How the New Cuba Travel Regulations Will Affect Cruise Lines

How the New Cuba Travel Regulations Will Affect Cruise Lines

Yesterday’s changes to regulations on travel to Cuba prohibit previously approved cruise travel to the country from the United States and, while some lines have confirmed their changes to itineraries that had previously called on Cuban ports, others are still working through the implications of the decision. 

“Without warning, CLIA Cruise Line Members are forced to eliminate all Cuba destinations from itineraries effective immediately,” Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a statement released this morning. “This affects nearly 800,000 passenger bookings that are currently scheduled or already underway.”

CLIA noted that, previously, cruise bookings had been made under a general license from the U.S. government authorizing “people to people” travel to Cuba. Yesterday’s decision to eliminate the “people to people” travel category make it effectively illegal to cruise to Cuba from the United States, the organization said. 

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“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,” CLIA said. 

“We are disappointed that cruises will no longer be operating to Cuba,” said Adam Goldstein, chairman of Cruise Lines International Association, in a written statement. “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.” 

Carnival Corporation has confirmed that the company will no longer be permitted to sail to the island, effective immediately, a spokesperson for the cruise company tells Luxury Travel Advisor. Carnival Corp. had offered Cuba cruises on its Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line brands, while cruises on Seabourn had been scheduled to begin sailing this November. 

A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line says that it will replace its calls in Havana with a replacement port. Guests currently aboard the Carnival Sensation’s June 3 sailing will call in 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,” Carnival said. “Along with our apologies, guests will receive a $100 onboard credit posted to their Sail & Sign Account.”

Carnival is notifying other guests of their new itineraries and options, in order of sailing date proximity, through the end of July 2019. Guests can choose to remain on the sailing and receive a $100 per person onboard credit; move to another itinerary and receive a $50 per person onboard credit; or cancel and receive a full refund.

Carnival says it is working as quickly as possible to secure alternative itineraries for the remainder of its Cuba voyages, and that it expects to have information for sailings further out in the next two to three days. 

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which had operated Cuba cruises on its Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises brands, says that the company is still analyzing the details of the new policy to understand its impact on the company’s itineraries. 

“In the meantime, we are adjusting the itineraries of our June 5 and June 6 sailings, which will no longer stop in Cuba,” the company said. “We are communicating with our guests about those changes.  We will provide other updates as needed.”

Representatives of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, both of which are part of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, likewise said that they are monitoring the new regulations and their impact on cruise travel to Cuba. The lines said that they will communicate to guests and travel partners as additional information becomes available. 

Finally, a spokesperson for Virgin Voyages, which had been set to offer Cuba cruises when the new brand’s first ship began sailing next year, says, “We are disappointed to hear of the Administration’s decision to halt travel to Cuba. At this time there are no details on when these restrictions will take effect. We are currently working with CLIA and the regulatory authorities to assess how this new change will impact our itineraries that stop in Cuba.”

Virgin also said that it would be able to adjust its itineraries, and would update travelers and travel advisors as soon as it has more information. 

On Tuesday the Trump Administration announced that it was amending the regulations regarding travel to Cuba, most notably ending the “people-to-people” category of educational travel to the country under which many cruise lines and tour companies had operated. A grandfather clause continues to allow certain group people-to-people travel for which at least one travel-related transaction had already been made. 

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