June 18, 2024

Cruise Lines Escape US-Cuba Travel Ban for now

Plaza de la Catedral de San Cristobal Havana. (wikimedia.org)

(Cruise Examiner – Kevin Griffin) – Last Friday the Trump administration announced tightened restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, restrictions that had only recently been loosened by President Obama. But President Trump’s words on Friday, “we will enforce the ban on tourism,” will not have any immediate effect on the cruises already planned for Cuba.

Trump’s new presidential directive called for tighter enforcement of the exisitng ban on American tourists going to Cuba. The new policy will ban US transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), which is involved in all sectors of the Cuban economy.

However, the new rules will exempt air and sea travel, allowing US airlines and cruise lines to continue serving the island nation. The biggest change will be doing away with “people-to-people” exchanges. These trips were enabled under the Obama administration so Americans could travel to Cuba without seeking permission or having to schedule the trip through a licensed tour operator.

Trump’s new policy makes an exception for companies already doing business with GAESA, so flights, cruises, and existing hotel reservations will all be exempt. The new rules maintain the requirement that Americans traveling to Cuba must do so under the twelve approved forms, with which US-based cruise lines already comply.

However, purchases at any Cuban government-run facilities, such as bars and restaurants, and possibly even car rentals, will now be prohibited. In the worst case scenario it could be that passengers will only be allowed to go ashore on company-sponsored shore excursions.

As of now, the best-known regular visitors to Havana will soon be Royal Caribbean International’s 1,600-berth Empress of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,002-berth Norwegian Sky and Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,052-berth Carnival Paradise, modestly-sized ships in today’s market. This trio will operate primarily 4- and 5-day cruises with a night in Havana, rather than on the usual cruise duration of 7 nights from Florida.

Avatar photo 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.