'I am extremely pleased with the announcement that all Americans, regardless of their place of birth, will be able to travel to Cuba aboard cruise ships,' said NCLH president and ceo Frank Del Rio, who was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1961.
Del Rio added that NCLH's Oceania Cruises continues discussions with Cuban officials seeking approval to commence cruises to Cuba later this year.
'I had every confidence that the Cuban government would allow its natural-born citizens to visit the island nation by cruise ship as they have allowed Cuban Americans to travel by air for years,' Del Rio continued. 'I am encouraged to see that the governments of both Cuba and the United States continue to institute constructive resolutions to issues across a wide spectrum, including the lifting of remaining restrictions on travel for American citizens.
'I am very much looking forward to sailing to Cuba soon aboard one of our ships in the company of many fellow Cuban Americans and other fellow Americans who wish to share in the excitement and passion that cruising to Cuba brings,' Del Rio added.
Cruise Lines International Association hailed the Cuban government’s 'positive and fair decision to allow all American citizens equal opportunity to visit Cuba.
'The cruise industry understands the power that travel has to bring learning and understanding between nations and cultures. Further, CLIA fully supports the rights of all people to travel freely and have the opportunity to experience a wide range of destinations. Every step that nations take towards open access and free interchange between citizens is a step in the right direction,' the association stated.
Speaking to media aboard Fathom's inaugural cruise to the Dominican Republic, Russell credited Arnie Pérez, Carnival Corp.'s long-time general counsel and a Cuban American, for working 'tirelessly' on the issue.
Carnival Corp. and Fathom had been under fire for not taking bookings from Cuban Americans due to Cuba's decades-old policy.
'For a period of time [Adonia] will be the only ship able to sail from the US to Cuba,' Russell said. The inaugural voyage to Havana is on May 1; the ship's itinerary will alternate between the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Russell indicated there is 'amazing interest in Cuba but we do have a little space for May 1.'
A number of other US-based lines are seeking Cuban approval to begin cruises.