About 50 people protested Tuesday outside Carnival Corporation headquarters in Miami, saying the cruise line’s policies are disrespectful to Cuban-Americans by not allowing them on board when it heads to the island next month for the first time in decades.
Carnival said in a statement it must comply with the visas, entry and exit policies of every country, but has lodged a request with the Cuban government to change the ship policy.
Cuban law forbids Cuban natives from leaving or entering the country by ship, although the island nation does allow air travel for Cuban-born individuals.
"We believe we have a much better chance in helping to effect that change by working within the current boundaries of the policy while engaged in an active commercial agreement," the company said in a statement.
The Adonia will leave Miami and head to Havana on May 1 and will travel every two weeks with additional stops in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
"Who is the Cuban government to tell Carnival who it can take to Cuba and who it can't?" Norys Aguila, a Cuban American who came to the U.S. in 1961 as a child during the Pedro Pan exodus, told the Miami Herald. "And for Carnival to accept such a baseness, it is completely disrespectful against all Cuban Americans, against the laws of this country."
She said the cruise line should take all passengers to Cuba or no one. Others complained that while the cruise line's stance was legal, it was not moral.
The Cuban national anthem played as protesters held signs calling on Carnival Corp. to stop "nationality apartheid."
"Although this action that Carnival is undertaking is legal, it's immoral because it's discriminatory, it's excluding," said Cuban singer-songwriter Amaury Gutierrez, who joined Tuesday’s protest." It's a terrible message for the Miami community and the international community,"
The Associated Press and EFE contributed to this report.