As a consequence of the takeover of Costa Crociere by Carnival Corporation and Airtours, Carnival has temporarily and indirectly entered the Cuban cruise market. A spokesperson of the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed that an agreement was reached with Carnival allowing the Cuba ties to exist for a period of time followmg the acquisition date.
Winding Down Costa Playa
A Carnival spokesperson explained that Costa's Cuba-based cruise ship, the Costa Playa, "is currently winding down its operations" and "will be sold." The Carnival spokesperson also referred to the "wind-down agreement with the U.S. government" which allows such an arrangement to legally exist during the transition period.
As a condition of the Carnival/Airtours takeover bid, Costa had agreed to divest all of its interests in Cuba. Nevertheless, the Carnival spokesperson explained why Costa could not cease operations with the ship immediately following the Carnival/Airtours takeover, stating, "Costa had sold cruises on the ship (after the acquisition date), and they have a reputation to maintain." Also, Costa could not sell off the ship before the deal went through because there was always at least the theoretical possibility that the deal would not be consummated, he added.
Beyond its Havana-homeported cruise ship, Costa Crociere also remains the owner of Milestone, a Monte Carlo-based company which operates a 50-50 joint venture with the Castro government called Silares Terminales. Silares Terminales renovated the Havana cruise docks, and continues to operate the facility. As of June 26, a Milestone representative confirmed it was still under Costa's ownership. Thus, Milestone is now under the ownership of Carnival and Airtours.
According to a Treasury spokesperson, "On Feb. 13, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) gave a license to Carnival to purchase Costa Crociere provided that Carnival agreed to abandon or terminate Costa's existing business interests in Cuba." The deadline for such divestment is reportedly six months following the date of the acquisition. The Treasury spokesperson could not confirm that deadline, stating only that "OFAC and Carnival came to an agreement on a mutually acceptable period of time."