Category Archives: Cruises to Cuba

Is it right to vacation in Cuba’s oppression?



Newsweek, by Elliott Abrams

The motto of the American Bar Association (ABA) is “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice.”

It should perhaps be revised to “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice, and Travel to Cuba.” Right now the ABA is sponsoring at least two trips to Cuba–but neither one has anything to do with liberty or justice.

One could dream of an ABA-sponsored trip that would try to visit political prisoners, or meet with the “Women in White” and other peaceful protesters for human rights. One could envision a confrontation between ABA members and officials of the Cuban regime’s “courts” or its “Ministry of Justice.”

But don’t hold your breath. The two tours advertised in the ABA Journal right now are “Cuba: People, Culture and Art” for next March and “Cuban Discovery” for next February.

In the latter, one does not “discover” anything about Cuba’s dictatorship and its complete disrespect for law–theoretically of some concern to the ABA. “People, Culture, and Art” has nothing to do with those Cuban people who are trying desperately to gain a measure of freedom and live under a system of law.

The brochure describes the latter trip this way:

A uniquely designed itinerary provides opportunities to experience the Cuban culture, history and people in four destinations: Havana; Cienfuegos; Trinidad; and Pinar del Río. Discover the arts during visits to art, dance and music studios, and talk with artists, dancers and musicians about their craft and their lives in Cuba.

Savor authentic flavors of Cuban cuisine at state restaurants and paladars, privately owned and operated restaurants. Learn about contemporary and historic Cuba during insightful discussions led by local experts.

Want to bet how many of the “local experts” are dissidents or human rights activists, fighting for a state of law?

The actual state of life in Cuba is described this week in The Economist. Here is an excerpt:

Queues at petrol stations. Sweltering offices. Unlit streets. Conditions in Cuba’s capital remind its residents of the “special period” in the 1990s caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, the benefactor in trouble is Venezuela. For the past 15 years Venezuela has been shipping oil to Cuba, which in turn sends thousands of doctors and other professionals to Venezuela.

The swap is lucrative for the communist-controlled island, which pays doctors a paltry few hundred dollars a month. It gets more oil than it needs, and sells the surplus. That makes Cuba perhaps the only importer that prefers high oil prices. Venezuelan support is thought to be worth 12-20 percent of Cuba’s GDP.

Recently, the arrangement has wobbled. Low prices have slashed Cuba’s profit from the resale of oil. Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy is shrinking, is sending less of the stuff. Figures from PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, suggest that it shipped 40 percent less crude oil to Cuba in the first quarter of 2016 than it did during the same period last year. Austerity, though less savage than in the 1990s, is back. Cuba’s cautious economic liberalisation may suffer.

The regime ought to be worried indeed–but help is on the way, suggests The Economist:

Tourism has surged since the United States loosened travel restrictions in 2014, which will partially offset the loss of Venezuelan aid.

So that’s where the ABA—remember, “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice”—comes in. This vicious, repressive regime depended on the Soviets, and then the Venezuelans, and may now depend on American tourists.

Will it be enough? One cannot know. One can only know that the American Bar Association wants to lend a hand.

This is unconscionable, and in fact no American should be lending a hand to oppression in Cuba. No Americans should be dancing and dining their way through Cuba, enjoying the beaches and the architecture while those struggling for freedom lie in prison.

That American lawyers are willing to do this, and that their main professional association wants to promote it, is a sad reflection on the profession. If the ABA said we want our members to visit if and only if they can do something to promote liberty and law and human rights in Cuba, such visits might be a genuine contribution.

Perhaps the ABA has secretly done this and actually all these trips do include spending time with dissidents and pressing officials to respect the rights of the Cuban people. I wouldn’t place a lot of money on that wager. If it has not, it is betraying the cause of justice and assisting the most repressive regime in the Western Hemisphere.

That isn’t “Defending Liberty” or “Pursuing Justice.” It’s shameful.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.


Will Carnival be next? Cubans found hiding in ship carrying filming equipment of Fast and Furious 8


La Prensa

Florida authorities found three Cubans hiding in a cargo ship arriving from Cuba and which was carrying filming equipment used in the shooting of the movie “Fast and Furious 8”.

Spokespersons for Port Everglades in Broward County, South Florida, confirmed to EFE that the Cubans were found inside a cargo ship arriving at the maritime terminal, one of the world’s busiest ports which recorded more than 3.7 million passengers in 2015.

The Cubans, whose identities have not been revealed, were then handed over to the local office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The eighth installment of the “Fast and Furious” series, starring Vin Diesel, was shot in Havana a few weeks ago and there are plans to shoot more scenes in New York City.

Cubans who touch land on U.S. territory are favored by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 and its policy of ‘dry feet/wet feet’ which means they can stay in the country, while those who are intercepted before reaching the coast are deported to the island.

Last fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sep. 30, 2015, more than 43,000 Cubans came to the U.S., representing a rise of more than 77 percent compared to the previous period, according to the CBP.

The restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries in July 2015, with the opening of embassies, has raised fears that immigrant benefits to Cubans will be curbed, while immigration experts say the renewed ties have led to a fresh exodus from the Caribbean island to the United States.

First American cruise to Cuba in decades ends with lots of vomit and diarrhea


New York Daily News

The first American cruise ship to Cuba in more than 50 years returned to Miami Sunday morning — with a whole lotta vomit and diarrhea on board.

The Fathom Adonia docked right before 6:30 a.m., ending its historic week-long voyage that brought Americans to Cuba for the first time since the countries re-established diplomatic relations. And upon its return, it was a historic horror to behold, with the vessel now needing a “thorough scrubbing,” as the Miami Herald put it.

The cruise company, Carnival, confirmed that 14 of the ship’s 700 passengers were sickened during the much-touted trip. Travelers were warned to use healthy doses of hand sanitizer, and the ship’s crew spent the last days of the trip cleaning dining rooms and tables, according to reports.

Ship captain David Box said the passengers suffered from stomach ailments “possibly suggestive of Norovirus,” according to the Herald, though Carnival has not confirmed a cause.

Still, the ship’s medical director also blamed Norovirus, an easily transmittable infection, in a letter sent to passengers on the trip’s final day.

“We suspect that the virus may have been inadvertently introduced on board by embarking travelers,” the letter said.

“Norovirus, as you are now aware, is extremely contagious and easily transmitted from person to person, especially if meticulous attention is not paid to personal hygiene.”

The company said all 14 sick passengers were treated on the ship and recovered.

“It was a non-issue for nearly everyone on board,” Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzel insisted to the Sun-Sentinel on Sunday.

The Fathom Adonia — after its cleaning — is scheduled to make trips to Cuba every other Sunday.

21 cases of gastro-intestinal illnesses reported aboard Fathom Adonia


The Miami Herald

After seven passengers reported feeling ill Friday, the ship’s crew put heightened hygiene procedures into effect

14 more passengers reported illnesses Saturday as the cruise ship made its way back to its home port in Miami

Ship’s captain told passengers there had been an increase in gastro-intestinal illnesses, “possibly suggestive of Norovirus”

As Carnival’s Fathom Adonia cruised to its home port in Miami on Saturday afternoon after making the first cruise from the United States directly to Cuba in more than half a century, an outbreak of suspected Norovirus was reported.

On Friday, after seven passengers reported gastro-intestinal upsets, the ship’s crew put heightened hygiene procedures into effect such as spritzing guests’ hands with sanitizer when they entered and left dining rooms and immediately wiping down tables.

Guests were advised to thoroughly wash their hands often and avoid shaking hands.

David Box, the ship’s captain, announced to passengers Saturday morning that there had been an increase in gastro-intestinal illnesses, “possibly suggestive of Norovirus.”

Roger Frizzell, a Carnival spokesman, said there were 14 more cases reported Saturday. He said Norovirus, which causes vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea, hadn’t been confirmed.

“These things usually run their course in 24 hours,” he said. “We’ve been very proactive in communicating with guests.”

The ship will get a thorough scrubbing when it reaches Miami early Sunday, but Frizzell said the outbreak is not expected to delay the Adonia’s trip to the Dominican Republic, which is scheduled to depart late Sunday afternoon.

Although they were aware of the outbreak, most guests seemed to be enjoying their last day at sea, sunning themselves and splashing in the ship’s pool Saturday afternoon.

U.S. warns Cuban Americans about risks in traveling to Cuba


The Miami Herald

A U.S. travel warning triggers concerns among Cuban Americans

Cuban-American travelers are warned that their U.S. passports could be seized

The warning says even U.S.-born children of Cuban Americans are at risk

If you’re a Cuban American wanting to visit Cuba, be careful! The Cuban government could seize your U.S. passport, or even draft you or your children into the armed forces.

And that’s not a warning from opponents of the Obama administration’s ongoing thaw in relations with Havana. It comes straight from the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

A statement on the embassy’s official web page warns that the Cuban government “does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents.”

It adds that those people “will be treated solely as Cuban citizens” and that the Cuban government also can demand that they enter the island using their Cuban passports instead of their U.S. documents.

Those visitors also “may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service,” and may have their passports confiscated, the Embassy added. Cuba has a mandatory military service system, in which everyone is supposed to serve 14 to 24 months when they turn 16.

“There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports,” added the undated statement, posted on the Embassy’s web page.

As if the risk of being stuck in Cuba were not enough, the statement also warned about “Cuba’s denial of consular services to dual American-Cuban nationals who have been arrested.”

William Cocks, a spokeperson for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, told el Nuevo Herald that the travel warning is not new and that the information has been posted on a State Department website page since October 2015. Embassies often use the same information, and travel warnings are issued on a regular basis, he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana did not immediately respond to questions about the travel warning.

Cocks also said that the information about the children of Cuban Americans being considered Cubans when they visit the island comes from “experience” and “how we understand that the government of Cuba deals with U.S. citizens of Cuban origin.”

The concerns triggered by the statement, which has been making the rounds on social media platforms in recent days, come at a time when U.S. travel to the island, especially by Cuban Americans, is growing quickly because of the Obama administration’s new policy of “engagement,” which promotes trips to the island as an essential part of improving bilateral relations.

About 390,000 U.S. citizens of Cuban background visited the island in 2015. The Cuban Ministry of Tourism reported that 116,000 Cuban Americans and 94,000 U.S. citizens visited in just the first four months of this year alone.

The Cuban government’s decision to treat some Cuban Americans as Cubans is paradoxical because the island’s constitution, in Article 32, says that “dual citizenship will not be allowed. In consequence, when a foreign citizenship is acquired, the Cuban one will be lost.” That means Cubans who have become U.S. citizens legally lost their Cuban citizenship and should be able to use their U.S. passports when they return to the island — a long-standing demand by Cuban Americans now highlighted by the controversy sparked by the Carnival cruise ship that sailed from Miami to Cuba.

Even more surprising is the Embassy’s warning that the U.S.-born children of Cuban parents may also be treated as Cuban citizens if they visit the island. Cuba currently allows them to visit using their U.S. passports and Cuban entry visas, but may risk arbitrary decisions by the Cuban government, the diplomatic mission indicated.

Grisel Ybarra, a Cuban-American lawyer who specializes in immigration cases, said the Cuban constitution is similar to some European constitutions because it awards citizenship based on parental as well as geographical factors. Foreigners also can become naturalized Cuban citizens.

Article 29 says Cuban citizens are those “born abroad of a Cuban father or mother, as long as the legal requirements are met,” as well as “those born outside the national territory, of Cuban fathers or mothers who have lost their Cuban citizenship, as long as they request it (the Cuban citizenship) in the manner required by law.”

Although most Cuban Americans do not undertake the requirements for their children to retain or obtain Cuban citizenship, Ybarra added, that does not rule out the possibility that authorities on the island could consider the children to be Cuban citizens.

Ybarra said she had a client whose wife decided to stay to live in Cuba during a family visit to the island. Although the Cuban-born couple had both become U.S. citizens, and one of their three children had been born in the United States, Cuban authorities regarded the children as Cuban citizens, meaning that both parents had to approve any trips abroad for the kids. The wife refused to approve, and there was little the lawyer could do.

The U.S. Embassy statement suggests reading its section on Children’s Issues “for information on how dual-nationality may affect welfare inquiries and custody disputes.” The section, however, is not yet available online.

On the other hand, Cuban Americans are not always considered to be Cuban citizens. When it comes to medical treatment, the embassy statement added, Cuban Americans cannot go to the free public hospitals used by Cubans living on the island. They are required to seek treatment in clinics reserved for foreigners, where they pay high prices.

The statement also warns that dual U.S. and Cuban citizens “should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign ‘repatriation’ documents.

“In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passport of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States,” the embassy said.

The Cuban Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Cuban-Americans beware: rights disappear in Cuba


Sun Sentinel, by Guillermo Martínez

The information came to me from different sources. One was from a friend who I don’t see often enough.The other came from Cesar Pizarro, who I have known since the 1970s at The Miami Herald.

The first one was trying to convince me to travel to Cuba. He did, however, warn me that on the day that one gets on an airplane from the United States to Havana, Cuban-Americans have to leave the Bill of Rights sitting on the airplane. They are no good in Cuba.

Then came a succinct message from Pizarro, with a copy of the page where the U.S. Embassy in Havana details its services for Cuban- Americans. It was chilling.

I could not believe what I was reading, so I went directly to the Internet and found the page that Pizarro had sent to me.

Under the heading of dual nationality, the embassy document addresses what it can and mainly cannot do for people of dual nationalities. This applies to Cubans born on the island that have become American citizens and (this part is incredible and despicable) to the children of Cuban Americans born in the United States.

But, instead of trying to say what the document says in my words, let me pick up a few choice sentences from the document itself.

Under the heading of Dual Nationality, it reads: “The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or (and here is the part that to me is unbelievable and unacceptable) or are the children of Cuban parents.

“These individuals will be treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service (in Cuba).

“The Cuban government may require U.S. citizens, whom the Government of Cuba considers to be Cuban, to enter and depart using a Cuban passport… . There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports,” the document says.

The document also issues a serious warning to all Cuban Americans:

“Cuban-American dual nationals should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign ‘repatriation’ documents. The Government of Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba.

“In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passport of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States.”

The document is indeed chilling.

Continue reading Cuban-Americans beware: rights disappear in Cuba

What will happen if?


Some questions to ponder about Carnival’s upcoming cruises to Cuba:

What will happen if?
Hundreds of desperate Cubans storm Carnival’s ship while docked at a Cuban port and refuse to leave?

Will Carnival call Castro’s brutal police and ask to remove them by force?

Carnival CEO said on Friday that the cruise line will use Cuban musicians to entertain passengers while in Cuba. What will happen if any of them refuse to leave the ship and ask to be taken out of the country?

Will they be removed by force? Will they be turned over to the US Coast Guard?

Will Carnival be allowed to hire and contract directly the musicians and workers they use while docked at Cuban ports, or will they be supplied by Cuba’s slave masters?

Will Carnival pay them directly or will they pay the Cuban government for their service?

We know what happens when the slave masters get paid directly, 90% goes to them and maybe 10% to the slaves.

There are dozens of more questions that I can think of. Feel free to post the ones you have.

Public and legal pressure against Carnival should continue


There are plenty of reasons for the public pressure and the class action suit against Carnival to continue, because American citizens who were born in Cuba continue to be discriminated.
If you are an American citizen who was born someplace else except Cuba, all you need to take a cruise to Cuba is your American passport.
But if you are an American citizen who was born in Cuba, you need to obtain a Cuban passport at a cost of approximately $450 + a Visa, in order to take a Carnival cruise to the enslaved island.
That is discrimination against US citizens based on their country of origin and is against US law.
In addition, Cuba’s ‘constitution’ doesn’t recognize double citizenship. So, if you are an American citizen, it should be against Cuban law for you to be forced to obtain a Cuban passport.
But as we know, in Cuba there are no laws and no Constitution, it is whatever the Castros decide and all they care about is the revenue they will receive by forcing US citizens to buy a Cuban passport in order to visit Cuba.
I hope that the lawyers continue their class action suit and public pressure continues against Carnival for being more interested in making a buck than following US laws.
It is the only way that Cuba’s dictatorship will be forced to do the right thing.
Public and legal pressure forced the Castro brothers to change a ‘law’ that had been in effect for more than 50 years. Such pressure should not be relaxed now, to the contrary it should be increased.

Cuba will allow Cuban-born to arrive on Carnival cruise ship

The fact that the Castro regime changed its position about Cuban-Americans traveling on cruise ships and other vessels, proves that they will only make changes when they are forced to.
The problem with Obama’s Cuba policy is that he gave away the store without asking anything in return and the Castros took advantage of him.
Whether he did it because he is too naive, a terrible negotiator, or because he sympathize with them, is another question altogether.


From The Miami Herald

Carnival had said they expected the change but was ready to delay May 1 cruise if it didn’t happen

Cuba is easing a long-standing ban on Cuban-born people returning to the island by sea, clearing the way for Carnival Corporation to launch a Miami-to-Havana route that was the subject of a national controversy when the company declined to sell tickets to Cuban-born Americans.

Cuba made the announcement via Granma, the official voice of the Cuban government.

Carnival Corp. said it has been working closely with the Cuban government to reach an agreement that would allow the Doral-based company to take travelers to Cuba in the same way air charters currently do, according to a release issued Friday morning. Cuban-born Americans have been the primary travelers to Cuba by air.

The change marks the first time in decades that Cuban-born individuals will be able to travel to the island by sea. On March 21, Carnival Corp.’s new Fathom brand became the first U.S. company to gain approval to sail to the island in more than 50 years.

“We made history in March, and we are a part of making history again,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp. “More importantly, we are contributing to a positive future. This is a positive outcome and we are extremely pleased.”

According to the new regulations, Cuban citizens, regardless of immigration status, can enter and exit the country as passengers and crew on merchant ships and cruise ships. The new policy goes into effect Tuesday.

The Granma also reported that at a later date, Cuban citizens will be allowed to enter and exit the island, regardless of immigration status, as passengers or crew on recreational boats, such as yachts.

But when Carnival first earned approval, the cruise company declined to sell tickets to Cuban-born Americans, in accordance with Cuban law. After controversy sparked by a Miami Herald column by Fabiola Santiago argued Carnival Corp. was discriminating against Cuban-born Americans, the cruise company changed course.

Government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez lashed out against Carnival Corp., one of the county’s largest private employers, for the policy.

Two lawsuits were filed in federal court in Miami last week, a class-action suit and a civil suit, by Cuban-born Americans who attempted to book and were denied tickets on Fathom. The lawsuits alleged that the cruise line was violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by following a policy that discriminates against a class of Americans on a place of public accommodation for transient guests — a cruise ship.

Fathom then resumed selling tickets to Cuban-born Americans, easing a threat by Miami-Dade to block the company from having access to its terminals at the county-owned PortMiami. Fathom parent Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise company, said it would delay its inaugural visit to Cuba on May 1 until the Cuban government changed its policy.

But Carnival Corp. executives also said they expected the Cuban government to change the regulation before the cruise was set to launch.

Fathom’s 704-passenger Adonia will leave PortMiami for Havana on weeklong voyages beginning May 1, with stops in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

CNN’s Havana bureau reported the news early Friday morning; Carnival Corp. issued a release confirming shortly thereafter. Carnival resumed selling tickets to Cuban-born Americans last week amid a storm of controversy and a threat by Miami-Dade to block the Doral-based company from having access to its terminals at the county-owned PortMiami

On Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement praising Carnival chairman Micky Arison, who had come under fire three days earlier at the County Commission meeting. Commissioner Javier Souto, Cuban-born and a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion, took aim at Arison’s role as the owner of the Miami Heat, which receives county subsidies and plays in a county-owned arena. “I was appalled and surprised,” Souto said. “We’ve been so good to the Heat.”

Gimenez had accused Carnival of violating the county’s human-rights ordinance through its original booking policy for the Cuba cruises, but has also been in touch with Arison throughout the dispute to ease tensions.

“Mr. Arison and Carnival have been great corporate citizens in Miami-Dade County for more than 40 years,” Gimenez said in the statement. “This policy change was the right thing to do, and I congratulate both Mr. Arison and Carnival on their efforts…”