MADRID, Spain. – Four American cruise line companies hired Cuban government agencies to provide tourism services during the U.S.-Cuba Thaw in diplomatic relations, according to details revealed by El Nuevo Herald.
Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises are being sued by the U.S. company Havana Docks in federal court in Miami for unauthorized use of their three docks at the port of Havana.
Despite knowing that tourism travel to Cuba was illegal due to the terms of the U.S. embargo, “Carnival registered a subsidiary with Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce in 2018 with the intent of conducting commercial tourism activities. It also signed a memorandum of understanding with the tourist agency Gaviota for delivery of tourism services. Gaviota is owned by Cuba’s Armed Forces. It is the Armed Forces that handles most of the financial activity in the island,” according to the information published.
In the meantime, Royal Caribbean benefited from the re-sale of Cuban “tourist visas” to passengers with a 50% profit margin, and tried to obtain permits to open and operate casinos in Cuba.
Like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, Norwegian signed contracts with Havanatur travel agency to offer “tourism services” to its passengers. MSC Cruises, meanwhile, signed similar contracts with Cubanacán. Among the services they offered their passengers were excursions to beaches and nightclubs.
In spite of being alerted by the Treasury Department about the law violations, the cruise lines continued its operations and managed to earn at least $1.1 billion from their cruises to Havana between 2016 and 2019. The Cuban government made more than US$ 138 million in the process.
According to El Nuevo Herald, federal judge Beth Bloom, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, will decide if the lawsuit goes to trial after she analyzes all the data presented by Havana Docks.
If the findings corroborate that the cruise lines were involved in tourism activities, Havana Docks will have to be compensated for millions of dollars for the illegal use of its property in Cuba.
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