PAGE 61 Havana CubaMSC Cruises has announced that from December, the newly refurbished 2,120 passenger MSC Opera will homeport in Havana for the northern winter 2015-16 season. MSC will be the first global cruise line to offer travellers the opportunity to visit Cuba and set sail on one of 16 Caribbean itineraries.

The first cruise will depart from Havana on 22 December 2015, following MSC Opera’s Grand Voyage to Cuba from Genoa, departing 2 December 2015. On 12 April 2016, the ship will leave Havana for Europe.

During their two-and-a-half-day stay in Havana, MSC Opera’s guests can explore the city’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed old centre; discover its history, culture and architecture; and stroll along the famous Malecón seafront promenade, where the island’s renowned laid-back lifestyle is in full effect.

“The move to Cuba attests to our commitment to offer our guests the best and most sought-after destinations as they become accessible – thus further enhancing our global offering while providing travellers best-in-class experiences and service,” said Gianni Onorato, chief executive officer of MSC Cruises.

The company says it expects strong demand for the product due to the attractiveness of Cuba as a culture-rich destination. MSC Cruises will partner with locally-based Cubanacan to offer ground services and shore excursions.

Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation has received approval from the U.S. Treasury Department to sail its new Fathom brand to Cuba. The cruises will focus on voluntourism, thereby falling into the category of social, cultural and humanitarian travel, one of the current 12 criteria for authorized travel to the country.

Cuba cruises sailing out of Miami will begin in May 2016, a month after the Fathom brand launches with sailings to the Dominican Republic. Carnival has priced the sailings at US$2,990 per person, nearly double the cost of Fathom’s Dominican Republic cruises, however the cost includes pre arrival social impact immersion experiences and cultural activities in Cuba.

Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation, said “We’re incredibly excited and humbled by this potential opportunity to help travellers experience the amazing beauty and culture of Cuba, while being able to provide educational and cultural exchange activities that will benefit both the traveller and the Cuban people. Cuba represents an important step for us to expand our ability to offer meaningful and enriching experiences to purpose-driven travellers.”

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