On Tuesday, news came that the Trump administration would officially bar most individual travel from Cuba, eliminating the “people-to-people” educational travel category that allowed Americans to travel to the island.
While the news reverses the celebrated Cuba Détente, the cruise industry says that it will not be impacted.
“Based on the new guidelines shared today, we remain certain that the best way to travel to Cuba is via cruise ship,” Norwegian Cruise Lines said in a statement to TMR.
According to Norwegian, all of its cruises and shore excursions are already in full compliance with the new regulations announced by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Those regulations include requiring groups to be officially licensed by OFAC and accompanied by a group leader.
“We are delighted our guests will continue to have the opportunity to experience the wonderful culture and incredible history of Cuba along with the warmth and friendliness of the Cuban people through OFAC-compliant shore excursions that help promote people-to-people contact with the Cuban people, an opportunity that was restricted for over fifty years,” Norwegian Cruise Lines added.
Norwegian received approval from the government of Cuba to operate Cuban sailings on three of its brands – Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – last December. Since then, Norwegian’s Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries with Cuba have done much better than those without it, according to CEO Frank Del Rio.
Royal Caribbean, too, expects little to no impact on its Cuba plans. Spokesperson Rob Zeiger told Seatrade Cruise that while the line is still studying the new rules, “it does not appear there will be any changes for cruise.”
Earlier this year, Royal announced an increased number of sailings to Cuba, adding Empress of the Seas for winter 2018, after the positive reaction it received during its inaugural season. “We’ve seen the excitement of our guests when sailing into Havana and the passion they have for the city at sail away,” President and CEO Michael Bayley said at the time.
Carnival Cruise Line, which announced in June that it planned to expand its Cuba sailings, told TMR that it was too early to tell whether yesterday’s news would impact its business going forward. The company said: “We are currently assessing it so aren’t able to offer a comment at this point.”