Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
MIAMI — Cruise lines have pulled off the impossible, adjusting the itineraries of dozens of cruises with one day’s notice in the wake of restrictive new U.S. policies for travel to Cuba.
Major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America, Seabourn, NCL and MSC were all impacted by the Trump administration’s June 4 announcement placing further restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, including calls by U.S. cruise lines, effective June 5.
The cruise lines have dropped calls in Cuba from their itineraries and are rerouting ships to other destinations.
The changes affect nearly 800,000 passenger bookings currently scheduled or already underway, says CLIA.
Here’s a look at the latest updates from the cruise lines…
Affected itineraries for Carnival include 14 sailings on Carnival Paradise between now and Dec. 7, 13 sailings on Carnival Sensation now through Dec. 16 and one sailing each on Carnival Sunrise, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Victory.
Carnival says it is notifying passengers about their new itineraries and their options, in the order of sailing date proximity. Mailings for sailings through the end of December 2019 are now in progress and include the following options:
• Remain on the sailing and receive a US$100, per person, onboard credit
• Move to another itinerary and receive a US$50, per person, onboard credit
• Cancel and receive a full refund
Carnival passengers booked to travel on a 2020 sailing that included Havana can remain on the sailing, move to another itinerary (no onboard credit will be offered in either case), or cancel and receive a full refund. Mailings with itinerary details are being sent in the next 2-3 days.
Two more Carnival Corp. cruise lines, Holland America and Seabourn, are also affected by the new rules. Both lines have posted notices advising passengers that they’re working to confirm new special pricing and replacement ports of call, with finalized details coming on or before June 15.
Royal Caribbean has secured alternative ports for all 2019 sailings on both Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas. The cruise line is now in the process of communicating the new itineraries to passengers and agents. Guests have the option of remaining on their sailing with the new itinerary and receiving a 50% refund or they may cancel their cruise and receive a full refund.
For 2020 sailings on both Majesty and Empress of the Seas, Royal Caribbean is working to secure alternative itineraries and says it expects to be able to communicate to passengers and agents within the next week.
RCCL has adjusted its earnings outlook for the year. “While the affected sailings impact only 3% of our 2019 capacity, the extremely short notice period for this high yielding destination amplifies the earnings impact,” said Jason T. Liberty, RCCL’s Executive VP and CFO.
NCL’s most recent update, posted June 5, says the cruise line has “ceased all calls to the country and are modifying previously scheduled sailings as appropriate.” NCL adds: “We thank our guests and travel partners for their patience as we navigate this unexpected, last-minute change, and we will of course continue to share information with them as soon as additional details become available.”
MSC Armonia was scheduled to call at Havana as part of its current Caribbean sailings. MSC says the alternative ports of either Key West, FL; Costa Maya, Mexico; George Town, Cayman Islands; or Cozumel will replace Havana. The remainder of MSC Armonia’s itinerary will remain as originally planned.
MSC Armonia passengers and their travel agents have been informed of the change, with passengers offered the following options:
. US$400 per stateroom as onboard credit. If this credit is not fully used during the cruise, MSC Cruises will refund the difference upon check out from the ship. Any shore excursions in Havana that were pre-purchased before the cruise, or which are included in the ticket, will be automatically refunded to the guest’s onboard account.
. If passengers with to change their ship and itinerary, MSC Cruises will waive cancellation fees and transfer already paid funds to the new booking.