United States Government Bans Cruises to Cuba
The United States Government has taken action to prevent U.S. travel to Cuba, including new restrictions on American vessels sailing to the island nation.
UPDATE JUNE 5, 10:45 AM:
According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruise lines must immediately remove all calls to Cuba from their itineraries.
"All these bookings had been made under a general license previously issued by the United States government that authorized 'people to people' travel to Cuba," CLIA stated. "The new rules effectively make it illegal to cruise to Cuba from the United States. While this situation is completely beyond our control, we are genuinely sorry for all cruise line guests who were looking forward to their previously booked itineraries to Cuba."
The association said that this affects almost 800,000 passengers who are either already onboard their respective cruises, or are booked for a future one.
Starting Wednesday, June 5, American travelers will be prohibited from going to Cuba under the previous educational ‘people to people’ travel authorization. Additionally, passenger and recreational vessels will no longer be permitted to visit Cuba, including cruise ships, yachts, and private or corporate aircraft. On a good note for those who already have a cruise to Cuba in the works, those who have already booked and paid for a trip may be allowed to go ahead with it. This means that cruises to Cuba that are in the very near future will possibly still sail, but it’s not guaranteed.
Cruise lines carrying passengers already booked on cruises to Cuba may be able to continue those sailings, Pedro Freyre, a Miami-based attorney who represents Carnival and other major cruise lines told the Associated Press. “For now, it’s prohibited unless the cruise lines request a specific license,” Freyre said. Cruise lines have been trying to determine “if there’s any opening there to at least complete trips that have been booked and passengers that have made travel plans.”
A previous ban on cruises to Cuba was relaxed in 2014, and Americans were able to travel to the island nation on cruise ships and through other authorized visits.
According to the U.S. Department of State, the reason for reinstating the ban is so that the United States can starve the Cuban government of tourism dollars, holding the regime accountable for their oppression of the Cuban people, its interference in Venezuela, and its support of the man-made crisis led by Nicolas Maduro, who continues to undermine the Venezuelan people’s right to form their own alliances and government. “The United States calls on the regime to abandon its repression of Cubans, cease its interference in Venezuela, and work toward building a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people,” The U.S. State Department said in a statement.
In 2015, Carnival Corporation was the first cruise company to receive approval to sail to Cuba, under their now-defunct Fathom cruise line. Shortly after, other cruise lines in their portfolio received approval, as did lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Fathom’s 700-passenger ship Adonia made its first call there in May 2016, marking the first time a U.S. cruise ship had docked in Cuba in over 50 years. Now, less than five years later, American ships won’t be calling there again anytime soon.
Even though there has been speculation over the past couple months that cruises to Cuba may come to a halt, it still appears that the cruise industry was caught off-guard by such a swift ban. In a statement to USA Today, Megan King, a spokesperson for Cruise Lines International Association said the industry group is sorting through details of the ban. "CLIA and its cruise lines are currently reviewing and working through the details of the Administration's Cuba policy announcement made earlier today to assess the scale and timing of its effect on cruise sailings from the U.S. to Cuba," she said.
Here is a list of the lines currently sailing to Cuba, and the status of their voyages there as of June 5 at 3 PM. We will keep this updated with the latest:
Carnival: “Guests currently aboard Carnival Sensation’s June 3rd sailing will be calling on Cozumel this Thursday instead of Havana. We recognize Havana is a unique destination and may have been the reason for the selection of this itinerary. Along with our apologies, guests will receive a $100 onboard credit posted to their Sail & Sign® Account. We are in the process of notifying our other guests of their new itineraries and their options, in the order of sailing date proximity. Mailings for sailings through the end of July 2019 are now in progress and include the following options:
- Remain on the sailing and receive a US$100.00, per person, onboard credit (no need to call us if you are continuing with your plans to sail with us)
- Move to another itinerary and receive a US$50.00, per person, onboard credit
- Cancel and receive a full refund
We are working as quickly as possible to secure alternative itineraries for the remainder of our Cuba voyages and expect to have information for sailings further out in the next 2-3 days. In the meantime, please check back on our website for further updates.” - via John Heald on Facebook
Royal Caribbean: "This change requires us to immediately replace all Cuban ports. For all 2019 sailings on both Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas, we have secured alternative ports and we are in the process of communicating the new itineraries to our guests and travel partners. For these guests, they will have the option of remaining on their sailing with the new itinerary and receiving a 50% refund or they may cancel their cruise and receive a full refund. For 2020 sailings on both Majesty and Empress of the Seas, we are working to secure alternative itineraries and expect to be able to communicate to our guests and travel partners within the next week. We are sorry for this unexpected and sudden change to our guests’ upcoming vacations and appreciate their understanding." - via Facebook
Norwegian Cruise Line: "On June 4, 2019, the United States government announced new travel restrictions to Cuba. As a result, we have ceased all calls to the country and are modifying previously scheduled sailings as appropriate. We thank our guests and travel partners for their patience as we navigate this unexpected, last-minute change, and we will of course continue to share information with them as soon as additional details become available. A detailed communication will be sent to booked guests shortly." - via Facebook
MSC Cruises: "Effective today, June 5, 2019, cruise ships are no longer allowed to call Cuba after departing a U.S. port. As a result of these substantial changes in U.S. law and regulation, Miam-based MSC Armonia is no longer authorized to call Havana, Cuba. We will share MSC Armonia’s updated Caribbean itineraries with our guests and business partners by end of business day, tomorrow, June 6, 2019." - via their website
Azamara Club Cruises: "All booked guests and travel partners will be contacted directly. In the meantime, we appreciate your understanding and kindly ask for your patience." - via Twitter
Silversea Cruises: "We are aware of the Cuba announcement by the US government and are analyzing the details to understand the impact on our itineraries. In the meantime, we are adjusting our future itineraries, which will no longer stop in Cuba. We are communicating with our guests and travel partners about those changes. We will provide other updates as needed." - via their website
Carnival Corporation concerning Holland America Line, Seabourn, and Carnival Cruise Line: "Carnival Corporation confirmed today that due to changes in U.S. policy, the company will no longer be permitted to sail to Cuba effective immediately. Currently, Carnival Corporation is sailing to Cuba on Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line, and Seabourn has been scheduled to begin sailing in November to Cuba. Additional details for currently booked cruises will be provided directly to booked guests and their travel advisors by the end of today. We appreciate guest patience while we work to confirm new special pricing and replacement ports of call. Finalized details will be provided on or before June 15th." - via the Seabourn website
At the time of publishing, no other lines have released public statements on their Cuba itineraries.
Cruise line statement section updated June 5, 3 PM EST.
Information: U.S. State Department, USA Today, and the Associated Press