Despite the latest Cuba travel warning, Celestyal Cruises has announced it will return to the country starting October 20.
"Recent incidents exclusively involving U.S. and Canadian diplomats, as reported in media, are entirely unrelated to tourism and currently under investigation by the governments of Cuba, the USA and Canada,” Celestyal Cruises said in a written release. “Safety and security at sea and on land are our highest priorities at Celestyal Cruises, and the company is pleased to be able to maintain its impeccable standards while providing our passengers with authentic lifetime experiences on one of the great gems of the Caribbean.”
Celestyal Cruises emphasized that the visa-issuing process for passengers remains unchanged, and that the small ship cruise line continues to offer a People-to-People itinerary that meetings current U.S. legal requirements for travel to Cuba. Additionally, none of the company’s local service providers, including shore excursion programs, are military owned or operated, the cruise line said.
Celestyal Cruises also said that, following damage the island sustained during Hurricane Irma, “Cuba is quickly returning to normal.” There is no damage to any port facility, and all cruise operations in Cuba are running smoothly, the cruise line said. Celestyal has also received confirmation from local agents that there will be no change to the line’s shore excursion program.
2017 will be Celestyal Cruises' fifth year in Cuba. The line will continue to offer all-inclusive, seven-day circumnavigation cruises departing from Montego Bay, Jamaica, or Havana, Cuba. In addition to an overnight in Havana (two full days), the cruise line's program includes one day visits to Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The move makes Celestyal Cruises the latest cruise line to say that Cuba remains safe for cruise travelers, despite the most recent travel warning. That warning was issued by the State Department last week following a series of alleged “sonic attacks” against State Department employees that have led to hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping. The attacks occurred both in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens.
Because the State Department has been unable to identify the source of the attacks, it has ordered the departure of all nonemergency U.S. government employees and their family members. As a result, the embassy will be limited to providing emergency assistance only to U.S. travelers.
Travelers can still contact the embassy for emergency assistance at +(53)(7) 839-4100 or the Department of State at 1-202-501-4444.
Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have both said they will continue to operate cruises to Cuba, with Carnival noting that no travelers have reported health problems as a result of the attacks.
At the same time, Caribbean travel experts we spoke with note that, prior to the latest travel warning, interest in Cuba travel had already been softening due to President Donald Trump’s proposed tightening of travel restrictions, as well as the island’s relatively undeveloped tourism infrastructure. Many Caribbean specialists we spoke with expect interest in Cuba to decline further following the State Department announcement.