Cuba no more

Cruise ships docked at the main terminal in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Mike Rynearson/Quest Imagery

June 10, 2019–On June 4, 2019 all cruises, including active cruises, were notified by the Trump Administration that they cease all ports of entry to Cuba by the following day, June 5, 2019.

Unfortunately, I predicted this a year ago and was nervous about booking one of these cruises scheduled back in January of 2019. All my friends and family thought that was crazy talk and I should “stop being so paranoid” and buy the tickets. That there was “no way in hell” that our government would make a decision like this within 24 hours.

So my partner Mike Rynearson and I flew to Miami, spent a few nights there and then embarked on a 7 night journey on the MSC Armonia. Stops included Montego Bay, Jamaica, Grand Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Mexico and two nights in Havana, Cuba. Havana was the only reason we took this cruise since we’d been at those other Ports before.

On June 5th, I searched various cruise websites and news stories about the immediate aftermath of this decision. The consensus was approximately 800,000 people who were already on or booked cruises are affected.

Instead of Havana, Cuba, for two nights, the MSC Armonia (the ship we sailed on) would be going to Costa Maya, Mexico and returning to Miami on its scheduled arrival.

Once again the Cubans and American people were the ones who got screwed and not the government. They can no longer rely on Cruise ship passengers for tourism. At least 2,000 per ship. Not only do they lose out on American passengers but non-Americans as well who are allowed to travel to Cuba freely.

When we visited Havana in January, it reminded me of many other Spanish Colonial cities only very run down. The Malecon, for example, is in a beautiful location. At this moment, every single building is vacant and run down. That and the antique American cars are the only signs separating Havana from many other cities in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Most Americans go to Havana because of the mystery of its being just 90 miles from Florida. And being able to smoke Cuban cigars and bring some home legally. There was a store on a prominent street selling cigars and rum. Hundreds of people flowed into this store daily. When I entered the store it was pure chaos. People yelling out questions about the cigars, this one that one and the other. All I wanted was friggin cigar for a souvenir. The rum area was equally chaotic. Just a huge buzz of noise.

As we strolled the streets, while many people shot selfies we shot street scenes and the people who reside on the island. We walked outside of the “tourist zone” and met a man sitting alone on the Malecon making jewelry out of some sort of wood. He wanted one Euro for an amazing necklace and bracelet we gave him five. His eyes started to well up.

All these people want is a good life for them and their families and sadly they are once again victims of political warfare.

Lucky for them the Europeans, Asians, Middle Easterners, Russians, Africans, North and South Americans (minus the United States of America) are untouched by entering the island. And just like that, the whole world can visit this island now except for the country closest to it.

Click for our Cuba Gallery

On January 4, 2019, this was published in its entirety on the United States government website.

“The United States took strong action to prevent U.S. travel to Cuba from enriching the Cuban military, security, and intelligence services by announcing new restrictions on authorized travel and vessels to the island.

Going forward, the United States will prohibit U.S. travelers from going to Cuba under the previous ‘group people-to-people educational’ travel authorization. In addition, the United States will no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft.

The United States holds the Cuban regime accountable for its repression of the Cuban people, its interference in Venezuela, and its direct role in the man-made crisis led by Nicolas Maduro. Despite widespread international condemnation, Maduro continues to undermine his country’s institutions and subvert the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination. Empowered by Cuba, he has created a humanitarian disaster that destabilizes the region.

These actions are directly linked to the tourism industry, which has strong economic ties to the Cuban security, military, and intelligence sectors in Cuba. Veiled tourism has served to line the pockets of the Cuban military, the very same people supporting Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and repressing the Cuban people on the island. In Cuba, the regime continues to harass, intimidate, and jail Cubans who dare to voice an opinion different from the one the regime wants them to have. The United States calls on the regime to abandon its repression of Cubans, cease its interference in Venezuela, and work toward building a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people.”

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