New rules appear to ban US cruises to Cuba

The U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments filed new rules
on travel to and commerce with Cuba that appear to generally ban U.S. cruises.

However, people-to-people educational group travel would be “grandfathered”
for consumers that have already made a transaction, such as a flight booking or
lodging reservation, under the new Treasury Department regulations. It isn’t
clear if that provision applies to cruise bookings.

While the Treasury Department has previously been the main
interpreter of the embargo rules regarding Cuba, the Treasury said its new
rules “highlight” the role of Commerce Department export regulations
administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security.

Both the Treasury and Commerce department filed rules on
June 4 that are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 5.

In the filing from the Commerce Department, a final rule
regarding temporary sojourn of vessels to Cuba has been amended “to remove
passenger and recreational vessels from eligibility for temporary sojourn to
Cuba.”

“Now only cargo vessels for hire for use in the
transportation of separately authorized items are eligible for export or
re-export to Cuba on temporary sojourn,” said the Commerce Department in a
“Background” section of the rule.

In another section, the new language indicates that
temporary sojourn applications “for private and corporate aircraft, cruise
ships, sailboats, fishing vessels, and other similar aircraft and vessels will
generally be denied.”

In a statement, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said, “Today,
the U.S. government announced new travel restrictions to Cuba. We are closely
monitoring these recent developments and any resulting impact to cruise travel
to Cuba.  We will communicate to our
guests and travel partners as additional information becomes available.”

Travel to Cuba for tourism has been banned for decades, but
previously travel was allowed for various programs that promoted “people-to-people”
exchanges between U.S. travelers and Cubans. That type of travel has
liberalized in the past several years, opening the door for cruises in 2016.

The new Treasury rules “remove the authorization for
group people-to-people educational travel,” the Treasury said. However, it
is adding a grandfathering provision to authorize certain group
people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized where the
traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as
purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation).

The Treasury said the new rules were in accordance with an
April 17, 2019, speech in Miami by national security advisor John Bolton, in
which he said restrictions on travel to Cuba would be forthcoming.

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