12/09/13 - NBCNews.com (blog) - 'Floating university' docks in Cuba for first time in nine years
A cruise ship sailed into Havana harbor this morning with 568 American
college students on board, officially ending a nine-year hiatus from Cuba's
After being prohibited from including Cuba as a stop on its "Semester at
Sea" program by the U.S. government due to increased restrictions in
educational travel to the island nation, the University of Virginia, the
program's current sponsor, was issued a U.S. Treasury license this year.
Students from more than 200 U.S. schools are taking part in this year's
Between 1999 and 2004, the program made 10 stops in Havana and met with
then-president Fidel Castro seven times.
But the Treasury Department revoked the Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) license that permitted the group to organize travel to Cuba, and it
was eliminated from the syllabus.
The nautical study abroad program provides students with a campus aboard
the 590-foot MV Explorer and anchors in 10 to 15 different nations
throughout approximately four months in the fall and spring and two months
in summer voyages. This fall, the list of nations students visited spanned
three continents and included England, Russia, Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South
Africa, Argentina and Brazil.
The "floating university" will be in Cuba for three days. The plan calls
for the students to spend time at the University of Havana, touring the
colonial part of the capital and meeting with local politicians and
economists. During past trips, students also spent time smoking cigars,
dancing to salsa music and absorbing the local culture.
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