Skift Take

Carnival Corporation is eager to start sending ships to Cuba. But it still remains to be seen whether Cuban authorities are keen to welcome thousands of Carnival cruisers each week.

Relaxed rules on travel to Cuba will soon make it simple for American cruisers to visit the island nation. Cruise lines will also be able to support their vacation activities on the ground due to relaxed banking and commerce regulations.

Carnival Corporation’s Carnival Cruise Line and Fathom brands stand to benefit immediately from the tweaked regulations, as the company negotiates with the Cuban government to support its entrance to Cuba.

In an interview that will appear on Monday next week, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald told Skift that Cuba is crucial to Carnival’s strategy in the Caribbean.

“For us, Cuba is going to help refresh the Caribbean,” said Donald. “As you know we’ve got historical approval to be the first to receive the approval from the U.S. government to sail to Cuba. We have to get the Cuban approval. We’re going to do everything we need to do so that they will be comfortable and happy having us come.”

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will loosen its restrictions on travel to Cuba beginning Monday. Its will “authorize persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide carrier services by vessel, without the need for specific licenses from OFAC, and to add an authorization to provide certain lodging services aboard such vessels in connection with such transportation,” according to amendments to the code of federal regulations.

In other words, individual Americans won’t need licenses to cruise to Cuba and cruise lines won’t have to negotiate intense red tape in order to fill their ships.

New rules will let companies like Carnival Corp. operate on the ground in Cuba, as well, and exchange money for goods and services, in order to facilitate commerce. Carnival Corp. can also open a bank account in Cuba and hire Cubans to work for the company.

“We are looking into today’s news from the U.S. government regarding travel to Cuba, which appears promising,” said Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer of Carnival Corp, on Friday. “If and when travel from the U.S. to Cuba is approved, there is no question that Cuba is a tremendous opportunity for the cruise industry — and especially for Carnival Corporation as the world’s cruise company with 10 global cruise line brands.”

Carnival Corp. was the first U.S. cruise company to get approval to sail directly to Cuba without an intermediate stop earlier this year.

“Upon receiving U.S. approval for Fathom, we have submitted a formal proposal to the Cuban authorities for approval,” said Frizzell. “We are in active discussions with Cuban officials and we remain very optimistic that we will receive approval in the short term for Fathom to begin sailing to Cuba starting in May 2016.”


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Tags: carnival, cuba

Photo credit: Carnival Valor anchored in the Caymans. John B. Kalla / Flickr

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