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Taking a Cruise to Cuba? Read This First.

Updated June 5, 2019

Update June 5, 2019: Due to the new restrictions on Cuba travel imposed by the White House on June 5, 2019, American cruise ships are no longer allowed to dock in Cuba. Read on for more information on how cruises have been affected, and see this Cuba travel policy update to learn more about the policy change. If you had a cruise to Cuba planned for June 5th or later, contact your cruise company for instructions. 

Taking a cruise is an incredible way to get a first taste of what Cuba has to offer, but sadly, American cruise ships are no longer allowed to dock in Cuba. However: that doesn't mean Americans are banned from traveling to Cuba. In fact, it is still 100% legal if you do so properly. Read on for more info, and talk to a Cuban travel planner for help planning your legal trip.

Want to explore Cuba differently? Have a local plan your trip.

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American cruise ships can no longer go to Cuba

Between 2015 and 2019, cruise American cruise ships were allowed to go to Cuba. However, as of June 5, 2019, this is no longer the case thanks to President Trump's Cuba travel policy changes. If you booked a trip before June 5, contact your cruise company for instructions on how to proceed.

But that doesn't mean Cuba travel is illegal for Americans

In fact, it's still 100% legal. You just can't take an American cruise to Cuba or travel under the People to People travel category (which was eliminated at the same time). It's still totally fine to travel to Cuba independently (i.e. not with a guided package trip) under one of the 11 other Categories of Legal Travel to Cuba. If you need help figuring out how to take a legal trip to Cuba, connect with one of our Cuba travel experts.

What exactly is a "Category of Authorized Travel"?

To travel to Cuba legally, you must do so under one of the approved categories of travel for Americans outlined by the US Treasury Department. The easiest category to fit into is often the Support for the Cuban People category. Under Support for the Cuban People, you must maintain a full-time schedule of activities that support the Cuban people—like taking a class on Cuban cocktails, hopping into a classic car for an independent tour of Havana, or even eating at privately-owned restaurants.

The travel categories for Americans are not as confusing as they sound at first, but if you’re looking for peace of mind and a one-of-a-kind travel experience, ask a ViaHero travel expert to plan your itinerary for you. Our Cuban travel experts make sure that you get to do the activities you enjoy while following the rules of travel for Americans in Cuba.

Just travel under an appropriate category, get a Cuban Tourist Card, and you're set.

Anyone traveling to Cuba must have one thing in addition to a passport: a Cuban Tourist Card. It’s a simple piece of paper that you must purchase before you reach Cuba. Airlines that fly to Cuba will give you the option to purchase your tourist card (sometimes called a Cuba visa) through them. But you can also purchase one online to save yourself the hassle through a company like Cuba Visa Services. Once you have your Tourist Card in hand, keep it with your passport—it’s just as important for legal travel to Cuba.

You should still check out the port cities, even if you can't cruise there.

Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Cienfuegos all have their own charms. Old Havana, for example, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that you can explore for days. Cienfuegos is a foodie’s paradise and an excellent jumping-off point for outdoor excursions like birding. And Santiago de Cuba is bursting with life during summer festivals like Carnaval.

There are tons of amazing things to do in Cuba. And you can still do them legally!

Uncover the top things to do in each Cuban city with the expertise of a Cuban Hero (aka a travel planner). Most Cuban travel experts are well-versed in the highlights and hidden gems of Havana. But there are also experts like [...], who was born and raised in and loves introducing travelers to his city. [....] can point you to the best restaurants in Cienfuegos as well as teach you about sociocultural projects that benefit the local community. 

As an American in Cuba, you can tour the typical historic sights, take dance classes, or get involved in local volunteer projects for a few hours. The choice is yours. Regardless of what you choose to do, ViaHero travel experts plan your personalized itinerary. Your itinerary will be more than a list of things to do. It will include a personalized guidebook, custom maps, and unlimited support from your Hero by phone and email.


Ready to explore Cuba? Find your new Cuban best friend and travel . Or, chat with us to get answers to any questions. And check out:


Still have questions about travel to Cuba?
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You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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