Travel restrictions for Americans visiting Cuban had been loosened under President Obama

By Eric Todisco
June 05, 2019 03:43 PM
Carnival

Cruising to Cuba is off the itinerary following a new ban issued by the Trump administration.

An announcement from the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday restricts tourist travel to the Caribbean island. The news has cruise lines, airlines and others scrambling to amend their offerings and accommodate customers who’ve already booked travel to the country.

Restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba had previously been loosened under President Obama.

“Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes,” Munchin said in his statement.

He continues: “This Administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”

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Carnival Corporations, the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line noted they are “required to cancel our visit to Havana,” due to the ban, which is “effective immediately.” They will replace planned stops in Havana with another port of call.

Some Carnival guests are already a aboard a June 3rd sailing, which was intended to dock in Havana, but will be rerouted to Cozumel, Mexico, instead.

“We recognize Havana is a unique destination and may have been the reason for the selection of this itinerary.  Along with our apologies, guests will receive a $100 onboard credit posted to their Sail & Sign® Account,” the line announced in a statement.

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages, a new adults-only cruise line founded by billionaire Richard Branson, was planning to set sail to Cuba in 2020 and has already accepted bookings.

In a statement to PEOPLE a representative for the company said, “While we are disappointed, the beauty of sea travel means that we have the flexibility to take our ships to many wonderful destinations. The Virgin Voyages crew is hard at work making necessary adjustments to any affected sailings that feature a stop in Cuba next year.” They will announce adjusted itineraries next week. 

Virgin’s policy allows passengers to change the dates of their voyage without penalty, so Cuba-bound travelers can rebook.

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Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor at Cruise Critic, told PEOPLE how both cruise lines and travelers are handling this latest policy change.

“The most pressing, time-sensitive question we’re hearing from travelers is what do the new restrictions mean for cruisers who already have booked (and in some cases, paid for) their cruise to Cuba?” Silverstein said.

“Cruise lines are often able to swap itineraries relatively quickly,” she said.  “We’re already seeing cruise lines make itinerary changes to sailings in the very near future where a call at a Cuban port was part of a wider Caribbean itinerary.” However, she notes, “For Cuba-focused cruises, where Cuba is the sole destination, it’s possible that cruise lines may replace the itinerary entirely.”

Any travelers who were hoping to visit Cuba, should check the State Department website for updates, according to Tracy Stewart, content editor of travel deal site Airfarewatchdog.

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“You’d also be wise to purchase travel insurance. A ‘cancel for any reason’ policy may not be the cheapest option but can really save the day should you have to call off your trip at the last minute for any reason.”

While travel to Cuba was made more accessible during Barack Obama‘s time in the White House, it has become increasingly restrictive since Trump took office in 2017.

Obama also reestablished diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba after more than 50 years in 2014, calling the restrictions that had been in place “an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests.”

In November 2017, new rules ensured visits were only allowed as part of people-to-people educational programs traveling under the supervision of a U.S. entity. This is eliminated under the latest policy change.

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