If you're planning a trip on the newest cruises to Cuba, you might want to read the fine print. If you're Cuban-born and living in the United States, there are some major restrictions.
Fathom Travel, Carnival Corporation's small ship line, will soon offer seven-day cruises to three cities in Cuba. Sounds alluring, doesn't it? Not everyone can hop aboard the cruises. There's a controversy brewing over a current Cuban law.
"Cuba has decided that any Cuban, even if you have a passport with a visa to go back to Cuba, they will not let you come in on a cruise line and unfortunately, the American cruise line companies have accepted it," explained Wilfredo Allen, immigration attorney.
Carnival Corp. and Fathom Travel were granted permission to operate the first cruises from the U.S. to Cuba, but there's an issue. They currently have to abide by a Cuban government law, which does not allow Cuban-born individuals living in the United States and elsewhere, to travel to the island by any sea vessel.
"We have the same cruise lines, they travel to Turkey, they travel to Saudi Arabia, they travel to Qatar. What happens if Qatar or Dubai decide that no American of Jewish decent could disembark in Qatar? What happens if they decide an African-American born in South Africa during the Apartheid period could not disembark in South Africa? They would never accept it," Allen said.
Many Cuban-Americans told NBC 6 they believe it's unfair.
"I think that's a little bit of discrimination in a way because, I mean, I was born here so why do I have the opportunity of going and people that were born there can't go?" said Alexander Jaime, who was born in Miami to Cuban parents.
Allen is open to travel with Cuba but disagrees with this policy.
"Cruise lines that are coming out of Miami that literally have hundreds of Cuban-Americans working with them, all of a sudden have bowed down and accepted the rules that the Cuban government has issued," he said.
A spokesperson for Carnival Corp. recognized the issue and released this statement saying, in part: "Cuba has a longstanding regulation that no Cuban-born individuals are allowed to travel from the U.S. to Cuba by ship. This regulation applies to all cruise lines, ferries and any form of shipping planning to travel to Cuba. We understand and empathize with the concerns being voiced and will continue to work the issue with Cuban officials. It is our hope and intention that we will be able to travel with everyone."
The Carnival Fathom brand will start operating the first cruises from Miami to Cuba on May 1, 2016.