The Daily Mail called it "Cuba's first ULTRA luxury hotel"—a gorgeous five-star complex in Old Havana featuring more than 200 guest rooms, a high-end shopping arcade, three restaurants, multiple bars, a spa, a rooftop infiniti pool with spectacular panoramic views of the capitol, and the swankiest cigar lounge I'll bet you've ever seen.
It's Gran Hotel Manzana. The newly renovated century-old downtown structure is operated by the storied Swiss hotel chain the Kempinski Group. But if you're thinking it might be nice to spend a night there, I've got bad news for you: Because it's owned by Gaviota, the Cuban military's tourism arm, no Americans will be permitted to experience it for themselves, thanks to changes to the United States' Cuba policy announced by President Donald Trump just one week after the Manzana's grand opening in early June.
"We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of Castro regime," the president said in his Miami speech. "They will be restricted. We will enforce the ban on tourism."
A recent FAQ sheet from the Treasury Department suggests Americans will still be able to visit Cuba, so long as the purpose of the trip is educational—and so long as their arrangements do not directly benefit the military. Staying at a pricy luxury resort owned by Gaviota will certainly be out of the question, as Cuba hawk Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) explained at the time of Trump's speech:
Americans who travel to Cuba can stay & spend with any non-military business on island. Now it's up to Castro govt. to allow them to benefit
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 16, 2017
It's a shame. By all reports, the investments into Gran Hotel Manzana were made in response to President Barack Obama's 2014 opening up of relations with our island neighbor, in an effort to prepare the way for more Americans to comfortably visit the country. Now it seems the sparkling new establishment will be barred to U.S. travelers—not because the Communist government of Cuba has told us we're not welcome, but because our own government has told us we're not allowed.
While reporting in Havana this summer (check out my story "Whiplash and Backlash in the Republic of Cuba" in the brand new issue of Reason for more on that), I had the chance to tour this forbidden destination. The gallery below gives you just a taste of what I saw.