Cuba travel ban: Disappointed passengers return after being rerouted mid-cruise

Tyler Vazquez and Dave Berman

Passengers aboard the Norwegian Sun were disappointed, but not totally surprised, to find their ship rerouted from Cuba to the Bahamas Wednesday after new travel restrictions to the island nation were put in place last week. 

Thousands aboard the Norwegian Sun debarked at Port Canaveral in Florida early Friday after the new policy rerouted the ship. No count was immediately given on how many were aboard at the time, but the ship typically sails with 2,700. 

Some travelers, who did not want to be named, said they knew exactly what the announcement would be when the captain started speaking Tuesday. Many knew travel restrictions to Cuba could be implemented but were surprised by the suddenness.

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Most were happy with how Norwegian Cruise Line handled the situation, regardless of their disappointment in the policy's effects. 

Passengers were given 50% off their trip and 50% toward a future trip. Customers who bought tickets on future Cuban cruises will be able to get a full refund from Norwegian. 

Many passengers, like Daniel and Heather Davenport from Georgia, had been excited to go to Cuba, but said they enjoyed their time in the Bahamas.

"We're disappointed. We found out the evening before, when we were on the boat in Key West," said Daniel Davenport.

"But the cruise line did make it right, so that's nice," said Heather Davenport. 

Bryant Akers remained upbeat, while wearing a souvenir Cuba T-shirt as he and his wife carried luggage through the terminal Friday morning. Like many passengers, he wouldn't comment on the politics behind the travel ban.

"It is what it is. Maybe in the future we'll get the chance to go back to Cuba, but for now, we enjoyed the Bahamas," Akers said.  

About 800,000 travelers around the country were affected by the Trump administration's ban on cruises, yachts and fishing vessels traveling to Cuba when the new policy was put into effect Tuesday. 

The new ban reverses a 2016 policy by then-President Obama designed to soften relations between the United States and Cuba, marking the first time in over 50 years Americans were allowed to travel directly to the country less than 200 miles from Key West. 

In a statement issued Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Line officials said they "have ceased all calls to the country, and are modifying previously scheduled sailings as appropriate. We share our guests’ disappointment and frustration caused by this unexpected change."

Norwegian Cruise Line passengers booked on cruises to Cuba through Sept. 2 will have two options:

  • Sail the revised itinerary, and receive a 50% refund of the fare paid, as well as a 50% credit on a future cruise, valid through Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Cancel the booking and receive a full refund. If guests choose this option, the cruise line must be notified by June 11.

Sailings after Sept. 2 will be canceled automatically, and refunds will be applied to the original form of payment. Customers impacted by these cancellations will be offered a 20% discount off current cruise fares on any new voyages booked by Aug. 5 for sailings no later than Dec. 31, 2020.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Cuba travel ban: Disappointed passengers return after being rerouted mid-cruise