Are Communism and Safety Fears Keeping Americans Away From Cuba?

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A year after the US eased travel restrictions to Cuba, Americans are actually less willing to visit the island.

In 2017, only 40% of Americans are interested in taking a trip to Cuba. That’s down 2% from last year. As a result, major airlines are already pulling out of the market or reducing the number of flights to the island.  And many cruise lines are not increasing the number of cruises to the island as originally anticipated.

Planning our upcoming trip to Havana, we were curious why not everyone shares our enthusiasm and interest for this once-forbidden nation. Our reasons for going are curiosity, wanderlust, the music, and real Cuban food. For others it’s the beaches, cultural attractions, the people, seeing the classic 1950’s American cars and/or sampling Cuban cigars.

taxi in havana cuba

Although personal safety is still the main concern, those worries are softening.

The fact is, personal safety is an issue everywhere we travel, not just Cuba. Experts suggest sticking to well-traveled areas near the resorts and cruise terminals. When traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to stay connected and keep others apprised of your daily itinerary. Social media makes it easy to provide “digital breadcrumbs” in case something happens to you. International cellular roaming service has improved on the island making connectivity easier for travelers who plan ahead.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep only as much money with you as you need. And unless you need your passport while wandering around, it’s generally best to keep it secured at your hotel. Understand your destination and do some advance preparation for where you’ll be. When cruising, planning for shore excursions (whether through a cruise line or independent) is important as well.

Cuba is still a Communist country after all.

A survey by Allianz, a major provider of travel insurance products, found that 34 percent of Americans think Cuba has “changed for the better” because of eased travel restrictions. Nonetheless, there is still a leftover sense that travel there might be politically dangerous. Probably the videos of American prisoners in North Korea doesn’t help that sentiment for uninformed visitors!

Allianz said that lack of information on Cuba’s travel experiences, travel infrastructure, and internet/mobile connectivity are the factors making Americans less interested and likely to travel to Cuba.

There is a lack of clear information about the Cuba travel process, even for organized travel.

As we prepare to set sail, we have noticed a very clear lack of consistency in information regarding the process. At every step of the visa application, questions about the process rarely received the same answer.

Those who have already cruised to Cuba have said the debarkation process was confusing. Online comments said preference was given to passengers who bought the cruise-sponsored excursions over those who made their own arrangements. Several early passengers have reported receiving confusing or even conflicting information from cruise lines or travel agents about currency exchange procedures and immigration procedures.

We are nonetheless excited to visit the island. We will be on the second cruise from Norwegian Cruise Line to visit the island. Next week NCL Sky will dock in Havana. We’ll be boarding the ship in Miami tomorrow for a week of semi-live blogging from Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for daily photos and sign up for our daily feed for the latest posts from us.

All-in-all, we look forward to seeing Cuba first hand.

About Jim Ogden

Jim is an information technology strategy consultant who has traveled extensively for client projects. Despite having logged many miles for business, it is the personal travel he most values. When traveling for pleasure, Jim prefers to seek out the authentic soul of the places he visits. His favorite travel memories are not of the tourist-friendly areas but rather the places off the beaten-path. As an expat and foodie, Jim brings a perspective of writing based on maximizing the experience of traveling.

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  1. Yea after all the negative press it had the opposite affect on me and I booked a weekend getaway this summer. With an Airbnb place. Looking forward to it.

  2. How about that its not that interesting to go to third world countries? Well maybe if you want to go back in time…

    • Thanks, Stephen! We’re staying on the Norwegian Sky overnight in port. But if we go back to Havana, I’ll reach out.

  3. Maybe it is the horrible and super overpriced hotels, terrible food, and total lack of infrastructure? I would not suggest going at all. The desperate condition of the locals, and the constant rip-offs wear you down. You will not have access to WIFI or Cell for 95% of the time there. People have been going and having terrible experiences, leading to the bad word of mouth.

  4. I am part of a group that is considering going on a cruise to Cuba, next year. Most of us are enthused about the idea, but there are a few who are concerned about their money supporting a repressive regime. We are looking for ways to mitigate that, such as doing volunteer work that will support people.

  5. I will be skipping Cuba. I’ve got no desire to experience third world infrastructure and support a Communist regime. I wonder what Obama was thinking when he gave Cuba a pass on human rights violations but comes down hard on police officers?

  6. At least with the Yanks staying away, they aren’t trashing Cuba like they do everywhere else they go. Gives everyone else a chance to see the non-Americanised version of this wonderful country before the Yanks colonise it and turn it into just another American state. Look at the Caribbean. Disgusting what has happened. Jamaica! Oh my god!.

  7. I was going to go until I read all the horrible reviews. It is way overpriced. Why waste a lot of money for a bad experience when there are so much better options in the Caribbean.

  8. Maybe because it’s a third world country with horrible infrastructure and the people that have been reading up on traveling there don’t quite like what they’ve read?

    • USAJerry, we are just returning and are starting to think about the entire experience. It’s a complicated place with no easy answers. We will be writing extensively about it in the weeks ahead. I hope you will sign up for updates and stay tuned!

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