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Inside Port Tampa Bay’s strategy to become gateway for cruises to Cuba

Inside Port Tampa Bay’s strategy to become gateway for cruises to Cuba
Nov 25, 2015, 12:22pm EST
Chris Wilkerson
Special Projects Director
Tampa Bay Business Journal

As United States’ relations with Cuba begin to normalize, Port Tampa Bay
officials are working behind the scenes to position Tampa as the gateway
to cruising to Cuba.
“Think of Cuba-to-Tampa the same way the Bahamas are to Canaveral,” Port
Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson told Tampa Bay Business Journal. “It will be
very convenient for our cruises.”

Though the United States still has a clear embargo on trade with Cuba,
restrictions on cruises have been reduced. Now cruises to Cuba can
happen as long as passengers are guided on cultural tours when they
arrive and are not making trips solely to the beach. The holdup now is
on the Cuban side with regard to infrastructure and permitting.
Until American law changes, cruising to Cuba will be one of the easier
and more efficient ways to see the island nation.

“Cruise lines have a long history with doing on-island tours,” said Ron
Oleynik, a Holland & Knight attorney in the firm’s Washington D.C.
office who specializes in international trade regulation. “It’s not a
reach from what they are already doing.”
Two major cruise lines have announced they have met federal regulatory
requirements to begin cruises to Cuba – Carnival (NYSE: CCL) and Royal
Caribbean (NYSE: RCL). Carnival has said it intends to begin trips as
soon as spring of 2016. Carnival is taking deposits for the first trips
even though dates have not yet been announced.
These first cruises to Cuba will play a critical role in American
politics, too, Oleynik said. Cruise passengers are seen as de facto
democracy ambassadors.
If the cruise lines begin taking Americans to Cuba in 2016, then
President Barack Obama and his administration will have started
something that will be very difficult for a potential future president
with a different Cuba agenda to stop, he said.
“This is Obama’s policy and he wants it to be part of his legacy,”
Oleynik said. “He needs to crack the door open wide enough to prevent a
potential President [Marco] Rubio from slamming it shut.”

Source: Inside Port Tampa Bay’s strategy to become gateway for cruises
to Cuba – Tampa Bay Business Journal –
www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/news/2015/11/25/inside-port-tampa-bays-strategy-to-become-gateway.html

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