a larger ship, like this ship, bringing 4,000 or 5,000 people at a time, that's a little unnerving," he said.

Donald said that over time, "there's no question" that there will be extensive cruises to Cuba, which will invigorate the entire Caribbean region for cruise tourism.

"We'll be going to Cuba, hopefully, with another ship, but we've got to get approval," Donald said.

Other cruise lines have had requests pending with the Cuban government for most of 2016 to sail between Florida and Cuba but so far no action on those requests has been announced. 

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