New U.S. rules for Cuba travel have been unveiled and they match the industry’s worst fears – flourishing cruise travel will be crushed and the popular ‘people-to-people’ tours that have brought thousands of Americans to the island will be banned.
The new restrictions take effect at midnight, but the government has said they will allow anyone who has already paid for the trip to go ahead with it.
More than 150,000 Americans have taken a cruise ship to Cuba so far this year.
"We're getting a lot of calls from confused clients," one veteran agent told Cruise Week. "We've been informed by cruise lines that we can no longer take new bookings that call in Cuba."
The retailer expects ongoing confusion, but anticipates most future sailings will be rerouted to include other destinations.
That view got some confirmation late yesterday as Royal Caribbean became the first line to announce itinerary changes in the wake of the new, short-notice U.S. rules. Sailings today and tomorrow will no longer stop at the island. Other cruise lines say they are currently reviewing their options and the details of the regulations.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that the restrictions are a result of Cuba continuing "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."
U.S. travel advisor association ASTA described the new rules as “a setback,” but vowed that it “will continue to advocate toward Cuba travel freedom and look forward to the day it becomes reality.”
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.