(CN) – A class action claims Carnival Cruise Lines is unfairly preventing Cubans living in Florida from traveling to their homeland to appease the Castro government.
Carnival’s Fathom small ship line is the first cruise ship company to be granted federal approval for round-trip travel between the United States and multiple destinations in Cuba. The first ship sails from Miami to Cuba on May 1, 2016.
But in a lawsuit filed in Miami Federal court, plaintiffs Amparo Sanchez and Francisco Marty say cruise line is discriminating against them by kowtowing to Cold War-era Cuban law that prohibits Cuban-born individuals from traveling to the island nation by sea.
“Cuban law currently prohibits Cuban nationals from traveling to or from Cuba by ship, including cruise lines and ferries,” the April 12 complaint says.
Sanchez and Marty say that they contacted Fathom Travel earlier this month to make reservations for its new cruise to Cuba, but the representatives told them that they could not have a reservation because they were Cuban nationals.
Sanchez and Marty claim that the Fathom representatives explained to them that the cruise line had been “working on the issue for months” with the Cuban government, and that they did not want to lose them as customers.
Fathom Travel is a subsidiary of Carnival, which bills itself as “The World’s Most Popular Cruise Line.” The parent company operates 24 ships worldwide and welcomes 11 million passengers aboard its vessels every year, the complaint says.
Sanchez and Marty claim that Carnival and Fathom Travel are denying them the enjoyment of a place of public accommodation, and that they are being discriminated due to their Cuban national origin.
“We have requested a change in the regulation and we are actively working the issue. This is not a decision by our Fathom brand, but rather a Cuba decision,” said Roger Frizzell, the Chief Communications Officer from Carnival Corp.
Frizzell claims that having an active dialogue with the Cuban government brings a better opportunity of changing the policy rather than keeping some of the policies from previous years, which have not brought any change.
“It is our hope and intention that everyone can travel and we will continue to pursue a change in the regulation that puts cruising on the same footing as aircraft travel is today in Cuba,” Frizzell said.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in on the controversy during an interview with CNN en Español and the Miami Herald.
“Carnival needs to not discriminate,” Kerry said.
“American citizens, Cuban Americans have a right to travel, and we should not be in a situation where the Cuban government is forcing its discrimination policy on us,” he said.
Sanchez and Marty are seeking for injunctive relief on claims of violations of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
They are represented by Thomas A. Tucker Ronzetti from Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton LLP in Coral Gables, Fla.
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