Tourism

Cruise line chaos: What to know if you booked a trip before Cuba travel ban

Cruise companies scrambled Tuesday, June 5, to reroute their Cuba-bound ships after learning they were no longer allowed to sail to the Caribbean island with less than 24 hours notice from the Trump administration.
Cruise companies scrambled Tuesday, June 5, to reroute their Cuba-bound ships after learning they were no longer allowed to sail to the Caribbean island with less than 24 hours notice from the Trump administration. AP

Cruise companies scrambled this week morning to reroute their Cuba-bound ships after learning they were no longer allowed to sail to the Caribbean island, following a new policy by the Trump administration.

The four biggest companies in the world — all headquartered in South Florida — are diverting ships to ports in Mexico and the Bahamas as of midnight Tuesday and offering passengers compensation for the missed visit to Cuba.

Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s lobbying group, estimates the new regulation will affect 800,000 passengers who have already booked.

Here’s what you should know if you’ve booked a cruise to Cuba:

Carnival Cruise Line is offering a full refund for cancellations on Cuba cruises booked through July. The Carnival Sunrise ship, carrying around 3,000 passengers, was scheduled to dock in Havana Thursday, but will sail to Cozumel, Mexico instead. Passengers on board will get a $100 credit.

Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas ship will sail to Nassau, Bahamas, and the company’s private island Coco Cay, Bahamas, instead of Havana. The company’s Majesty of the Seas ship will sail to Costa Maya, Mexico, instead of Havana. People who have booked with Royal Caribbean can cancel their current bookings for a full refund, or keep their re-routed trips and receive a 50 percent refund.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a 50 percent refund and 50 percent credit toward a future cruise valid through Dec. 31, 2020 for passengers who keep their bookings through Sept. 2, 2019. The company did not make details about itinerary revisions immediately available. For people who want to cancel, Norwegian is offering a full refund through June 11, 2019. Cuba cruises after Sept. 2, 2019 will be automatically canceled with full refunds; guests can receive a 20 percent discount off cruises through Dec. 31, 2020, but they must be booked by Aug. 5, 2019.

MSC Cruises announced Thursday that MSC Armonia will substitute port calls in Key West, Florida; Costa Maya or Cozumel, Mexico; and George Town, Cayman Islands in lieu of Havana. MSC is waiving cancellation fees and offering a $400 credit to each cabin for those currently on board the ship.

Holland America Line, which each have two ships with sailing to Cuba, did not make information about their new itineraries and cancellation policies immediately available.

Several other U.S.-based cruise companies had planned to start service to Cuba this year. Seabourn, owned by Carnival Corporation, planned to begin sailing to Cuba in November. Seabourn is offering full refunds for people who cancel, $250 to $500 per person credits for people who remain on re-routed Cuba cruises.

Virgin Voyages, Miami’s newest cruise company, which planned to sail to Cuba on its first ship’s maiden voyage from PortMiami next year. In a statement, Virgin said it will announce its rerouted itineraries soon. The company’s current policy allows for passengers to change their bookings without penalty, and the company will be announcing a policy specific to Cuba bookings next week.

We will continue to update this story with information from the cruise lines. Please check back for updates.

The Trump administration on April 17, 2019 announced new restrictions on travel to Cuba as well as the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island.

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Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.
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