Carnival Corp. aims to set sail for Cuba

Carnival Corp. (CCL), the world's largest cruise company, announced Tuesday it received permission from the U.S. government to begin travel to Cuba.

The company's president and CEO Arnold Donald said it plans to set sail May 2016, pending Cuban approval, under its Fathom brand, which is designed to provide "social impact travel" and "cultural immersion" for travelers and the destination community.

"The cultural exchanges are in the areas of arts, and also in the areas of food immersion, and just things that people would love to understand about a different culture. So it's an opportunity for Americans to immerse themselves in Cuban society with well-established programs that are already there for that purpose," Donald said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."

The historic reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba means Carnival could be the first cruise line to sail there.

In January, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announced travel to Cuba will still be limited to 12 existing categories, including educational activities, workshops and "support for the Cuban people."

U.S. plans to reopen embassy in Cuba as relations are rebuilt

The policy no longer requires Americans traveling for one of those purposes to seek a license from the U.S. government. It also permits passengers to spend more money on the island and use credit cards, which were previously prohibited.

"We recognized an opportunity under the existing guidelines, the guidelines that already exist to travel to Cuba, that we could in fact apply for a license, and we did and we were granted it by the Treasury Department and by the Commerce Department," Donald said.

He said they are working closely with Cuba to obtain permission and begin operating travel there.

"We certainly have every expectation that we will give them what they need so they feel comfortable, and we'll bring excited U.S. guests to Cuba on cruise ships for the first time in well over 50 years," Donald said.

Direct flights to Cuba will be available soon

Launched June 4, Fathom is Carnival Corp.'s 10th brand. The company begins travel to the Dominican Republic, its first destination, in April 2016.

"It became Fathom the brand, but the concept was to take interested travelers to a location where they could immerse in cultural exchange and in certain places give back," he said.

A seven-day cruise to Cuba starts at $2,990 per person. Passengers will travel on the 710-passenger Adonia, part of Carnival Corp.'s U.K brand, P&O. It will sail from Miami, Florida and make trips to Cuba every other week.

"That particular ship, we have charted the waters. We know the landscape pretty well there, and that ship will be fine going in," Donald said. "There will be some additional infrastructure that will work with the Cuban relevant players to make certain that we have things set so the guest experience exceeds their expectations, as we do with all our guests."