Fathom This: The Carnival Paradise Cuba Story

This week saw Carnival Paradise begin the first of a dozen four- and five-day sailings to Cuba from Port Tampa Bay.  Kicking off the new Cuba series in their trademarked ‘Fun’ way, Carnival Cruise Line hosted an event at the port celebrating Cuban culture, music, cuisine, and libations.  Stop right there this story runs right along the lines of other Carnival Cruise Line events, right down to the charitable donation to a local organization.  But there’s more.  While other North American cruise brands have begun sailing to Cuba let us not forget who wrote the first few chapters of this Carnival Paradise Cuba story.

Photo- Andy Newman- Carnival Cruise Line

Doing the heavy lifting around the still-in-place Cuban embargo, Carnival Corporations Fathom Impact Travel brand opened the door. It was a grand experiment that went in the exact opposite direction of the standard big ship cruise business model: the focus was not on the ship.  When Fathom debuted, some cruise industry watchers wondered: “Who might want to spend their vacation helping others in hard luck parts of the world?” Dream cruise vacations were more the stuff of umbrella drinks, Jimmy Buffet songs and lazy days at the beach.   Go the Caribbean a few times and cruise travelers have their favorite places, a routine of what to do when they get there and little use for shore excursions.

To satisfy requirements for visiting Cuba, onboard programming revolved around history and culture to prepare travelers for arrival.  On site, an educational exchange tour package was in place that did far more than check off the boxes for admission.  As a result, nearly 10 percent of Fathom travelers “got it” and returned quickly to participate again. To them, the Fathom experiences and concept were very well received.

“We are responding to a macro trend around the hunger for greater meaning and purpose in our everyday lives – people want to live their best story and long to go deeper”- Fathom Brand

Now, Fathom has sailed off on a new season, incorporating lessons learned and experiences gained; influencing the off ship focus of six other Carnival Corporation brands.  Already in place, Fathom-generated Dominican Republic experiences continue touching travelers for whom impact travel resonates.   This is good stuff that had to happen before this series of Carnival Paradise sailings to Cuba would be possible.  That said, bring on the World’s Largest Cuban Sandwich At Sea to wrap this up and tie a bow on it.

Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line and Tampa Cuban cultures were uniquely represented in the “World’s Largest Cuban Sandwich at Sea.” The 10-foot-long sandwich served as a bit of an educational opportunity itself, introducing those on hand to the traditional ingredients of all Cuban sandwiches: a light white bread, five pounds of sliced ham, 50 pounds of marinated and roasted pork, six pounds of Swiss cheese, one gallon of dill pickles and mustard and mayonnaise. We could stop right there and go home.  But there’s more here as well.

(Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

A long-standing rivalry between Tampa and Miami revolves around which city can claim the most authentic Cuban sandwich recipe. Interestingly, Tampa’s Cuban community predates Miami’s. In Tampa they include one additional ingredient — Genoa salami — as a salute to the city’s large Italian population.  In a spirit of solidarity and cooperation, the “World’s Largest Cuban Sandwich at Sea” was created to be half Miami-style and half Tampa-style with the addition of eight pounds of Genoa salami.


Photo- Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Paradise also sails to Cuba on July 13, Aug. 14, 24 and 28, Sept. 7, 21 and 25, Oct. 5, 9 and 19, 2017; as well as May 3, 2018.
Four-day voyages sail directly to an overnight in Havana before a day at sea brings them back to Tampa
Five-day voyages add a stop in either Cozumel, Mexico; or Key West, Florida.

Photos- Carnival Cruise Line