In May 2016, Carnival Corp’s 704-passenger Adonia left port at about 4:24pm local time, bound for Havana. The ship visited the ports of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba along the way. It was the first cruise ship to journey from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years.
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When it first announced the cruises, Carnival said it would bar Cuban-born passengers due to the government’s policy. But people complained and filed a discrimination lawsuit in response.
Subsequently, the company said it would only sail to Cuba if the policy changed, which Cuba did in April 2016. Cuba-born passengers were aboard when the Adonia left port.
The Adonia was Carnival’s foray into social impact/experiential cruising. The brand was called Fathom, and less than a year later, Carnival scrapped the concept and folded its cards in the niche cruise game, deciding to stick with its mass market cruise product for future Cuba journies.
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Times have changed.
On June 16, 2017, President Trump announced changes to his policy towards Cuba that will reverse some of the changes made under former President Obama to loosen restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba. The new policy is expected to re-instate some restrictions, including prohibitions on transactions involving Cuba’s military, intelligence and security services, and limit travel by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction (“Americans”) to Cuba.
The policy changes are expected to be implemented by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) under its Cuban Assets Control Regulations – and the U.S. Commerce Department. These changes will not be effective until the regulations have been issued – sometime in the coming weeks or months.
The U.S. Department of State will publish a list of Cuban military intelligence and security services entities. OFAC will then prohibit direct financial transactions by Amercians with entities on this list. How this list of communist government entities will remain accurate seems unclear.
The airlines and cruise industries are expempt from the new U.S rules. Strangely, this is where the bulk of the revenue from travel will accrue to the Cuban government, potentially making U.S. airlines and cruise companies informal partners with the Cuban military.
New U.S. government policy towards Cuba also calls for a partial reversal of restrictions on travel to Cuba by Amercians, specifically for individual “people-to-people” travel. Individual people-to-people travel will no longer be authorized. Group travel for people-to-people exchanges and educational activities will remain permitted, but the group must maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities and travelers must be accompanied by a representative of the organization that sponsors such exchanges. All travelers must keep accurate records to establish that their travel was for purposes permitted by the regulations. The people-to-people provision has been frequently used by Amercians to visit Cuba.
Recently, several U.S. based cruise companies have announced an expansion of service to Cuba. And it seems a lot more Americans will experience Cuba through day tours offered by the cruise industry.