As the US unveils new policies that would no longer allow American citizens to 'travel to Cuba via ship,' cruise lines have been forced to upend itineraries around the Caribbean.
On Wednesday the US Treasury's travel and trade measures banned 'people to people' visas and visas granted for 'educational trips' to Cuba. As two of the most popular methods of entry to the country, it has made it far more difficult for Americans to visit and even more so for the new tourism operators that have relied on them.
The abrupt end of the visa programmes has been particularly disruptive to the Cruise industry.
Royal Caribbean was forced to change itineraries for ships sailing on June 5 and June 6 – Removing Havana from the itineraries at the very last minute.
Perhaps the biggest announcement came from Virgin Voyages – Richard Branson's new cruise venture which was due to sail to Cuba on its maiden sailing next year.
The company emailed passengers saying that, in light of the new policies, Cuba would no longer feature on the itinerary:
"The entire Virgin Voyages Crew is working hard on changes to our Voyages, and we'll be back in touch next week with full details of Havana's replacement," read the email, explaining that Voyager passengers would be the first to receive updates on the new itinerary.
The difficulty of not being able to take American passengers or crew means the island has been dropped entirely from itineraries.
Collin Laverty of the Cuban Educational trust explained that the lack of clarity or special exemption regarding cruise lines mean that there is no obvious route for ships to get exemption.
"The cruise industry is scrambling to determine what to do with cruise passengers in the coming day and if there's a way to get permission for the ships to proceed as planned," he told Seatrade Cruise News.
On Wednesday, Carnival Corporation said it would be stopping sailings to Cuba "effective immediately." This affects ships from all child companies of the group including Carnival Cruise Line ships, Holland America Line and the Seabourn line which had been planning to launch a Cuba Itinerary in November.
Viking Cruises has one remaining call in Cuba this year, after which it will review its options.
Speaking to CN Traveler a spokesperson for the liner said: "Viking has one remaining call [to Cuba] in late December 2019 and is currently reviewing our options for it and early 2020 sailings. Once confirmed, guests and travel partners will be notified directly.
Miami based Regent Seven Seas Cruises also said it was waiting to assess the effect on future sailings before making a call regarding its Cuba itineraries.
New Zealand travellers are still able to visit Cuba as tourists, however getting to the island has been made increasingly difficult by this US ban on American boats or planes travelling to Cuba.
"The United States will no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft," said the US Department of State on Tuesday.
The cruise industry was quick to identify Havana as an exotic destination following the country's lifting of a ban on US tourists in 2015.
The first US cruise ship arrived in May 2016 after a decades-long blockade.
However the new measures to stop travel to the Caribbean island has effectively returned the travel Cuban industry to a Cold War like posturing.