June 24, 2019

Cruise lines scramble with new US rules on Cuba

Empress of the Seas was the last cruise ship to depart Havana after recent US ban.


Cruise lines have had to scramble to adjust to new restrictions from the United States government making it illegal to offer cruises to Cuba. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement shortly after the recent announcement from the Trump administration saying its members have been forced to eliminate all Cuba destinations effective immediately.

The CLIA statement goes on to say the ban affects nearly 800,000 passenger bookings that are currently scheduled or already underway. Passenger bookings had been made under a general license previously issued by the United States Government that authorized “people to people” travel to Cuba. “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.”

“We are disappointed that cruises will no longer be operating to Cuba,” said Adam Goldstein, Chairman of Cruise Lines International Association. “While out of our control, we are genuinely sorry for all cruise line guests who were looking forward to their previously booked itineraries to Cuba.”

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian said on Wednesday that they will no longer sail to Cuba, joining Carnival Corporation, which announced earlier in the day that it will no longer operate cruises to the island, effective immediately.

Norwegian Cruise Line rerouted its Norwegian Sun cruise to the Bahamas and, in a statement, thanked guests for their “patience as we navigate this unexpected, last-minute change.”

Royal Caribbean rerouted its Majesty of the Seas cruises, which were scheduled to arrive in Havana on Thursday and Friday. One cruise will now go to Costa Maya, Mexico, and the other will stay at sea for a day of cruising.

“All 2019 sailings on the Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas will have alternative ports in the Caribbean,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement. Guests will have the option of canceling for a full refund or keeping their bookings, but going to a new destination and receiving a 50 percent refund.

In 2016, Carnival was the first U.S. cruise company to sail to Cuba since the 1959 revolution.

(With files from New York Times and CNN.)

Anne Vipond About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.