In the wake of the U.S. government’s new restrictions on traveling to Cuba, cruise lines that originated in the U.S. and had ports of call in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and/or Santiago de Cuba were forced to make sudden, unexpected changes to their respective itineraries.
Different cruise lines are handling the news in different ways…
On June 5, 2019, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued the following statement on the U.S. government’s new travel restrictions on Cuba:
Today, the United States Government announced the immediate implementation of new regulations prohibiting previously approved cruise line travel to Cuba from the United States. 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. Passenger bookings had been made under a general license previously issued by the United States Government that authorized “people to people” travel to Cuba. These travel restrictions effectively make it illegal to cruise to Cuba from the United States.
“We are disappointed that cruises will no longer be operating to Cuba,” said Adam Goldstein, Chairman of Cruise Lines International Association. “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.”
It would probably be a good guess that most Americans who decided to take a cruise that included Cuba on its itinerary purposely chose it as their way to see the “once forbidden, then not so much, now forbidden again” Caribbean island. Without warning, Cuba was removed as an option, passengers have been angry and cruise lines (and in some cases, travel agents) are scrambling to (A) make things “right” for the 800,000 passengers who were expecting to go to Cuba, and (B) get more business from the potential “I was going to cruise to Cuba but now that I can’t go there, I won’t cruise.”
Here are what some cruise lines are doing:
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival is giving their passengers 3 options:
- Remain on the sailing and receive $100, per person, onboard credit. Said credit will be applied automatically upon check in.
- Move to another itinerary and receive $50, per person, onboard credit.
- Cancel reservation and get a full refund.
Holland America & Seabourne
As per CruiseRadio.net, “Both divisions of Carnival Corporation are still working out new itineraries. According to their website, “finalized details will be provided to booked guests and their travel advisers on or before June 15.” They point out that calling the reservations and sales departments won’t actually provide answers, as the staff there have no additional information. “However,” the statement says, “the following number may be used should you have general questions regarding the recent announcement.” The number is 1-800-577-1728.”
For people who already had Cuban cruises booked, MSC is offering $400 USD per stateroom as onboard credit for passengers who choose to remain on their currently booked sailing. If this credit is not fully used during the cruise, MSC Cruises will refund the difference upon check-out from the cruise ship. Any previously-made shore excursions in Cuba will automatically be refunded to the passengers’ onboard account.
Passengers that would prefer to not take that cruise have the option to change ships and itinerary, and MSC will waive cancellation fees and transfer already paid funds to the new reservation.
Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL)
Guests who had already booked NCL cruises to Cuba through September 21, 2019 have 2 options:
- Sail the revised itinerary and receive a 50% refund of the cruise fare paid along with a 50% future cruise credit valid through December 31, 2020.
- Cancel the booking and receive a full refund (this option is only good through June 11, 2019, midnight EST)
Sailings to Cuba that were scheduled for beyond September 2, 2019 will automatically be cancelled and these passengers will automatically be refunded. Guests who are impacted by these cancellations are being offered offered a 20% discount off current cruise fares on any new voyages booked by August 5, 2019 for sailings no later than December 31, 2020.
For future bookings, NCL has also have dropped prices for upcoming 3 and 4 day cruises to the Bahamas to less than $60 per day, AND are including open bar (which is NEVER done). The ships, the Norwegian Star and Sun are both on the older side, but just got renovations done last year. Besides, hello, open bar!
Royal Caribbean has different offers depending on how far into the process of booking you are:
- For bookings within final payment, a refund of 50% per stateroom will be credited to onboard accounts. This amount will be based on total cruise fare, excluding any taxes and fees. If onboard spending doesn’t reach this amount, the remaining balance will be refunded to the credit card on file once the cruise is completed.
- For bookings outside of final payment, you get a 50% fare reduction per stateroom, excluding any taxes and fees. This amount will be discounted off of the current cruise fare and will be reflected on reservations by Wednesday, June 12th, 2019.
- For reservations already paid in full, passengers will automatically receive a refund for any overpayment. Guests will see this refunded to their credit card by June 19th, 2019.
Passengers that had any pre-paid excursions through Royal Caribbean wil receive a refund to their original form of payment.
Havana had been one of the stops the Scarlet Lady would make once this company’s first ship began sailing. Upon receiving word of the U.S. government’s new decree, their website originally said, “Our Crew is working hard to make necessary adjustments to any affected sailings, and we’ll be announcing updated voyages featuring a replacement port early next week.” Updated itineraries were on their website this week; the sailings that included Cuba now include the Riviera Maya instead.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary