Americans need visas to enter Cuba. Rather than deal with all the intricacies of this ourselves, we decided to let the Fathom cruise line do it for us.
Once we booked our cruise, getting a visa was as simple as filling out an online form on the Fathom website. This took us all of five minutes.
Americans traveling with Fathom will also be required to fill out an affidavit affirming you are traveling to Cuba for a “person to person” educational purpose.
The forms themselves are a little fiddly. Fathom makes them easy to find, but to complete them, you must download a PDF form, fill it out on a computer, sign it electronically, save your changes, and upload the amended form to Fathom again. Clyde had no problem with this at all, but I had to submit my form several times before Fathom’s website would acknowledge I had done so.
On the affidavit, you’ll have to check a box to indicate the kind of person to person experience you’re planning to enjoy. There is one box (Box A) you’ll check if all you want to do is go on Fathom’s ship-led excursions. There is another box (Box B) you’ll check if you plan to skip the ship-led excursions and go out on your own.
You get the most flexibility, though, if you check both boxes. This will allow you to go with Fathom on any of the pre-paid excursions included with the price of your cruise AND it will allow you to go off on your own, if you decide to do so.
Be aware that, if you check Box B only, indicating you plan to to everything on your own, you’re legally required to keep a journal of your entire time in Cuba. The journal should cover a minimum of eight hours of activity a day, and, by law, you’re required to be able to produce copy of that journal for U.S. authorities to inspect any time over the next five years (!)
Frankly? We think that requirement is part of the general political silliness that is still associated with Americans traveling to Cuba. Exactly who will be knocking on your door five years from now, demanding to see a copy of the journal you kept? That said: you’d do well to at least jot down a little schedule of the things you did each day you were on your own.