JetBlue Offers First Direct Flights to Cuba

 In News, Travel

Cuba-Havana-CapitolBuildingJetBlue became the first major U.S. carrier recently to launch direct flights between New York City and Havana, Cuba, since the White House eased travel restrictions earlier this year. This is exciting news for travelers who have been trying to legally travel to Cuba without taking circuitous routing.

The weekly charter flights operate between New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and Havana’s José Martí International Airport. The new route, which was announced in May, joins four other JetBlue flights that provide round trips between the U.S. and Cuba, giving the airline an even stronger presence in the Caribbean.

While the US travel restrictions have relaxed, you still have to come on a religious, cultural or educational trip, although some sporting teams have access. Essentially, whatever your reason for traveling, it still must be “non-touristic”. There are travel companies that book to Cuba frequently and can help you with the paperwork.  See more on the types of travel licenses you can apply for below.

If travelers do decide to visit Cuba, there are several important things to keep in mind. Expect a long wait at the airport in Havana for luggage.  Also, visitors must bring cash, because American credit cards are not accepted there. In addition, don’t expect all the conveniences of home, like easily accessible Wi-Fi.

Aside from flying there are some other unique ways to travel to Cuba now as well. Carnival cruises announced recently that they got the go-ahead from the US Department of Treasury and Department of Commerce to launch cruises to Cuba beginning in May 2016. Cuban authorities have, however, not given Carnival the “all clear”. Carnival president and CEO Arnold Donald said the company is in “active discussions” with the Cuban government. The cruises cost roughly $3,000. Carnival is taking reservations, but deposits are fully refundable.

Also, the United States issued licenses for ferry service between the U.S. and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. The Treasury Department issued at least four licenses to companies that want to establish ferry service to Cuba from Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and possibly Tampa. The Sun-Sentinel reported that Port Everglades, the Port of Palm Beach and Port Miami are possible state seaports preparing for travel to Cuba. One ferry company estimates ticket costs at $250 for a 10-hour round trip between Miami and Havana.

Here are some things to keep in mind before booking your trip to Cuba. Remember that Americans can only travel to Cuba if they are eligible for one of 12 licenses offered under the Treasury Department’s new rules:

  • 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 information materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions.

Click here for more information on general licenses and travel to Cuba.

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