NBC Reporter Giddy With Excitement Aboard Cruise to Cuba: ‘A Pinch-Me Moment’

In an exclusive for NBC’s Today on Monday, correspondent Kerry Sanders could not contain his pure joy at being aboard the first cruise ship bound for Cuba since the Obama administration resumed diplomatic relations with the communist nation.

In his report, Sanders proclaimed: “This morning, history is being made as this cruise ship becomes the first in more than a half century to sail from Miami to Havana....American passengers about to step on to Cuban soil, a country that most U.S. citizens have been forbidden to visit since 1963.” A soundbite played of passenger Ann Schwede gushing: “We wanted to be part of history. It's just really an exciting thing. It’s an honor.”

Sanders noted how many of those on board were eager to get to the island before it was spoiled by capitalism: “The Cuba they will see has many Americans anxious to get here before it all changes.” Passenger Sedrick Tydus quipped: “I want to get there before Burger King shows up.” Sanders laughed and repeated line: “Before Burger King shows up.”

Teasing the story at the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, co-host Matt Lauer declared: “Coming up, sailing into history....Break out the mojitos, we're live aboard the first U.S. cruise ship to sail to Cuba in more than 50 years.” Despite that description, Sanders claimed the trip wasn’t for tourists: “Cruising to Cuba comes with restrictions. Passengers can't go to the beach and drink mojitos. With the embargo still in effect, passengers technically are not tourists. They're on an educational or cultural visit.”

However, it was rather difficult to take that assertion seriously as footage ran of passengers enjoying  tropical drinks and dancing as a band played on the cruise liner.

After the taped portion of the segment, Sanders reported live from the deck of the ship and gleefully announced: “We're almost there. I can't believe this....Two miles out. This is a history-making moment.”

While holding up miniature American and Cuban flags, he cheered:

Consider this, when you think about the history of these two countries, so far apart, finally coming together. Americans getting ready to step off board the Adonia and step on to Cuban soil, a country that in many ways is frozen in time....truly a history-making moment....And sort of a pinch-me moment. I can't believe that this is finally happening.

News anchor Natalie Morales replied: “It’s pretty cool there. Kerry, enjoy it, have a good time.” Lauer chimed in: “Two miles out, he should be able to see it. That’s fantastic.” Fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie added: “He’ll wave those little flags.”

The story predictably skipped any of the ongoing human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Castro regime or mention any criticism of President Obama’s friendly policy toward the authoritarian state.

Here is a full transcript of the May 2 report:

8:04 AM ET

NATALIE MORALES: And now a Today exclusive this morning. After more than five decades, a U.S. Cruise ship is heading into port in Havana, Cuba. It's one of the biggest commercial steps since last summer when the U.S. and communist Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations. And the only television journalist reporting live from on board the ship is NBC’s Kerry Sanders. And Kerry, I know you've been covering the back and forth between the two countries for a long time, I don't think he ever saw this was happening. Here's Kerry Sanders.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Historic Havana Voyage; First U.S. Cruise to Cuba in More Than 50 Years]

KERRY SANDERS: This morning, history is being made as this cruise ship becomes the first in more than a half century to sail from Miami to Havana, just 262 miles. But until now, it might as well have been light years. It's the maiden voyage to Cuba of Fathom’s Adonia, a ship owned by Carnival Corporation.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [ADONIA CAPTAIN]: We're going to be right at the heart of the city, just a few minutes walk from downtown.

SANDERS: American passengers about to step on to Cuban soil, a country that most U.S. citizens have been forbidden to visit since 1963.

ANN SCHWEDE [PASSENGER, MADISON, WI]: We wanted to be part of history. It's just really an exciting thing. It’s an honor.

SANDERS: The Cuba they will see has many Americans anxious to get here before it all changes.

SEDRICK TYDUS [PASSENGER, OAKLAND, CA]: I want to get there before Burger King shows up.

SANDERS: Before Burger King shows up.

[LAUGHTER]

The voyage almost didn't happen. An old Cuban law still on the books banned anyone born on the island from coming in by sea. Cuban Americans in Miami protested, and the law changed. Which is why Anna Garcia, who left Havana when she was 6, is today among a dozen Cuban-born Americans able to take this trip.

ANNA GARCIA: I've been waiting 48 years, 8 days, and 8 hours. I left on April 24th, 1968. So I've been waiting for a long time. And it still seems absolutely surreal – [crying] excuse me.

SANDERS: Cruising to Cuba comes with restrictions. Passengers can't go to the beach and drink mojitos. With the embargo still in effect, passengers technically are not tourists. They're on an educational or cultural visit.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's all very new. It's all – you know, it’s all happening so quickly. But it's cool to see.

SANDERS: One ship, 700 passengers, but a sign perhaps of more to come.
    
ARNOLD DONALD [CARNIVAL CORPORATION CEO]: I’ve met very few Americans who aren't curious about and really want to go and visit Cuba and experience the culture and the people there. So we see lots of pent-up demand.

SANDERS: We're almost there. I can't believe this. Let's just check. How close are we?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [ADONIA CREW]: Two miles out, Kerry. We’re two miles out.

SANDERS: Two miles out. This is a history-making moment. [Holds up American and Cuban flags] Consider this, when you think about the history of these two countries, so far apart, finally coming together. Americans getting ready to step off board the Adonia and step on to Cuban soil, a country that in many ways is frozen in time. This cruise ship will be leaving from Miami going to three ports in Cuba every other week. It's about $1,800, that's where it starts, and there’s some other fees because of taxes. But truly a history-making moment, Natalie. And sort of a pinch-me moment. I can't believe that this is finally happening.

MORALES: It’s pretty cool there. Kerry, enjoy it, have a good time. Alright, Kerry Sanders reporting for us.

LAUER: Two miles out, he should be able to see it. That’s fantastic.

GUTHRIE: He’ll wave those little flags.

AL ROKER: Who’s on the other end of that walkie-talkie?

LAUER: The guy standing next to him.

[LAUGHTER]

GUTHRIE: Our control room.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC