Cuban-born tourists are left at the dock when ships lift anchor for homeland
When the Carnival Corp. ship Adonia leaves port on May 1, becoming the
first U.S.-based cruise ship to sail to Cuba in more than 50 years, it
will carry no Cuban-born passengers.
Based on an arrangement with the Cuban government, Carnival said anyone
born on the island won’t be issued a ticket. Such a restriction doesn’t
exist for airline flights to the communist country.
“Cuba has a long-standing regulation that no Cuban-born individuals are
allowed to travel from anywhere in the world to and from Cuba by ship,”
Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said. “This regulation applies to all
cruise lines, ferries and any form of shipping planning to travel to and
The ban isn’t new but has received fresh attention as potential
customers were unable to book passage to Cuba after Carnival
representatives discovered that their U.S. passports listed Cuba as
What appeared to be Carnival’s acquiescence has spurred protests in
Miami, where the company is based, and a class-action lawsuit filed by
two Cuban-born men who claim their civil rights were violated because
they weren’t allowed to buy tickets for the Adonia cruise.
Frizzell said the suit is without merit, and Carnival is “actively
working … to pursue a change in the regulation that puts cruising on the
same footing as aircraft travel is today in Cuba.”
The Cuban embassy in Washington didn’t respond to calls or emails about
its regulation, which dates to the Cold War era.
Carnival’s opportunity to sell Cuban cruises followed the Obama
administration’s move to improve relations with the Cuban government and
ease travel restrictions that were in place for decades, although the
U.S. trade embargo remains.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering applications from
United, American, Southwest, JetBlue and other carriers to launch 20
daily round-trip flights to Havana, and 10 flights to nine smaller
airports across Cuba.
The airlines are so eager to win those routes, which are predicted to be
heavily booked, that they’ve been taking potshots at each other during
the formal response period. The agency plans to announce its decision
Cruise line executives have said they expect future Cuba sailings to
provide a boost for the industry and increase business to other
Among those vying for Cuban routes is Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings,
which like Carnival is based in Miami. Norwegian Chief Executive Frank
Del Rio was born in Cuba and therefore wouldn’t be allowed to take one
of his own company’s voyages.
A spokeswoman for the company said it would be premature to comment
since Norwegian has not been approved to sail to Cuba. But Del Rio last
month appeared on CNBC and enthused about taking that first cruise someday.
“I’ll be on that bridge, I might even be driving that ship myself,” Del
Critics of Cuba’s Castro regime say the restrictions on Cuban-born
travelers is a sign that Cuba wants to limit the influence of
Cuban-American visitors on its population.
Armando Azarloza, a Los Angeles marketing executive whose father was
held as a political prisoner in Cuban in 1961, said he suspects the
Castro government is keeping restrictions on Cuban-born travelers to
prevent them from encouraging family members on the island to speak out
against the government.
“It’s a manifestation of what is really behind their agenda,” he said.
Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute and a professor of
anthropology at Florida International University, said he has found no
documentation released by the Cuban government explaining the restriction.
The ban is puzzling, he said, because the Cuban government doesn’t place
limitations on U.S.-born relatives of Cubans traveling by ship.
“It doesn’t have any logical base on which to say this person can’t go
on the cruise ship but this other person who is related can,” he said.
Duany said he suspects that the Cuban government limits Cuban-born
visitors on cruise ships because it doesn’t have the personnel at cruise
ports to screen them.
Carnival announced in March that it had been given approval by the Cuban
government to begin regular cruises to Cuba, starting May 1. The first
ship, the Adonia, part of the company’s Fathom cruise brand, will leave
from Miami, carrying 704 passengers for a weeklong trip.
A second company, French luxury line Ponant, has since received approval
to start U.S.-Cuba trips in 2017.
Under federal laws, U.S. travelers must meet 12 specific criteria to
visit Cuba, such as journalistic activities, professional research,
public performances or family visits, among other categories.
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Source: Cuban-born tourists are left at the dock when ships lift anchor
for homeland – LA Times –