The U.S. government in early June 2019 implemented a ban on cruise travel to Cuba, thus halting a three-year run that started during a hopeful period of warming of relations between the two countries.
Over these recent years, cruise lines rushed to add itineraries to the largest Caribbean island, and U.S. travelers eagerly booked cruises to finally visit a destination just off the tip of Florida. For decades up until 2016, the United States and Cuba had put in place restrictive regulations that made it virtually impossible to explore on a leisure trip. The cruise offerings were a wonderful way to finally see the island and a chance to connect with the warm and friendly people.
We were lucky enough to go on a cruise to Cuba and had an amazing time (check out our video of the experience). We are also hopeful that U.S. travelers will eventually be able to go back on a cruise.
There is a way to go, though. If you're still interested in how to travel to Cuba, I thought I'd let you know one way that that you can consider.
Look for a "Support for the Cuban People" license (SCP).
Global tour operator Friendly Planet Travel still brings travelers to Cuba through a Support for the Cuban People license. While the new U.S. regulations eliminated the "people-to-people" travel license on which Friendly Planet used to operate, the company's Cuba programs were already compliant with several other licenses, allowing Friendly Planet to continue bringing travelers to Cuba.
In 2011, Friendly Planet Travel was among the first U.S. tour companies to be awarded a license for educational tours to Cuba and since then has brought thousands of Americans to Cuba on small, intimate and immersive group trips. Friendly Planet Travel has the knowledge, experience and relationships to ensure that these trips conform to the law. The best part: You get unique and inspiring encounters with the people of Cuba that will give you memorable experiences.
Friendly Planet's various Cuba packages include meeting up-and-coming Cuban artists in their private studios; visiting the fascinating Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Regla; meeting talented fashion designers and woodcraft experts in their home workshops; joining Cubans for a neighborhood block party; and watching a rehearsal by one of Havana's well-known dance companies.
Check out Friendly Planet's three Cuba travel packages, which include round-trip flights, Cuban health insurance, Cuba entrance visa, departure tax, and a U.S. Treasury Department License Certification and Authorization letter - all mandatory for Cuba -- as well as accommodations in a traditional Cuban casa particular, daily excursions and multiple meals.
To help you learn more about what the U.S travel ban to Cuba means and how you can still travel to Cuba, we offer a Q&A with Peggy Goldman, president and founder of Friendly Planet Travel. Goldman is also an expert on American travel to Cuba.
Q: What exactly does the new government restriction on travels to Cuba mean for Americans interested in visiting the island?
A: In 2011, the People to People travel license became the most popular license for Americans wishing to visit Cuba. We were permitted to stay in certain hotels (those not part of the Cuban Military, which controls a part of the tourism sector) and we were able to travel around the country as long as we complied with the rules of the license. Every tour had to be accompanied by a tour manager, who was responsible for making sure that our passengers participated fully in the program. On June 5, 2019, that license was eliminated, but travelers can still visit Cuba with certified tour operators under many other licenses, including a Support for the Cuban People license.
Q: What alternatives do travelers have now?
A: Fortunately, the programs Friendly Planet offers are already compliant with several other licenses, so our travelers can continue to visit Cuba with our 100 percent compliant programs. As long as we continue providing the experiences that comply with available licenses, there's no reason why travelers can't continue visiting Cuba. Going forward, we will make small adjustments to our itineraries to be completely sure that every activity we schedule is according to the rules of the license. We have a lot of experience in this regard, as we've been operating legal tours to Cuba since 2011, and in those years, we've built many relationships among Cuban community groups, artists, architects, farmers and many, many others who provide us with plenty of valuable experiences for our travelers. In every case, these experiences are arranged with, and benefit directly, the individuals, not the government. There are many alternatives that exist, so happily, travel to Cuba will continue.
Q: Why is travel to Cuba so important to you and Friendly Planet?
A: Consider an entire country where the people are the living example of the glass half full, where being poor and having very little in the way of material things doesn't stop the locals from creating amazing art, music, dance and in general, enjoying life despite the disadvantages they live with. When you visit Cuba on a legal, authorized program, you get to meet the Cuban people where they live, work and play. It is an incredibly immersive experience that gives you a chance to get to know what it's like for the Cuban people -- and where you can admire them for the way they choose to live. And it is completely 100 percent legal to have this wonderful travel experience, if you do it according to the rules that our government has set up for us.
Do you plan to visit Cuba? How will you be getting there?
Thanks for reading,