About 20 years ago, I cruised to Cuba with Scott Porter, the president of Formula, on one of his new 40-foot cruisers, and it was one of the best trips ever. We did it right. From the time we docked at Marina Hemingway, when were checked in by two Cuban officers in combat boots and Fidel-type fatigues, to when we were checked back into the U.S. by the Coast Guard in Key West, we played by the rules; we had all the proper paperwork, the appropriate clearances. I’ve always wanted to go back to Cuba, but the rules kept changing, and they just changed again.
Earlier this week, the Trump Administration imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba. Cruise ships can’t go there from the U.S. anymore, and the popular “people-to-people” group education trips are curtailed also. But, much more important to us, the new restrictions seem to end visits by recreational boats.
“The United States will no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels,” the State Department said, “including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft.”
The restrictions are designed to pressure the Cuban government to end its support for Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela. John Bolton, the president’s national advisor, sent a tweet saying, “The Administration has advanced the President’s Cuba policy by ending ‘veiled tourism’ to Cuba and imposing restrictions on vessels…We will continue to take actions to restrict the Cuban regime’s access to U.S. dollars.”
The Coast Guard says that anyone planning to travel to Cuba on a private boat needs authorization from the Commerce Department. For its part, the Commerce Department said that as of June 5, “cruise ships, as well as recreational and pleasure vessels, are prohibited from departing the U.S. on temporary sojourn to Cuba.”
Still, commercial air flights from the U.S. to Cuba can continue, and it appears that some cultural, educational and journalistic trips may be possible also. It seems that sporting events (fishing tournaments, boat races?) may also avoid the travel ban.
All this will be sorted out before too long, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, I’m glad I cruised to Cuba when I did. Read more: