What to do if you’ve booked a cruise to Cuba

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What to do in if you've booked a cruise to Cuba
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Travel from the United States to Cuba has been essentially shut down for now after the federal government abruptly revised its regulations to the Caribbean country.

The move, effective June 5, 2019, means that cruise lines have had to change all itineraries that included stops to the island nation, which is only 90 miles from Florida.

U.S. stops all vessels from traveling to Cuba — now what?

The restrictions have affected nearly 800,000 passenger bookings underway or scheduled, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Some ships have even had to turn around mid-voyage.

“The Cuban cruises were extremely popular with the American public,” says money expert Clark Howard. “And so a lot of the times, the cruises were effectively more dollars per night than cruises on equivalent ships going to non-Cuban Caribbean ports.”

What to do if you’re affected by the Cuban travel ban

So what are you supposed to do if your travel plans have been altered due to the Cuban travel ban?

You may be thinking that if you have trip insurance, you’re covered, but not necessarily. It depends on your specific policy. But here’s what you can do:

  • Check your trip insurance for any inconvenience benefits related to travel bans. Some may have ban provisions, but many do not.
  • If you bought Cancel For Any Reason coverage, you could be eligible for full reimbursement.

Here’s how Royal Caribbean, Carnival and other major cruise lines are responding

  • Royal Caribbean is allowing its customers affected by the ban to opt for the new itineraries the company has introduced and receive a 50% refund, or they can cancel their cruise and receive a full refund.
  • Carnival Cruise Line is working feverishly to provide its customers with new itineraries which go to Mexico instead of Cuba. “Along with our apologies, guests will receive a $100 onboard credit posted to their Sail & Sign Account,” the company says, according to TravelAgentCentral.com.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which includes Cuba-heavy cruises on its luxury Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, says that it is canceling and modifying routes and offering “substantial discounts” to customers who want to continue to sail.
  • MSC Cruises says it is giving its passengers already on a ship $400 per stateroom in onboard credit. They will also waive transfer fees for any future travel, but their normal cancellation policy still applies.

If you’ve still got a taste for Havana, going by air is far from second banana.

“You can fly to Cuba and there are a lot of very affordable flights,” Clark says.

Here are some of the best fares to Cuba right now

Flight Airline Airfare
Atlanta to Havana JetBlue Airways $365
New York to Holguin American Airlines $431
Chicago to Havana Delta Air Lines $420
Fort Lauderdale to Havana JetBlue Airways $262

“The thing for people who still want to go to Cuba,” Clark says, “is that there are still a dozen different qualifying reasons you can fly to Cuba … if that’s something you want to do.”

12 authorized reasons Americans can travel to Cuba

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the 12 categories of travel allowed for Cuba-bound Americans are:

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government and/or certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalistic activity
  4. Professional research and professional meetings
  5. Educational activities
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. Support for the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
  12. Certain authorized export transactions

Clark says getting approved to travel to Cuba can be an easy process.

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“You self-report which of the 12 reasons you want to go: And it’s a pretty simple list of things you very well might be able to qualify for.”

Listen to Clark talk about how to get to Cuba despite the ban

Here’s how to book a great cruise deal

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