Cruise lines say visiting Cuba by ship is safe

Three big cruise companies with itineraries that include calls in Havana said their ships are a safe way to visit the island, even though the U.S. State Department is warning Americans against going.

The warning is in response to illnesses reported by diplomatic workers in Havana attributed to some sort of sonic weapon. The attacks, which began last November, are thought to have occurred in residences or in a hotel that houses diplomatic personnel on temporary assignment.

In response, the U.S. government has withdrawn most of its diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Because some of the attacks occurred at a hotel, the government also warned tourists.

The government of Cuba has denied any involvement in the attacks, an assertion that hasn’t been challenged by the U.S.

Carnival Cruise Line sails to Havana from Tampa with its Carnival Paradise ship. In a statement, it said that it would continue its cruises to Cuba for the moment.

“While members and relatives of the U.S. diplomatic corps have suffered illnesses apparently triggered by occurrences at the diplomatic offices or possibly their homes, none of the more than 475,000 other Americans visiting Cuba this year have reported similar health issues related to their visits,” the Carnival statement said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), which also takes passengers to Havana from Tampa on the Royal Caribbean International ship the Empress of the Seas, said it was aware of the State Department warnings.

“Since the warning is due to the events that occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens, we do not feel they pose a risk to our cruise passengers,” an RCCL statement said. “Our guests explore Havana on escorted tours and do not visit hotels.”

Norwegian Cruise Line, which visits Havana on its Norwegian Sky ship from Miami, said its cruises there continue to operate as scheduled.

“There have been no reported incidents involving tourists or other cruise ship passengers,” said a Norwegian statement that also noted incidents have been isolated to diplomats and government officials residing on the island. “Our shore excursions and tour locations have been thoroughly evaluated,” the statement continued. “We continue to believe that the best way to travel to Cuba is via cruise ship and look forward to continuing to offer our guests the opportunity to explore Cuba’s beauty, culture and friendly people.”

Asked about cancellations or a slowdown in Cuba bookings, a Norwegian spokeswoman said there was “nothing to note at the moment.”

Spokeswomen for RCCL and Carnival declined to comment on bookings.

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