Passengers who have booked a cabin on Fathom Travel’s initial “people to people” cruise to Cuba might get a bonus cultural experience. They could witness a serious protests mounted by Cuban Exiles who have been pressuring Fathom to cancel the cruise. A well known Miami exile organization has already applied for a permit to stage a flotilla to trail Fathom’s Adonia all the way to Cuba. Others are planning dockside or channel side protests as the ship departs for Cuba.
Fathom and parent company Carnival Cruise Lines are under intense local pressure to cancel the trip. The uproar which is getting major South Florida media play centers on Fathom’s refusal to book Cuban Americans who were born in Cuba. Fathom will not accept reservations from Cuban Exiles or anyone else who was born on the Island. Fathom says they have to adhere to Cuban Policy which is administered by the Cuban Naval Command Center. The policy does not allow Cubans of any citizenship to enter or depart the country by sea.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez would not be able to book a Fathom Cruise to Cuba. The Cuban born Mayor has weighed in on the issue and has had direct contract with Carnival Cruise Line Chairman Micky Arinson. Gimenez has asked the county attorney for an opinion on whether Carnival is violating Miami-Dade’s human rights policy and what his options are in dealing with the issue. Miami-Dade County controls the Port of Miami and in theory could block Fathom’s use of the facility.
Carnival has maintained they have ongoing discussion with the Cuban government about the issue. Carnival president and CEO Arnold Donald has been quoted saying Carnival has been working to petition the Cuban government to change the policy.
The crux of the issue for Cuban Americans was summed up by U.S. Senator Bob Menéndez, a Cuban American, saying, “Make no mistake-by discriminating against Cuban-Americans, Carnival is allowing the Castro regime to extend its oppressive reach to our shores.” A lawsuit against Carnival filed by two Miami Cuban Americans alleges by adhering to Cuban policy the company has violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Fathom Travel policy has the potential to effect hundreds of thousands of South Florida residents who might want to take a ship to Cuba. Husbands could go, Cuban wives could not. The Mayor of Miami, born in Cuba, could not book a cruise, his children could.
Fathom promises their Cuba cruises will provide an opportunity to “Immerse yourself. This is the real Cuba, up close and personal.” For those booked on the initial cruise they just might have the opportunity to experience the Cuban reality before they even cast off from the Port of Miami. It will not be on the list of Fathom’s people-to-people events set for Cuba but for passengers there is the potential of experiencing, despite the opening of relations, the great divide between the Cuban Government and Miami’s Cuban Exiles.