Earlier this week I wrote a post on my blog about a really awesome cruise to Key West and Cuba, that departs from Tampa, Florida. At the time of that writing, I monitored travel news alerts and I was aware of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) travel restrictions, or limitations if you will, regarding U.S. citizen’s travel to Cuba.
The short (and very basic) summary on U.S. citizen’s travel to Cuba is, President Obama lifted restrictions on American’s travel to Cuba toward the end of his second term. President Trump dialed that back a bit, because politics, and in November 2017, implemented some changes to authorized travel to Cuba.
So as of November 2017, to qualify for travel to Cuba under OFAC regulations, you would have to ensure your travel plans fit within one of the 12 categories within the general license. Individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for an additional license from OFAC to travel to Cuba. If your travel does not fit within the 12 categories you have to formally seek permission from OFAC. That’s a whole process. I won’t get into it here.
* family visits;
* official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
* journalistic activity;
* professional research and professional meetings;
* educational activities;
* religious activities;
* public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
* support for the Cuban people;
* humanitarian projects;
* activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
* exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and,
* certain authorized export transactions.
Got all that? Great. So Cruise lines and other travel suppliers naturally saw this as an opportunity to attract clients who have always wanted to go to Cuba, but couldn’t do so in the past. The result being, they have tailored their itineraries and curated their shore excursions so they can ensure compliance with OFAC regulations all while keeping their customers happy. Check out what I mean here,and here.
On Wednesday, April 17, headlines came out that OFAC plans to put even tighter restrictions on non-family visits to Cuba. They haven’t released the specific language of the regulations yet, and we won’t know for a couple more months. BUT, it’s important to reach out to your cruise or tour company now if you have any questions.
Most will likely say there is little, if anything, that can be done without knowing more about the specific terms of the regulations. Your cruise or tour will more than likely proceed as planned if it’s very near term. But, if you don’t have anything on the books yet, you may want to wait and see how the new regulations shake out, and visit another destination in the meantime.
The whole point of this post is to say that I highly recommend monitoring the news for the country, city, and region you will be traveling too. You can do this by setting up news alerts on search engines (i.e., Google News Alerts). You will be prompted to enter key words for what you want to stay on top of. Suggestions, include, “Cuba Travel” or “Italy Tourism.” Something specific to travel and tourism so it filters out everything else and isn’t too broad. That way, if something pertinent to your planned trip happens, you are well armed and ready to handle the event or aftermath.