Summary : There are few countries as fascinating or enigmatic as Cuba. Meet, talk and interact with Cuban people from all walks of life to gain insight into the daily lives of residents. Join a local architect for an educational walk through Havana, discussing its historic styles and contemporary restoration efforts, and experience a salsa lesson and one-on-one talk with a Cuban salsa instructor. Whether you’re playing a few innings with Cuban baseball players, discussing the history of U.S.-Cuba relations with a Foreign Service scholar, talking with owners in a privately owned paladar (family-run restaurant) or visiting an artist’s studio to learn how it’s transforming the community, you’ll be deeply rewarded by the meaningful connection you've forged.
Activities : Culture
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Arrive at Miami International Airport, where you are met and transferred to the hotel. Meet your accompanying Program Director and fellow guests at your reception and briefing this evening. Stay at Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove.
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the Miami International Airport and take a short charter flight to Cuba. Upon arrival at José Martí International Airport in Havana, complete immigration and customs formalities and meet your local Cuban guide. Embark on an informative tour of Havana’s historic and culturally rich neighborhoods. Later, transfer to the historic Hotel Nacional for a narrative on its fascinating past. Considered a national monument, the hotel was built in 1930 and overlooks the Malecon (seaside promenade) and Havana Harbor. After lunch, check in to your hotel. This evening, sit down to dinner in a private paladar (family-run restaurant), a unique, welcoming Cuban enterprise. Stay at Melia Habana.
This morning at your hotel, meet a local physician and engage in a talk on Cuba’s well-regarded public health care system, followed by an illuminating question and answer session. Visit a day care center, where you meet the teachers and get to know the students. Continue to Finca La Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s former home, where The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls were penned. As you look through the windows and open doors of this remarkably preserved home, visualize the author’s life during the more than 20 years he lived there. Stay at Melia Habana.
Today, visit Las Terrazas community, just 45 minutes outside of Havana. Visit a coffee plantation and meet its staff to learn about the economic role of the coffee industry and its impact on Cuban society. Later in the town center, visit the bodega (convenience store), where locals use ration books to purchase specific amounts of limited items. Discuss the rationing system with the shop’s owner before visiting local artists and musicians in the community. Enjoy a typical farmhouse lunch with the opportunity to see how everything is prepared on a wood burning stove. Return to Havana in the afternoon, stopping at the whimsical studio of José Fuster, a renowned Cuban painter and ceramicist. Take part in a discussion about the artist’s work and the role the arts play in contemporary Cuba. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Stay at Melia Habana.
Today’s introduction to historic Havana begins with a brief presentation by a Cuba policy expert, during which you are immersed in the history of Cuba-U.S. relations, from the colonial era to the present day. Take part in a thought-provoking question and answer session. Then, pay a private visit to the Habana Compas Dance Studio, where you see a performance. Afterward, meet firsthand with the artists for a chance to learn about the Afro-Cuban rhythms, which meld flamenco and native salsa and rumba movements with percussion instruments. Then, enjoy a visit to Hotel Conde de Villanueva, featuring one of the city’s best cigar shops, dedicated to the history of tobacco. Later, learn how to create mojitos and other Cuban favorites during an interactive demonstration. Then, meet a local salsa teacher to talk about the history of this native rhythm and the importance of dance in Cuban life, followed by a lesson under your instructor’s attentive eye. Stay at Melia Habana.
This morning, witness the storied Colón Cemetery. Founded in 1876, it is the site of more than 800,000 graves and one million interments. Under the guidance of a local specialist, gain insight into the cemetery’s history and significance to the local community and pilgrims. Then stroll through Old Havana with a local architect, discussing the challenges and successes of city reconstruction projects, all the while absorbing the vibrant, extraordinary architecture that surrounds you. Early this evening, take a drive in the iconic “Yank tanks” (vintage cars) along the Malecón to the Magic Flute for an impressive view of the city. Here, enjoy a private concert of Buena Vista Social Club-style music, sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music. Then, engage in a post-performance discussion with the musicians — a great opportunity to learn about the impact music has had on Cuban culture and the ways in which it has influenced music in the United States and beyond. Stay at Melia Habana.
Depart early from Havana. Arrive in Cienfuegos, the “Pearl of the South,” so-called for its stunningly beautiful bay. Set out on an informative city tour through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a stop at the Teatro Tomas Terry, a well-preserved monument that has hosted performances by Enrico Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt and Ana Pavlova. Meanwhile, you may take the opportunity to talk with your local guide about Cuban life, be it about the two currencies used or the cost of living on the island. Take a stroll down the Paseo del Prado, the longest tree-lined boulevard in Cuba. After lunch, enjoy an orchestral performance at the Colonial Museum. Then, head to Cayo Santa Maria. Stay at Meliá Buenavista.
This morning, travel to Remedios, considered one of the oldest settlements in the country. Take a ride by bicitaxi (pedicab or rickshaw) through the town and into the main square. Join the bicitaxi owners at a local coffee shop, gaining insight into their day-to-day routines and the ways in which they maintain their vehicles. Depart Remedios to the Sugar Museum in Caibarién, housed in the historically significant Marcelo Salado Azucarera (Sugar Mill), where you learn about the role the sugar industry played in Cuba’s history. Then, board an old steam train (formerly used to transport sugar cane to the factory), and travel to El Curujey for a traditional, authentic Cuban farm lunch. See a typical farmhouse as well as a demonstration of palm climbing. Return to your hotel for dinner. Stay at Meliá Buenavista.
Drive to Santa Clara, stopping at the local stadium, where you engage in a shared pastime with Cuban residents: baseball. During the event, you meet and talk with the players about sports in Cuban life, with the opportunity to play a few innings together. Upon arrival in Santa Clara, proceed to the Casa de la Cultura, where members of the Cuban musical group Melodias Antillanas perform traditional music on antique instruments. Hear a concert of Cuban classics, followed by a talk about traditional music and its role in local culture. After lunch, tour Santa Clara before returning to your hotel for a farewell dinner. Stay at Meliá Buenavista.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board your return flight to Miami.
Cuba remains a developing country, and guests travelling here should adjust their expectations accordingly. Delays commonly occur, and flexibility and patience on the part of visitors is a must. While every effort will be made to operate the program as scheduled, all activities are subject to change without notice. In the event that an individual or location becomes unavailable, a comparable activity will be substituted.
Private departures are offered for groups of two or more travelers. Please contact your Expedition Specialist to discuss pricing, availability, and itinerary details for this exclusive option.
Medical insurance is included for all travellers from the U.S. to Cuba for emergencies. The cost for this is included in the cost of your charter air passage and your ticket will have an Asistur Stamp on the back as proof of coverage. Should you encounter any medical emergency during the course of the program, local representatives will be on hand to assist in procurement of treatment; however, you will need to show your air ticket with this stamp in order to receive treatment.
Accommodations, meals and fully guided activities and meetings/exchanges (including park and entrance fees) as noted in the itinerary (please note activities are subject to change without notice due to unforeseen circumstances); airport transfers in Miami to the hotel, regardless of day of arrival; services of Program Director and within Cuba, a resident, English-speaking guide; coffee/tea/soft drinks/water at included meals; local wine and beer at welcome and farewell dinners; local bottled water during sightseeing; porterage of two (2) pieces of baggage; complimentary Internet access (where available; service levels are not guaranteed); hotel taxes and service charges; and gratuities throughout, except to the Program Director. Subject to change without notice.
Any airfare; meals not menitoned in the itinerary; additional expenses incurred due to a change, delay or cancellation of any flight; excess baggage charges; travel insurance; passport and visa fees; customary end-of-tour gratuities are not included for the Program Director; meals, beverages and sightseeing not mentioned as included; personal expenses such as communication charges and laundry; fuel surcharge may apply.