Fathom guests receive hearty welcome in Havana

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Arriving passengers walk through crowds of cheering locals.
Arriving passengers walk through crowds of cheering locals. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

After arriving in Cuba with much fanfare Monday, many passengers on Fathom’s Adonia took walking tours of Old Havana.

The ship’s 700 passengers disembarked in the late morning after an exuberant trip through Havana Harbor, during which they were cheered by locals standing along the seaside promenade, the Malecon.

The customs process at Havana’s Terminal Sierra Maestra San Francisco was orderly and quick. But the scene on the street just outside the terminal was far more hectic. 

Media crews and locals surround arriving Adonia passengers outside Terminal Sierra Maestra San Francisco.
Media crews and locals surround arriving Adonia passengers outside Terminal Sierra Maestra San Francisco. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

A throng of Cubans applauded boisterously as the first group of passengers from the U.S. to exit the terminal in more than five decades crossed Avenida Del Puerto into the neighborhood of Old Havana. And the applause continued for subsequent groups of passengers, who were greeted like celebrities as they passed through the center of the crowd, shaking hands, slapping five and accepting various salutes of welcome from the assembled locals.

The end of the fanfare brought the first shore excursion for the new Fathom Cuba cruise. Guides from the operator Havantur took passengers through the Plaza de Armas, where Havana was founded in 1519, and eventually to three other plazas in Old Havana, known in Spanish as La Habana Vieja. A Unesco World Heritage site, Old Havana features a fascinating mix of beautifully restored Spanish colonial buildings sitting in close proximity to colonials in severe states of disrepair.

In addition to offering a lesson in early Cuban history, the walking tour featured a stop for a multi-course lunch as well as a visit to the Palacio de la Artesania marketplace, where shops sold Cuban rum, cigars, perfume, cosmetics, local woodwork and other crafts.

The excursion lasted most of the afternoon, including the lunch stop of more than an hour that also served as a happy respite from the heat. 

Restored buildings line Plaza Vieja, one of four plazas visited on the walking tour.
Restored buildings line Plaza Vieja, one of four plazas visited on the walking tour. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

Diane Liotta, a Fathom passenger from New York, lauded the tour, which is included with the cost of passage on the Adonia.

“I thought it was fabulous,” she said. “The tour guide that we had did an excellent job. We learned a lot.”

Johnnie Westhaus from Houston also commended her guide. But she expected that the tour would have more of a person-to-person element. 

In parts of Havana Vieja, buildings sit in extreme decay.
In parts of Havana Vieja, buildings sit in extreme decay. Photo Credit: Robert Silk

“I actually would have liked to have local people meet with us,” she said.

Evening excursions offered during Adonia’s first day in Havana included cabarets at the famed Nacional Hotel and the legendary Tropicana Club. Passengers also had the option of joining a tour to the nightly cannon ceremony, a Havana tradition of more than 400 years, at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana, along the east side of Havana Harbor.  

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