Attorneys speak out on Carnival, Cuba controversy in court

MIAMI (WSVN) — A cruise controversy is now docking in court after hundreds of passengers upset at a policy they call discriminatory are filing a lawsuit.
   
There is still uncertainty about whether the cruise to Cuba will actually set sail from PortMiami, May 1. Although Carnival Corporation changed its policy when it comes to Cuban-born passengers, many new questions linger.

Carnival attorneys talked for the first time about the behind-the-scenes negotiations they’re having with the Cuban government. "One of the cardinal principles of diplomacy is that governments do not want to be viewed as being forced to do something," said Carnival attorney Stephen Zack. "We want this to succeed."

They won’t say who they’re talking to or how high up the negotiations have gone, but they’ve made one thing clear: Their Fathom ship will not sail next Sunday if Cuban-born Americans are not allowed.

The attorneys that have filed a lawsuit against Carnival said that is not enough. "I think we’ve made definite progress, but we haven’t taken it all the way to the goal line," said Tucker Ronzetti, who is suing Carnival Cruise Line. 

That progress has come after protests, lawsuits, and after Secretary of State John Kerry got involved. But in federal court, Thursday, new questions came up. 

Even if Cuba allows Cuban-born Americans to sail, how difficult will it be for them to get visas? They could have to go all the way to the embassy in Washington D.C. and even then, attorneys said there wouldn’t be any guarantees. "It’s only open between 9 a.m. and noon, and it is difficult, if not impossible to get through," Ronzetti said.

But Carnival said they’ve hired an outside company to help passengers navigate the visa process.

The federal judge had some questions as well, and asked whether the Cuban-born passengers will have to wait on the ship and drink piña coladas while everyone else got off at Cuban ports. 

Carnival lawyers said they don’t want it to be a cruise to nowhere. "What more could Carnival have done? Carnival has done everything it could. It is continuing to work as hard as it possibly can to change any concerns that may have been expressed," Zack said. "We believe we are going to be successful."

The Carnival attorneys said they simply cannot control the Cuban government or their immigration policies. The federal judge will now have to decide whether the lawsuit can move forward. It remains to be seen whether the ship will leave PortMiami next Sunday. Carnival officials said they are optimistic it will.