Havana, Cuba – After nearly 40 years, commercial travels on waters between Cuba and the United States resumed on Monday as passengers of the Adonia arrived in Havana’s single state-run cruise terminal. Sixteen Cuban-Americans were able to return to their homeland from Miami after the government decided to drop a long-established ban on Cuban-born people going back to the country by sea.
The first passengers were welcomed by rum drinks, live music, and salsa dancers. The festive arrival was followed by walking tours of the colonial center and hawkers promoted souvenir shops and restaurants in the restored area.
The Adonia set sail shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday and it took the cruise about 17 hours to cross the Florida Straits. Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente on Dec. 17, 2014, making U.S. cruises to Cuba once again possible.
Both governments hope to see thousands of ships crossing the Florida Straits in the future. Should traffic increase as expected, American cruises could bring the Caribbean country tens of millions of dollars in foreign hard currency. The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council reported on Monday that Cuba could earn more than $80 million a year once full operations begin. About a dozen lines have already announced plans to operate cruises between the countries.
“This is history,” 54-year-old nurse Mercedes Lopez told ABC News. “We Cubans must unite, all of us. This is a step forward, a little step toward normalization, peace, family unification.”
She waited for hours to see Carnival Cruise Line’s 704-passenger Adonia pull up to Havana’s two-berth cruise terminal.
Cruise traffic may have a negative impact on the environment
Environmental scientists warned that an excessive cruise traffic could cause serious damage to an island that happens to be home to the Caribbean’s healthiest marine life partly because of the lack of large-scale development in decades.
Dan Whittle, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund’s Cuba program, told ABC News that fragile coral reef ecosystems in coastal waters of Cuba could be seriously hurt by an influx of large ships. He said overall marine life might be degraded by discharge of sewage into near pristine waters.
Source: ABC News