Carnival Corp. said Cuba has lifted a long-standing ban on Cuban-born travelers returning to the island by sea, clearing the way for the world’s largest cruise operator to launch week-long voyages to that country starting May 1.

The Cuban government will now let Carnival’s cruise ships operate in the same way as flights, according to a statement Friday. While Cubans can travel by air, government regulations had prevented any Cuban-born person from coming and going by sea.

Cuba opens a new territory for Carnival in the Caribbean, the world’s biggest geographic market for cruises. The May 1 inaugural voyage will be the first U.S. cruise line to arrive to the island in 50 years.

The Miami-based company, anticipating an easing of the travel ban, had begun accepting bookings from all travelers for the voyage through its Fathom brand, including people born in Cuba. At first the company wasn’t accepting reservations from those passengers, which provoked widespread criticism of Carnival and protests outside its corporate headquarters.

Carnival’s Fathom will visit Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, three ports of call for which the company has obtained approval, according to the statement.