With Cuba now firmly on the superyachting radar, as a result of President Obama’s lessened restrictions, it would be easy to assume that, as a US citizen, cruising its unspoiled coasts were as simple as cruising other nearby destinations. This, however, is simply not the case and there are some cowboy agencies and individuals, claiming intimate knowledge of Cuba and its procedures, that would have you believe this to be true. SuperyachtNews.com explores some of the more common misconceptions and how best to mitigate them.
“The major sticking point remains US law. Many believe that if a superyacht is not US flagged and/or does not have an owner or owning entity from the US, that it is able to enter Cuba like it would the Bahamas or Jamaica,” starts Paul Madden of Paul Madden Associates. “This is only true if there are no US citizens aboard or US residents, including the crew.”
There have been numerous examples of superyachts failing to appreciate this fact, but, fortunately, few up to now have been punished. However, there have been examples of yachts enjoying their time in Cuba, only to find that weeks or months later the Cuban or US government has contacted them about their breach of regulation. Breaches of this kind may lead to voided insurance, fines, confiscation or jail.
“It’s the government so they work to their own schedules and between the embargo, the DEA, the Cuban government and the US embassy being only four miles from Hemingway Marina, it is inconceivable that a boat of any size can pass through without having been observed by a number of agencies,” continues Madden.
Fortunately, obtaining the necessary papers is not a difficult process. However, certain provisions included in Obama’s lessening of the restrictions require organised itineraries.
“People sometimes fill out the forms, go to Cuba, and just do whatever they want,” Madden explains. “One of the mainstays of the loosening [of regulations] that Obama initiated, starting in 2015, is that you may only travel to Cuba under particular visa categories. You must spend at least eight hours a day doing what you said you were travelling to Cuba to do - and subsequently prove it.”
Although eight hours a day spent satisfying a visa category sounds restrictive and altogether unenjoyable, this does not have to be the case. One such visa category, a ‘People-to-People’ visa in its non-university sponsored guise, is an educational visa that allows you to explore all manner of non-academic pursuits. The only downside is that it requires a certified guide.
“You specify what it is you want to do, be it art, architecture, food, music, dance or a visit to a tobacco farm. It could be a number of different things each day, it could be to go to the Tropicana Nightclub to see Cuban entertainment,” continues Madden. “But at is base, it ensures you interact with Cuba and its inhabitants.”
Madden recalls one example of a high-profile music executive travelling to Cuba on such a visa and privately meeting all manner of well-known artists and musicians. Other stories include diners with ambassadors and other persons of repute.
For those US citizens wishing to explore Cuba and truly benefit from all that it has to offer these sticking points hardly constitute more than a minor inconvenience. However, for those wishing to stay on deck with their masseuse…I hear the Bahamas are beautiful.