UPDATE 4-Carnival aims to start 'cultural' Cuba cruises next May
(Adds comment by industry analyst)
By David Adams
MIAMI, July 7 (Reuters) - Carnival Corp has won U.S. approval to operate culturally-themed cruises to Cuba and plans to start taking travelers there next May, joining a growing list of maritime companies hoping to profit from a thaw in relations between Washington and Havana.
The United States and Cuba have been working for months to improve relations after more than five decades of animosity that led to a trade embargo against the communist-led country.
The countries formally agreed last week to restore diplomatic relations on July 20.
Miami-based Carnival, the world's largest cruise operator, said it was still in talks with Cuba for approval to start specialized humanitarian and cultural visits there that fall within U.S. embargo guidelines.
Americans are still banned from going to Cuba as tourists but are allowed to go for a dozen approved motives such as visiting family or participating in academic, professional, religious or educational programs.
Despite the ongoing restrictions, the news was welcomed by the travel industry.
"A lot of Americans want to visit Cuba and this is one of the first real mass ways to get to Cuba," said Brad Tolkin, chief executive of World Travel Holdings, a major booker of cruises. Continuación...