Central Illinois Native Among First U.S. Citizens To Travel To Cuba By Ship

A central Illinois native will be on the first U.S. travel ship sailing to Cuba in almost 50 years. Fathom Cruises leaves for Havana on May 1st.

The Newton family is going on a new kind of cruise, mixing vacation and charity. They will have options to go see tourist sights, but also to make water filters and pour foundations to help the local population.

They say the historic trip to Cuba is the chance of a lifetime for their daughter.

David Newton spend Monday packing for his daughter Becca’s cruise to Cuba next month.

“I think there is a very narrow window of opportunity that people will be able to visit Cuba before it’s Americanized with McDonald’s and Marriotts and Sheridans and things like that.”

Becca used to work for the Peace Corps in Africa and is now part of a new kind of cruise with Fathom, which will try to help the Cuban people more than putting an emphasis on vacation.

“We’re excited that our daughter is on the ground floor. We think she is going to do quite well.”

David is going on Fathom’s first ever trip to the Dominican Republic and says he has gone on several medical mission trips to Guatemala in the past, so he says he likes the opportunity to be part of a new kind of cruise.

“Making water filters for people, pouring foundations, planting cocoa trees and making chocolate.”

His wife Penny, who has worked as a nurse in Vietnam, says she isn’t interested in the run-of-the-mill cruise either.

“I like giving back. I like leaving an impact on something. I like to know that there is a little bit of me that’s left on the island,” Penny said.

The Newton family says they hop the charity cruise catches on so they can all go on a trip to Cuba together in the future.

“I hope it takes off. I want to continue doing more of these.”

Fathom says U.S. restrictions on Cuban travel have been relaxed, but that doesn’t mean the country has the infrastructure to handle an influx of U.S. tourist. That gives cruise ships an advantage because tourists can stay on board at night.

Brendan Cullerton, News Channel 20

April 5, 2016

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