Cuban visitors aboard Fathom get hands-on feel of Havana

HAVANA (WSVN) — Passengers aboard the Fathom cruise ship Adonia are speaking out about taking in the sights and sounds of Cuba’s capital.

The ship left Havana Tuesday, but many of the tourists aboard said they didn’t want to leave the streets of Havana. "There’s a joy here that you see on the smiles of the children and the faces," said one tourist.

Visitor Nicole Lagace Toeldte said she wanted to learn from the Cuban people. "People want to be telling their story, and if you have time, you can sit down and really enjoy," she said. 

Listening to stories, peaking into lives that seem so different from their own are exactly what three American women said they want to experience during their time in Havana. 

The long-time friends arrived in Havana on the Fathom Adonia. It’s the first American cruise ship to visit the island nation in decades. It’s a voyage for them that is less about tour buses and more about connection. "I sat down yesterday with a man in a gallery down in the square, and he said, ‘You know, I want to talk to you,’" Toeldte said.

The cruise offers guided tours to promote person-to-person contact, but the three friends decided to venture out on their own. 

They could have met someone like Julio Quinones Cuevas, a security guard turned shop owner. "Talk to you from the history or from the ‘What is the meaning of the Malecón, the Morro,’" he said.

Still, Cuba is an authoritarian county, so the question is how much faith do visitors have that the locals are able to speak freely? "We wondered that when we got off the boat yesterday because there was such a hoopla," said visitor Susan Levesque. "We asked, and they said this doesn’t happen everyday. These people were truly welcoming you here."

Visitor Cheri Jorgenson said she’s fascinated by the Cuban people’s artistic expression. "I’m always interested in the oppressed, and of course, the Cubans don’t probably feel oppressed, but you see how they express themselves through culture, through art and music," she said.

The one overwhelming message they’ve received, they said, is that everyday Cubans welcome Americans. That the reception they saw on the streets of Havana from the deck of the ship, they believe was genuine. It’s a personal connection they hope will turn the tide of history. "The more there is, the more the truth flows between all the sides," Toeldte said. 

Cubans actually approached 7News on the street and said they want to see more American tourists. 

The Adonia continues its journey for five more days in Cuba.