In a move that is sure to please many cruise passengers who enjoy duty-free shopping, Obama Administration lifted the restrictions on buying Cuban cigars and rum overseas.
In a regulatory change announced on Friday, the administration noted that Cuban cigars and rum bought abroad will no longer be banned; instead, the items will be subject to the same customs limits as alcohol and tobacco products from other international countries. The easement goes into effect Monday.
The Administration also changed the limits on bringing cigars and alcohol, as well as other items such as artwork, back from Cuba itself, putting them in line with goods bought in other international countries. Previously, American travelers – including cruisers – to the Caribbean's largest island were restricted to $100 in alcohol and tobacco, and $400 in goods overall. This is good news for Cuban artisans; paintings, sketches and sculptures are a popular souvenir for Americans to bring back from the island.
Don't expect Cuban cigars and rum to show up at your local tobacco or liquor store, however; it's still illegal to bring them in for commercial use. You also still have to travel to get them, as online sales are still not allowed.
The executive order also got rid of a number of non-travel restrictions aimed at increasing relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In addition to the regulatory changes, President Obama released a presidential policy directive today that he hopes makes "our opening to Cuba irreversible."
"These changes are representative of the progress I saw firsthand when I visited Havana to personally extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people," the Obama directive said.
"Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values."
Image: The Indian Express
Americans are still restricted from taking leisure travel to Cuba under the embargo, which will take congressional action to lift. Cruise lines have started offering Americans itineraries to Cuba through people to people visas; Fathom is the only cruise line sailing directly to the island from Miami, while Vantage, Celestyal and International Expeditions are running cruises for Americans within Cuba. Other cruise lines are selling Cuba trips, but none have actually received permission to dock from the Cuban authorities.