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On Cuba Cruise Now & Willing to Answer Questions

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Yes!!! Please do ask specifically if we are allowed to walk off on our own in Cienfuegos and also Santiago de Cuba and hire a third party tour director. Thanks so much!

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We are sailing on the Star in December 2018 from LA to Miami, the cruise stops in Cienfuegos for three days (originally supposed to also visit Santiago De Cuba but changed for some reason), we would like to organise a bespoke tour from Cienfuegos to Havana and stay overnight. The Viking agent stated that individual tours are not allowed in Cuba, even though I’ve receved the Cuba Affidavit/Registration form. I’ve read on some blogs from other cruise companies that there is no issue, however I don’t want to book and pay for a hotel in advance if there is an issue. We are British passport holders, so unsure if there are different stipulations for American passport holders which are more restrictive.

 

Viking cannot even get their own employees to provide consistent answers on this. They insist on booking their over priced excursions in order to be "allowed" to leave the ship in Cuba, yet trip reports from cruisers on this line and itinerary say the opposite.

 

I am going to make some calls this week but am most interested in what the reality is, regarding booking non Viking sponsored tours or going off on our own - and we will obtain whatever Visas are required.

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What didn't help was that U.S. regulations (laws? I forget which is appropriate) were changed by the current administration, and that was around the time that Viking started going to Cuba. When many posters reported no restrictions on travel, it may have been during the former administration, which lightened up what Americans could and could not do. Even still, from what recent posters have indicated in the Ports of Call section is that there are no restrictions imposed by (I think) any cruise line.

 

Last year, when we went, Viking took a fairly by-the-book approach to the U.S. regulations and had a company set up the tours. Then they indicated we needed to go with the tours. I think other cruise lines may be doing things differently, but I don't really know.

 

What's STILL not clear to me is IF U.S. regs apply to non-Americans on a cruise ship, and iIF once you fill out the necessary documents saying you're going with an educational group (or whatever it is) you must STAY with the group. All I know is that before our cruise last year, Viking reps answering the phone in or for the Viking home office were telling people they needed to stay with the program and groups they had arranged for people. Once on board, however, Viking reps on the ship told me that nobody would be kept on the ship if they wanted to go off and do their own thing. I'm not sure if that applied to an overnight stay in Havana, however, or if anyone did that. I never talked to anyone who did, but there were at least a few taxis outside the tender pier when I went off, so apparently their drivers were there to pick up people for tours or hopefully get people for tours or rides.

 

I believe the U.S. regulations list some hotels that should not be used by Americans. If that's the case, as an American, I would be reluctant to use one of those. However, I would think non-Americans would be fine staying there. Make sure Viking has your contact info though. While at Easter Island on another line, a storm came up and the ship had to leave a day early. One couple had stayed overnight on the island, and the ship struggled to contact them and get them back on board!

 

In any case, there's always a chance with cruising that a ship cannot make a port due to weather, mechanical issues, etc. I would only book with a private tour company (in Cuba or anywhere!) if they didn't require payment up front, or promised to refund your payment in the event the ship didn't make port, or came so late a tour was not possible.

 

All cruise line excursions in my opinion are pricey, though not necessarily over-priced for what you get. However, I've got to say that what Viking provided last year was pretty incredible - lots of transportation, tour guides speaking great English, packed itinerary, beautiful and comfortable hotels, all meals, fabulous 50s car ride, Tropicana (though I almost fell asleep), visit to Bay of Pigs, etc. etc. It was top notch.

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All cruise line excursions in my opinion are pricey, though not necessarily over-priced for what you get. However, I've got to say that what Viking provided last year was pretty incredible - lots of transportation, tour guides speaking great English, packed itinerary, beautiful and comfortable hotels, all meals, fabulous 50s car ride, Tropicana (though I almost fell asleep), visit to Bay of Pigs, etc. etc. It was top notch.

 

I never book excursions with the cruise lines personally. And 1000 pp for a tour is not going to happen for me for sure.

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What didn't help was that U.S. regulations (laws? I forget which is appropriate) were changed by the current administration, and that was around the time that Viking started going to Cuba. When many posters reported no restrictions on travel, it may have been during the former administration, which lightened up what Americans could and could not do. Even still, from what recent posters have indicated in the Ports of Call section is that there are no restrictions imposed by (I think) any cruise line.

 

Last year, when we went, Viking took a fairly by-the-book approach to the U.S. regulations and had a company set up the tours. Then they indicated we needed to go with the tours. I think other cruise lines may be doing things differently, but I don't really know.

 

What's STILL not clear to me is IF U.S. regs apply to non-Americans on a cruise ship, and iIF once you fill out the necessary documents saying you're going with an educational group (or whatever it is) you must STAY with the group. All I know is that before our cruise last year, Viking reps answering the phone in or for the Viking home office were telling people they needed to stay with the program and groups they had arranged for people. Once on board, however, Viking reps on the ship told me that nobody would be kept on the ship if they wanted to go off and do their own thing. I'm not sure if that applied to an overnight stay in Havana, however, or if anyone did that. I never talked to anyone who did, but there were at least a few taxis outside the tender pier when I went off, so apparently their drivers were there to pick up people for tours or hopefully get people for tours or rides.

 

I believe the U.S. regulations list some hotels that should not be used by Americans. If that's the case, as an American, I would be reluctant to use one of those. However, I would think non-Americans would be fine staying there. Make sure Viking has your contact info though. While at Easter Island on another line, a storm came up and the ship had to leave a day early. One couple had stayed overnight on the island, and the ship struggled to contact them and get them back on board!

 

In any case, there's always a chance with cruising that a ship cannot make a port due to weather, mechanical issues, etc. I would only book with a private tour company (in Cuba or anywhere!) if they didn't require payment up front, or promised to refund your payment in the event the ship didn't make port, or came so late a tour was not possible.

 

All cruise line excursions in my opinion are pricey, though not necessarily over-priced for what you get. However, I've got to say that what Viking provided last year was pretty incredible - lots of transportation, tour guides speaking great English, packed itinerary, beautiful and comfortable hotels, all meals, fabulous 50s car ride, Tropicana (though I almost fell asleep), visit to Bay of Pigs, etc. etc. It was top notch.

Thank you Roothy, very informative and certainly food for thought, we’ve got a few months until our cruise departs on the 13th Dec, so hopefully we’ll receive some more feedback prior to our departure from fellow travellers who encounter Cuba. I do understand that a Cuba excursion/visit is not clearly defined and the cruise companies have a commercial vested interest to ensure they capture all tours, even though they might not suit everyone’s taste or budget.

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What's STILL not clear to me is IF U.S. regs apply to non-Americans on a cruise ship,

 

I believe the U.S. regulations list some hotels that should not be used by Americans. If that's the case, as an American, I would be reluctant to use one of those. However, I would think non-Americans would be fine staying there. Make sure Viking has your contact info though. While at Easter Island on another line, a storm came up and the ship had to leave a day early. One couple had stayed overnight on the island, and the ship struggled to contact them and get them back on board!

 

 

U.S. Regulations are not applicable to non-US Citizens, unless we are aboard a US Flagged Ship, such as Pride of America, or within US Harbours/Territorial Waters. In International Waters we are all governed by the ship's flag state and in port by the laws of the country being visited.

 

With respect to booking hotels, personally I would check Canadian, UK & and probably U.S. travel advisories. Wasn't aware the US has Laws for their citizens visiting Cuba.

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Thank you Roothy, very informative and certainly food for thought, we’ve got a few months until our cruise departs on the 13th Dec, so hopefully we’ll receive some more feedback prior to our departure from fellow travellers who encounter Cuba. I do understand that a Cuba excursion/visit is not clearly defined and the cruise companies have a commercial vested interest to ensure they capture all tours, even though they might not suit everyone’s taste or budget.

 

President Obama made it a lot easier for Americans to visit Cuba; trump came along and changed things last year. Somewhere in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is the regulation, but it's not easy reading. However, in the past there have been discussions of what the regulations now entail in the "Ports of Call" section of the Cruise Critic Boards. Last fall cruisers were scrambling to figure out what they could and could not do on a cruise that stopped in Cuba.

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President Obama made it a lot easier for Americans to visit Cuba; trump came along and changed things last year. Somewhere in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is the regulation, but it's not easy reading. However, in the past there have been discussions of what the regulations now entail in the "Ports of Call" section of the Cruise Critic Boards. Last fall cruisers were scrambling to figure out what they could and could not do on a cruise that stopped in Cuba.

 

But the USA can do nothing about Cuba visa requirements. Cuba could say no visa is required and once in Cuba you can wonder to your hearts content.

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Read the NY Times article on suspicions that Cuba targeted US embassy personnel with sonic weapons after President Obama opened relations. There is some risk, finite but not large in my opinion, traveling to a country where we do not have the best diplomatic relations.

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I will be cruising to Cuba with Viking in January. I have a question - how much money are you (or have you) planning on exchanging for Cuban currency? How much did you actually spend?

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When we went last year, similar itinerary, we used very, very little of what my husband exchanged in Cienfuegos - maybe $25 worth?! However, we were on Viking tours the whole time in Cuba, and we're not big shoppers, so take that with a grain of salt. I don't think we needed anything for food or drink, so all we used the money for was souvenirs. We ended up using what was left over in a little shopping/restroom break area on the way back from Havana on the coach.

 

Our first, and only Cuba port was Cienfuegos. It was easy to exchange USD for Cuban pesos at a kiosk right where we tendered, but I have no idea what the exchange rate, hours, etc. were.

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As a Canadian, I too am interested in restrictions for non-American travelers. I had read that Euros or Canadian dollars were preferable to exchange into Cuban currency. Friends that travel frequently to Cuba gave me a link to Cuban travel, but not sure I would take any tours on my own.

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