Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Opinion

Another voice: Carnival should table Cuba cruise launch

The decision may be disappointing, but it shouldn't be tough for Carnival Corp., now engulfed in a public relations nightmare over its initial cruise to Cuba.

Now that it knows Cuban-born Americans would be forbidden from disembarking, Carnival should cancel its weeklong May 1 voyage to Cuba, the first by an American cruise line.

Indeed, until Cuba changes its long-standing policy of prohibiting native-born Cuban-Americans from arriving by sea, all American cruise lines, ferry operators and shipping companies should collectively call a time-out on plans to sail to Cuba.

It is not okay for an American business to abide by policies that discriminate against Americans. It is not okay for an American business to check the birthplace on citizens' passports before letting them aboard. It is not okay for an American business to create two classifications of Americans, no matter the rhetoric of presidential candidates who would discriminate against Muslim-Americans and gays.

Carnival should follow the lead of Norwegian Cruise Line, which two years ago faced a similar defining moment when Tunisia refused to let about 20 Israeli citizens disembark. In that case, Norwegian said it didn't know Tunisia was going to prohibit Israelis from entering. Still, the next week, the cruise line dropped the port of Tunis from its itineraries.

Upon receiving permission to launch cruises to Cuba two weeks ago, Carnival had expected the Castro government would lift its restriction on Cuban-born Americans who arrive by sea, as it has for those who arrive by air. Now, the company is trying to negotiate the policy change. "We believe we have a much better chance in helping to effect that change by working within the current boundaries of the policy while engaged in an active commercial agreement," it said in a statement.

But it's hard to see how moving forward with a 700-person cruise, every other week, will better convince Cuba to change its policy toward seafaring Cuban-born Americans.

Indeed, it sounds to us like Carnival, in charting a new business frontier, is most focused on being first in the market. And to be first to Havana, it's submitting to a communist dictator who wants to stick it to Cuban-Americans.

For those of us who have supported President Barack Obama's decision to re-engage Cuba after 54 years of failed policies, it's again disappointing that Raul Castro refuses to move more quickly in breaking down even small barriers like this one.

In this moment, we're reminded of something Obama said during his historic trip to Cuba last month. "In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build: It's called Miami."

Miami is a great city in large part because of many great contributions by Cuban-Americans.

A good number of our Cuban-born neighbors may never want to visit the island until it embraces real democratic change, but that should be their choice.

Unless Cuba accepts all Americans who'd like to cruise there, Carnival should table the launch of its inaugural cruise to Cuba.

And to show support for our fellow Americans, other citizens booked on this cruise might similarly want to reconsider their plans.

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