Cruise Lines Forced To Make Quick Decisions After Cuba Cruise Ban
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
The U.S. decision to end cruises to Cuba came with almost no notice, leaving hundreds of thousands of booked passengers in the lurch. Reaction was equally fast and furious from the cruise industry.
“Today, the United States Government announced the immediate implementation of new regulations prohibiting previously approved cruise line travel to Cuba from the United States,” said the Cruise Lines International Association.
“Without warning, CLIA Cruise Line members are forced to eliminate all Cuba destinations from itineraries effective immediately. This affects nearly 800,000 passenger bookings that are currently scheduled or already underway.”
CLIA chairman Adam Goldstein had this to say: “We are disappointed that cruises will no longer be operating to Cuba. 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.”
Cruise lines reacted by cancelling port calls at Havana and working quickly to find alternative ports. They also offered clients a variety of options to cancel, change or remain on their scheduled sailings with an alternative stop. There were also assurances to travel agents that their commissions would be protected even if cruises were cancelled.
Here are some of the reactions from the ‘big three’ U.S.-based cruise lines:
Carnival Cruise Line
“The U.S. government has imposed a series of new sanctions on Cuba prohibiting travel via cruise ship and rescinding certain categories of authorized travel, which previously allowed U.S. citizens to visit Cuba under the People-to-People program. Effective immediately, cruise ship travel is no longer allowed and we are required to cancel our visit to Havana. We have replaced our call to Havana with a replacement port to provide our guests with the best experience ashore.
“We are in the process of notifying guests and Travel Advisors on other sailings of the new itineraries and their options, in the order of sailing date proximity. Mailings for sailings through the end of July 2019 are now in progress and include the following options:
Remain on the sailing and receive a US$100.00, per person, onboard credit (no need to call us if you are continuing with your plans to sail with us).
Move to another itinerary and receive a US$50.00, per person, onboard credit.
Cancel and receive a full refund.
Travel Advisor commissions will be protected on any paid in full booking that cancels.
“In response to the U.S. government’s policy change imposing immediate restrictions on cruise ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba, we are informing our guests of revised itineraries for a limited number of sailings with Cuban port calls,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement.
“All 2019 sailings on the Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas will have alternative ports in the Caribbean. Guests will have the option to cancel their current booking for a full refund, or to keep their sailing date with a new itinerary and receive a 50% refund.
We are working on alternate itineraries for 2020 sailings and will share those details with guests and travel partners as they become available. We appreciate our guests’ patience and flexibility as we adjust to accommodate the new regulation.”
Norwegian Cruise Line
Following an overnight, The Norwegian Sky departed from Havana on Wednesday morning, and it well may have been the last U.S. cruise ship to call in Cuba. Norwegian Sun was due to call in Havana yesterday, but instead was rerouted to Nassau.
In a letter to travel partners, NCL explained, "We are so sorry for this very last-minute change. We had no prior notice and were therefore unable to plan accordingly."
Those guests currently sailing on Norwegian Sun who departed on 3JUN as well as all guests booked on Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun cruises to Cuba through and including the 2SEPT, departure will receive a 50% refund of the cruise fare paid as well as a 50% future cruise credit valid for sailings through 31DEC, 2021.
Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun Cuba sailings beyond 2SEPT, 2019 will be automatically cancelled. New itineraries will be announced in the coming weeks. Refunds will be applied to the original form of payment. Travel Partner commissions will be protected on all deposited bookings and will be distributed by 30JUN, 2019. For those guests impacted by these auto-cancellations, we are offering a 20% discount (off current cruise fare) on any new bookings on future sailings booked by 5AUG, 2019 and sailing no later than 31DEC, 2020.”
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.