US President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he will repeal President Obama’s policy on US relations with Cuba, including tightening travel restrictions that had been relaxed under the previous Administration.
Importantly, those people already booked on a tour or cruise to Cuba are not affected. The new rules will not take effect until regulations have been written by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. (OFAC).
Although technically tourism to Cuba is prohibited, OFAC has issued general licenses for 12 categories of travel including family visits, journalistic activity, professional research and meetings, and official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organisations.
Where tourists are concerned, provided travellers are booked as part of a group tour or take shore excursions as part of a recognised cruise, travel to Cuba is still ok under Trump’s new restrictions. In these instances, shore excursions and tours are covered under some of those 12 categories, including ‘educational purposes’ and ‘cultural exchanges’. American-based cruise lines already comply.
Effectively, the new rules will only impact some “people-to-people” travel from the USA to Cuba (exploring Cuba autonomously). American-based cruise lines, including RCI, Carnival and NCL, have reassured passengers booked on their cruises to Cuba that they will not be affected. Those cruise lines have released statements indicating that they will continue to stay abreast of policy changes, and comply, as the Trump administration moves to draft and enact the new policy.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd
“Royal Caribbean is pleased there is no impact to any of our cruises to Cuba as announced in the new U.S. policy toward Cuba today. Our guests are already enjoying curated people-to-people experiences under the approved categories of travel.
We will continue to review the full and exact scope of the policy changes and any updated regulations during the implementation period which may take several months.”
“We will review the extent of the tightening of the travel rules, but our guests have already been traveling under the 12 approved forms of travel to Cuba since we undertook our historic first cruise to Cuba more than a year ago.
Our experience in Cuba this past year has been extremely positive. We look forward to the new cruises being planned for Cuba with Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line. We also have requested approval for our other brands to travel to Cuba.”
Norwegian Cruise Line
“We were very concerned about any potential changes, given how popular Cuba itineraries have proven to be with our guests, and we view this as a win for the cruise industry, our valued guests and travel partners.
Across our three brands [Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises], there are 70,000 guests booked to sail to Cuba who would have been very disappointed if they were unable to experience this spectacular destination.”