Latin America & Caribbean

First US cruise ship in decades arrives in Cuba

Cubans watch as the first US-to-Cuba cruise ship to arrive in the island nation in decades glides into the port of Havana, on May 2, 2016. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cubans welcomed the arrival of the Adonia, the first cruise ship in more than 50 years to sail from Miami to Havana

A US cruise ship has docked in the Cuban capital, Havana, after sailing from Florida - the first such crossing in more than 50 years.

The Adonia sailed from the port of Miami carrying some 700 passengers.

Cuba and the US restored diplomatic relations last year. But several Cold War-era restrictions on travelling and trading are yet to be lifted.

The cruise trip only went ahead after Cuba scrapped a ban on its citizens entering or leaving the island by sea.

Cubans waved as the ship arrived and hundreds of passengers stood at the railings taking pictures.

On board for 'emotional' crossing

Under a perfect blue sky, the white vessel docked at Havana's colonial-era old town.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Adonia arrived in Havana on Monday morning local time
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Adonia pulled into Havana under a perfectly blue sky

The US company operating the cruise, Carnival, had been given permission by both governments to sail ships between Florida and Cuba.

A Cuban government rule stipulated, however, that Cubans could only enter or leave by plane.

The restriction meant it could not take bookings from Americans of Cuban origin.

Media captionOn board the first US cruise ship to Havana

After protests by Cuban-Americans and threats of legal action, Carnival said it would have to postpone its cruises unless the entry policy was changed.

The Cuban authorities lifted the ban just over a week ago.

Before the Cuban Revolution brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, cruise ships and ferries were a common way to cross the Florida Straits.

Since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced in December 2014 that they had agreed to mend relations, tourism in Cuba has reached record numbers.

The cruise ships are expected to bring thousands more visitors to the communist-run island in the coming months, says the BBC's Will Grant.

The Adonia will sail every other week from Miami to Cuba, said Carnival.

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