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Travel industry news

06 Jun 2019

BY Rob Gill


Cruise lines rush to alter Cuba itineraries

Cruise lines are changing some of their Caribbean itineraries after being forced to cancel planned calls to Cuba.

Classic car in Havana, Cuba

The Trump administration decided to ban all US cruise ship visits to Cuba on Tuesday (5 June) with only one day’s notice for cruise lines to comply with the new ruling – the move will affect the holidays of around 800,000 cruise passengers.


Cruise lines Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Line had all planned stops in Havana this week but have had to change their itineraries following the US government decision.


New cruise line Virgin Voyages will also have to change planned itineraries for its debut season in 2020 with a new destination set to be announced next week following the Cuba ban.


MSC said it had moved to “modify” all MSC Armonia itineraries with alternative ports of call – either Key West in Florida, Costa Maya or Cozumel in Mexico, or the Cayman Islands – replacing Havana, depending on the itinerary.


The line is offering affected passengers $400 in onboard credit and giving them the opportunity to change ship and itinerary with no cancellation fees.


Carnival Cruise Line said of its itineraries including Cuba: “We are in the process of notifying our guests of their new itineraries and their options, in the order of sailing date proximity.”


Royal Caribbean said it had “secured alternative ports” for 2019 sailings on Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas which had been due to visit Havana – guests will be able to stay on their original cruise and receive a 50% refund or cancel with a full refund.


Parent firm Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) said its “primary concern is for its guests” and it was “working closely with them to offer alternative destinations and compensation for any inconvenience”.


The company added that it expected the switch away from Cuba to reduce its “adjusted” earnings per share (EPS) by between $0.25 and $0.35 per share this year.


Jason Liberty, RCCL’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said: “While the affected sailings impact only 3% of our 2019 capacity, the extremely short notice period for this high-yielding destination amplifies the earnings impact.


“The result of this policy change has created a short-term impact to our guests, operations and earnings; fortunately, we have many alternative and attractive destinations for our guests to choose from.”


Another affected line, NCL said: “We have ceased all calls to the country [Cuba] and are modifying previously scheduled sailings as appropriate.


“We thank our guests and travel partners for their patience as we navigate this unexpected, last-minute change, and we will, of course, continue to share information with them as soon as additional details become available.”

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