Demand continues to grow for cruises to Cuba

January 6, 2017 GMT

Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand, a line that started as offering trips alternating between the Dominican Republic and Cuba, is now combining the two countries in a single itinerary.

Fathom announced recently it received approval to add a stop in Santiago de Cuba, the second-largest city on the island, on six upcoming cruises that were originally scheduled to sail only to Amber Cove on the Dominican Republic’s northern coast.

The weeklong voyages — on Feb. 26, March 12 and 26, April 9 and 23, and May 7 — will depart from PortMiami and head to Santiago de Cuba first, before spending a full day and two partial days in the Dominican Republic, then returning to Miami.

Trips on the 704-passenger Adonia start at $599, making them considerably cheaper than other American cruise line offerings to the island — but with a caveat.

Fathom is focused on social impact, so its trips involve tours that leave a positive mark on the Dominican community, such as teaching English or laying concrete floors at local homes. In Cuba, travelers partake in people-to-people cultural exchange tours, one of the 12 categories of travel approved for Americans who visit the island.

Prices exclude taxes, fees, port expenses, gratuities (estimated at $80.50 per person) and a Cuban visa ($75 per person). Fully refundable $300 per person deposits are required 90 days before departure. Included in the price are all onboard experiences, including meals, select on-the-ground activities, and well as lunch in Santiago de Cuba and during Dominican Republic impact activities.

When Fathom first set sail in May, it offered every-other-week voyages to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. But demand for Cuba outpaced the Dominican Republic, and the line started to cut back on sailings to Amber Cove and steeply reduced prices.

Two voyages to the Dominican Republic in October and November were replaced with Cuba sailings because of demand, the company said in September. Tickets to sail to Cuba next year on Fathom cost about $4,000 per person. The Dominican trips are a seventh of that price.

Earlier last year, Doral, Fla.-based Carnival Corp. said it was discontinuing voyages on Fathom and sending the cruise line’s only ship, the Adonia, to P&O Cruises in the United Kingdom in June.

By then, Carnival hopes to gain approval to sail to Cuba with another of its nine remaining cruise lines, while six of its cruise lines will offer the Fathom voluntourism tours as additional options for cruises that stop in Amber Cove.