June 7, 2019
(3 p.m. EDT) -- Cruisers' bucket-list dreams of visiting Cuba were put on hold this week when the U.S. government revealed new travel restrictions that prevent cruise ships from taking American citizens to the island nation.
The changes were effective immediately. Cruise lines have since been scrambling to reroute ships due to call on Cuba this week and make alternative arrangements for future sailings -- many of which had been scheduled more than a year in advance. Most lines have provided booked cruisers with the option to either cancel (many with no penalty) or keep their reservation, with some type of compensation.
As details on cruise lines' alternative options trickle in, Cruise Critic members have begun to share their reactions to new itineraries and compensation offers. Here is a breakdown of some of our members' experiences with different cruise lines.
See our original story for a full list of compensation offerings from other cruise lines that have been forced to omit Cuba from their itineraries.
Cruisers originally booked on Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas Cuba sailings can choose between canceling for a full refund or keeping their sailing date with a new itinerary and receiving a 50 percent refund.
"[Empress of the Seas' August 4 sailing] was my cruise," Cruise Critic member shellindc posted to the Royal Caribbean forums. "I am so happy that we will be getting a full refund. I miiiiiiight have considered keeping the booking, if they hadn't ALSO changed the Grand Cayman port (I wanted to swim with sea turtles!). Now we will bank this money for our cruise to Alaska next summer."
Added Cruise Critic member shirleygr: "While I am incredibly disappointed in the policy change that precludes visiting Cuba, something that's been on my bucket list for years, I appreciate the way RC is handling this.
"They are under no obligation to offer discounts or refunds. We are currently weighing our options for a substitute land vacation because we have airfare booked as well as visiting family. Nassau is not a port I would choose to visit, but I am not sure we can find an affordable alternative at this point."
Cruise Critic member Heather1972, meanwhile, opted to stay on the modified cruise, originally booked with MyVegas points.
"I called Club Royale and talked to Daysia who knew exactly what I was asking in reference to how does the 50 percent off work for those who booked with MyVegas points. She said that the cruise is not actually comped, it's a discounted cruise fare, so you WILL get 50% back if you go on the cruise. If you look at your original cruise vacation receipt, it will say cruise fare $$ minus casino comp. That number is your discounted cruise fare, so you will get 50 percent of that amount in OBC. If you do not use it, it will be refunded to your credit card. Woohoo now I'm being paid to cruise!"
Carnival Cruise Line
The following options are available to Carnival cruisers originally booked on 2019 Cuba cruises: Remain on the modified sailing and receive $100 onboard credit, per person; move to another sailing and receive $50 onboard credit, per person; or cancel for a full refund.
Those who have a cruise scheduled for 2020 can choose to remain on the sailing, move to another itinerary or cancel for a full refund; none of the options include onboard credit.
"We're booked on the Paradise in August. Our cruise ports changed from Havana and Cozumel to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, both of which we've visited multiple times," said Cruise Critic member Darcy03231 on the Carnival forums. "After weighing all our options we decided to continue on with our cruise.
"We booked well in advance at a steep discount and with the onboard credit we received at booking and the pp/OBC we'll be getting by staying with this itinerary it will be the least expensive vacation we've ever taken."
Writes Cruise Critic member ZoeyVictoria, who was booked on a Cuba cruise for 2020: " I am also disappointed in the lack of OBC. We have already selected a different cruise (7 nights instead of 5, southern Caribbean from San Juan with five ports instead of Cuba and Nassau) for only $39 pp more."
Norwegian Cruise Line
Compensation and rebooking options vary for Norwegian cruisers, based on whether the departure date is before or after September 2, 2019.
For passengers who opt to keep their modified cruise, scheduled to depart before that date, Norwegian will issue a 50 percent refund as well as a 50 percent future cruise credit. Passengers who wish to cancel can receive a full refund if they notify Norwegian by midnight on June 11; otherwise, standard cancellation rates will apply. (Originally, the line had not offered the option to cancel for a full refund, but updated its cancellation policy after the fact.)
Cruises after September 2 will be automatically canceled and refunded, and those passengers will receive a 20 percent discount on future cruises.
Cruise Critic member SpaceCoast1075 posted to the Norwegian Cruise Line forums: "Just received the offer for a full refund by June 11 for our June 17 sailing. Kudos to NCL for coming around. The 50/50 deal is probably how we will go, but having the option to cancel makes it more palatable."
On the flip side, Cruise Critic member BHBillH opted to take advantage of Norwegian's option to cancel for a full refund. They made the decision, however, to book with another cruise line.
"We were booked and paid for 10/7 sailing and NCL could not tell me the plans for a cruise for that date yet....since we will be refunded 100 percent now I went ahead and booked another cruise with another line for same port, same dates, because we have non-refundable air fare. Really wish we could [have] stayed with NCL but it's too much money involved with uncertainty. This is a sad situation."
Despite now having the option to cancel for a full refund, Herdingdogmom still thinks staying on the modified itinerary is the best option.
"Definitely, the way to go for the summer 'Cuba' cruises. I imagine there will be very long hold times to get through to NCL by the June 11 deadline to cancel a cruise. And then it may be another 2-plus months for the refund $ to make it to you or your travel agent. Not worth the hassle imo - might as well go on vacation even if it is to the Bahamas."
Learn more about the latest Cuba travel restrictions, as well as other cruise lines' responses.