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Trump’s Cuba ban puts travelers and cruise ship companies in limbo

Trump’s Cuba ban puts travelers and cruise ship companies in limbo
[Photo: leonardospencer/iStock]

Vacationers dreaming of some summer sun in Havana will be disappointed following the U.S. State Department’s announcement Tuesday that American travelers will no longer be permitted to take cruises to the island of Cuba.

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A statement from the State Department detailed that the move intended to “prevent U.S. travel from enriching the Cuban military, security, and intelligence services.” The announcement explicitly stated that Americans would be prohibited from recreational travel to Cuba—not only in cruise ships but also via yachts and aircraft.

The move is a significant step by the Trump administration to fulfill its promise to reverse the Obama-era restoration of relations with Cuba. In 2014, following half a century of diplomatic tensions, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba announced a détente. Two years later, commercial travel between the U.S. and the small island nation resumed.

In November last year, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton vowed to specifically confront the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, calling them “the troika of tyranny.”

In Tuesday’s statement, the State Department cited the governmental regime’s “repression of the Cuban people” and its “interference in Venezuela” as reasons to cut off tourist revenue from the nation.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin agreed, specifically condemning Cuba’s “communist foothold” in Latin America, which he claimed supported regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua. “This Administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime,” said Mnuchin, in a Treasury Department statement. “These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”

It’s unclear when the ban will begin. The Commerce Department reportedly told the Associated Press that ships won’t be permitted to sail from Wednesday, but that travelers who’d already paid for trips would be allowed to go.

Major cruise companies such as Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line sell popular routes to Cuba, some setting off from multiple U.S. cities including Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina. They also seemed unclear on what the announcement meant for their business and customers.

A spokesperson from Norwegian Cruise Line tells Fast Company: “We are closely monitoring these recent developments and any resulting impact to cruise travel to Cuba. We will communicate to our guests and travel partners as additional information becomes available.”

Update: Carnival responded to Fast Company Wednesday morning with the following statement: “Carnival Corporation confirmed today that due to changes in U.S. policy, the company will no longer be permitted to sail to Cuba effective immediately. Additional details will be provided for currently booked cruises by the cruise lines.”

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