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.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

 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

Earlier this week the Disney Wonder was involved in another incident where it picked up Cuban rafters at sea trying to sail to South Florida.  This was the third such incident where a cruise ship stopped rafters at sea in the last ten days.

You can read about the prior case involving the the Disney Wonder here, and a prior incident involving the Carnival Conquest here.   

Some people call these type of incidents "rescues" but the fact is that unless Cuban migrants reach dry land, they are transported back to Cuba and often end up in one of Castro’s jails. I call them "interceptions." Watch the video below where it appears that the rafters were not in distress and do not appear to have been wanted to be "rescued" by the Disney cruise ship. You can watch the video here.

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

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

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

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.  

    

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"        

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=VarD_B3vGI8%3Frel%3D0

 

Video credit:  Spensafi / YouTube

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."

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=9rHAI6Bfr4s%3Frel%3D0

 

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!

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