Here's the latest on Cuba travel restrictions since September 2019, and what they mean for your 2020 trips.
What do the latest Cuba travel restrictions mean?
In June, the Trump administration announced new rules governing travel to Cuba. If you have plans for such a trip – or have been thinking about making them – you may naturally wonder what’s going on. Here’s a summary of the changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations announced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, the section at the Department of the Treasury that regulates the trade and travel embargo to Cuba and which issues licenses for travel to Cuba) and the Commerce Department.
How do the new regulations affect cruise travel to Cuba?
The changes end travel to Cuba by U.S.-flagged cruise ships or foreign-flagged cruise ships departing from the U.S. The Commerce Department has not included a “grandfather” clause to allow cruises that have already been scheduled, and for which passengers have already made arrangements. If you have a paid money toward a deposit or final payment for cruise travel to Cuba, you should contact your cruise company for a refund.
How do the new regulations affect travel with Classic Journeys?
Classic Journeys was among the first companies to obtain a license to operate people-to-people trips in Cuba. Until now, our trips have all operated under that license. A ‘grandfather’ clause in the OFAC ruling permits us to operate our 2019 trips under that designation. OFAC has, however, prohibited people-to-people programs that do not fall under this ‘grandfather’ clause. As a result, many other companies were forced to cancel or completely end their Cuba programs.
Looking to the future, we have recently updated all of our trips to make them fully compliant with the “Support for the Cuban People” licensing category, qualifying us to offer departure dates in 2019 and through 2020. Among the requirements in this license, the program must support private enterprise in Cuba, which has been a key objective of our trips from the beginning. It also requires that our guests have a fulltime program of meaningful two-way engagements with the Cuban people. That kind of rich and personal contact with Cubans has also been a hallmark of our trips, so the fact that we were already complying with that guideline has proven to be a bonus for Classic Journeys and our guests traveling with us.
So I can travel legally to Cuba with Classic Journeys?
Absolutely yes. Because we have responded vigorously and quickly to the evolving regulations, all of our trips are compliant. You can reserve space on set departures and private departures for travel from right now all the way through 2020 for Long Weekend in Havana, Cuba for Families, and Havana, Cienfuegos & Trinidad.
Can I arrange a private edition of these trips?
Yes. We can create private or even custom departures for you, your family or your group based on any of our existing programs. Because they are built on the framework of “Support for the Cuban People” regulations, your trip will be fully compliant and legal.
Can I still fly to Cuba legally on commercial air flights?
Commercial air flights are not affected by the changes. And so, yes, they are still legal. Note that your airline will ask you at the time of ticketing to select from a listing of the type of license under which you are traveling to Cuba legally. You simply need to select “Support for the Cuban People.”
Can I purchase travel insurance for Cuba travel?
Yes. When you make your application, you will be asked about the kind of trip you are taking. By selecting the “Support for the Cuban People” option, you will be able to purchase a policy.
What about private aircraft and boats; can they travel legally to Cuba?
The authorization for private vessels and private aircraft (such as private fishing boats and private sailboats, and corporate or private jets) is revoked. So, they are no longer legal for travel to Cuba.
How will the changes under President Trump affect the people of Cuba?
We’ve made so many wonderful friends in Cuba and seen the lives of the Cuban people change for the better during recent years. So, of course, we’re concerned about what it will mean to their prosperity and general welfare with the enaction of these new travel regulations. The Cubans have been through so much in the last 60 years. They’ve always managed to bear their hardships with grace and warm solidarity in their families and communities.
The new regulations cap remittances – the money that can be sent to Cubans from friends and family members in the U.S. – at $1,000 per person every three months. In a country where the median monthly salary is just $32, you can only imagine how a reduction in remittance income will impact everyday life. In addition, travel had become a major source of income for Cubans, as well, so any reduction in that resource will echo throughout the country, affecting for the people who can least afford it and whom we and our government want to help.
We choose guarded optimism.
We are approaching Cuba as we always have – with care, enthusiasm, and with pride in the fact that legal travel for Americans to Cuba has changed the lives of our American guests and the everyday local Cubans they’ve met, in overwhelmingly positive ways. You can still travel to Cuba legally with Classic Journeys. We like to think of this way of travel as an informal version of ‘Voice of America” with boots on the ground… yours in fact, as you communicate a positive story of the American people to local Cuban people. We urge you to hold fast to your plans. And if you’ve been hesitating to plan a Cuba trip, you know now that you can, and we encourage you to do so now.