SCUBA CUBA - OR MAYBE NOT

Over the last year or so I've been asked a lot about running a trip to Cuba. In years past, you could surreptitiously make a land trip happen by going through Toronto or Cancun (and asking them not to stamp your passport so you could get back into the US). As relations with Cuba improved, a few years ago you could then make "educational" trips. And with Obama's semi-normalizing of relations with Cuba and the addition of direct flights from LA and the like, it seems like Cuba has opportunity to become the next must-go place as reports of diving the Gardens of the Queen area are very positive. It's even the Fall 2016 cover story in "Alert Diver."

But the results of November 8 may have changed all of that.

From an tour operator standpoint, the last thing you want is hassle. My position on Cuba has always been practical, not political. I have assumed even with Obama opening things up, that there would be glitches in the overall process and I was in no rush to be among the first to go down there because I simply didn't want to have to deal with the glitches nor have you suffer them either. And while the addition of two Aggressor boats - Jardines Aggressor I & II - makes it tempting, I was still in no rush.

But towards the end of November, two things happened that give me pause as a tour organizer/operator. The first was the death of Fidel Castro. One the one hand, you might think that the passing of Castro - even though it's his brother running the country now - might help speed up even further the normalization and thawing of relations and that's got to be good for business.

But then shortly after that, Donald Trump indicated that, once in office, he might reverse course and threatened to reverse the Obama administration's efforts to normalize US-Cuba relations. "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the deal," Trump tweeted.

That gives someone like me great pause. The last thing I would want to do (or need to do), is to plan a trip, collect deposits from you, send money to whomever for said trip, and then find out pre-trip that the embargo has been re-instated and the trip has been cancelled. How do I get the money back? What do I do if I can't get the money back? How do I refund you?

These are the kinds of things we always try to take into account when planning any trip but specifically a Cuba trip, and specifically because some of you have asked me when we might do a trip there. Much as I'd love to go, I'm now leery about scheduling a visit until we see which way things will shake out overall. I had considered possibly making Cuba a 2017 destination but now think it's best for me to wait until at least 2018.

Of course, this wouldn't prevent you from planning a Cuba trip on your own during 2017. I would simply urge you to do so with your eyes wide open. Anytime we're planning these trips and then traveling, we keep an eye on any developing political situations. Going to the Red Sea in 2015 (from Egypt) and then the Maldives (and having to go through Turkey) in 2016 are two good examples. From a trip leader standpoint, you try to find out as much as possible, mitigate problems ahead of time, and be aware of potential complications the entire time you're there.

But it just seems to me the potential for problems in Cuba with a Trump administration that seems willing to shake things up, it just pushes it beyond the comfort zone for me and Reef Seekers. And since people have asked about this trip, I wanted to let you know where we stood.


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