The Trump Administration, through the U.S. Department of Commerce and Treasury recently announced new restrictions for Americans visiting Cuba. The restrictions, which took effect on June 5th, include bans on group tours and cruise ships.
Apart from banning cruise ships and group visits, the people-to-people visa will also no longer be permitted for travel to the Caribbean nation. The visa is often used by tourists making cultural or educational group visits.
Also included in these new restrictions are travel methods such as the use of recreational and passenger vessels, e.g., corporate and private jets, as well as personal yachts.
What this means for travelers is that they may need to acquire additional authorization before they make any travel plans, including buying travel insurance.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, announced that the administration made the strategic decision because “Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere.” The decision reversed sanctions that had been loosened by the Obama Administration.
If You Had Already Planned Your Trip, What Next?
Well, the decision on whether to cancel the trip is dependent on several factors. For instance, if your trip involved making a direct flight into an airport in Cuba using the people-to-people visa, and had been booked through a travel specialist (prior to June 5th), then you have nothing to worry about.
According to the new rules, there is one caveat to this; you should have already completed a transaction related to your travel by the time the regulations went into effect. In other words, you should have already reserved and paid a deposit on a hotel room, Airbnb, or booked a flight before June 5th.
In case you had been booked on a cruise line that was to pass through the Caribbean, and the company in question has not received its license, chances are that the Cuban stop will be replaced.
This kind of flexibility is often afforded to clients when factors like water levels, weather, and new regulations upset the travel industry. Having said this, if your entire cruise involved making stops in Cuban ports, then you may need to start considering a cancellation.
Many cruise lines are already offering refunds to customers who were booked on cruises to Cuba. Regarding travel insurance coverage, trip cancellation coverage in a travel insurance plan typically won’t cover itinerary changes or government restrictions as a covered reason, but your cruise could be covered by a Cancel For Any Reason (optional) upgrade, which would allow you to cancel for any reason at all.
Who Is Allowed to Travel to Cuba?
At the moment, only 12 group categories are allowed to travel to Cuba. They include:
- Family visits
- U.S. government officials
- Numerous intergovernmental organizations
- Foreign governments
- Journalists traveling for work
- Professional meetings and professional research
- Educational activities
- Public Performances
- Religious activities
- Athletic competitions
What Will Change for Air Travel?
The Obama administration restricted air travel restrictions in 2016. This saw various U.S. carriers start to make direct flights to the country. They include Delta, American, and JetBlue. It is likely that the U.S. carriers will be forced to cut down on the number of flights to Cuba as the passenger numbers start to reduce.
Note that commercial airlines will still get to fly to Cuban airports even under the new regulations.