The first US cruise ship in nearly 40 years crossed the Florida Straits from Miami and docked in Havana, re-starting commercial travel on waters that served as a stage for a half-century of Cold War hostility.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Adonia became the first US cruise ship in Havana since president Jimmy Carter eliminated virtually all restrictions of US travel to Cuba in the late 1970s.
Travel limits were restored after Carter left office and US cruises to Cuba only become possible again after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente on December 17, 2014.
Hundreds of workers and passers-by gathered to watch, some cheering, as the gleaming white 704-passenger ship pulled into the dock — the first step towards a future in which thousands of ships a year could cross the Florida Straits, long closed to most US-Cuba traffic due to tensions that once brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The number of Cubans trying to cross the straits is at its highest point in eight years and cruises and merchant ships regularly rescue rafters from the straits.
The Adonia is one of Carnival’s smaller ships — roughly half the size of some larger European vessels that already dock in Havana — but US cruises are expected to bring Cuba tens of millions of dollars if traffic increases as expected.
More than a dozen lines plan to run US-Cuba cruises, and Cuba could earn over $80m a year (€69.5m), according to a US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council report.
Most of the money goes directly to the Cuban government, said council head John Kavulich.
He estimated that the cruise companies pay the government $500,000 per cruise, while passengers spend about $100 per person in each city they visit.
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