The travel industry is scrambling to comply and adjust to the unanticipated new restrictions.
When the US Government announced the immediate implementation of new regulations prohibiting previously approved cruise line travel to Cuba from the United States, there was no grace period. Without warning, cruise lines had to eliminate all Cuba destinations from itineraries, effective immediately, according to a June 5th statement from Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA). “This affects nearly 800,000 passenger bookings that are currently scheduled or already underway.”
“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,” said Adam Goldstein, CLIA Chairman.
Several cruise itineraries were rerouted mid-trip and lines scrambled to revise itineraries and compensate affected travelers. Royal Caribbean Cruises, for example, offers the option to cancel affected bookings for a full refund or to sail with a new itinerary and receive a 50 percent refund.
“Thankfully, the reaction by the cruise lines has been swift with many making immediate changes in the itineraries swapping out Havana or other Cuban ports with alternate ports such as Key West, Nassau, and Freeport. The cruise lines have also been quick to communicate the changes and compensation, which has been very helpful,” said Theresa Scalzitti, VP of sales and marketing, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative.
Scalzitti recommends reminding attendees that this is a government restriction and something you have no control over and focusing on the positives. “For example…the ship is a destination within itself and other islands in the Caribbean offer great beauty, culture, and history as well. Not to mention, many lines are offering onboard credits, future cruise credits and more to help ease the disappointment of not being able to visit Cuba.”
As for the future of Cuba as an incentive destination, David Peckinpaugh, president, Maritz Global Events, said “Unfortunately, while the destination (Cuba) has made improvements since ‘opening,’ we’ve been waiting for the infrastructure to meet the demand of large groups and the caliber of incentives we design … and had limited our options to cruise only. If the restrictions are lifted in the future, we’re confident that we will once again consider Cuba as an incentive destination.”