This week was a frustrating one for millions of US travelers, as well as for the small businesses that advise them, and the many cruise lines and tour operators that have been helping Americans discover Cuba. With one stroke of the pen, the Trump Administration canceled the vacation plans of millions of US citizens—overnight!—by instituting what is nearly a complete ban on travel to Cuba.
The announcement hit our industry like a ton of bricks. Travel Advisors, cruise lines, tour operators and travelers were all scrambling to find out what was happening with their trips. Passengers who had already departed for Havana found that port-of-call canceled on their itineraries, their ships forced to alter course because of the sudden travel ban, which went into effect immediately.
We cautioned our travelers about jumping to conclusions, and avoiding speculation. After all—this isn’t the first rollback of travel to Cuba that’s been touted as a “ban,” and all of those previous restrictions turned out to be something less than a complete shutdown of Cuba travel. This time, however, the restrictions are much more significant; essentially, the US Government has canceled the vacation plans of its citizens.
So, how has this shaken out in the past 48 hours? It depends. In broad strokes, cruise travel to Cuba for US citizens has been shutdown, overnight. If you’re traveling to Cuba as you’re reading this, don’t expect your ship to dock in Havana, Cienfuegos, or any other Cuban port. If you’re booked on a cruise that includes Cuba, all of our cruise partners have replaced those ports with alternate destinations.
For land tours, if trips are under deposit, or fully paid-for, it may be possible for you to still travel, depending on what your tour operator has decided to do. We know that some tour operators intend to continue to run tours that are fully-booked in Cuba. But other tour operators may be shutting down their Cuba itineraries. The Trump travel shutdown definitely restricts people-to-people trips, going forward, though it seems that there may be some limited grandfathering (grandparenting) of previously booked trips.
Family visits seem to be the least affected by the Cuba travel shutdown, but, again, it’s not entirely clear, and US Citizens who want to visit family members in Cuba should reach out to their travel providers to determine whether their visit will still be possible.
As for what your options are—that’s where you need to speak to each individual cruise line or tour operator. All of our preferred travel partners have been very proactive about reaching out to us to explain how they’re handling the sudden cancelation or disruption of their Cuba itineraries, but each company is doing something different.
Some cruise lines are offering full refunds, while others are offering substantial discounts on alternative sailing, and rebates if you decide to stay on the amended itinerary. For land tours, each tour operator will make decisions about whether or not the departure will go forward, based on their assessments of the risk for their clients.
So, the bottom line? If you booked your Cuba trip with a Verified Travel Advisor like Huckleberry Travel, contact your travel advisor so that they can help you access information that’s specific to your trip. If you booked Cuba travel on your own …. well … reconsider that decision for your next trip, but for this one, call your cruise line or tour operator and get the latest information directly from them (and expect long hold times).
And, if you’re upset by the idea that the Government can cancel your vacation plans without any prior notice, contact your elected representatives and make your displeasure known. We’ve got a strong view that it’s a fundamental right of all citizens to travel freely and to have travel experiences that inform and enlighten the way we understand the world around us. Having been to Cuba within the past year, and having had the experience of meeting and interacting with the Cuban people, and seeing the realities of their lives, we simply can’t understand what purpose is served by telling US citizens that they’re not allowed to have this travel experience.
If you’ve had your Cuba trip canceled by the government, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help you explore alternative vacations.