The United States and Cuba are united by sea once again. A Carnival cruise ship left Miami on Sunday en route to Havana, where it was expected to dock on Monday morning.
The Adonia is the first cruise ship to journey between the two countries after more than half a century of frozen diplomatic relations. The vessel will make stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos before returning to Miami on May 8.
This trip is one of the main practical results of renewed diplomatic relations between the two nations.
There are only 12 passengers of Cuban descent aboard the ‘Adonia,’ the company said
The Adonia left Terminal J in the Port of Miami amid heavy security. A dozen police cars were on site to make sure the historic trip went off as planned and demonstrators who tried to protest inside the terminal were denied access.
There are 590 people aboard, half of whom are members of the press, while only 12 of the passengers are of Cuban descent.
The presence of this last group has overshadowed news of the historic trip over the last few weeks. At first Carnival refused to sell tickets to Cuban natives residing in the United States, saying that the Cuban government forbids Cuban-born individuals living abroad from returning to the island by vessel (though not by air).
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The issue created a big fuss among Cuban exiles who organized protests in front of Carnival’s offices in Miami. Some even filed discrimination lawsuits against the company, and even US State Secretary John Kerry criticized the company’s decision. Carnival eventually dropped the ban and said it was willing to delay the trip for as long as Cuba kept the policy in place. The Cuban government repealed the measure within days.
Arnold Donald, chief executive of Carnival Corporation, underscored the importance of this historic cruise: “This means a better future for Americans and for Cubans.”
As the Adonia left the port, Cuban immigrants sailed a fleet of small boats as a protest against the Cuban government’s “discriminatory” visa requirements for Cuban nationals living abroad. According to EFE news agency, Movimiento Democracia leader Ramón Raúl Sánchez said his group would organize a demonstration at sea that would stretch all the way to the coast of Cuba if the government did not repeal the measure. This was ultimately not necessary as Cuba announced it was repealing the law.
English version by Dyane Jean François.