CUBA a NO-GO for American Flagged or Owned Cruise Lines and Tour Companies
As of June 4th, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced ending people-to-people travel to Cuba, and also the end to cruise travel for US citizens, and US owned tour companies and cruise lines.
In a published statement to the U.S. Department of State website, a spokesperson wrote that along with the elimination of people-to-people trips “United States will no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft.”
That will effectively wipe out all the progress made by major cruise companies, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Corp., and many more, who must halt all visits starting on June 5, 2019.
What if You Are Already Booked?
If you are already booked, there is a glimmer of hope, depending how far out you have booked and how many arrangements you have already made. OFAC is including a grandfathering provision in the rules, which will allow certain people-to-people travel groups to continue, as long as the traveler had completed one travel-related transaction—purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation—before June 5. That does not mean that the company will still be offering the tour or cruise, if the majority of guests are negatively affected. It will be up to each company to analyze how the new rules will impact current and future sailings, including sailings to Cuba already released but not fully booked, especially for ones from the US to Cuba.
Virgin Voyages had incorporated its entry into the cruise market to include Cuba calls during its inaugural season homeporting its first ship, Scarlet Lady, in Miami. Now everything is in limbo. Virgin and all the other cruise lines have a huge advantage that “the beauty of sea travel is that we have the flexibility to adjust our itineraries”. Clearly this is not the case for land only tours that operate solely inside Cuba.
This was not totally unexpected given US National Security adviser John Bolton’s speech which reinvigorated the Monroe Doctrine from 1828 that was instituted to prevent outside powers from intervening in the hemisphere. Since dubbing Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua the “Troika of Tyranny.” Trump’s position was obvious in his desire to prevent putting US dollars into the coffers of Cuba’s Communist regime.
Cuban support of embattled Venezuelan President Maduro seems to have been the final straw.
What can you do if you are already booked? First and foremost, contact your travel specialist or the company who booked you. Chances are, that since this was announced today and comes into effect tomorrow, there will be a lot of decision making they, and you, will have to make.
If you are on a cruise, they will probably substitute another port of ports. That is relatively simple to do. The question is, did you book this cruise for Cuba or for the whole cruise itinerary? Even if the ship will continue and just not go to Cuba, what are your options? What will be the procedure if you were on a tour that is no longer going to function? What happens to your airline tickets that might have been purchased using frequent flyer points? What if a similar tour is much more money to go elsewhere that might interest you? What if you are restricted in your travel dates and cannot change?
All these are questions that you will have to ask yourself, your travel specialist and or tour operator as well as your insurance company. This is just another reason why working with a knowledgeable and experienced travel specialist and purchasing insurance takes a whole lot of worrying and work off your head!
Luxe Beat Magazine, Passionate Travel and Travel with a Cause will keep your updated!