Lawsuit filed against Carnival for agreeing to discriminatory Cuba cruise policy
Lawsuit filed against Carnival for agreeing to discriminatory Cuba
A class action lawsuit alleges that Carnival Corp. is violating civil rights
Cuban law prohibits Cuban-born individuals from traveling to Cuba by sea
Lawsuit alleges that Carnival Corp. adopted policy to “support” Cuba’s
boycott of Cuban-born individuals
BY CHABELI HERRERA AND DOUGLAS HANKS
Carnival Corporation’s upcoming voyage to Cuba has struck a nerve among
part of Miami’s Cuban American population, inciting a federal lawsuit,
protests and criticism from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The cruise companys’s social-impact line, Fathom, is scheduled to travel
to the island beginning May 1, after Carnival Corp. became the first
American cruise company to gain approval from the Cuban government to
sail from the U.S. to Cuba.
But there’s a catch: Cuban-born Americans cannot visit the island by
sea, due to a a Cuban law that dates to the Cold War era, and therefore
are barred from joining in Carnival Corp.’s sailings to the island.
Individuals born in Cuba can, however, travel to the island on an airplane.
A class action lawsuit filed against Carnival Corp. and Fathom alleges
that the cruise company is violating civil rights by denying tickets to
According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Miami on Tuesday,
plaintiffs Amparo Sanchez and Francisco Marty were denied a ticket on
Fathom’s May 1 sailing to Cuba when they revealed they were born in Cuba.
Similar to airlines, cruise lines are required to collect passport
information, including place of birth, for all cruises leaving from the U.S.
A Fathom representative told Sanchez and Marty, who is a Carnival
Platinum Club member, that Carnival Corp. has been “working on the issue
for months” and did not want to lose the loyalty of its customers,
according to the lawsuit. However, the cruise line told them it had to
abide by the Cuban policy and could not complete their bookings on the
“I was born in Cuba, and haven’t been back in 58 years… and [am]
unable to fly for health reasons. I wanted to go back to see my native
country and share its culture with a surprise trip with my children, but
Carnival will not allow my Cuban-born daughter and me to go on its
ship,” Marty said in a statement.
Fathom is scheduled to take passengers on week-long voyages to Havana,
Cienfiegos and Santiago de Cuba.
The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line and its parent company,
Carnival Corp., have “adopted a policy to support Cuba’s boycott” of
“It violates our fundamental rights as a nation,” said Tucker Ronzetti,
of Coral Gables law firm Kozyak, Tropin and Throckmorton, one of the
plaintiff’s attorneys. “When it comes to our fundamental values as a
nation, when it comes to following our laws against discrimination,
those trump a foreign nation’s policies.”
On Fathom’s website, the cruise line says it is “Carnival’s policy to
obey the regulations and laws of the countries we sail to around the world.”
Carnival Corp. president and CEO Arnold Donald said in an interview
Tuesday that the cruise company has been working to petition the Cuban
government to change the policy.
“Cuban-born individuals are allowed to fly to Cuba and we just want a
similar process,” Donald said. “We expressed that respectfully and
appropriately [to Cuban authorities].”
But some Cuban-born politicians don’t think Carnival’s attempts have
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called a press conference
to raise the possibility of a court fight between the world’s largest
cruise company and the county that owns the port where Carnival plans to
launch its first cruises to Havana.
Gimenez said the policy violates the county’s human-rights policy. He
has also asked county lawyers to determine whether Carnival Corp. is in
violation of local law that bans discrimination based on national origin.
“As a Cuban-born, naturalized American citizen myself, it is clear to me
that this policy violates the Code,” Gimenez wrote in a memo titled
“Inquiry Regarding Possible Human Rights Violation the Code of
Gimenez stopped short of saying he would block Carnival from using
PortMiami for its upcoming Cuba cruise but said he wanted to know what
authority he has to enforce the human-rights law.
“What can we do about it so that they come into compliance?” he said.
“This is not about one particular cruise. This is really about Carnival.
They’re an important partner, and there are a lot of jobs here in
Miami-Dade County. But they’re still violating the ordinance.”
Carnival is one of the county’s five largest private employers,
according to the Beacon Council, the county’s economic development
agency, with about 3,000 local jobs.
Gimenez said he spoke with Micky Arison, Carnival’s chairman and owner
of the Miami Heat, earlier in the day about the cruises. Gimenez said
Arison hopes Cuba will agree to waive the rules, allowing the company to
avoid a stand-off with Miami-Dade.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez also spoke out in support of Gimenez’s
Insiders note the Castro regime is sensitive to being seen as bending to
political pressure from Miami, complicating the matter as the
controversy gets more attention from elected leaders and the media.
Among them is U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who is of Cuban descent. In a
statement, he spoke out against Carnival Corp.’s decision.
“I never could have fathomed an American company could be so blinded by
the prospect of profit in Cuba that it would enter into a business deal
with the Castros that tramples on the civil rights of our own American
citizens,” said Menendez, who represents New Jersey. “Make no mistake –
by discriminating against Cuban-Americans, Carnival is allowing the
Castro regime to extend its oppressive reach to our shores.”
Central to the matter is the issue of upholding U.S. civil rights law by
a U.S.-based entity that uses a U.S. facility, such as a port, no matter
where it sails in the world.
The federal lawsuit filed against Carnival Corp. says the cruise
company’s acceptance of the Cuban policy violates the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in places of accommodation.
According to the law, a place of accommodation can be defined as an
“establishment which provides lodging to transient guests,” including
Robert W. Rodriguez, another attorney for the plaintiff, cites a similar
instance in 2015, when an Israeli citizen filed a discrimination
complaint against Kuwait Airways after the airline refused to sell the
traveler a ticket from New York’s John K. Kennedy International Airport
to London’s Heathrow Airport. The airline cited Kuwaiti law that
prohibits business with Israeli citizens.
The U.S. Department of Transportation threatened legal action against
Kuwait Airways, asking it to cease the discriminatory practice. In
response, the airline eliminated service between the two airports.
“This has already been decided and Carnival knows about this,” Rodriguez
said. “We are just hoping that [Carnival Corp.] has the wherewithal to
know that No. 1, it is legally incorrect and also more importantly,
Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said the lawsuit is “without merit or
“We believe there is a much better opportunity to effect a change in the
policy by having an active dialogue with the Cubans versus some of the
policies in the past many years,” Frizzell said.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa has also requested that the
Gimenez’s administration confer with the U.S. Department of
Transportation over the legality of PortMiami allowing Carnival Corp. to
use its facilities while adhering to the Cuban policy.
In a statement, Sosa also cited the Kuwait Airways incident, noting that
“although the cruise line maintains that it must honor the communist
island’s discriminatory practices, a recent decision by the U.S. DOT
seems to contradict the policy.”
The Cuban-born commissioner added Wednesday: “If you don’t have the
ability as a U.S. citizen to go wherever you want, then I have a problem
with that – because the United States is a democracy.”
Class action lawsuit filed against Carnival Corp. and Fathom
Protests and the ensueing political uproar followed an April 7 column by
Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago about her inability to book a
berth on a Fathom Cuba cruise because she was born in Cuba.
Tuesday, protesters demonstrated in front of Carnival Corp.’s Doral
headquarters, decrying the cruise company’s policy.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement, which organized
the protest, said Carnival should take a stand against Cuba’s policy —
or not sail to Cuba.
“It’s something very unAmerican for a country to tell citizens that
because you are of this nationality, they can’t sell you a ticket,”
Sanchez said Tuesday.
MIAMI HERALD WRITERS DAVID OVALLE AND FABIOLA SANTIAGO CONTRIBUTED TO
Source: Lawsuit filed against Carnival for agreeing to discriminatory
Cuba cruise policy | Miami Herald –