By Nathan Hale
Law360, Miami (April 28, 2016, 5:35 PM ET) — Two Cuban-born Americans accusing Carnival Corp. of civil rights violations for barring Cuban-born consumers from its new cruises to the once off-limits country dropped their proposed class action Thursday, citing recent changes in Carnival’s booking policy and Cuban law.
The Miami-based cruise operator, the world’s largest, had acted quickly to resolve the controversy following the suit’s filing on April 12 by Francisco Marty and Amparo Sanchez and a wave of intense public criticism, including from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other local officials over its decision to adopt a Cuban policy of not allowing people born in the country to travel there by ship.
The complaint alleged that Carnival and its new unit Fathom Travel Ltd. Corp. violated the Civil Rights Act by adopting Cuba’s policy of not allowing people born in the country to travel there by ship, prohibiting the consumers from boarding the first American cruise line to go to the island in more than 50 years.
Carnival said April 18 that it was opening its booking process to all passengers in anticipation of being able to work out a change before the scheduled May 1 commencement of sailings on Carnival’s Fathom line. The company also said that it would delay the departure if an acceptable resolution were not achieved in time.
Last Friday, the Cuban government, through the state-run newspaper Granma, and Carnival said that the prohibition had been lifted for passengers and crews of cruise ships and merchant vessels.
In their notice of dismissal Thursday, the plaintiffs also noted that Carnival has pledged to help Cuban-born Americans with special visa and passport requirements.
“We filed our case with one, simple goal: to end discrimination against Cuban-born Americans who were being denied cruises to Cuba based on their place of birth,” plaintiffs counsel Tucker Ronzetti of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton LLP said in a statement Thursday.
Ronzetti added, “With our goal accomplished, we are dismissing our case. We look forward to all U.S. citizens, Cuban-born or otherwise, now equally enjoying cruises to Cuba.”
A spokesman for Carnival echoed those sentiments, saying, “We are pleased with the outcome, and extremely excited about Sunday’s historic launch as the first U.S. cruise line to sail to Cuba in more than 50 years.”
Carnival had announced in July that it would begin cruises to Cuba from the Port of Miami in May as part of a new “social-impact travel” brand now that the U.S. government has given the company approval to take travelers to the island nation. Last month, Carnival became the first cruise line to be approved by Cuba.
The first cruise is scheduled to depart Miami on May 1 with stops planned in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba before a return to Miami.
On Thursday, Marty issued an impassioned statement of his own, explaining his reasons for filing the suit and what it meant to him to see it help strike down the apparent discrimination.
“I fled Cuba because there was no respect for the rule of law. I went back and fought to liberate my native land, and I was unable to do so. As a Cuban-American I am proud to call the United States my country and my home. When I was denied passage by Carnival to my native land, I was shocked that such an action could be taken by a company that calls the Miami Port its home,” Marty said.
He said he never doubted the suit would succeed, because the rule of law always wins in the U.S.
“What I did not expect was that my case would change the law of a country,” Marty said. “I once landed on the beaches of Cuba to fight for its liberty — I did this with a rifle. I was not successful. I engaged Cuba again by sea, this time armed with the law, and I won.”
Sanchez and Marty are represented by Thomas A. Tucker Ronzetti, Javier A. Lopez and Stephanie Moncada Gomez of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton LLP and Robert W. Rodriguez of Robert W. Rodriguez PA.
Carnival and Fathom are represented by Stuart Harold Singer, Luis Eduardo Suarez, Markenzy Lapointe and Stephen N. Zack of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP.
The suit is Sanchez et al. v. Carnival Corp. et al., case number 1:16-cv-21319, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
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