Travel to Cuba will now require a bit more planning. Fellow travelers, here is the scoop on traveling to Cuba and complying with the reinstated conditions of this island. Although there may be more changes or updates to come, this is where our research at Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. has left us. Keep in mind, if you booked and paid for air or land packages prior to June 16, 2017, you are protected. This only applies to future bookings.
First, airlines and cruise lines are not affected by the Trump administration’s ban on individual travel to Cuba. You can still book one of the many cruise lines visiting Cuba and this may be the best way to see it. The great thing about cruising is that you don’t have to unpack and repack your suitcases after every stop. This makes seeing multiple locations very convenient and allows you to see more of the island. Of course, the down side is that you are limited to the cruise schedule and can’t get into the countryside. Royal Caribbean has four and five night packages that sail from Miami to Havana. Celestyal Cruises has a seven night cruise that sails from Montego Bay, Jamaica and visits Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba (near Guantanamo). Carnival has a ship sailing from Tampa that spends two days in Havana. Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines, as well as other cruise lines, also offer itineraries that include Cuba. These are just a few of the cruises that travel to Cuba that will be allowed to continue. You can book one of these cruises without fear of being in violation of the recent changes in US policy. Airlines have also been exempted from the recent changes, so flying to Cuba should still be possible, but without an authorized tour you may encounter issues returning to the US if you have not complied with the new regulations.
If you prefer to go by land, we offer packages with third party suppliers in groups to Cuba and we can certainly put you in with a group option. Group travel is also authorized under the new guidelines within certain restrictions. Your group must qualify as an educational activity. Here is the specific wording from the Treasury Department’s office of Foreign Asset control (OFAC).
(b)General license for people-to-people travel. The travel-related transactions set forth in § 515.560(c) and such additional transactions as are directly incident to educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program are authorized, provided that:
(1) Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities;
(2) Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba;
(3) The predominant portion of the activities engaged in by individual travelers is not with a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, as defined in § 515.337 of this part, or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, as defined in § 515.338 of this part;
(4) For travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.
You should note that your itinerary cannot have excessive free time. The US government will allow travel of groups to Cuba only if the trip is a full time educational schedule of events. Your trip will be highly structured. The US government requires the travel company to keep records of all expenses in Cuba and may require the company to provide those records on request.
Travel as an individual to Cuba requires a specific license. The purpose of the individual trip must also be educational or in the nature of a cultural exchange such as an artist traveling to Cuba to study or to perform. Of course, individuals with relative in Cuba may travel to the island to visit family members.
Traveling to Cuba requires a bit more planning, and you can’t go there and be on your own with free time to explore, but many groups go to Cuba, and we here at Condor Tours and Travel have the contacts to book travel to Cuba by attaching travelers to larger groups with set itineraries. Just give us a call and let us help you plan your trip!