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First U.S. cruise ship arrives in Cuba

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The U.S. cruise ships could pump tens of millions of dollars into Cuban state coffers PHOTO: EPA

The U.S. cruise ships could pump tens of millions of dollars into Cuban state coffers PHOTO: EPA

The first United States (U.S.) cruise ship in nearly 40 years to set sail for Cuba has docked in Havana harbour with more than 700 passengers on board.

The arrival of the Adonia yesterday evening marked the restart of commercial travel between the U.S. and the island-state after five decades of hostile relations brought on by the Cold War.

The ship was the first U.S. cruise ship in Havana since President Jimmy Carter eliminated virtually all restrictions of U.S. travel to Cuba in the late 1970s.

Travel limits were restored after Carter left office and U.S. cruises to Cuba only become possible again after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente in December 2014.

The Adonia’s arrival is the first step towards a future in which thousands of ships a year could cross the Florida Straits, long closed to most US-Cuba traffic due to tensions that once brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The straits were blocked by the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis and tens of thousands of Cubans have fled across them to Florida on homemade rafts with untold thousands dying in the process.

The number of Cubans trying to cross the straits is at its highest point in eight years and cruises and merchant ships regularly rescue rafters from the straits.

U.S. cruises are expected to bring Cuba tens of millions of dollars in badly needed foreign hard currency if traffic increases as expected.

More than a dozen lines have announced plans to run U.S.-Cuba cruises and if all actually begin operations Cuba could earn more than $80m a year, the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said in a report yesterday.


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