Cuba: On the
Cusp of Change
By Jan Cullinane
Remember the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962? Many of us ducked under our desks/cafeteria tables at school, fearful that a Russian nuclear bomb would be dropped on the United States. I was seven, and remember the drills, but had no idea what was really going on. Fast forward to 2016,
my husband and I decided to travel to Cuba and see this country for ourselves.
With a thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States, travel restrictions to Cuba have eased considerably, and the first commercial jet from the
U.S. in more than 50 years landed in Cuba on August 31, 2016. The two countries have agreed to allow additional daily round-trip flights. Travel to Cuba
involving “people-to-people” exchanges on chartered flights has existed for a
number of years, but in May 2016, a new cruise line called Fathom sailed the
first cruise ship from the United States to Cuba in more than half a century.
We signed up for the ninth Cuba sailing of the Fathom Adonia, which calls the
port of Miami home and presently stops in the Cuban cities of Havana (docks
overnight), Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba on its week-long itinerary, and
on alternating weeks Adonia goes to the Dominican Republic.
Adonia was originally built as one of eight “R” class ships for Renaissance
Cruises; the line went bankrupt in 2001. After having a number of homes,
Adonia is now owned by the Carnival Corporation (which includes Princess,
Holland America and Cunard), and the vessel enjoyed a complete refit in 2016.
The 704-passenger Adonia was very nicely appointed (my favorite place
was the beautiful Glass House bar, followed by the clubby Library). There was
limited entertainment, although we enjoyed several talks by the ship’s staff
about the Cuban culture, lifestyle, and money matters to prepare us for our
visit. The Fathom philosophy is: “Travel with a Purpose” in order to provide
an “opportunity to build community with like-minded travelers, become immersed in another culture, and work alongside its people to create enduring
social impact.” Although the philosophy is noble and appealed to us, I’d be
less than candid if I didn’t reveal a major reason we chose to travel on a ship
was because we’d heard a lot of not-so-great stories about lack of air conditioning and potential issues with some of the Cuban hotels. In addition, we
at Castillo del Morro