Monday, May 23, 2016

Cuba Cruise Legal Parameters

P2P Cuba Cruise
Havana – Maria la Gorda - Cienfuegos – Santiago de Cuba -Montego Bay 

Celestyal's Cuba Cruise is without equal for a reasonable cost low stress educational and cultural introduction to all four compass points of the Caribbean's globally significant and largest country.   Since December 2014, there has been steady progress toward a more normal relationship between too long divided neighbors.  Traveling with Cuba Cruise is an enjoyable way to contribute to a historic process of fostering mutual understanding.  (See below for attributes of Cuba Cruise.)

One Easy Steps to Come Aboard

!) Book your cabin and program with a travel agent or on-line here

[FFRD is no longer providing the P2P general license for passengers on Celestyal's Cuba Cruise.  Celestyal believes it can provide legal coverage internally through an affiliated company.]

New regulations were announced on March 16. 2016:

"In the case of an individual traveling under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, the individual may rely on the entity sponsoring the travel to satisfy his or her record keeping requirements ... "*

A general license is not a document.  It is a concept, in effect an entitlement because of who one is or what one is doing.  FFRD is the qualifying organization to sponsor people to people programs in Cuba in partnership with Cuba Cruise. The letter we issue is a courtesy to confirm affiliated participation in the group trip authorized under our general license but the essential requirement is that each passenger is entered in our data base.

An agent of FFRD will be on board to assist you with our program, as required by OFAC.

For your legal protection and ours, we are very serious about making your trip with Cuba Cruise appropriately people to people and thus legitimate under our general license. Participants in Cuba Cruise just like travelers on more conventional (and more expensive) ground tours are purchasing a "full-time schedule of educational exchange activities".  (OFAC's current interpretation of legal requirements is here )

On board, please introduce yourself to some of the eighty Cuban staff.  Most speak English and welcome a chance to exchange experiences and personal stories.  They will be part of your life for a very pleasant and meaningful week.  Plan on attending daily talks about Cuban history and culture.

Regulations do not allow us to structure independent excursions into the cruise schedule except on Monday evening in Havana but free time is provided in every port:

"An organization that sponsors and organizes trips to Cuba in which travelers engage in individually selected and/or self-directed activities would not qualify for the general license."*

If you receive a customs form to complete or are asked by US immigration or customs officials what countries you have visited, do not hesitate to say Cuba.  This is a completely legal trip.

Specialized Excursions with Cuba Cruise and FFRD

With at least six weeks notice, encounters can be arranged for special interest groups large enough for a designated bus, e.g. teachers, medical practitioners, lawyers, students, artists, social workers,  dancers, musicians; African Americans, Irish Americans, Chinese Americans, Hispanic Americans; Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faith communities, etc. Supplemental charges will apply.

On request with at least one month notice FFRD will try to arrange an opportunity for you to invite a Cuban professional counterpart to a private lunch in Havana, Santiago or Cienfuegos.

Combine the Cruise with self-directed travel

Americans are welcome to embark in Montego Bay, Jamaica, or in Havana.   New commercial flights offer convenient access to the cruise through international airports in Havana, Santa Clara and Varadero/Matanzas.  This creates an opportunity to organize your own people to people program under an individual general license before or after the cruise.  According to the regulations:

"(1) Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities;
(2) Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba;
(5) persons relying on the authorization in paragraph (b) of this section must retain records sufficient to demonstrate that each individual traveler has engaged in a full-time schedule of activities that satisfy the requirements of paragraphs (b)(1) through (3) of this section. "*

 For guidelines on use of the individual general license, click here


Under regulations announced in January 2015 it became possible for US companies to sell travel insurance for Americans going to Cuba.  Your provider may ask you to complete a Cuba Travel Compliance Certification form which can be sent to you on line or by mail.

No documentation is required from FfRD or Cuba Cruise.  The form doesn't even ask how and when you are going to Cuba.  The completed form is sent to the insurance agent, not to FFRD.

Their coverage for Cuba is by reimbursement which means Cuba will still require you to have local insurance from Asistur.   You can obtain it through Cuba Cruise.

John McAuliff
Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Coordinator, Cuba/US People to People Partnership

Riverhead, NY
917-859-9025                                                                                                                 5/23/16


We encourage travelers to urge their Senators and Representative to support legislation to end all travel restrictions so the above becomes unnecessary.  For list of House members who support and oppose the President's opening of travel, go here


OFAC Language to Stop Bank and Paypal Account Freezes

There have been numerous instances of Paypal and bank transfers, checks etc. frozen because "Cuba" was mentioned in a memo line.  The following language should end that problem but it is safer to avoid all Cuba references.


52. Is a financial institution required to independently verify that an individual’s travel is authorized when processing Cuba travel-related transactions? No.  A financial institution may rely on U.S. travelers to provide their certifications of authorized travel directly to the person providing travel or carrier services when processing Cuba travelrelated transactions, unless the financial institution knows or has reason to know that the travel is not authorized by a general or specific license.

The CACR requires persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction providing travel or carrier services to retain for at least five years from the date of the transaction a certification from each customer indicating the section of the CACR that authorizes the person to travel to Cuba.  See § 515.572(b).  U.S. travelers utilizing a general or specific license are also required to retain for five years records associated with their travel to Cuba.

53. May a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction utilize online payment platforms to facilitate or process authorized transactions involving Cuba or a Cuban entity?  Yes.  Subject to certain exceptions, transactions that are ordinarily incident to an authorized transaction are authorized.  Such transactions may include use of online payment platforms to facilitate authorized transactions.  Please see the interpretive guidance in 31 CFR § 515.421.

Distinguishing characteristics of Celestyal's Cuba Cruise 

1) Three years of experience; hosted 6,000 very diverse Americans in 2015-2016 season 
2) One more port, Isla de la Juventud
3) Longer time on the ground in Cuba (5 vs. 3 1/2 days) 
4) Interact for full week with eighty Cuban staff and crew including lectures by two University of Havana professor, animators, musicians, singers, dancers, chefs, waiters and cabom stewards. Most speak English.
5) High level Cuban guest experts speak about current issues 
6) Opportunity to fly on scheduled commercial flights to Havana, Varadero/Matanzas or Santa Clara on Friday or Saturday; self-directed casa particular weekend under individual general license or group program through tour operator or travel agent under FFRD general license; then join full cruise program on Monday 
7) Opportunity to disembark in Santiago, enjoy its night life and fly home on Sunday on a commercial flight 
8) Extensive live Cuban entertainment on board, including professionally produced nightly shows, classical and Cuban music, and a performance of Afro Cuban religious music and dance by N'Sila che che. 
9) Opportunity to choose for Havana night-life a reasonably priced performance by Opera de la Calle ("Music of the Street"), the first large scale private cultural production 
10) Significantly lower all inclusive cost (with all but top shelf drinks provided)
11) Montego Bay, Jamaica, interlude; excursion or beach time for passengers boarding in Havana

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Are Americans Replacing Brits in Hotel Contracts?

Cuban hotels dropping Brits in favour of US firms

12 May 2016
BY Patrick Whyte

Hotels in Cuba are breaking contracts with UK holiday companies following the opening up of the island to US visitors, according to a travel lawyer.
Ian Skuse, a partner at Blake Morgan, told the Abta Travel Law Seminar that some of his clients had already been affected by Cuban hoteliers trying to get out of their contracts so they could sign deals with US firms.
“Cuba accommodation contracts are being broken because the Americans are paying more money,” he said. “Whether this is going to become a theme, we just don’t know yet. It’s supply and demand – they can get more money elsewhere.”
The “normalisation” of relations between the US and Cuba now allows US citizens to visit the Caribbean island for 12 specified different purposes, although these categories do not include tourism.
But the seminar heard that these travel restrictions were “very easy” to get around and US citizens could now visit Cuba if they wished, which was creating a “free for all” situation.
Neil Baylis, a partner at K&L Gates, said that US authorities were set to allow 110 daily scheduled flights to operate from the US to Cuba.
US-based airlines have submitted applications to the Department of Transportation to be allowed to run some of these services, which will include 20 daily flights to the capital Havana.
Iran is also set to grow as a destination following the lifting of sanctions with British Airways among the airlines due to resume flights to the country this year. Iran hopes to grow tourism arrivals from 5 million a year to 20 million by 2025.

my comment

European and Canadian tourists have benefited for years from lower prices in Cuba.  The opening of a more normal US market will naturally increase competitive costs.   That will be most dramatic when Congress ends travel restrictions completely and all inclusive resort hotels will become available to Americans for the first time.

Are the Cubans breaking contracts or simply not renewing them at old rates?

For Americans that have faced price increments by charter carriers and US tour operators, more normal transportation and booking processes may lead to lower total costs.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development