Carnival starts taking Cuba bookings

US giant still hopeful it will win approval for historic cruise to Caribbean island in May.

Passengers have begun snapping up cabins for US cruiseship giant Carnival’s first cruise to Cuba.

The company said this week it is still hopeful of gaining Cuban permission for a voyage in May.

"We are highly optimistic that we will receive approval soon from Cuban officials to cruise to Cuba based on the ongoing discussions. We are planning to sail May 1," Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said in an email to the AFP news agency.

The 700-passenger, 30,300-gt Adonia (built 2001), run by subsidiary Fathom, will travel to Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago up to 7 May.

This would be the first direct cruiseship call between the US and the Caribbean island since 1961.

The US has been granting licences to a series of operators, but Cuba has yet to sanction cruises.