Port Manatee Cuba travel plans

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 5:53 pm | Updated: 9:11 pm, Sun Oct 6, 2013.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - How would you like to take a trip to Cuba...legally?  It is possible from several ports across the state, and now Port Manatee may soon be adding the service.

When many people think of Cuba, the first thought that comes to mind is Ricky Ricardo playing "Babalu". That image dates back to the 40's but for most people in the United States, getting a more updated vision of the country has not been possible. That's because of U.S. imposed travel restrictions.

"The embargo against Cuba from many years ago is still in place and it really hasn't changed much so that basically blocked everything to do with Cuba including travel," said Steve Briggs the owner of VIP World Travel.

But, Port Manatee officials are exploring the option of adding a cruise or ferry service that would travel from Port Manatee to Cuba. 

And many we spoke with say they are open to the idea.  "I would go in a heartbeat we've been wanting to go to Cuba forever," said Sarasota resident Kim Soto. 

Still other are a little skeptical.

"Is it legal? Well I might check it out," added Doug Trottier.

While the details of Port Manatee's travel plan have not been released yet. Briggs says traveling to the country is becoming more common now that the United States is loosening some of its restrictions on the country.

"If anybody said they wanted to go to Cuba the answer was just no, but that's been changing no," said Briggs

But for Port Manatee or any agency wanting to move forward with Cuba travel plans they must first get permission from the U.S. government and prove that the trip meets certain criteria.  That includes not spending any money in the county.  And, that's just the beginning.

"There's a number of tour companies who are now be able to sell trips to Cuba but they have to sell them as a people to people exchange program. Like some type of cultural exchange or art exchange," added Briggs.

Port Manatee Official were not available for comment.  But we do know they are not the only port in the state who has attempted similar travel plans.

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1 comment:

  • jmcauliff posted at 7:05 pm on Sun, Sep 1, 2013.

    jmcauliff Posts: 2

    It will be a great step forward when ferry service to Cuba is permitted.

    At this point, however, only Cuban Americans will realistically be able to take advantage of it.

    The key to expansion is for President Obama to grant the same general license to all non-tourist purposeful travel that he gave to Cuban Americans. That will end OFAC's bureaucratic obstacles and allow lower cost self-organized programs, including staying in privately owned bed and breakfasts, renting cars and using public transportation.

    The President and Congress need to hear from the two-thirds of Americans who want to protect the existing opening and support unrestricted travel.

    If Cuba wants to fully benefit from the potential of US travelers, it will need to open the tourism sector to cuenta propistas (self-employed) and foreign investors.

    Travel will only become normal and happen in large scale with a change in US law permitting conventional sun and sand tourism, unlikely as long as Republicans control the House.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development


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