When President Donald Trump announced he was reinstating travel restrictions to Cuba last week in Miami, it didn't look like the M.I.A. Beer Company cruise in 2018 to the island nation would happen.
But it turns out the cruise is a go because the new policy still allows group travel for educational tours. Trump's reversal of Obama's Cuba policy means that individual travel to the Caribbean island won't be allowed in the future.
NCL released a statement following Trump's June 16 announcement:
We are very pleased to learn the news that cruises to Cuba will continue under the new guidelines laid out by the Administration. All of our cruises to, and shore excursions in, Cuba are in full compliance with regulations set forth by the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC"), and we will work with the Administration to comply with any changes to those and any other regulations that will result from its decision. We are also pleased that education travel and travel that supports the Cuban people will continue.
This is good news to beer lovers and a relief to M.I.A. Brewing co-owner Eddie Leon, who had been planning the cruise for months before the announcement. He thought there was public interest in a beer cruise to Cuba given the successes of cruises with Wynwood Brewing Company and Funky Buddha Brewery. There's reason to believe he's still correct.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control requires a cultural component to travel to Cuba, and Leon plans to deliver on that aspect.
"Obviously, there's a cultural connection to see Cuban beer," Leon tells New Times. "Our group will be learning about Cuban's rich brewing and spirits industry in Old Havana. We will be touring breweries and meeting brewers. We will not be sunbathing on the beaches or staying at government-owned hotels. It will be a one-of-a-kind learning experience."
The cruise details are still being worked out, but activities could include dinner pairings, a freestyle dance party, a pool party during the day, and a midnight dark beer/chocolate pairing. The cruise will also offer brewery tours in Havana.
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Separate from the cruise, Leon also considered a collaboration with a Cuban brewery after one of M.I.A.'s brewers had a positive experience touring the country's beer industry. Because of the embargo, however, they wouldn't be able to take the suds back to the States. "Even though we couldn't bring the beer back to the U.S.," Leon says, "starting relationships down there could be quite interesting."
There wouldn't be much M.I.A. could do in terms of taking ingredients to Cuba, Leon says, with the exception of maybe hops and yeast. But even if they can't do a collaboration, Leon says, they can still take a group of people to see how Cuban beer is made.
Before Trump's announcement, cruise lines were enjoying robust travel between Cuba and the United States. The Miami cruise industry booked nearly five million guests in 2016, according to cruiseindustrynews.com.
Cabins on the M.I.A. Beer Company cruise start at $809 per person plus fees. To reserve a cabin, call 954-778-5699. A $50 deposit is required.