MIAMI — To a double water gun salute from three
accompanying tugboats, Fathom’s Adonia set sail from Miami for Havana at 3:55
p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
The departure marked the first time in the history of the
modern cruise industry that a ship has journeyed from the U.S. to Cuba.
Several leisure boats, approximately a half-dozen police
boats and one anti-Castro protest boat also made watch from just off Miami’s
downtown as the Adonia began the 192-mile journey to Havana. The ship was
expected to reach the Cuban capital at approximately 8 a.m. Monday morning.
Speaking to the media a couple of hours before departure,
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said that the company is privileged to be the
first to cruise between the former Cold War nemeses. He added his view that the
opening of cruise traffic between the U.S. and Cuba would contribute to
international understanding and “the human spirit.”
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald addresses the media ahead of the Adonia's departure. Photo Credit: Robert Silk
“We are humbled to be part of such a significant change,”
The Adonia set sail with a full ship of 700 guests. Among
them, said Donald, are between 10 and 25 Cuban-born passengers, including
Fathom employees, though he didn’t know the precise figure. One of those
employees, Carnival Corp. general counsel Arnie Perez, will be the first to
disembark when the vessel enters the Port of Havana.
Two weeks ago, Carnival announced that the Fathom line
wouldn’t make the trip to Cuba unless the Castro government relented on a law
prohibiting native Cubans from entering the country via cruise ships. The Cuban
government capitulated to the demand within a week.
Adonia passenger James Townsend, from Chicago, boarded
the ship Sunday just one day after his retirement as an insurance agent.
Anti-Castro government protesters took to the water ahead of Fathom's departure. Photo Credit: Robert Silk
Townsend’s motivation, he said, was “to be part of this
Chattanooga’s Jim Dalton also said he booked passage on
the cruise in order to take part in an historic first.
“And I want to see [Cuba] before the Americans screw the
place up,” he said.
The Adonia will spend two days in Havana before sailing
on to Cienfuegos, Cuba, on Thursday and after that, Cuba’s second city,