Cruises to Cuba Continue Despite U.S. Warnings

The U.S. State Department issued a new safety warning last Friday regarding travel to Cuba.

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to Cuba because of recent sonic attacks on U.S. citizens who were working for the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The attacks caused the U.S. employees to experience hearing loss, ear-ringing, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, headaches and cognitive problems, among other symptoms.  

But the Miami-based cruise lines are ignoring the warning.

Carnival Cruise CEO Arnold DonaldCarnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean are continuing their cruises to Cuba. 

Carnival issued a statement that “while members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits. We are, of course, closely monitoring and are in touch with U.S., as well as Cuban authorities, and will act accordingly if anything warrants a change in our plans . . .  Please be advised that your visa for travel to Cuba is valid, and there are no issues with your return to the U.S. The State Department advisory does not prohibit Americans from traveling to Cuba.”

Newsweek and the New York Times report that the U.S. has already expelled two Cuban diplomats over the attacks, and is considering further retaliatory steps. The attacks have reportedly occurred at hotels as well as U.S. citizen's homes.  "Because some of the attacks occurred in hotels where U.S. State Department employees were temporarily staying, officials said they worried that tourists and others U.S. visitors could be affected."

Most recently, the U.S. expelled 15 of Cuba's diplomats today to protest Cuba's attacks on American embassy employees in Havana. Last week, the U.S. announced it was withdrawing 60 percent of the U.S. diplomats from Cuba because they might be harmed if they stay.

The U.S. State Department said: "Because our personnel's safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba."

With most of the eastern Caribbean islands largely destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria, the cruise lines in Miami are hesitant to further disrupt their businesses by suspending cruises to Cuba. Carnival CEO Arnold Donald (photo, above right with Fathom president Tara Russell) has always banked on cruising to Cuba. 

Many travel companies suggest that the U.S. warning is overstated. The cruise lines point to the fact that only U.S. diplomats and embassy employees have been victims, so far. 

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Photo credit: CNBC

Cuba Permits NCL and RCCL Cruises

CubaCuba has granted permission to Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line to sail passengers to the island.

Cuba also approved all three of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) brands, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which will start cruising there in March.

Oceania will first send the Marina to Cuba from Miami on March 7th. The cruise ship will call on Havana and other ports in Cuba. 

Regent's Seven Seas Mariner will sail to Cuba in April, and NCL's Norwegian Sky will start cruising to Cuba in May.

As matters now stand, the only U.S. based cruise line, Carnival's Fathom, has been sailing the Adonia on the so-called "voluntourism" cruises for the past year, although it announced that it will stop sailing as of June of 2017.

The cruises are required to be part of educational and "people-to-people" exchanges between Americans and Cubans pursuant to U.S. government procedures.

I previously announced, as an April Fools joke, that Royal Caribbean planned to rename the Empress of the Seas the Cuban Empress and was going to be home-ported in Havana.    

On a serious note, Fidel Castro's death has not dampened the feelings of many Cubans who fled Cuba in the early 1960's after Castro came into power. Many families lost everything when they fled Cuba many years ago. They see no point in doing business with a country still run by Castro's brother where the money from cruise ship passengers goes directly to the Communist government run by the military.

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Illness Outbreak Hits Fathom's Adonia

AdoniaThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there was an illness outbreak on Fathom's Adonia this past week (October 16 - October 23, 2016).

The CDC states that 23 of 668 (3.44%) passengers reported being ill with diarrhea and vomiting during this voyage which returned to Miami from Cuba yesterday. Only 2 out of the 388 crew members were reportedly sick.   

A CDC environmental health officer boarded the ship when it returned to Miami.

The CDC has not determined the cause of what appears to be a gastrointestinal outbreak.  

Fathom increased its cleaning and disinfection procedures for the cruise ship.

Fathom's historical first cruise on the Adonia cruise ship to Cuba was plagued by a norovirus outbreak. The captain of the ship announced a gastrointestinal outbreak with the passengers experiencing symptoms consistent with norovirus on the ship last May. Carnival later contradicted the captain and said that there was no confirmation that the passengers were sickened by norovirus.   

The Adonia also suffered a complete blackout last May and was ordered to return to the port of Miami when it regained power.  It had earlier failed U.S. Coast Guard inspections in April when it arrived in Miami from P&O Cruises when it was being readied for cruises to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The Adonia is currently sailing to Amber Cover in the Dominican Republic.

Photo credit: By Alessandro Ambrosetti from Rome, Italy - Fathom Adonia, CC BY 2.0.

More Trouble for Fathom: Coast Guard Orders Adonia to Return to Miami after Experiencing Blackout

Late yesterday afternoon, Fathom's Adonia experienced a power loss, causing its elevators, bathrooms and air conditioners to stop working for around 30 minutes. "Following orders from the U.S. Coast Guard," the Adonia returned to Miami yesterday. 

Fathom downplayed the incident saying that it was only a "short-term electrical difficulty.”

Prior to being the flagship for Carnival's so-called "voluntourism" brand, Fathom, the Adonia was in the Micky arison Twitterfleet of the Carnival brand P&O Cruises. After drydock, it was brought to Miami but quickly failed an initial Coast Guard inspection leading to Fathom canceling its first cruise. The Coast Guard said the most serious remaining problem were with "numerous sliding fire screen doors that are inoperable."

A lawsuit was filed against Fathom and Carnival after they enforced Cuban discriminatory policies prohibiting natural born Cubans from entering Cuban, in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Once cleared to sail, the Adonia experienced a relatively small norovirus outbreak during the ship's first cruise to Cuba.

Social media, including Twitter, has not given the Adonia's latest trouble much attention. One of the few tweets about the Adonia yesterday was posted by Carnival chairman Micky Arison before the power failure, saying: "I'm preparing #Adonia to sail to Havana with Capt Sarah Breton."  It's a confusing tweet because Fathom subsequently released a statement saying that the Adonia was cruising to the Dominican Republic. 

There is some discrepancy in reports about the incident whether the cruise ship was heading to Cuba or the Dominican Republic. News 7 quoted a Fathom statements saying that the power failure occurred "on the initial leg of its journey from Miami to the Dominican Republic."  But another local news station, Local 10, quoted a second statement by Fathom: "Fathom will now arrive into Havana for the two-day call at 7:30 a.m. May 31, and will depart at 18:00 (6:00 p.m.) on June 1. Unfortunately it has been necessary to cancel the call to Cienfuegos and the ship will proceed to Santiago de Cuba as scheduled."

The news account also said that the Adonia apparently left PortMiami at 3 A.M. this morning. 

Photo credit:  Twitter/Micky Arison via News 7

 

Norovirus on Fathom Travel's First Cruise to Cuba?

The Sun Sentinel is reporting that the Fathom Travel's historical first cruise on the Adonia cruise ship to Cuba may have experienced a norovirus outbreak aboard the ship sickening passengers, according to reports from the captain. 

At around 2:45 P.M. this afternoon, there were at least 14 people on the ship complaining of diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps mentioned by the captain according to the Sun Sentinel. With only around 600 people aboard the cruise ship, that's over 2% of the cruise passengers which is near the threshold where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) become involved.

The photos and video from the cruise ship show crew members already rubbing and scrubbing the surfaces of the ship. Norovirus is primarily a foodborne virus although the virus can last for weeks on contaminated surfaces. It can also be spread by person to person contact. Hand shaking on the ship is apparently discouraged. Self-serve buffets have also reportedly been replaced with service by crew members wearing gloves. 

The cruise ship, of couse, quickly blamed the passengers with the ship doctor writing a letter saying "we suspect that the virus may have been inadvertently introduced on board by embarking travelers, even though the ship had not even performed tests to make such a determination.  One of those sick, a former public health social worker, said "I think it was something I ate." Read Fears of Norovirus mar last day of cruise to Cuba.

You can see a video related to the gastrointestinal virus on the Adonia here

Norovirus on the first cruise to Cuba?  There must be a Jimmy Fallon joke here somewhere. 

May 8 2016 Update:  Spin Masters? Carnival PR team tells the Sun Sentinel that there is no verification that the Adonia guests were sick due to norovirus.

 

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Fathom Travel Adonia Ship Doctor Norovirus

 

Coral Princess Rescues 7 Cubans at Sea

This morning I received a message from a passenger on the Coral Princess that the Princess Cruises cruise ship picked up 7 Cuban migrants in a small make-shift boat.  

The photo sent to me showed what appeared to be at least one man in distress lying on his back near the bow of the boat. 

Here's the message which I received:

"Coral princess just rescued 7 cubans on a damaged small boat off the coast of cuba...we are on our way back to FL with 7 cubans on board."

Usually cruise ships which take Cuban migrants aboard deliver them to a Coast Guard vessel and the migrants are returned to Cuba.

Cuban Migrants

Cruise to Cuba: Lawsuit Filed Against Carnival and Fathom Travel

AdoniaYesterday. a lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corporation and Fathom Travel for discriminating against Cuban-Americans who were excluded as passengers on the the May 1st cruise to Cuba.  The lawsuit alleges that these cruise lines violated the civil rights of two Cuban-Americans by denying them reservations on the Adonia because they were born in Cuba.

The lawsuit seeks class action certification. It was filed by the law firms of Koyzan, Tropin and Throckmorton and Robert Rodriguez P.A. 

You can read the lawsuit here.

Yesterday, the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale published an article by its editorial board stating that until Cuba changes its policy of prohibiting native-born Cuban Americans from arriving by sea, "all American cruise lines, ferry operators and shipping companies should collectively call a time-out on plans to sail to Cuba."  The newspaper states:

"It is not OK for an American business to abide by policies that discriminate against Americans. It is not OK for an American business to check the birthplace on citizens' passports before letting them aboard. It is not OK for an American business to create two classifications of Americans, no matter the rhetoric of presidential candidates who would discriminate against Muslim-Americans ."

Yesterday, the Cuban American Bar Association sent a letter to Carnival chairman Micky Arison protesting Carnival's enforcement of Cuba's discriminatory policies against Cuban-Americans.

Fathom Travel was last in the news earlier this week when the U.S.Coast Guard shut down the Adonia, scheduled to cruise to the Dominican Republic, for safety violations. Travel Weekly reported that the ship had numerous fire doors which were inoperable. Inoperable fire doors on an inaugural cruise should be a major embarassement for a cruise line with a history of fires at sea.

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April 13, 2016 Update:  

An embarassing day for Carnival's so-called "social impact" cruise line. 

Newsweek asks WHY ARE CARNIVAL CRUISES DOING CASTRO’S DIRTY WORK?

Miami-Dade mayor says Carnival Cuba cruise policy violates county human-rights law.

The Miami Herald joins the Sun Sentinel and asks Carnival to stop discriminating.

John Kerry: "American citizens, Cuban Americans have a right to travel, and we should not be in a situation where the Cuban government is forcing its discrimination policy on us . . .  Carnival needs to not discriminate."

The Miami New Times article A Cuban Millennial's Take: Obama, Not Carnival Cruise Line, Is the Problem in Cuba has a slightly different view, saying that Carnival is is "merely a pawn in a much larger political game."

April 15 2015 Update: Miami Hearld Carnival cruise to Cuba leads to rare, unintended bipartisan agreement against company's plans.

April 16 2015 Update:  The Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) and the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board (HAAB) are urging Carnival Cruise Lines to reverse its decision to not allow Cuban-born County residents as passengers on Fathom Travel's cruise to Cuba.

April 18 2016: Former Miami U.S. attorney had asked Justice Department to investigate Carnival cruise to Cuba ("Shamelessly, Carnival tries to absolve itself from its illegal conduct by pointing its finger at the Cuban Government and blaming it for its discriminatory laws. But, it is Carnival that is playing the role of the Cuban Government police, doing its dirty work by enforcing the Cuban Government's discriminatory laws. Carnival is willing to play that role for business reasons.")

April 19 2016 UpdateMiami-Dade’s human-rights law requires Carnival to sell tickets to Cuban-born passengers, county lawyers say.

Carnival finnaly comes to its sense. Carnival cruise lines says it will allow Cuban-born passengers to book travel to Cuba, but will delay trips if the island's government does not change its policy allowing nationals to return by sea.

Photo credit: MrDerails English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

Carnival's Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against Cuban-Americans

AdoniaI couldn't believe what I was reading in the Miami Herald article "Carnival Cruise to Cuba Discriminates Against a Class of Americans"  Carnival's new Fathom "impact" brand, scheduled to be the first U.S.- based cruise line to cruise to Cuba in over 50 years (on May 1st), is refusing to permit Cuban-born Americans on the cruise.

Written by Fabiola Santiago, the article quotes Cuban American Maria de los Angela Torres, who came to the U.S. as a Pedro Pan child in the early 1960's, after she tried to book a cruise to Cuba. Everything was proceeding smoothly in booking her cruise until the Fathom agent learned that she was born in Cuba. The agent then told her that "Current Cuban law prohibits Cuban-born individuals from entering Cuba via ship or other sea vessel, regardless of U.S. citizenship status. For that reason, at the present time, Fathom cannot accommodate Cuban-born individuals." 

The Herald analogized the discrimination to a cruise line refusing to take American Jews to Israel or African Americans to Africa. 

Two years ago, the Tunisian government prohibited Israeli passengers from disembarking from the Norwegian Jade during a stop at the Tunis (La Goulette) cruise port. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) told the Israeli citizens that they were not welcome by the Tunisian government and had to stay aboard the cruise ship.

NCL quickly decided to boycott Tunis and issued the following statement: 

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response.”

Carnival, on the other hand, is acting in "cahoots" with Cuba, as the Herald points out. It's pathetic and disgraceful on Carnival's part. Carnival acquiesced to the discriminatory policies of the totalitarian Castro regime as a quid pro quo to be the first cruise line to do business in Cuba. When faced with an important principle, Carnival sold out for profits. 

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April 8 2016 Update: Breitbart asks whether Carnival has violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act in an article titled Cuban-Americans Banned from Carnival Cruises Trips to Cuba. Title II of the act prohibits American “places of public accommodation” from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Place of birth, naturally, would fall under “national origin.” In federal caselaw, the U.S. Supreme Court held that foreign flagged cruise ships were subject to federal statutes which prohibited discrimination against U.S. citizens.   

April 10 2016 Update:  A look at Carnival's "social impact" brand, Fathom Travel, which I published last summer - The "Fathom" Ruse Revealed: Carnival Really Wants to be Friends with Cuba.

April 11, 2016 Update:  The U.K.'s Telepgraph newspaper comments on the ban of Cuban-Americans on the Adonia to Cuba: Cuban Americans banned from first cruise to Cuba in decades.    

Photo credit: Fathom's Adonia

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Empress of the Seas in Havana

CubaIn breaking news, Cruise Law News has learned that Royal Caribbean will be home-porting the refurbished Empress of the Seas in Havana, Cuba.  

Effective August 14, 2016, the Empress of the Seas, originally named the Nordic Empress, will be sailing 7 day cruises from Havana to Nassau Bahamas, Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica and Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. In a starting move, the cruise line will be changing the name of the cruise ship to the Cuban Empress.

The cruise ship left the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2007 and, since then, has sailed for Royal Caribbean's Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises. Last year, Royal Caribbean announced that the cruise ship would be returning to its fleet in March of this year. The ship has been undergoing extensive renovations, first in Cadiz Spain and currently in Freeport Bahamas for the past several weeks. The ship was supposed to be sailing a Caribbean itinerary this summer but recently canceled six weeks of cruises because the cruise ship's renovations were behind schedule.  

Many travel agents have speculated that the cruise ship, because of its smaller size, is well suited to be the first ship for Royal Caribbean to enter the Cuban cruise market.  It will be the smallest cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet behind the Majesty of the Seas. Many travel agents have noted that the cruise line has not booked any cruises on this ship after July as a sign that Royal Caribbean has planned all along try to get the Empress into Cuba before the end of the summer.

Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain commented that "Cuba is a great opportunity for us in the cruise business because we bring our own hotels and our own infrastructure . . . "

Earlier this month, Carnival announced that it had obtained approval from Cuba to sail from the U.S. into Cuban ports. On May 1st, Carnival's new "social impact" brand, Fathom, will be sailing passengers from Miami to several ports in Cuba, on the Adonia, a cruise ship with around 700 passengers. This will be the first time in 50 years that a cruise ship from Miami will call on a port in Cuba.  

Motivated by profits (fares on the Adonia are 2 to 3 times the average cost of a Caribbean cruise) and its competition with cross-town rival Carnival, Royal Caribbean pulled off a coup by one-upping Carnival by becoming the first U.S. cruise line which will base a cruise ship in Cuba. Royal Caribbean's Chief Operating Officer Adam Goldstein, who reportedly has spent several weeks in Havana meeting with Cuban officials, is expected to speak at a press conference later today. 

Royal Caribbean will utilize Havana's relatively modern cruise facility where two European lines, Costa Cruises and Pullmantur, used to operate. But both pulled out after Costa was acquired by Carnival Corporation in 2000 and Pullmantur by Royal Caribbean in 2006  due to the U.S. ban on travel to the communist nation. 

Royal Caribbean has made several Cuban-themed renovations to the cruise ship which executive Goldstein will be announcing shortly. The Cuban Empress will feature the "Che Guevara cigar room" Cuban Prisonwhich will feature hand-rolled Cohibas cigars. The cruise ship will also unveil the "Royal Castro Grill" where cruise passengers can enjoy fine Cuban cuisine. Late night entertainment will take place in the "Fidel & Raul's" nightclub where guests can dance the Mambo and sip Cuban "Havana Club" rum.

The cruise line will be offering excursions to Cuba's famous Combinado del Esto prison which houses thousands of dissidents and political prisoners. Also imprisoned are hundreds of Cuban families who tried to flee Cuba to the U.S. on make-shift rafts but were intercepted by U.S. based cruise ships and then forced to return to Cuba (no photos allowed).

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Photo Credits: 

Top - Mark Scott Johnson CC BY 2.0 commons / wikimedia.

Bottom - Franklin Reyes / AP Photo via Avax News

The "Fathom" Ruse Revealed: Carnival Really Wants to be Friends with Cuba

I didn't trust Carnival for a second that it really wanted to build a sustainable business relationship with the Dominican Republic through its "voluntourism" brand, "fathom" (not capitalized). I expressed my doubts here.

Hiring pseudo-sustainability expert and faux-celebrity Tara Russell to market the brand seemed as un-authentic as the "workers" who posed in the new cruise brand's advertising photos. Next to the poor Dominican farmers standing in the photos, the "fathom" crew looked more like United-Colors-of-Benetton Fathom Cruise Brandmodels who got lost during a South Beach photo-shoot.  

Well the truth is out. Carnival's much ballyhooed new social travel brand "fathom" will operate to Cuba next year after Carnival won the right to start doing business in that country. The catch was that Carnival couldn't just detour a crowd on the Triumph swigging buckets of Bud Lights to Havana; it had comply with strict "U.S. Department of Treasury rules that allow licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities that support the Cuban people," says Travel Weekly.

It seems like this was Arnold Donald's plan all along. Mr. Donald was using all of the right words in the announcement today: "We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between US citizens and the people of Cuba a reality."

But Cuba is no Dominican Republic whose claim to fame is, well, that it is not as poor as Haiti and that it could actually use volunteers.  Cuba, on the other hand, will become the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean, to the detriment of Nassau and all other cruise ports in the region. So the Adonia will be one of the first cruise ships to officially enter the former communist island from the U.S. Carnival will use the fare-paying, feel-good cruise tourists to subsidize the soon-to-be-highly-profitable enterprise.  Yes, Carnival's CEO Donald is a genius. Tricky but a genius.    

Was Ms. Russell in on the switch-a-roo from the start? Was she part of the cruise team lobbying Washington for the Cuba gig? The Adonia will still sail to the Dominican Republic for a while it seems (but it will doubtlessly be phased out as people will prefer Havana). But anyway, Ms. Russell is happily singing the corporate cruise gobbledygook: “Our goal remains the same for both destinations – to enable travelers to immerse, learn, serve and flourish while making enduring, sustainable contributions on a scalable and systematic basis."

Yeah, right.  

January 8 2016 Update:  It doesn't seem that Mr. Donald ever lost his home as a child to Fidel Castro

April 10, 2016 Update:  Carnival chooses profits over principle; plans to sail its Fathom brand to Cuba without Cuban Americans.

Photo Credit: Carnival / fathom

Carnival Ecstasy Intercepts 41 Cubans at Sea

 Multiple news sources are reporting that a Carnival cruise ship spotted a boat packed with dozens of Cuban migrants in the Florida Straits Tuesday night. 

The Coast Guard says the Carnival Ecstasy spotted the migrants' vessel Tuesday evening. Officials say the small boat wasn't seaworthy and lacked lifejackets and navigation equipment. I think that goes without saying when Cubans or others from Caribbean islands take to sea in rafts or make-shift boats.

The Ecstasy stopped and took 41 Cubans aboard. Carnival then transferred the Cubans to the Coast Guard for return to Cuba.  Under the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cubans who make it to U.S. soil are allowed to stay in the U.S., but Cubans stopped at sea are returned back to Cuba. home.

Carnival Cruise Lines Rescues Cubans at SeaWe have mentioned many stories like this over the years. Usually there is great excitement by the cruise passengers that they were involved in the "rescue" of people at sea. Yes, the Cuban people were rescued from the sea but they are returned to Castro's Cuban and the conditions which caused them to risk their lives. 

Last week we commented on this issue in an article entitled Cubans "Trying for the American Dream" End With An Empty Boat. In that case, Carnival intercepted 24 Cubans who were escorted by the Coast Guard back to Cuba. 

I wonder whether any of the 41 Cubans picked up by the Carnival Ecstasy Tuesday night had tried to cross again after being picked up last week? 

 

Photo Credit: AP / Local 10 news

Photos of Cuban Immigrants' Boat "Rescued" by Disney Wonder Emerge

A passenger aboard the Disney Wonder sent a couple of photographs of the boat "rescued" between Cuba and South Florida.

As we mentioned yesterday, the Disney Wonder and the Carnival Conquest cruise ships were involved in separate incidents where they picked up Cuban nationals who had set out to sea to try and escape Cuba and get here to the U.S.  

Carnival released a number of photos of the rubber boat which the Conquest responded to which we posted in our earlier blog article.

The photos below of the wooden little boat were taken by a passenger Darrin Heath who is aboard the Wonder with his family.

Photos like this seems sad to me. The boat was filled with people with their hopes and dreams of a better life here. Now they are floating at sea empty. And the people once aboard will return to Cuba.  

Disney Wonder Cruise Ship rescues Cuban Rafters

Cuban Rafters Boat Rescued By Disney Wonder

Carnival & Disney Cruise Ships Intercept Rafters Heading to South Florida

Cruise Ships Rescue Cuban ImmigrantsThe U.S. Coast Guard is reporting that yesterday two cruise ships responded to migrants at sea in two separate incidents. A Coast Guard representative characterized the migrants as floating in two "rustic vessels" south of Key West Florida.

The cruise ships involved are the Disney Wonder home ported in Miami, and the Carnival Conquest which is based in New Orleans. 

Carnival stated that the Conquest picked up 13 Cuban nationals about 40 miles from Key West. (The photo released by Carnival shows men aboard what appears to be a yellow rubber boat around 18'). The Carnival cruise ship then rendezvoused with a Coast Guard cutter near Key West to transfer the Cubans to the custody of the U.S.  

Disney stated that the Wonder picked up eight people about 45 miles from Key West, but did not disclose their nationality.  You can see photos of the boat of Cubans here.

Cuban Rafters - Cruise Ship RescueThe migrants were reportedly half way between Havana and Key West when they were stopped. 

Numerous media accounts are suggesting that it is currently unknown what would be done with the migrants, but that's nonsense. In all cases I have seen where cruise ships picked up Cubans on the high seas the Coast Guard sends them back to Cuba. 

Carnival has been under criticism for relying on the Coast Guard when its ships catch on fire and are disabled at sea but it does not reimburse the federal government, The cruise line took advantage of the event to try and get some good press. Its President Gerry Cahill stated in a press release:

“We are happy to have come to the aid of these individuals and to support the long-established tradition among the global maritime community of providing assistance to mariners in distress.” 

I'm not too sure that the Cuban refugees will be too "happy" when they end up in a jail courtesy of Castro's Cuba. 

Leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook: Is this a "rescue" or an "interception?"

Cuban Rafters - Cruise Ship Rescue

 

 

Photo Credit:

Migrants in boat: Carnival via WWL TV

Chart: Daily Mail

Did Liberty of the Seas Rescue Two Cuban Boaters? Royal Caribbean Isn't Sure

Last Sunday the Liberty of the Seas cruised upon two stranded boaters as the cruise ship was returning from the Caribbean.  The ship stopped and picked up two Cuban men.

As WPTV reports, Royal Caribbean originally said that its cruise ship picked them up. But later it issued this statement, saying: The two Cubans did not board the Liberty of the Seas, but were retrieved by a coast guard vessel…"

But cruise passenger Emily Zazdin, who filmed the rescue, said  "I got video of them coming up to the ship and they were taken aboard."  

The Coast Guard said they picked up the two men from the cruise ship and found they have legal status in the U.S. The Coast Guard took them to the border patrol offices in Marathon, where their legal status were confirmed, and they were released.

You can see in the video (courtesy RSS 622) at the bottom the Coast Guard arriving at the cruise ship to take the men away in a Coast Guard vessel.  

Just goes to show you, take anything the cruise line PR people tell you with a grain of salt.

 

 

Twitter Insight: Oasis of the Seas Encounters Refugees on the High Seas

This evening my twitter feed came alive with a number of fascinating tweets by passengers sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas as it sailed between Florida and Cuba.

The passengers, Jason Cochran, whose Twitter name is @Bastable and has a cool website, and "Nomadic Matt" (I could not figure out his real name) who Twitter name is @nomadicmatt and who has a neat travel website, tweeted about their cruise ship sailing across something strange - 18 refugees in a raft.

Actually encountering rafters on the high seas is not particularly strange at all.

I have blogged a lot about cruise ships "rescuing" Cuban refugees. (Just click on the "Rescue" Oasis of the Seas - Bastable - Cuban Refugeescategory to the left to read a couple of articles.) For some strange reason, Royal Caribbean cruise ships are most likely to sail upon rafters trying to escape the oppressive regime in Cuba. Why Royal Caribbean?  I have no idea.  Most of the clueless cruisers think that the rafters are "saved" and about to be invited into the U.S. 

The problem is that the Cubans are never "rescued." The cruise line usually takes them on the ship, calls the U.S. Coast Guard who sails out to the scene, and the Coast Guard processes the refugees and sails them back to Cuba where they end up in Castro's jails.

But today was different.  The tweeters explained that the crew of the Oasis brought food and water to the refugees, but the refugees didn't want to be "rescued."  They knew the U.S. Coast Guard would arrive and they wanted to leave.

There are some people who understand this perfectly well - ‏@shaneyhudson - a travel writer from Australia, tweeted "Coast guard would rather them drown than let them touch US shore. Will tow them back." He's right. Its rare to hear someone more bitter than me about these type of things.  

Bastable tweeted: "The Oasis‬ is now leaving the raft behind, slowly turning east. No Coast Guard cutter yet. Goodbye. We hope things turn out for you."   

I agree Bastable,  A tragic tale, indeed.    

Let's hope the winds and currents and the grace of God bring the refugees ashore tonight and they plant their feet on U.S. soil and can begin free lives here in America.

 

Photo credit:  Bastable

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Intercepts Cuban Rafters (Again, Again & Again)

WSVN News 7 in Miami reports tonight that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship sent a lifeboat to pick up five Cuban refugees who were floating in a raft after escaping Cuba. 

A cruise passenger sent Channel 7 a video of the "rescue" operation.  A cruise passenger was quoted saying  "I was kinda hoping that if they were brave enough to make it out to see from Cuba that they'd have a chance to stay here but who knows?"

I have a love / hate feeling about these situations.

Yes, its great that the cruise lines "rescued" Cubans on the high seas in rafts.  No one wants to see another situation where a Princess cruise ship callously sailed by three Panamanian young men in a disabled little fishing boat 100 miles out to sea, causing two men to die.

But on the other hand, there is no question that the Cubans will be sent back to Cuba, where they will meet whatever fate Castro's regime decides to impose.

I have written a dozen articles like this.  It seems like Royal Caribbean cruise ships for some odd reason are usually involved. Take a look here, hereherehere and here. The Allure and its sister ship, Oasis, have had multiple "rescues."

But there is no "rescue."  It is in essence an interception.  Current U.S. immigration policy is that if Cubans make it ashore they get to stay here. Good for them I say.  But if they are caught on the high seas, they go back to Cuba. Period. 

These brave Cubans will not die at sea, but they may now die in a Cuban jail for seeking freedom.  

    

Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Rafters, Again, To Be Deported Back To Cuba

The Miami Herald reports that Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas "rescued" twenty-three Cuban rafters as the cruise ship sailed from Falmouth Jamaica to Cozumel Mexico.

The story was also reported by the online cruise community Cruise Critic which uploaded a YouTube video about what it is also calling a "rescue."  Cruise Critic says that one of the onlooking cruise passengers can be heard saying, "it's lobster night tonight. Going to be eating pretty well tonight" and laughing.

Unlike the happy images projected by these cruise friendly publications, the Cuban rafters were hardly "rescued."  It is Royal Caribbean's policy to always report rafters to the U.S. Coast Guard with the result that the rafters are sent back to Cuba.  Here the Coast Guard instructed Royal Caribbean to turn the rafters over to the Mexican authorities who, in turn,will deport them to Cuba.

Eating lobster on the luxurious Oasis and then entering the U.S. through Mexico?  I don't think so.  

Eating swill in a Cuban jail?  More likely.

It must be a frustrating process for desperate Cuban families who find themselves sent right back to Cuba after risking their lives to come to the U.S. for freedom and better lives for their children.

It is a very weird proposition that a cruise line registered in Liberia, Africa, operating a cruise ship registered in the Bahamas, would intercept a boat full of people in international waters on behalf of the U.S. Coast Guard and turn them over to Mexico to be deported back to Cuba. Some news accounts suggest that the rafters were not even trying to get to the U.S., but were trying to go to Honduras.     

In the last two years, Royal Caribbean cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas (twice), Allure of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas, have intercepted Cuban rafters five times:

Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants

Allure of the Seas "Rescues" Migrants Fleeing Cuba

Happy Fourth of July - Enjoy Your Freedom

Christmas Dreams in Miami of Cuban Rafters Crushed By Cruise Ship "Rescues"        

 

 

Video credit:  Spensafi / YouTube

Christmas Dreams in Miami of Cuban Rafters Crushed By Cruise Ship "Rescues"

NBC Miami reports today that twelve Cuban migrants on a raft trying to sail to the U.S. were intercepted after Royal Caribbean alerted the U.S. Coast Guard.

Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas cruise ship spotted the Cubans today and radioed the location of the raft to the Coast Guard in Miami. 

The NBC affiliate reports that one of the Cuban migrants, a 40-year-old man, had a foot injury and was allowed to go aboard the cruise ship for treatment.  The U.S. Coast Guard sent a vessel to the scene and took all 12 of the Cuban rafters. 

Under current U.S. immigration laws, the U.S. Coast Guard will take the Cubans back to Cuban where they will likely be imprisoned.

This is the second so-called rescue of Cubans trying to flee Cuban by a cruise ship in the last few days.

On December 21st, a Princess cruise ship "rescued" 20 Cubans, including 9 children.  CBS affiliate KPHO Channel 5 in Scottsdale Arizona reports that three families from ages 3 to 80 were picked up by the Princess cruise ship on its way back from the Panama Canal.  A Scottsdale man vacationing on the cruise ship captured the event on camera.

The Cuban escapees tried to make it to American land.  Cruise passenger Nestor Guzman, himself an immigrant, explained that being rescued doesn't  mean they were freed, because the Cuban refugees never made it to American soil and were found at sea, they were returned to Cuba.  "It was good that they didn't perish in the middle of the ocean," Guzman said.

"What is going to happen now that they go back to Cuba?  All the dream lost . . .  To me especially, being from Latin America it was very emotional because I see the desire to go to the U.S. to be free after all these years, I'm sure all their partners were thinking about their children, we want the kids to be in America."

 

 

These two "rescues" this week end a frustrating year for desperate Cuban families who find themselves sent right back to Cuba after risking their lives to come to the U.S. for freedom and better lives for their children.  In the last year, four Royal Caribbean cruise ships, The Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas, have intercepted Cuban rafters:  

Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants

Allure of the Seas "Rescues" Migrants Fleeing Cuba 

Happy Fourth of July - Enjoy Your Freedom

 

Video credit: CBS affiliate KPHO Channel 5

Happy Fourth of July - Enjoy Your Freedom

Happy Fourth of July!

Two hundred and thirty-five years ago - on July 4, 1776 - the Second Continental Congress voted to declare the independence of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. 

In the 1700"s my family's ancestors got in a boat and sailed from Great Britain to the U.S.  I have always thought about what that must have been like, to leave your homeland and embark on a voyage to a new world.  A world of liberty. 

Independence Day is a symbolic day of the break from tyranny and the emergence of a new nation based on concepts of freedom and self-determination.    

Independence Day remains a great American tradition - associated with fireworks, family barbecues, picnics, and baseball games. 

But there are many people who do not enjoy freedom from tyranny.

Cuban Rafters - Oasis of the Seas This weekend saw seven Cubans "rafters" trying to escape Cuba and come to the U.S. for a better life.  But they were stopped by a cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas, and taken aboard and then handed over to the U.S. Coast Guard.  Rather than celebrating the 4th of July in Little Havana in Miami, these rafters are back in Castro's Cuba.   

Newspapers and television stations in South Florida called this a "rescue."  

According to an agreement between the U.S. and Cuba, often called the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, Cubans who reach U.S. shores are allowed to stay.  But those intercepted by the Coast Guard at sea are forced back to Cuba. 

This is not the first time a Royal Caribbean cruise ship "rescued" Cuban immigrants. 

On May 15th, the Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas stopped to pick up nine Cubans as the cruise ship sailed back to Fort Lauderdale.

On May 1st, the Navigator of the Seas picked up eight Cubans 40 miles north of Cuba.  You can see the dramatic photos here.

Last December, the Monarch of the Seas picked up six Cubans who had been at sea.  You can read about that ordeal in Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants.

In all of these cases, the U.S. Coast Guard sent the Cubans back to Cuba. In all of these cases, the Miami press called the interceptions a "rescue."    But these are no rescues.  These are interceptions.  As we light fireworks, attend family reunions, and watch our favorite baseball teams, these brave people who risked their lives seeking freedom and liberty are likely in a Cuban jail.  

     

Photo credit:  Cruise passenger Christi Nasser via the Miami Herald 

Allure of the Seas "Rescues" Migrants Fleeing Cuba

The Miami Herald reports that  Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas stopped to pick up nine Cubans (eight men and one woman) as the cruise ship sailed back to Fort Lauderdale around 2 p.m. today.   

The newspaper indicates that the migrants had been at sea for eight days. The cruise ship personnel provided food, water and medical attention to the Cubans.  The narration to the video mentions that the immigrants were using "brooms" to paddle, but you can clearly see from photos posted on the Cruise Critic site that they were using long paddles. 

Although you can hear the cheers on the video when the migrants were rescued, the story does not end happily for the Cubans.  The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security will undoubtedly deport then back to Cuba where they run the risk of ending up in one of Castro's jails.

In this video, you can see the rescue vessel taking the Cubans out to a Coast Guard cutter which arrives on the scene.

This is not the first time a Royal Caribbean cruise ship "rescued" Cuban immigrants.  On May 1st, the Navigator of the Seas picked up eight Cubans 40 miles north of Cuba.  You can see the dramatic photos here.

Last December, the Monarch of the Seas picked up six Cubans who had been at sea for 15 days in a raft consisting of a bunch of tires tied together with a makeshift sail.  If they made it ashore to the U.S. they could remain here; however, if they are "caught" in the water by the U.S. Coast Guard, they will be deported.  You can read about that ordeal in Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants.

 

 

Video credit:  Hinch family via Miami Herald / CBS Channel 4 (Miami) 

Cuba: "Send in U.S. Cruise Ships and Watch Change Come"

I have written a couple of articles about the the cruise industry and Cuba lately, U.S. - Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana and Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants.  Notwithstanding the U.S. embargo of Cuba for over the past four decades, there is no question that U.S. based cruise ships will stop in Havana as an integral part of their Caribbean cruise itinerary in the near future.   Old man and evil dictator Castro was not a cruise ship fan, complaining that the cruise passengers brought little money but a lot of trash to his decrepit island.  But his younger and more pragmatic brother has signaled that cruise ships are welcome in Cuba.    

Cruise Ship - Havana Cuba But when will it happen?  President Obama promised to improve better relations with Cuba which is just 100 miles from Key West - about the same distance from Miami as Disney World in Orlando.  But so far, nothing.

The newspapers have recently been filled with articles about cruise ships from other countries, like England, Canada, and Russia, sailing into Cuba.  The U.K.'s Guardian carried the headlines "Cubans Give Warm Welcome to British Cruise Liner," the Latin America Herald Tribune declared "Cuba Expects Rise in Cruise Visits," and the Cuba Press blasted "Cuba Trying to Attract Canadian Cruise Tourists."

One of my favorite cruise bloggers, Captain Greybeard in England, wrote about a British cruise ship, the Thompson Dream, receiving a warm reception in Havana last week:   

"Cuba rolled out the red carpet for Thomson Dream and her 1,500 passengers yesterday on the cruise ship's first call at the capital, Havana.  Showgirls in sequined bikinis and feather head-dresses, a salsa band and dancing schoolchildren were among the welcoming party, and disembarking passengers were handed shots of rum."  Sounds like fun.

So what is the U.S.'s problem?  The world wants to know.

Frank Barrett, Travel Editor of the the U.K's Mail On Sunday, today writes an amusing yet insightful blog on the issue of cruising to Cuba.  He asks "why does America treat its neighbour like a pariah state?"  His solution, "send in the cruise ships and watch change come."  I agree.  Here is his most excellently written article:

"As 95 per cent of Americans are apparently unable to locate Texas on a map and think that Illinois is a country in Africa, you have to admire the persistence with which the US government has maintained its hate campaign against Cuba (for American readers: Cuba is an island 100 miles south of Key West.  Again for American readers: Key West is the nethermost point of Florida, a US State).

Walk down the main street of Big Butt, Idaho (a US State) and my guess is that 99 out of 100 people would have no idea where Cuba is, or who Fidel Castro might be (Clue: nothing to do with engine oil).

Cuba - Cruise Ships And yet, in certain recondite corners of the American government Dr Strangeloves let their missile launching fingers stray towards the red button whenever anyone mentions the word 'Havana' (capital of Cuba).

American diplomats spend so much of the world's resources in the Middle East trying to broker peace amongst the Israelis and Palestinians, you wonder that they don’t think about declaring peace nearer to home.

But still Americans risk being burned at the stake for the mere heresy of looking at a Cuban holiday brochure.  If they dared to travel there, they would promptly be zapped by a drone missile.
In terms of size and population, Cuba is less significant than a US state like Ohio, and yet it is treated with all the severity of Iran.

Cuba ought to be a key stop on Caribbean cruise itineraries. Yet no American cruise company can touch it with a barge pole.

So three cheers to Thomson for last week including Cuba on the itinerary of the Thomson Dream, the first large cruise ship to visit the island for five years.

Barack Obama came into office promising to build bridges with Cuba - and seems to have done almost nothing.  Thomson has done more with one cruise ship visit.

America needs to learn that, when it comes to fostering political change, tourism is the most effective weapon.  Trying to isolate Cuba has simply strengthened the Cuban will to resist.  Send in a thousand American cruise ships and revolution in Cuba will be inevitable  .  .  ."

 

Credits:

Havana Poster      cruiselinehistory.com

Photo             AP via Fort Mills Times

Royal Caribbean Intercepts Cuban Immigrants

Cuba - Rafter -Intercepted - Rescued - Cruise Ship  The news today is filled with stories about a cruise ship which "rescues" rafters adrift in the Atlantic.

What the news reports fail to mention is that the "rafters" were trying to get to Florida.  They are  probably already back in Cuba pursuant to U.S. immigration policy. 

Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas cruise ship reportedly "rescued" six people who were floating on a raft near the Bahamas. 

A passenger on the cruise ship spotted the raft and the ship stopped.  As most of the news reports claim, the cruise ship then "rescued" the people on the raft.

An employees of a Houston news station FOX 35 employee (Scott Schroeder)  was on cruise ship and reported that the raft looked like "it was a group of tires tied together with green burlap and a makeshift sail."  

The make-shift raft had apparently been at sea for 15 days.  The Fox employee says the captain of the ship told the cruise ship passengers that there were seven people on board the raft and one of them died.

As tragic as this is, the indignity is that the survivors, probably related in some way to the deceased "rafter," will be deported back to the evil Castro regime in Cuba.  If they made it ashore to the U.S. they would one day be raising their children in Miami (God bless them).  But if they are "caught" in the water by the U.S. Coast Guard, they will be "deported" / "repatriated" back to Cuba to face, at best, an uncertain future.   

Perhaps this is a "rescue' in the minds of the happy-go-lucky cruise passengers and the PR people at the cruise lines, but according to the Cubans in the raft seeking freedom in Miami - they undoubtedly feel that they are screwed.

May 15, 2011 Update:  Royal Caribbean "rescues" another boat of Cubans fleeing Castro: Allure of the Seas "Rescues" Migrants Fleeing Cuba.

Rescue - Repatriation - Cuban Refugess - Cruise Ship

 

Credits:  Fox 35 Houston

U.S. - Cuba Politics: No Cruise Ships In Havana

When my friends in my home state of Arkansas ask me how I like living in Miami, I give them the same answer - I love it, because I have always wanted to live in a foreign country.

Cuba - Cruise Ship Miami is the melting pot of the Caribbean.  It is the number one place where immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Belize and Columbia decide to live once they reach the U.S.  Miami is an exciting, international and great place to live.  More than 50% of the residents here are Hispanic. The dominant personality of the city is unquestionably Cuban - we have a Cuban Mayor, Cuban Judges, Cuban politicians, Cuban restaurant and shop owners. 

 The heart of our firm - our office manager - is 100% Cuban.

Most Cubans living in Miami live here because they were dispossessed from their native country in the early 1960's.  Not surprisingly, the most hated person in the world according to the people of Miami - is Fidel Castro.  However, people in Miami are questioning the blockade of Cuba which has existed for close to 50 years.

Yesterday the Guardian newspaper in the U.K.  ran an interesting article about ending the blockade - Time for the Cuban Travel Ban to Go.  The article cited a poll indicating that most Americans support easing travel restrictions to Cuba - Poll: Three-Quarters Favor Relations with Cuba

Part of the blockage involves the prohibition of U.S. based cruise ship sailing to Cuba.  So it was with interest I read an article, US Blockade Stops Cruises from Landing in Cuba," written by a Cuban reporter about the cruise industry and the effects of the ban against U.S. ported cruise ships sailing to Cuba.  Here is the article:

"Thousands of cruise ships sail the waters around Cuba every year, but few of them are able to anchor in the island because of the US economic, financial and commercial blockade.

Granma newspaper said the Torricelli Law approved by Washington sanctions ships from any country that dock in Cuban ports by banning them from putting in at the US for six months.

The Cuban daily comments that 98 % of Caribbean cruises are controlled by the American industry Cuba - Cruise Ship - Cruise to Cubaand 70 % of liners sailing in the region have Florida as mother port.

According to Granma, in 2006, when the American cruise company Royal Caribbean bought the Holiday Dream ship from the Spanish Pullmantur Cruceros, more than 50 crew members from Cuba were not allowed to work onboard anymore.

This way, Pullmantur Cruceros put an end to its contract with the Cuban company ARIES Transportes S.A. of the Ministry of Transportation, which had established that the Holiday Dream would make 52 stopovers every year in Havana and Varadero's harbours.

Cuba´s location, the conditions of its ports and hotels and the historical and cultural wealth of its people are winning cards for the development of the cruise industry of the island.

If the US blockade didn't exist, more than 1,000 cruise ships could land in the Cuban ports every year generating a traffic of 1,2 million passengers.

According to figures by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, Cuba would have an income of 125 million dollars a year."

 

Although the U.S. prevents cruise ships to sail to Cuba, there are German and British cruise ships which sail to the Cuban ports of Havana and Santiago.

Has anyone cruised to Cuba?  Do you have photos or video to share?  

 

Credit:  Escambray - Digital newspaper of Sancti Spiritus province, Cuba