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Major cruise lines hired Cuban agencies to provide ‘tourism services’ despite ban

Miami Herald

At the height of the enthusiasm sparked by President Barack Obama’s historic restoration of relations with Cuba, several cruise lines rushed to secure a piece of the island’s untapped market under newly eased regulations promoting “people-to-people” engagement.

The cruise companies knew that traveling to Cuba for tourism was illegal. So, instead of sipping mojitos at Varadero beach, Americans going to Cuba were supposed to participate in humanitarian and social-impact initiatives to help Cubans gain independence from the state, the cruise lines pledged.

But a recent trove of unsealed documents from related lawsuits filed in Miami federal court shows that behind the scenes, four major cruise lines — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises — made deals with Cuban Ministry of Tourism agencies to provide “tourist services” to their passengers, despite the long-standing U.S embargo’s ban on tourism to the island. The services included excursions to cabarets and beaches that arguably did not comply with the travel rules at the time.

Read more from our news partner at The Miami Herald.

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