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Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

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Old Jun 16, 17, 1:39 pm   -   Wikipost
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WARNING: Trump speech in Miami today, June 16, 2017, announced (using the words "effective immediately") reinstatement of the tourist travel ban to Cuba. "Trump will re-impose the requirement that "people-to-people" travelers can only come to Cuba with heavily regulated tour groups. " for USA citizens and residents, that bans individual "self certified" travel to Cuba under the current OFAC 12 categories described below. That means (expensive) group travel for most, currently offered by travel and cruise companies (those will be allowed to continue).

US airlines will be allowed to continue to serve Cuba, but the new restrictions will mean most planning to travel individually will not be able to usevthese carriers (unless on authorized or licensed group travel).

Those groups with travel arrangements will probably have to make significant itinerary changes to conform with the policy's ban most American financial transactions with branches or businesses operated by the military-linked Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in many economic sectors in Cuba - including many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.

Trump's recalibration of policy will most immediately affect the latitude of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Under Obama's relaxation of travel regulations, U.S. citizens could designate the purpose of their travel under one of 12 specific categories, which included the broadly defined "educational" travel and "people-to-people" travel. This "self-designation" mechanism contributed to a surge in travel over the last two years, with more than 600,000 tourists visiting the island in 2016.

But Trump's new restrictions eliminate the self-designation process, and according to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, "will end individual people-to-people travel." Unless U.S. travelers qualify for one of the specialized categories of travel—journalism, religious work or academic research, for example—they will have to travel with licensed tour groups and prove they spent all their time in Cuba doing people-to-people activities. The new directive empowers the Treasury Department to audit U.S. travelers and immigration officials will be able to demand records and journals from returning travelers to demonstrate they are in compliance with the new restrictions. Those who are not could face hefty government fines.

Under the new Trump regulations, those restrictions have been expanded to prohibit U.S. citizens from staying in, eating at, or spending any money at numerous state-owned hotels and other businesses that fall under the umbrella of Cuba's Business Enterprise Group (GAESA). GAESA, a conglomerate of economic entities controlled by the Cuban military, oversees up to 60 percent of the economic activity in Cuba. Besides hotels, GAESA controls restaurants, tourism buses and other economic and tourist-related agencies.

Trump's directive means that U.S. visitors will no longer be able to stay at some of Havana's most popular hotels, among them the elegant Saratoga favored by U.S. senators, governors and Congressional representatives who have visited Cuba over the last several years, and the Santa Isabel, where former President Jimmy Carter stayed during his two trips to the island. The five-star Gran Manzana Kempinski Havana Hotel that opened just last month also falls under the GAESA umbrella and will be off-limits to U.S. citizens. As a guide for future travelers, the State Department plans to publish a list of prohibited hotels and businesses they will now have to avoid. Link to source.
"WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT?"

"The details of Trump’s new policy remain unwritten. In a presidential directive he signed at the end of his speech, he ordered the Treasury and Commerce departments to draw up new regulations to replace elements of Obama’s policy changes. White House officials said that actual changes remain months away." (Washington Post - link)

"The new realities of U.S. travel to Cuba will be determined by the regulations that federal agencies will produce as a result of the new policy. A presidential memorandum gives the government 90 days before it even starts to rewrite Cuba travel regulations, meaning it could be many months before it's clear what the change means for American travelers.

The Treasury Department said individuals who bought an airline ticket or rented a room or car before Trump's announcement could make additional travel-related purchases for that travel under the Obama policy, even if their trip to Cuba takes place after the new, stricter Trump regulations go into effect." (abc news - link)

Verify arrangements already made with your airline, travel provider, AirBnB, etc.

Please keep an eye on OFAC modifications, Cuba travel policies in the US etc. on the State Department site, etc. (see below). Once OFAC controls allow it, travel of U. S. tourists to Cuba will undoubtedly thrive.

Entry Requirements

Cuban officials now stamp all passports on entry and exit. The former practice of winking and stamping U.S. citizens in and out on a separate sheet of paper no longer takes place.

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction obtain a Treasury license before engaging in any transaction related to travel to, from and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Treasury Annex, Washington, DC 20220, telephone (202) 622-2480; fax (202) 622-1657, or via the web at Office of Foreign Assets Control.

For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Cuban Embassy, an office of the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.
Further information, added 11 Jun 2016:

NOTE: When you arrive in the USA, DO declare Cuba on the U S Customs form 6059B. The USCBP officers generally do not care or give your travel to Cuba via Antigua or Cancún a second thought. But failing to disclose your travel to Cuba to a Federal agent? That's a violation of 18 U. S. Code § 1001, commonly called "making false statements", a felony punishable by up to five years in Federal Prison. Nope, you wouldn't, but such an offense would jeopardize GE / APHIS / PreCheck, etc. and could certainly incur enhanced scrutiny on re-entering the USA or flying into / out of a U.S. airport.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 link

NOTE: Travel to Cuba is still regulated (Jun 2016). American residents must meet one criterion of twelve categories of allowed travel to Cuba.

Tourist travel to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and others subject to U.S. jurisdiction. (USDOS)
"Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the respective general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba.

The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
"

U.S. Embassy, La Havana, Cuba (link)

Certain spend and other requirements must be met, in accord with regulations issued by the U. S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (link to PDF), and the Cuba Assets Control Regulations of 16 Mar 2016, 31 CFR 515 (link to PDF).

timaticweb2 through United Airlines, 10 Jun 2016:

Summary (US Citizen or Resident traveling from USA to Cuba, return ticket and normal, current passport with at least two blank visa pages at hand)

Conditional, The traveler will need to hold travel documents as detailed below.

Type: Notice

Cuba - Destination Visa

Visa required.

The following are exempt from holding a visa:

Passengers with a Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) issued to visitors traveling as tourists.

Additional information:

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) must be obtained prior to arrival in Cuba and are available at:
- Cuban Embassies or Consulates;
- Authorized Airlines;
- Travel agencies.

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) grant a max. stay of 30 days to nationals of USA, and extension of stay for additional 30 days.

The length of stay must be covered by USD 50.- (or equivalent in other convertible currency, in cash or traveller's cheques) per person per day, unless passenger has previously contracted the touristic activities with MINTUR in Cuba.

Important

Former nationals of Cuba who left Cuba before 1971 must hold passports endorsed "Habilitado" for HE-11.

All visitors are required to hold a travel insurance to cover their medical expenses while in Cuba. The travel insurance can be bought on arrival in Cuba, but it is recommended to have it before departure to Cuba. (Reasonable and easy to purchase on arrival. JD)

Added 1/18/2017 All passengers arriving on flights direct from the US are automatically covered by Asistur (Cuban insurance company) medical insurance for 30 days. The cost is bundled into the ticket cost.

These passengers are never asked to provide proof of medical insurance by Cuban immigration at airports as they are aware this has been standard for many years. However it is a different situation dealing with a medical service provider if you actually need to use the insurance or Cuban immigration at places other than the airport if you have reason to extend or change status of your travel visa.

There is an official Asistur one page document that states everyone arriving on a direct flight from the US has Asistur insurance for 30 days. This document, your boarding pass, and your passport will show that you have medical insurance. This document is not available anywhere on line. Nor is it available to passengers even though it should be. So I am providing it for download.

I would encourage anyone flying direct to Cuba from the US to download this one page document, print it out, and carry a copy with them.

http://www.bobmichaels.org/Asistur.pdf
End addition 1/18/2017

Neither visa exemptions nor Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) facilities are applicable to those holding foreign passports stating Cuba as place of birth. They will be considered Cuban nationals, unless holding a document signed by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proving withdrawal of their Cuban citizenship.

Cuba - Destination Health

This information is for guide purposes only. Other health organisations may recommend alternative precautions.

Vaccinations not required
NOTE: US Citizens and Residents must possess a current passport with a minimum of two empty visa (not note) pages.

You must exchange US Dollars to CUC - Cuban Convertible Pesos in authorized locations, and are required to spend CUC in Cuba (not dollars). CUC are not exportable out of Cuba. (Hint: the writer of this wikipost had no trouble exchanging Euro at decent market rates and found Euro accepted in some locations due to the prevalence of European tourists in Cuba.) Some US credit card acceptance is said to occur now, but if so it's a recent change.

At the airport CADECA booth you can change the last of your CUCs. Or you can buy duty-free items or books etc. sold from the government propaganda shop to spend the last of your CUCs.

Please read the extensive U.S. Department of State information regarding Cuba if you are a U.S. Citizen or Resident. Link.

US airlines begin commercial USA - Cuba flights by September 2016

In March, the USDOT accepted airline applications wishing to offer non-charter commercial flights between the USA and Cuba. On June 10, 2016 USDOT issued an order for six US airlines to operate flights between the USA and Cuba, to begin September 2016 HAV / La Habana flight orders to come this summer.)

Source links:

Yahoo! Finance (Link).

USA Today (link): "WASHINGTON — Six U.S. airlines were approved to begin the first scheduled flights to Cuba in more than 50 years, the Transportation Department announced Friday.

The airlines were approved to fly from five U.S. cities to nine Cuban cities other than Havana. But the department is still considering which airlines will get a combined 20 daily flights to the capital out of 60 proposals, which will be announced later this summer..."

Reuters: (link) "American (AAL.O) will have nonstop service from Miami, the largest Cuban community in the United States; Southwest (LUV.N), JetBlue (JBLU.O) and Silver Airways will fly from nearby Fort Lauderdale; Frontier will add flights from Chicago and Philadelphia; and Sun Country will serve Minneapolis."

(AA, Delta, Sun Country and others have been serving Cuba with charter flights operated for CTS / Cuba Travel Services for over 25 years.)

Updated 11 Jun 2016 - JDiver
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Old Jun 11, 16, 3:36 pm
  #76  
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Originally Posted by arubalad View Post
have seen blogs saying that all American passports are now being stamped when you enter Cuba and others saying that you can still get a piece of paper stamped in lieu of passport. Anyone have up-to-date info?
Here's the real deal: in the old days, they gave you a separate visa on a paper most of the time. In those days for some unknown reason my passport was stamped twice, on separate pages, on one exit at HAV, even as other Americans' passports were not stamped.

No problem. I was there legally, I declared to USCBP, and though I think I recall being asked a couple of questions about my visiting Cuba by USDHS during my Global Entry renewal application interview, they seemed to be more interested in my recent travel to Romania, Turkey and Ukraine than Cuba (one of the first three triggered my being called in for an interview, rather than being granted renewal using the GOES website.

Today, the Cuban authorities will most likely stamp your visa into your passport.

When you arrive in the USA, DO declare Cuba on the U S Customs form 6059B. The USCBP officers generally do not care or give it a second thought. But failing to disclose your travel to Cuba? That's a violation of 18 U. S. Code § 1001, commonly called "making false statements", punishable by up to eight years in Federal Prison.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 link

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.
Remember Rod Blagojevich, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Bernard Madoff, Jeffrey Skilling or Martha Stewart? They went to prison because they were found guilty of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Definitely not worth the risk - particularly if you have or desire US Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, etc. because even if you don't get draconian persecution you will lose the right to these.

Last edited by JDiver; Jun 11, 16 at 4:34 pm
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Old Jun 11, 16, 4:02 pm
  #77  
 
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Wife and I would very much like to take a 4 - 5 night trip to Cuba in 2017, BEFORE the flood gates open, it becomes Disneyworld South. We are NOT big on structured tours or cruises, would like to spend 2 days scuba diving, 1 day bicycle riding, remainder of the time taking in the sites, participating in some of the authorized activities so the trip meets current US regulations. I have contacted a few tour operators, who insist that it is necessary to strictly observe their structured itinerary - although I am not sure what recourse they may have if we don't. Our primary concern is risking Global Entry / PreCheck privileges - no trip is worth losing them.

Any suggestions?
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Old Jun 11, 16, 5:02 pm
  #78  
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
Wife and I would very much like to take a 4 - 5 night trip to Cuba in 2017, BEFORE the flood gates open, it becomes Disneyworld South. We are NOT big on structured tours or cruises, would like to spend 2 days scuba diving, 1 day bicycle riding, remainder of the time taking in the sites, participating in some of the authorized activities so the trip meets current US regulations. I have contacted a few tour operators, who insist that it is necessary to strictly observe their structured itinerary - although I am not sure what recourse they may have if we don't. Our primary concern is risking Global Entry / PreCheck privileges - no trip is worth losing them.

Any suggestions?
Read the wikipost at the top of the page, go to OFAC etc. sites to see how you can get (self-licensed) situated within the twelve authorized categories. What you're describing above is classical tourism:

Tourist travel to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and others subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Now: as I stated above, I've not been questioned by USCBP about Cuba when returning to the USA, and a number of people who have written "Cuba" in the countries visited portion of their Form 6059B. And GE doesn't ask, other to verify your arriving flight information.

The biggest trouble you could make for yourself, in my opinion, is to NOT fill in Cuba on your form 6059B, or if asked where you've been to fail to disclose your visit to Cuba.

Technically, "up to five years in Federal prison" as you have just violated 18 U.S. Code § 1001, a felony. OK, highly doubtful you'll go to Federal prison, like Martha Stewart did for violating this statute (not insider trading), but you would most likely lose KTN / GE / Sentri / Nexus / PreCheck and never have it back.

Invest time in studying so your trip can be construed as licensed travel. Tour companies have filed their itineraries etc. with OFAC or whoever abd they've been approved; if they give you a variance and allow you to go on your own, they can lose their license and lucrative if hard to get licensure to conduct Cuba tours.

Try for November. After hurricane season, low season so fewer crowds and hordes of European tours.

Two days of diving? Fuhgeddaboudid! You might get out to Isla de la Juventúd for a couple of days. You could go to Jardines de la Reina, eve, but you'll be stuck labdside or on an anchored liveaboards that take you to blah, overcrowded sites. (For spectacular diving, check out Michael Aw's trips - you'll dive with Silky Sharks, American Crocodiles on a licensed trip afaik with truly amazing and expensive diving on a trip of a lifetime. We've dived for years and accompanied Paul Humann and Ned and Anna DeLoach far and wide, but haven't gotten around to join Michael Aw for Cuba diving.)

Last edited by JDiver; Jun 12, 16 at 11:57 am
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Old Jun 11, 16, 5:23 pm
  #79  
 
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Originally Posted by JDiver View Post
Two days of diving? Fuhgeddaboudid! You might get out to Isla de la Juventúd for a couple of days. You could go to Jardines de la Reina, eve, but you'll be stuck labdside or on an anchored liveaboards that take you to blah, overcrowded sites. (For spectacular diving, check out Michael Aw's trips - you'll dive with Silky Sharks, American Crocodiles on a licensed trip afaik with truly amazing and expensive diving on a trip of a lifetime. We've dived for years and accompanied Paul Humann and Ned and Anna DeLoach far and wide, but haven't gotten around to join Michael Aw for Cuba diving.)
Looking for something between amazing and expensive diving on a trip of a lifetime and anchored liveaboards that take you to blah, overcrowded sites - at least for our first trip. Wife does not do well on the water, reluctant to take her on a liveaboard, would also like to get in at least one day of road bicycle riding (30 - 60 miles).

Did a quick online search for Michael Aw Cuba diving, stumbled on to an organization that will arrange custom Cuba tours for as few as 2 people - http://oceandoctor.org/cuba-travel-program/#customtrip. Understand it won't be cheap, but I am willing to pay a premium if it helps avoid complications upon our return.

Comments?
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Old Jun 11, 16, 9:33 pm
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Interesting travel consideration:

With the opening of the San Diego border crossing to TIJ, HAV is very accessible from Southern California - a sample full fare, one-stop biz/first ticket is less than $800 RT on AM, which should earn AS miles. No need to deal with overpriced charters from Miami.
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Old Jun 11, 16, 11:02 pm
  #81  
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
Interesting travel consideration:

With the opening of the San Diego border crossing to TIJ, HAV is very accessible from Southern California - a sample full fare, one-stop biz/first ticket is less than $800 RT on AM, which should earn AS miles. No need to deal with overpriced charters from Miami.
It may well not earn AS miles at this time, unless things have changed significantly with OFAC and U.S. airlines disallowing miles earning to and from Cuba. But for southern Californians, the CBX pedestrian bridge could be a boon.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mexic...j-airport.html.

AA and other U.S. airlines begin commercial service to Cuba in September, U.S. airlines' flights to CFG, CMW, HOG, SNU and VRA / Varadero have been announced and tickets will be sold this summer, USDOT has chosen to hold back the orders for the scrum of flights to HAV / La Habana until "sometime this summer".
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Old Jun 12, 16, 12:03 pm
  #82  
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
Looking for something between amazing and expensive diving on a trip of a lifetime and anchored liveaboards that take you to blah, overcrowded sites - at least for our first trip. Wife does not do well on the water, reluctant to take her on a liveaboard, would also like to get in at least one day of road bicycle riding (30 - 60 miles).

Did a quick online search for Michael Aw Cuba diving, stumbled on to an organization that will arrange custom Cuba tours for as few as 2 people - http://oceandoctor.org/cuba-travel-program/#customtrip. Understand it won't be cheap, but I am willing to pay a premium if it helps avoid complications upon our return.

Comments?
This seems both legitimate (Washington, D.C. based, has proper OFAC licensing, etc.) and interesting. I'd definitely trust these folks!

Not at all like my friends who used ScubaCan in Canada and got hoisted by the U.S. authorities for writing about their scuba diving in Cuba. (Yes, they did.)

P.S. My wife is susceptible to motion sickness as well, and we've done a number of liveaboards. We always take crystallized ginger (or ginger in any form) on the recommendation of Ron Storro-Patterson, who has spent many rough hours off the California West Coast - e.g. "The Potato Patch" out of San Francisco Bay - while researching whales.
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Old Jun 12, 16, 5:00 pm
  #83  
 
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Originally Posted by JDiver View Post
AA and other U.S. airlines begin commercial service to Cuba in September, U.S. airlines' flights to CFG, CMW, HOG, SNU and VRA / Varadero have been announced and tickets will be sold this summer, USDOT has chosen to hold back the orders for the scrum of flights to HAV / La Habana until "sometime this summer".
Yes, but I do not expect the fares to be nearly as competitive as those out of TIJ, all flights become domestic Mexico, MUCH less hassle clearing USCBP.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 4:08 pm
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Originally Posted by JDiver View Post
It may well not earn AS miles at this time, unless things have changed significantly with OFAC and U.S. airlines disallowing miles earning to and from Cuba.
https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mi...eromexico.aspx

Would like to believe that it should be possible to earn miles on at least the TIJ-MEX segment.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 4:23 pm
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mi...eromexico.aspx

Would like to believe that it should be possible to earn miles on at least the TIJ-MEX segment.
From AS website for AM flights: Qualify for mileage accrual

Flights must fall within the eligible flight number range below and be marketed, operated, and ticketed by Aeromexico.
Eligible flight numbers - 1–1799, 2000–3799

Considering the flight numbers (MEX-HAV: AM451, HAV-MEX: AM452), it appears to be a pretty good bet.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 9:40 pm
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Hopefully it has changed but I wouldn't bet on any miles for Cuba flights yet.

My wife and I flew WS Canada-Cuba last year and got miles on DL and AA for all flights except the ones to/from Cuba.

AA explicitly still doesn't. DL doesn't but there must be some escape clause.

Exceptions

Flights to and from Cuba are not currently eligible for earning or redeeming miles.
I somehow think there will be no miles even if there are scheduled flights until after the embargo is lifted.

Do let us know!
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Old Jun 23, 16, 11:54 am
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Why am I having a hard time understanding this?

Does this mean I can apply to OFAC use whatever reason I want and once approve fly there as tourism. As long as when I return to the states that i declare honestly that I have been to Cuba?

Can someone explain in simple terms
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Old Jun 23, 16, 11:59 am
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Originally Posted by JDiver View Post
AA and other U.S. airlines begin commercial service to Cuba in September, U.S. airlines' flights to CFG, CMW, HOG, SNU and VRA / Varadero have been announced and tickets will be sold this summer.
According to http://www.farecompare.com/news/amer...uba-flights/#?, there are some excellent fares, peaked my interest.

We are warming up to the idea of creating our own conforming itinerary to Cuba, based on information found online. Concern is that most all is based in and around Havana, wondering if anyone can offer similar suggestions for one or more of the airports listed above.
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Old Jun 23, 16, 12:21 pm
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Originally Posted by FPmiles View Post
Why am I having a hard time understanding this?

Does this mean I can apply to OFAC use whatever reason I want and once approve fly there as tourism. As long as when I return to the states that i declare honestly that I have been to Cuba?

Can someone explain in simple terms
It is now possible to develop your own, "legal" itinerary for a self-guided visit to Cuba, provided it conforms to one or more of the stated criteria. There is no requirement to obtain a formal license in advance, all indications are that US CBP does not scrutinize such details - only that your declarations upon return to the US are truthful.
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Old Jun 23, 16, 2:07 pm
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If you go this way, FPMiles, you are required to keep a log of all your activities and keep it for five years. Whether anyone official will ever ask to see it is another story. I went as a journalist last year and dutifully kept a journal of every place I visited and everything I did. No one has asked to see it and I doubt they ever will. But I complied with the law. I will be going back again and again, and I want to do it right.

once approve fly there as tourism
To comply with the law, you cannot go as a leisure tourist. Your trip still has to fit into one of the 12 approved categories.
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