Cruise Lines Disagree With Cuba Judgement from Florida Court

A Florida Judge awarded more than 400 million in damages to the Havana Docks Corp., a decision Royal Caribbean and Carnival will appeal.

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Both Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean have made it clear they will seek to appeal the decision from a Florida Judge to award the Havana Docks Corporation with four hundred and forty million dollars in damages. 

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami ruled that the use of the Havana Cruise Port Terminal constitutes trafficking in confiscated property owned by the plaintiff. This Delaware-registered company is owned by two individuals said to be direct descendants of the original owners of the docks in Havana, Cuba. This decision follows her ruling in March on the same issue.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation Will Appeal

Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean have announced plans to appeal a Florida Judge’s decision to award the Havana Docks Corporation $440 million in damages. 

Judge Beth Bloom in Miami ruled that the use of the Havana Cruise Port Terminal constituted trafficking in confiscated property belonging to the plaintiff, a Delaware-registered company owned by two individuals who claim to be direct descendants of the original owners of the docks in Havana, Cuba.

Cruise Ships in Cuba
Photo Credit: Arodel / Shutterstock

The court’s decision marks a significant victory for Cuban Americans seeking compensation for seizing their assets during the Cold War. The plaintiff was awarded a total of $109,671,180.90 in damages from Carnival Corporation and an additional $109,848,747.87 from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Group, and MSC Cruises. 

In a statement to Reuters, Royal Caribbean Group expressed its disagreement with the ruling. The company stated that it would be appealing the decision, as well as Carnival Corporation, which also “strongly disagreed” with the verdict and emphasized that it had engaged in “lawful travel.”

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings declined to comment on the matter, while MSC Cruises did not respond to a request for comment.

What Did The Cruise Companies do Wrong?

The lawsuit, brought under the Helms-Burton Act, allows U.S. nationals to sue over the use of property seized in Cuba after 1959. Havana Docks accused the cruise companies of using a confiscated dock in Cuba and collecting over $1.2 billion in revenue from their cruises without paying anything to Havana Docks or the Cuban people.

Roberto Martinez, the attorney for Havana Docks, commented on the ruling, saying, “This is a very important ruling by Judge Bloom. The commercial use of confiscated property in Cuba in violation of U.S. law carries clearly detailed and well-known and publicized legal consequences.”

Carnival Cruise Ship in Cuba
Carnival Cruise Ship in Cuba

Under the rules and regulations that the Obama administration had set out, the cruise lines were allowed to engage in people-to-people activities but not tourism-related activities. 

In March, the cruise lines stated their actions were entirely legal in Cuba and sanctioned under licenses issued by US government organizations. However, Judge Bloom noted that cruise companies had simply interpreted the rules and regulations as they saw fit.

Micky Arison, Chairman at Carnival Corporation, knew already in 2019 that Carnival would be liable for damages, as he said in a letter sent to then-President Trump:

“President Trump, I wanted to follow up on our discussion regarding Cuba. The news is reporting that Title III of Helms-Burton, the Cuba lawsuit ban, will be fully lifted today. If there are no exceptions or clarifications, we would be subject to significant legal liability for our use Of the Ports.”

“We do not own the ports or even manage them, but because we use them, we could be deemed as “trafficking” in confiscated property, and the penalty to my company alone would be over $600 million.”

The statement from Micky Arison draws doubts on whether the penalties imposed by Judge Bloom will be withdrawn by any judge, seeing as the cruise companies knew full well they were in the wrong. 

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