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
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
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
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.