The Cuban governments has dropped the decades long ban for those born on the island from arriving or departing by sea. The policy change was announced on the front page of Gramma, the Cuban state controlled newspaper, and ends a sticky situation for Carnival Cruise line. Carnival has approval from the U.S. and Cuban governments to sail every other week to Havana and other Cuban ports for what is described as a “people-to-people-exchange.” Carnival had to deal with a backlash from Cuban Americans when it was discovered they could not book passage to Cuba. Demonstrations, protests, and lawsuits resulted and Carnival vowed that the ship would not sail until the issue was resolved. With the policy change Carnival’s Fathom Travel ship Adonia will cast off May 1st bound for Havana.
As printed in Gramma here is a summation of the Cuban policy change:
1. To authorize the entry and exit of Cuban citizens, regardless of their immigration status, as passengers and crew on merchant ships. To enlist as crew on merchant ships, Cuban citizens resident in the country must do so through established employment institutions.
2. To authorize the entry and exit of Cuban citizens, regardless of their immigration status, as passengers and crew on cruise ships. To enlist as crew on cruise ships, Cuban citizens resident in the country must do so through established employment institutions.
The two measures above will enter into effect on April 26, 2016.
3. To authorize gradually, and once the necessary conditions are created, the entry and exit of Cuban citizens, regardless of their immigration status, as passengers and crew on pleasure boats (yachts). The implementation of this measure will be announced at the appropriate time.
The announcement in Gramma ended with a dig at the United States and the U.S. Cuban Embargo which forbids unfettered travel by U.S. Citizens to the island, “The continued ban on U.S. citizens freely traveling to Cuba contrasts with these measures adopted by Cuba.” Currently U.S. citizens cannot travel to Cuba simply as tourists.
Cuba’s policy of restricting the Cuban born’s entry or departure by sea has roots in the long time Cold War stand off between the U.S. and Cuba. Cuba sought to impede armed invaders who entered the island with the intent of overthrowing the Castro government.
Why did Cuba, which has been loath to change much in the way of policy, come around on this issue? Arnold Donald, the President of Carnival Cruise Line says, “My opinion is simply that once [Cuba] decided to accept cruise as a contributor to the people exchange and additional economic development within Cuba, and they also realized having a disparity between air travel and cruise could be an inhibitor.” Cuban born citizens of any country can fly into the island without restriction. Dr Andy Gomez, the retired Senior Fellow for Cuban Studies University of Miami says the change is simply explained, “This is a sign that the Cuban government needs the cash not that they are softening their positions.”