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Carnival's Fathom Cruise To Cuba Set To Make A Difference

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A week away from the first scheduled cruise to Cuba, Carnival Corporation's Fathom Adonia pulled back into port following its weekly voyage to the Dominican Republic.

Passengers said the unique experience was truly rewarding.

"I was real impressed with the crew and the Fathom people," said David Holman, one of more than 700 passengers aboard the ship. "The whole concept of what they're doing, and making an impact in the local communities for the people of the Dominican Republic, and (next) week in Cuba, it's just a really interesting concept and that's why I'm here. To see how it really played on the ground, 'cause nobody's ever done anything like it before and it turned out really well."

The cruise line has the usual amenities -- a pool and spa, restaurants and leisure -- but it's the ship's "impact activities" that are giving tourists a different view of their destinations.

"I was part of a group of people, we planted 1,200 trees in an area that suffers from deforestation. Another day, we poured a concrete floor in a family's home. Living on dirt floors that're just, ya know, disease-ridden and muddy," said Holman. "You just feel like you did something important."

Other examples included paper recycling programs, giving Dominican students and families English lessons, and helping increase production for women workers at a chocolate factory.

Fathom's President Tara Russell said they're bringing guests something unlike any other cruise in the world.

"We're really defining a whole new category of travel and really bringing something to a growing audience of travelers who love to travel, and love to immerse themselves in a new place, but also really wants to make a difference," Russell said.

The company cancelled their soft launch, originally scheduled to depart April 10th. Hundreds of passengers waited for a day to find out if they would get to go until it was announced that the ship needed additional testing.

This week, it was smooth sailing.

"There were the usual minor glitches," said Holman. "We didn't run into any real problems."

However, the historic cruise between the island nation and the U.S. has been rocky.

Carnival made headlines when they said they would follow Cuban government policy restricting Cuban-born individuals from getting on the ship. But after receiving public backlash and the threat of civil rights lawsuits, the company changed course and opened bookings to everyone, vowing to change Cuban policy -- and they did.

"We are so honored and privileged to be the first cruise company in over 50 years to be able to sail from the U.S. to Cuba and back," said Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald. "And we're especially even more proud of the fact that we were a part of having a decades-long policy that restricted travel by sea, for anyone born in Cuba, to now be able to travel to and from Cuba by sea."

The Fathom Adonia will make its inaugural trip to Cuba May 1st.

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