Carnival to set sail for Cuba starting in May

NEW YORK -- The world's largest cruise line is getting approval from Cuba to start running "cultural exchange" trips to the island starting in May.

With hotels in Cuba in short supply, Carnival Corp.'s new brand, Fathom offers travelers another option.

A 704-passenger ship will initially visit ports in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The ship is relatively small for the industry; most carry 3,000 passengers. There's no casino or Broadway shows. And guests won't be snorkeling. Instead, they must spend at least eight hours each day involved in some type of cultural experience.

Prices for the seven-day voyages start at $1,800 per person, considerably higher than Caribbean voyages of similar length, but less than the $2,990 Carnival originally sought when it received a license from the U.S. government licensed in July.

American and Cuban business leaders met Monday in Havana as part of the push to build economic ties during President Obama's historic visit.

Travel and tourism are major areas of opportunity. Cubans have a long tradition of renting out their homes to visitors, so to sign up new hosts, Airbnb founder Brian Chesky simply introduced them to one of the first U.S. companies to do business in Cuba, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan.

"It was viewed as a new idea and here it was something that was already familiar to the culture. There were tens of thousands of people that were already sharing their homes and so we felt like it wasn't that big of a risk. And all we had to do was make sure the community embraced Airbnb," Chesky said.

A room with an ocean-front view virtually anywhere in the Caribbean would cost top dollar, but for as little as $45 a night, renters can reserve a suite using the online booking tool.

"It has been our fastest-growing market in the world with 4,000 homes, 2,700 here in Havana, Cuba," Chesky said.

Since the U.S. loosened travel restrictions, more than 3.5 million visitors have flooded into Cuba, a country with only 63,000 hotel rooms.

"We think about 10 to 20 percent of all Americans who come to Cuba right now are actually staying in an Airbnb," Chesky said.

And Chesky expects more foreign visitors to begin renting, now that the Obama administration further eased restrictions on American companies doing business in Cuba.

Manuel Leon and his family live in Los Angeles. They decided to rent a home in Playa Miramar to experience Cuba like locals.

"In a hotel, I'm not going to have that opportunity. I'm going to take a tour...but I'm not going to get into contact with real people... the Cubans," Leona said.

Cuba remains one of the few countries in the world virtually untapped by American corporations, due to the long-running trade embargo, but that is changing.

Starwood Hotels will soon be the first U.S. hotel chain to operate in Cuba in nearly 60 years.