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    Carnival reverses course, accepts Cuban passengers for homeland cruise

    Carnival reverses course, accepts Cuban passengers for homeland cruise
    By Boris Sanchez and John Couwels, CNN
    Updated 1741 GMT (0041 HKT) April 19, 2016

    Story highlights
    Carnival now says it will accept bookings on its May 1 cruise to Cuba
    regardless of passengers’ country of origin
    A lawsuit claims the cruise line had discriminated against Cubans who
    previously weren’t allowed to book tickets
    Carnival says the policy is a result of a Cuban law that prohibits Cuban
    citizens to travel by boat

    Miami (CNN)When Carnival Corp. announced plans for a cruise ship from
    its Fathom line to sail from Miami to Havana in May, Francisco Marty
    jumped at the opportunity to surprise his kids with a trip back to their
    native land.

    But Marty, who’s cruised so many times that he’s a Platinum VIP in the
    company’s rewards program, was shocked when a representative told him he
    couldn’t go on the inaugural trip because of where he was born: Cuba.
    Now, as travelers get their bags ready for the first cruise to Cuba in
    more than 50 years, Marty is part of a new class-action lawsuit claiming
    that Carnival is discriminating against Cuban-Americans looking to
    travel to their homeland.
    The lawsuit, filed by Marty and fellow traveler Amparo Sanchez, alleges
    that the company is violating federal civil rights laws and
    discriminating against Cubans by denying them tickets.
    ‘A Cuba decision’
    A spokesperson for Carnival responded to the lawsuit in a statement,
    writing, “This is not a decision by our Fathom brand, but rather a Cuba
    decision.” The statement cites a Cold War-era Cuban law that does not
    allow Cuban-born individuals to enter the country by ships, only via plane.
    Carnival said the company has requested a change in the law and has been
    working with the Cuban government on the issue for months.
    On Monday, the cruise line reversed course and announced it will accept
    bookings on its Fathom line from all travelers to Cuba, regardless of
    their country of origin. The company said it’s asking the Cuban
    government that travel on its ships be treated the same as air charters
    to Cuba and remains confident its negotiations “will result in a
    positive outcome for everyone who wants to travel to Cuba, including
    those who are Cuba-born.”
    The weeklong cruise is set to sail to Havana on May 1, also making stops
    in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Tickets start at $1,800 per person
    excluding other costs, such as Cuban visas.
    But if the Cuban government’s decision on the matter is delayed past May
    1, Carnival said, the company’s first cruise to Cuba will be delayed, too.
    “We want everyone to be able to go to Cuba with us,” said Arnold Donald,
    CEO of Carnival Corporation. “We remain excited about this historic
    opportunity.” If successful, the cruise will mark the first time in over
    50 years that a cruise ship has sailed from the U.S. to Cuba, Carnival said.
    Cuban officials haven’t commented on the lawsuit. Previously, they’ve
    said the policy that prohibits Cuban citizens from boarding boats came
    about after the migrant crisis of the 1990s, when thousands of people
    took to the sea in an effort to reach the United States.
    Travelers in limbo
    Meanwhile, Francisco Marty remains in limbo. His attorney, Robert
    Rodriguez, said Marty has health issues that keep him from flying to the
    island.
    Marty took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and had been hoping to
    return to the beach he landed on to take “before” and “after” photos for
    an exhibit at a Miami museum, Rodriguez said.
    Then, he was told he wouldn’t be allowed on board.
    “They said, ‘Sorry, you can’t go because you’re Cuban,’ ” Rodriguez
    said. “That’s just not the American way. You were given permission to
    sail to Cuba, not break the laws of the U.S.”
    Attorney Tucker Ronzetti said the lawsuit against the cruise line will
    continue. Monday’s announcement, he said, doesn’t go far enough.
    “In our motion and in our case, we’re looking only for an order from a
    judge saying Carnival is mandated and shall not discriminate against
    Cuban-born people in its bookings,” Ronzetti said.
    The attorney said he’s been in contact with Carnival asking whether they
    would consent to the order, but so far the company hasn’t agreed.
    Do similar cases set a precedent?
    Rodriguez said he’s confident the suit will succeed. One reason: the
    U.S. government has weighed in on similar situations in the past.
    Miami-based civil rights attorney John de Leon says there are at least
    two similar cases in recent history. According to de Leon, Kuwait
    Airways had a policy banning Israeli citizens from traveling between JFK
    and London’s Heathrow airport.
    “The Department of Transportation came out very strongly. … They said
    they would not allow discrimination for anybody who is leaving an
    American port,” said de Leon.
    The airline eventually suspended the flight altogether.
    In a similar case, Norwegian Cruise Line canceled all port calls into
    Tunisia after the Tunisian government refused to allow entry to a group
    of Israeli citizens.
    “The cruise ship had to balance its commercial interest verses its
    interest not to discriminate,” said de Leon, who is Cuban-American.
    Kerry: ‘Carnival needs to not discriminate’
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in on the controversy last
    week during a visit to Miami-Dade College, telling the Miami Herald:
    “Carnival needs to not discriminate.”
    “The United States government will never support, never condone
    discrimination. And the Cuban government should not have the right to
    enforce on us a policy of discrimination against people who have the
    right to travel,” Kerry told CNN en Español.
    “We should not be in a situation where the Cuban government is forcing
    its discrimination policy on us. So we call on the government of Cuba to
    change that policy, and to recognize that if they want full relations
    and a normal relationship with the United States, they have to live by
    international laws, not exclusively by Cuban laws,” he said.
    A spokesman for the State Department later clarified Kerry’s remarks,
    explaining that Kerry “in no way meant to convey that Carnival is
    supporting policies that are discriminating against Cuban-American
    travelers.”
    CNN’s Patrick Oppmann contributed to this report.

    Source: Carnival reverses course, accepts Cuban passengers for homeland
    cruise – CNN.com –
    edition.cnn.com/2016/04/18/americas/cuba-carnival-cruise-lawsuit/

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