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|Cuba||May 20 – 27, 2018||$3,995|
We are at an historic time in our U.S. and Cuban relationship. Recent developments offer U.S. travelers the opportunity to see Cuba before it changes forever. Even though the U.S. government is making noises about making travel to Cuba more restrictive (to put it lightly) we adventure on! Let’s gain entry with the ultimate result in discovering and connecting with the culture of this land of richness and spirited people. This people-to-people cultural exchange trip affords a small window of opportunity to us now, and time is of the essence.
We’ll learn the history of this island nation back to the 15th century, the spirit of revolution the Cuban people carry in their hearts, and how this spirit is reflected in their beautiful art, music, architecture and food. This is not your standard vacation, but a people-to-people program. The U.S. regulations still only allow travel in Cuba for U.S. citizens that facilitate interaction with locals, with the goal for an understanding of Cuba’s culture. We will travel with a U.S. and Cuban government-authorized operator, with a very busy schedule of educational and cultural activities. We’ll start from Havana, Cuba’s enigmatic capital city, whose nearly 500 year Old Havana is home to the largest collections of Spanish-Colonial architecture in the Americas. Then we’re off to our all-inclusive resort located directly on a pristine white sand Caribbean beach. From there we will experience so many new sights, sounds, and tastes of Varadero, Matanzas, The Vinales Valley, Pinar Del Rio and back to Havana, with incredible memories and an appreciation for an era and a culture right at this historic time of change. Join us on this special adventure, and interact with local Cuban women to discuss their lives, economy, challenges, aspirations, and more.
Arrive in Miami by 4pm and transfer to our Miami airport hotel and meet up point. We’ll check into the hotel and have dinner together. This evening an informational briefing will be held at the hotel about tomorrow’s charter flight to Havana, review of paperwork, and the start of our people to people experience in Cuba. Overnight Miami.
This morning transfer to the Miami International Airport and check in for your short flight to Havana, Cuba. Upon arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport and clearing customs, we’ll meet our local bilingual Cuban Guide outside the baggage terminal. Our drive from the airport orients us with Cuba’s enigmatic capital city, whose nearly 500-year Old Havana is home to the largest collections of Spanish-Colonial architecture in the Americas. Make a photo stop and learn more about the Plaza de la Revolucion, the center of Cuban political life and Havana’s largest plaza where huge rallies are held. Your Cuban guide speaks below the grandiose portraits of national heroes Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, and gives you time to reflect on the fact that you’re standing where millions of Cubans have stood while listening to speeches of Fidel Castro. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Havana. We’ll enjoy a walking tour with a local historian of the fascinating Colon Cemetery, founded in 1876 and named for Christopher Columbus. The cemetery is noted for its many elaborate sculpted memorials and contains more than 500 major mausoleums, chapels and family vaults and is considered by many to be the most ornate necropolis in the world and is the final resting place for noted Cubans including artists, writers, musicians and ballplayers. Check into our hotel and unpack for five nights. Dinner is at a local restaurant in Havana this evening. Overnight Havana (B,L,D)
This morning enjoy a guided walking tour of pedestrian only Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the beautiful Cathedral de la Havana, built in baroque style in 1748. Visit the Marqueta Vieja Havana Museum that houses the scale model of the city of Havana and to meet with an expert on the city’s architecture and restoration efforts. Begin with a presentation from a local architect who discusses Havana’s unique architecture, the current challenges of restoring the city’s historic buildings and the future of the city’s restoration effort. Next, enjoy a fascinating tour of the Havana Club Rum Museum with a local Cuban rum expert to learn about the history and process of making Cuban Rum and participate in a private discussion about rum and an op- portunity to sample the differences. Following lunch at a local Paladar in Old Havana this afternoon we visit the famous Museum of the Revolution that displays documents and artifacts, weapons and planes from the revolution. See artifacts & learn more about the Bay of Pigs, the 1961 historic clash between the CIA trained Cuban exiles & rebel forces, the event that defined US-Cuba relations for decades. Next we head to the charming fishing village of Jaimanitas to visit the incredible Home and Work Shop of world famous artist, painter and ceramicist Jose Fuster, often called the “Picasso of Cuba”. He has adorned an entire neighborhood with colorful ornate mosaics. Here we spend time with the Fuster family and staff to discuss the influence of the artist’s work and their lives and community. Dinner is on your own this evening allowing you to explore the fine restaurants, cuisine and Jazz clubs of Havana. Perhaps even take in the world famous Tropicana Cabaret Show their nightclub show presents song-and-dance performances reminiscent of 1950’s Cuba. Overnight Havana (B,L)
This morning following breakfast we begin the day with a fascinating visit and guided tour with a local cigar expert to the La Corona Cigar Factory. See first hand and learn about the history and the process of Cuban cigars being hand rolled. Next enjoy a performance by the amazing Habana Compas Dance Group. Interact with the students and teachers to learn more about the Cuban dance culture. Next, visit and tour the Nacional Hotel, once Havana’s flagship hotel that has hosted celebrities and world leaders during its heyday, such as Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra to name a few. Enjoy a tour of this historic property housing pictures and nostalgia from a by gone era. Meet a former famous professional Cuban baseball player and join in a discussion regarding the history and love of this game in Cuba and the U.S. Dinner is included this evening at a local Paladar. Overnight Havana (B,L,D)
Today we travel out of Havana and into the rural Cuban countryside to the Vinales Valley located in the western most mountainous range in Cuba and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This region, the western province of Pinar del Rio is known for its stunning scenery, a landscape of prehistoric looking flat-top mountains or “mogotes”, tobacco plantations, caves and rivers. Next, visit a traditional Tobacco Farm and Farmhouse to meet with the farmer to learn about tobacco cultivation, the drying process and experience a cigar rolling demonstration inside the drying hut. Enjoy a visit inside his farmhouse, meeting and interacting with his family while enjoying some Cuban coffee. A great opportunity to witness up close, how Cuban families live in a rural setting. Next enjoy lunch at the beautiful Finca Paraiso Paladar (organic farm) offering incredible panoramic views of the Vinales Valley and an opportunity to meet the Cuban family that owns this organic farm. Later stop at the Los Jasmines viewpoint offering incredible views of the Vinales Valley and an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular scenery and take photos of this beautiful and unique region of Cuba. Return to Havana later this afternoon with the evening on your own to explore Havana’s many outstanding Paladars, jazz clubs or simply relax and enjoy a swim in the pool. Overnight Havana (B,L)
This morning we enter the world of Ernest Hemingway with a visit to Hemingway’s Farm, Finca La Vigia (meaning ‘lookout house’). This beautiful property hosts the house where the Nobel Prize winner lived with his wife Martha for 21 years. View the perfectly preserved home where many of the Hemingway personal furniture and belongings remain intact. View his famous boat on display, the Pilar in which he used to patrol for Nazis in the Caribbean waters and featured in his novel “Islands in the Stream”. A photo stop is made at the Morro Castle, built in 1589, to protect the mouth of the Havana Harbor. “Morro” in Spanish means a rock which is very visible from the sea and therefore serves as a navigational landmark. Perched on the headland on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance. Next visit the San Jose Craft Market and Art Center to meet and interact with the local artists to discuss and learn of the importance of their art in Cuban culture. Learn from the artists who share their experiences of pursuing the arts with limited access to materials and funding. Before dinner, meet the local Old Style Car Club owners. A chance to interact and talk with the owners and learn why Havana’s streets are filled with vintage American automobiles and understand what it takes to keep them on the road. Enjoy a drive through the streets of Havana in a vintage car to our Farewell Dinner at a one of Havana’s top local Paladars. After dinner you have an opportunity to meet and discuss with the owners how this private Paladar enterprise works in Cuba. Overnight Havana (B,L,D)
Following breakfast this mornig, we’ll transfer to the airport for our return flight home with incredible memories of the amazing people and culture of this fascinating country. Please don’t book your departure flight from Miami to your home airport before 4pm as we need to clear customs back in the U.S. and connect to our onward flights. (B)
What’s Not Included
Special Notes for Cuba: