TAMPA, Fla. — Starting Wednesday, all American cruises to Cuba have been halted following new travel restrictions set in place by the Trump administration.
There was initially some confusion as to what would happen to thousands of passengers' trips this summer.
"I was on hold for about 40 minutes or so and I wasn't able to speak to a representative," said Heather Francisco, a frustrated traveler who was supposed to take a Norwegian cruise to Cuba next week.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association, nearly 800,000 passenger bookings scheduled or underway have been affected.
When Spectrum Bay News 9 initially reached out to cruise lines on Tuesday, no one knew for sure whether they'd be able to honor trips booked prior to the announcement.
Turns out, that won't be possible.
Cruise lines tweeted out updates throughout the day on Wednesday.
Both Norwegian and Carnival Cruise Lines promised more detailed updates for passengers soon.
Royal Caribbean told guests they have two options:
-keep the reservation, with an alternative port, and receive a 50 percent refund.
-cancelling with a full refund
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was one of hundreds of thousands affected by the new restrictions.
He is currently at sea, but his office posted this statement on Twitter.
Cruises are all booked under the 'people to people' category of traveling to Cuba.
That category was completely eliminated under the new regulations.
"That category was the closest you could get to regular tourism but with certain restrictions for that program," said Ivar Fiskaa, owner of Tampa2Cuba travel agency.
There are still ways you can travel to Cuba.
Agencies like Tampa2Cuba book tours that fall under the 'Support for the Cuban people' category, which is still valid.
"A lot of the cruise passengers are coming to us and are asking if they can book a tour with us because they really want to see Cuba," Fiskaa said.
On Tuesday, the Treasury Department clarified a "grandfathering" provision in a statement, saying that "certain group people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized will continue to be authorized where the traveler had already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5, 2019."
Though cruise lines won't be able to honor those trips. Fiskaa says other group tours (not relying on cruise travel) will continue to be authorized under the provision.