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

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

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

 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

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

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.

 

 

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

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