HAVANA, Cuba – An historic cruise from Miami to Cuba has arrived at the first of three Cuban cities on its voyage.
Passengers on the Adonia, a Carnival Cruise Line operating under its Fathom brand, left PortMiami on Sunday afternoon and arrived Monday morning in Havana.
The cruise is the first to depart from a U.S. seaport for the island nation in nearly 40 years, restarting commercial travel on waters that served as a stage for a half-century of Cold War hostility.
Carnival's gleaming white 704-passenger Adonia became the first U.S. cruise ship in Havana since President Jimmy Carter eliminated virtually all restrictions of U.S. travel to Cuba in the late 1970s.
Travel limits were restored after Carter left office and U.S. cruises to Cuba only become possible again after President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro declared detente on Dec. 17, 2014.
The Adonia's arrival is the first step toward a future in which thousands of ships a year could cross the Florida Straits, long closed to most U.S.-Cuba traffic.
Stops are also scheduled in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba during the seven-day cruise.
Dozens chanted "Cuba" as passengers disembarked from the Adonia. Some Cubans could be seen waving American flags as the ship arrived at port.
Arnie Perez, a Cuban-born attorney for Carnival, was on the cruise and shook hands with a member of the waiting Cuban delegation.
Perez and his father, who died in October, had long been waiting to return to the island nation. He was also the first Cuban-born passenger to disembark from the ship.
To honor his father, Perez brought his father's driver's license on the voyage.
"He's with me," Perez said. "He's with me here."
Vickey Rey was 5 years old when she left Cuba, a moment she still remembers.
“It was the middle of the night,” she said. “We were leaving and just looking back at the house as we were leaving...and just all of us huddled together in the back seat of a cab."
As soon as passenger Ana Garcia, who is the city manager of North Miami Beach, told the crowd that she was Cuban, the group erupted into cheers.
Garcia said she was thinking of the day she left Cuba 48 years ago.
"I'm blessed to be here today," she said. "I'm hoping for a better tomorrow for Cuba and my Cuban brothers and sisters."