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Cruise lines scramble to deal with new Cuba restrictions

MIAMI — U.S. cruise lines are consulting with lawyers to understand the impact of the Trump administration’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba, handed down with just one day’s notice.

The Trump administration has said it will allow anyone who has already paid for their trip to go ahead with it, but the process going forward for passengers isn’t clear.

A Miami-based attorney who represents Carnival and three other major cruise lines says cruise lines carrying passengers booked before June 4 have been hoping that they could request specific federal permits to complete their trips to Cuba.

“For now, it’s prohibited unless the cruise lines requests a specific license,” says Pedro Freyre. He said cruise lines had been trying to determine “if there’s any opening there to at least complete trips that have been booked and passengers that have made travel plans.”

Norwegian Cruise Line says it is looking at the new rules and consulting with lawyers and trade experts.

“We are closely monitoring these recent developments and any resulting impact to cruise travel to Cuba,” NCL said in a statement. “We will communicate to our guests and travel partners as additional information becomes available.”

CLIA also issued a statement in response to the new regulations, saying that they affect nearly 800,000 passenger bookings that are currently scheduled or already underway.

“Without warning, CLIA Cruise Line Members are forced to eliminate all Cuba destinations from itineraries, effective immediately. Passenger bookings had been made under a general licence previously issued by the United States Government that authorized ‘people to people’ travel to Cuba. These travel restrictions effectively make it illegal to cruise to Cuba from the United States,” read the statement.

CLIA’s Chairman, Adam Goldstein, added that the organization is “disappointed” that cruises will no longer be operating to Cuba. “While out of our control, we are genuinely sorry for all cruise line guests who were looking forward to their previously booked itineraries to Cuba.”

The Trump administration’s new rules, announced yesterday and taking effect today, bans stops by cruise ships at Cuban ports, among other measures.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the measures are a response to what it calls Cuba’s “destabilizing role” in the Western Hemisphere, including support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

While the doors to restoring U.S. tourism to Cuba were nudged open by then-President Barack Obama, the Trump administration has now walked back all of those first steps.

Impacted U.S. cruise lines with Cuba on their itineraries include Carnival, Holland America, Seabourn, NCL, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises.

With files from The Associated Press