Monday, October 31, 2011

Sustainable Agriculture Delegations (Open Enrollment)

Sustainable AG & Culinary delegations - Food Security
Contact us for itineraries at

1. December 3 - 17 CUBA Seed to Plate - NEEM Brigade & Agroecology in Cuba
with Dr. Fernando Funes/ACTAF & Director Salcines/Alamar
Research/workshops & hands on 
 Make a difference, learn & research 14 days – 15 - 20 delegates per week.    
The global industrial food system is in a crisis, the U.S. is in its own “special period”? 
Natural Environmental Ecological Management (NEEM)
Organoponico NEEM Phone: 919-321-6111 Email:; Internet:


2. Mar 2 - 12 CUBA Seed to Plate – A Wandering Feast of the sustainbly produced foods of Cuba – Sustainable Production Culinary Research Delegation
with Dr. Fernando Funes & Chef Ensminger
Culinary workshops/Hands on Kitchen  
 Make a difference, learn & research 10 days – 15 - 20 delegates per week.    
The global industrial food system is in a crisis, the U.S. is in its own “special period”? 
A Wandering Feast
614 Shepherd St., Durham, NC 27701 (Office)
Phone: 919-321-6111 Email:; Internet:

3. May 12th - 25th IX International Meeting on Organic & Sustainable Agriculture
Research/workshops/intensive site visits
 Make a difference, learn & research 13 days – 15 - 20 delegates per week.    
The global industrial food system is in a crisis, the U.S. is in its own “special period”? 
Natural Environmental Ecological Management (NEEM)
Organoponico NEEM Phone: 919-321-6111 Email:; Internet:

4. June 2nd - 16th CUBA Seed to Plate - NEEM Brigade & Agroecology in Cuba
with Dr. Fernando Funes/ACTAF & Director Salcines/Alamar
Research/workshops & hands on 
 Make a difference, learn & research 14 days – 15 - 20 delegates per week.    
The global industrial food system is in a crisis, the U.S. is in its own “special period”? 
Full Office Address:
Natural Environmental Ecological Management (NEEM)
614 Shepherd St., Durham, NC 27701 (Office) or, 2001 Chapel Hill Rd., Durham, NC 27707 Organoponico NEEM Phone: 919-321-6111 Email:; Internet:

5. October - 6 - 13th CUBA Seed to Plate – A Wandering Feast of the sustainbly produced foods of Cuba – Chefs Research
with Dr. Fernando Funes & Chef Ensminger
Culinary workshops/Hands on Kitchen/Havana’s Chefs 
 Make a difference, learn & research 7 days – 15 - 20 delegates per week.    
The global industrial food system is in a crisis, the U.S. is in its own “special period”? 
A Wandering Feast
614 Shepherd St., Durham, NC 27701 (Office)
Phone: 919-321-6111 Email:; Internet:

6. Nov 23rd - December 1 CUBA Seed to Plate – A Wandering Feast of the sustainbly produced foods of Cuba – Chefs Research
with Dr. Fernando Funes & Chef Ensminger
Culinary workshops/Hands on Kitchen/Havana’s Chefs 
 Make a difference, learn & research 8 days – 15 - 20 delegates per week.    
The global industrial food system is in a crisis, the U.S. is in its own “special period”? 
A Wandering Feast
614 Shepherd St., Durham, NC 27701 (Office)
Phone: 919-321-6111 Email:; Internet:

All Brigade’s take place in Cuba with unprecedented access to Cuban Agroecologist, in depth research and hands on site Brigade work with Cuba's leaders in sustainability. We will dine once a week at a local Cuban's home - breaking bread, Cafe Cubano & a good cigar is a powerful thing. Contact us for full itinerary at

These CAUSE-RELATED research Brigade’s. A percentage will go to the LATIN AMERICA WORKING GROUP for their work to end the embargo & freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens.
Include: Miami Round trip air, two meals, hotel, visa, program, dinners & visits w/the founders of sustainable AG in CU. Ask for details

Saturday, October 29, 2011

OFAC Stiffs Third Party Providers of Study Abroad

October 11, 2011

Study-Abroad Providers Remain in Limbo Over Cuba Programs
By Karin Fischer
Nine months after President Obama announced he was lifting an embargo on academic travel to Cuba, independent study-abroad providers are still waiting for permission to organize academic programs in the Caribbean country.
Sixty licenses have been issued to groups running travel and humanitarian programs to Cuba since rules regulating American trips there were published in April, according to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, which enforces and administers international economic and trade sanctions.
But study-abroad groups say they know of no provider organization that has received a permit to take students to Cuba. And they say the explanations they have been given for the delay by the Treasury Department and the State Department, which must also sign off on licenses, are confusing and, at times, contradictory.
"We are clearly receiving mixed messages regarding provider organizations," says Brian J. Whalen, president of the Forum on Education Abroad, a membership association of American and overseas colleges and independent education-abroad providers. He says he knows of at least a half-dozen study-abroad groups waiting for licenses. "The impact is that fewer students will have the opportunity to study abroad in Cuba, which does not advance the policy goal of opening up and encouraging academic and cultural programming in Cuba."
Colleges that operate their own Cuba programs have been able to move forward because, under the new regulations, accredited institutions can travel to Cuba under a "general" license, which does not require permission or prior governmental approval for travel. (Instead, students and faculty members must carry letters on official university letterhead authorizing travel, and the college must keep records of all trips for five years.)
In fact, the new rules have made it easier for American college-run programs in Cuba, which, prior to the sanctions imposed in 2004 by President Bush, faced more extensive licensing requirements. The regulations were issued without a comment period in April.
Outside study-abroad groups, however, must apply for specific, "people-to-people" licenses. Because many colleges cannot afford to run their own programs, many Americans who study abroad do so with outside academic providers.
Jerry Guidera, U.S. director for the Center for Cross-Cultural Study, which runs Spanish-language programs around the world, submitted his organization's application immediately after Mr. Obama's announcement in January, even before the travel rules were published. In August, he says, he was told to expect approval "in a matter of days."
"Nothing came of it," Mr. Guidera says.
The Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University sent more than 250 students to Cuba prior to the embargo and had begun making plans to restart its program with its local partner, the University of Havana. (The nonprofit group is separate from Butler.) But two weeks ago, Mark Scheid, IFSA-Butler's president and chief executive, says he was told by Treasury officials that the group might not qualify for a people-to-people license.
Contacted by The Chronicle about the study-abroad providers' problem, an OFAC spokeswoman said there is "no licensing category that speaks to what they do." Of the two educational licensing classes, one applies to educational travel for seminars, conferences, and workshops. The other permits travel for "educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program." Study-abroad programming, of course, is for academic credit.
The OFAC spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the educational groups' license applications and referred questions regarding foreign-policy decisions, including the licensing categories, to the State Department. A State Department spokesman referred questions back to OFAC, saying the department does not issue licenses, so it cannot comment on specific licenses or requests.
For their part, the study-abroad groups say they were initially told by Treasury officials that they would qualify for people-to-people licenses and are bewildered by the holdup.
Mr. Guidera says at least one college that had planned to send students to Cuba through the Center for Cross-Cultural Study has instead turned to a nonacademic group that has already been given a license to take students to Cuba this January. Meanwhile, Mr. Scheid says, IFSA-Butler is considering the possibility of running a customized program with an American university, using that institution's general license.
The provider groups say they plan to continue to press for licenses to be awarded. "We're trying to be the squeaky wheel," says Luke Jones, chief of staff for Semester at Sea.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friendly Planet, For Profit Tour Operator, Granted P2P

People-to-people educational exchanges open a world of meaningful interaction between Americans and the people of Cuba
JENKINTOWN, Pa.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--After several years, Americans are again able to travel to Cuba under a new program from the U.S. Treasury Department aimed at helping Americans interact with the people of Cuba through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture and a whole host of other topics. Friendly Planet Travel, which for more than 30 years has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers experience exotic locales around the globe, is proud to be among a handful of travel providers to be awarded a people-to-people license.
“These trips offer Americans the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Cuba of today and to learn firsthand of Cuba’s past, present, and future as well as its evolving relationship with the U.S.”
“For more than 30 years, Friendly Planet has been about the transformation that occurs when people of different cultures interact and share their perspectives on their lives,” says Peggy Goldman, founder of Friendly Planet Travel. “We’re now extending our model to Cuba by offering an exhilarating opportunity to meaningfully connect with the people of Cuba—all at a price that just about anyone can afford, but, for geopolitical reasons, never thought possible.”
Friendly Planet Travel is organizing and operating two educational trips, both of which include round trip airfare from Miami via U.S. Government-licensed charter service and letter of authorization, as well as a Cuba entrance visa. Each trip includes all land transportation; superior hotel accommodations; all meals; comprehensive programs of educational exchanges organized by Friendly Planet with a professional, English-speaking guide who will facilitate these exchanges; and a Friendly Planet representative who will lead you throughout the trip.
The five-day Discover Havana program, priced at $1,899, allows Americans to interact in direct and open educational exchanges with Cubans concerning, among other topics, Havana’s vibrant culture and rich history at some of Havana’s most historic and significant locations. The longer, eight-day Colors of Cuba program, priced at $2,899, offers a more in-depth program of educational exchanges throughout this diverse island nation, at many of its most culturally significant sites. Among these are Old Havana; Cienfuegos; and Trinidad, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“These trips offer Americans the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Cuba of today and to learn firsthand of Cuba’s past, present, and future as well as its evolving relationship with the U.S.,” says Goldman. “In essence, we have unlocked a rare cultural experience, a mere 90 miles from the U.S. Both programs are designed to open dialogue between people by allowing both Americans and Cubans the rare opportunity to directly connect and interact with one another. Never have we been more excited about a program, and never has Friendly Planet been able to deliver so much on our long-held mission of transforming the lives of those who travel with our programs.”
The five-day Discover Havana program departs May 16, 2012 and Sept. 12, 2012 at the $1,899 rate. Friendly Planet’s eight-day Colors of Cuba program has the following departures at the $2,899 rate: March 18, 2012 and April 15, 2012.
For more information on Friendly Planet Travel’s Discover Havana or Colors of Cuba programs, please visit the company’s website; the blog at; or 800-555 5765. For more information about Friendly Planet Travel, contact Jackie Zima-Evans at 610-228-2138 (office), 215-534-2973 (mobile) or write to
Friendly Planet Travel makes high-quality exotic travel affordable for everyone. Since 1981, Friendly Planet Travel has been arranging all-inclusive escorted discount vacation packages and cruises to the most exciting destinations in the world at the lowest possible prices.
Each year, Friendly Planet Travel offers more than 30 different group travel packages to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America—at discounts of hundreds of dollars off similar vacations. With no hidden charges, add-ons or surprises, Friendly Planet Travel vacations include convenient flights and airfare, carefully-selected first-class and superior hotels, knowledgeable English-speaking guides, many meals, and itineraries as well as friendships and memories that last a lifetime.
Friendly Planet Travel offers its extensive, economical travel services to private groups including universities, religious institutions, alumni associations, and families. Groups who wish to travel together can count on Friendly Planet Travel’s three decades of experience to operate their group travel program expertly and always at the very best possible prices. Visit us You can also follow Friendly Planet on Twitter and Facebook.


Press contact:
Gregory FCA
Jackie Zima-Evans
Associate Vice President
Company Contact:
Friendly Planet Travel
Peggy Goldman

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hemingway House Restored

U.S., Cuba work together to preserve Hemingway's Havana home

Author lived at Finca Vigia for 22 years
The Washington Post
Updated: 10/22/2011 01:39:35 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge
The late 19th-century Cuban house Finca Vigia in... (BRENT WINEBRENNER/Courtesy of Rizzoli New York)
When Ernest Hemingway departed Cuba for Spain on July 25, 1960, he thought he'd be coming back.

He was wrong. Less than a year later, on July 2, 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho, he leveled the barrels of his beloved W. & C. Scott & Son Monte Carlo B shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger.

On the Caribbean island he left behind were his boat, his car and his house, a stuccoed, one-story affair that was his base of operations for more than two decades.

Now, thanks to an unprecedented partnership between Cuban and American preservationists, his house, called Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm), has been restored and photographed for a new book on the island's little-publicized elegant architecture.

Although most visitors, both foreign and domestic, are denied access to the house's light and airy interiors, author Michael Connors and photographer Brent Winebrenner were granted carte blanche for "The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors" (Rizzoli, 2011).

"We shot last year after the restoration of the house," Connors says. "We've been the only ones allowed to step in the house and actually move the furniture, to style it for the lighting. Others have to shoot from the windows and doors."

Away from temptation

The late 19th-century Cuban vernacular house, surrounded by verandas, patios, walkways, tennis courts, guest house, pool and tower, was discovered in 1939 by Hemingway's third wife, journalist Martha Gellhorn.

"She was strategic," says Mary-Jo Adams, executive director of the small U.S. nonprofit Finca Vigia Foundation. "She suggested he buy it because she wanted to get him out of the temptations of downtown Havana."

He would live there for the next 22 years, his longest stretch in a single place. Inside, he left behind his clothes, his china, his papers and 9,000 of his books, 20 percent with writing in the margins. "He was a pack rat," Adams says.

Today, through the concerted efforts of the foundation, along with the Cuban government's Office of Cultural Patrimony and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a restored and pristine Finca Vigia looks as though the boyishly grinning, Nobel Prize-winning author might pop in any minute, fishing rod in hand, back from a weeklong cruise on the Pilar.

On his desk are period magazines, letter openers, pens and pencils. Nothing has been removed, and nothing added. No curator has stepped in for an interpretation. What's there represents exactly the way he lived. The original bottles of liquor stand atop his living room bar, their labels cracking and peeling.

"It struck me as something you don't see anywhere," Connors says. "It's preserving the exact history of the owner of the house. You walk in the library and see the paperbacks and the hardbacks of what he read."

His Cuban son

Much of the house's historical accuracy can be credited to the efforts and recollections of Hemingway's former majordomo, a native Cuban named Rene Villerreal, now living in New Jersey. For 20 years, Villerreal says, he loved Hemingway like a father and respected him as a friend and employer, even writing his own book, "Hemingway's Cuban Son" (Kent State University Press, 2009). He knows Finca Vigia as if it were his own.

"Papa used to hide manuscripts in a valise on the top shelf of the closet in the study," Villerreal said in a recent email, interpreted by his son. "Hemingway also hid letters he received from his friend Marlene Dietrich and other women behind the bookcases in his workroom."

A year after the author's death, Villerreal gave a tour of the house to Fidel Castro, who would turn it into a museum and hire him as its director. From 1962-64, Villerreal restored the house, which had been occupied by Cuban soldiers after Hemingway left. In 1968, he resigned, deciding to leave Cuba. During the 1980s, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of financial support for the island nation, Finca Vigia fell into disrepair.

Out of the basement

The story of the house's recent rebirth is something of an unlikely miracle, a celebration of a shared icon that the people of two nations can claim as their own. It begins with Max Perkins, Hemingway's editor at Scribner's in New York, or more specifically, Perkins' granddaughter, Jenny Phillips.

She was touring Cuba on a cultural trip in 2001 when she decided on a whim to visit Finca Vigia, thinking some of her grandfather's papers might be there.

"We went out, and I introduced myself to one of the guards, who got very excited," Phillips says. "He said: 'Come back tomorrow, and you can go inside.'"

She returned, only to be denied access to the basement where most of Hemingway's documents were stored. The refusal spurred her to action.

"It became a mystery and an energizer," she says.

Back in the States, her husband, a political reporter for the Boston Globe, touched base with the John F. Kennedy Library in Cambridge, Mass., which houses Hemingway's papers.

"Someone there told him that the basement was full of things they'd been trying to see forever, but the Cubans wouldn't let them," she says. "Scholars had been trying on their own, too."

He also contacted Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who, because of his favorable relations with the Cuban government, got the ball rolling on the preservation of the documents and books inside.

In March 2002, Phillips was back in Havana, signing an accord with the Office of Cultural Patrimony. By 2008, three sets of 3,000 of documents were digitized and microfilmed, one for the Kennedy Library, one for a Chicago vault for safekeeping and one for Finca Vigia. The originals never left the house, which was suffering from a leaking roof, with rampant mold and fungus.

"We were going to preserve the documents, preserve them like Twain's or Faulkner's," Adams says. "But the house had moisture, and no temperature or humidity control."

Restoring the house

In 2005, the National Trust listed Finca Vigia as an endangered site, with no objections from the Cuban government; that same year, the World Monuments Fund listed it as one of its 100 most endangered sites. When the Bush administration was slow to grant a license for the foundation to move forward in Cuba, Richard Moe, then president of the National Trust, called Phillips to say he wanted to get involved.

Once it was licensed, Cambridge-based architect Lee Cott and the National Trust's chief architect, William Dupont, pulled together preservation architects, structural engineers and landscape architects to go to Havana to act as consultants on the house's restoration. In Cuba, they were met by a corresponding number of counterparts.

The roof was replaced and windows reconstructed. The stucco was re-plastered. Termite-ridden wood was re-framed. The Cuban government funded all of the restoration, while Phillips' foundation raised money to send the teams. Never before in Castro's Cuba have U.S. architects been sanctioned to practice.

And the restoration isn't done yet. Hemingway's car now sits on the property, awaiting its turn.

"It's a 1957 Chrysler," Phillips says. "It's the most mangled-up and rusty thing. It looks like roadkill, but it will be restored."

For the foundation and the Cuban Office of Cultural Patrimony, that would translate into the perfect Hemingway hat trick.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

University of California Santa Barbara Alumni Association Announces P2P Trips

UCSB Alumni Association hosting travel programs to Cuba

The UCSB Alumni Association has received its People-to-People License from the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) allowing travel to Cuba based on specifically designed itineraries. 

Space is still available to join this rare opportunity to travel to and meet the people of Cuba.

The 15-night itineraries, offered Jan. 5-20, 2012 and May 3-18, 2012, include Havana, Trinidad, Camaguey, Holguin, Baracoa and Santiago. 
The eight-night itineraries, offered Feb. 12-19, 2012 and May 4-19, 2012, include Havana and Trinidad. 
Through this OFAC-licensed program, discussions and exchanges with economists, artists, musicians, educators, business owners, and historians, among others, will allow travelers to gain an insight into life in Cuba today and highlight Cuban culture. These departures are limited to 34 guests.

Trips range in price from $4,280 (eight-night trip) per person, based on double occupancy from Miami to $6,095 (15-night trip) per person, double occupancy, also out of Miami.

These trips will sell out quickly, so contact the UCSB Alumni Association promptly at 893-4611 or email to receive more information on the 15-night and/or eight-night programs. 
More information is available at programs/travel. Gaucho Getaways are open to both graduates and non-graduates of UCSB.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Cuba: An Ever Green Idea About the WorldPDFImprimirE-Mail
By Roberto F. Campos
Imagen activaHavana (Prensa Latina) Understanding vacations as an active way to spend time, especially in interaction with nature, increasingly constitutes one of the best tourism options, which is why Cuban authorities dedicate a lot of time and attention to this kind of leisure activity.

  With the closing of the 7th edition of the International Nature Tourism Meeting TURNAT 2011 in Cuba, participants agreed to reassert active rest as an indispensable way to understand the surrounding world.

Such a philosophy prevailed from September 26 to 30 this year in a very interesting scenario: the center of Cuba, with a perfect combination of mountains, rivers, mountain lakes and a well preserved landscape.

The right moment to reflect 

The event with 234 people from more than 10 countries had just one day of talks, with the remaining days spent in the open, especially enjoying different interpretations of nature.

The event was organized by the Cuban tourist company HAVANATUR, which has 30 years of experience in publicizing Cuba's tourist offerings to the world, apart from being a leader in tourist multi-destinations.

Hosted in the Hanabanilla Hotel in the central province of Villa Clara, the event covered nearby locations, such as the provinces of Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus, under the slogan "Cuba in the Center", which delighted the participants.

The development director of Cuba's Tourism Ministry (MINTUR), Alexander Sierra, said that every year Cuba welcomes more than 2 million foreign tourists.

Sierra said that the active rest mode dedicated to nature tourism has a lot of potential in Cuba, which has a high degree of endemic plants and animals, making it the main center for this type of tourism in the Caribbean.

He highlighted the fact that Cuba has two percent of the world's fauna, collected in 13 Botanic Gardens distributed all over the island, and that the Cuban mountain system is considered among the highest in the Caribbean islands, and is also placed among the Caribbean's 10 biological poles with the greatest diversity.

Cuba has well preserved sea bottoms and nearly 2,485 miles of coral reefs. Some 23 percent of the national territory is managed as conservation areas, whether as National Parks or Natural Reserves, among other important categories.

Cuba has six Ramsar Sites, awarded to the best well preserved and protected wetlands, exemplified in the Máximo River in Camaguey and the Ciénaga de Zapata (Zapata Swamp) in Matanzas, among others.

Cuba also has 11 National Parks, 12 Ecological Reserves, an Outstanding Natural Monument, 12 Fauna Reserves, 2 Protected Natural Landscapes and 3 Resource Managed Protected Areas.

Among a long list of environmental elements, Sierra mentioned 25,868 miles of island shelf, 3,106 miles of coasts, more than 500 beaches, 500 sources for medicinal mineral water and 25 percent of forest area.

In particular, the central region of Cuba includes interesting places such as Hanabanilla, El Nicho (Cienfuegos) and Topes de Collantes (Sancti Spiritus).

Scheduled for five days, the meeting is repeated every two years in a different attractive site of the island, having been transformed from a small meeting for researchers to a large reunion of tour operators, travel agents and nature lovers.

Ecotour, the Major Promoter 

Stimulated by the development of the Cuban tourism industry, the experts at the local company ECOTUR are now the main promoters of active recreation. ECOTUR Director Zady Abut emphasized the effectiveness and development of the company's working team, and the development plans for her company to lead this mode of recreation in the island.

Her conversation attracted the attention of the visitors to TURNAT 2011, among them many nature lovers from the United Kingdom, the US, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Brazil and other nations. Abut said that ECOTUR has been operating for 15 years now and is daily gaining ground in this recreation mode, with proposals for more than 100 national tours all over the island.

Abut mentioned bird watching, the crocodile breeding grounds at Ciénaga de Zapata, and the Isle of Youth as particular attractions.

ECOSUR also plans to show visitors the traditions and customs of the Cuban countryside, the culture of the people and other sporting proposals, such as walks and fishing.

As a new venture, ECOSUR will present a catalogue in November, which will present as complete a picture as possible of Cuba's potential for the development of nature tourism.

Cuban Botanic Gardens 

As for the Botanic Gardens in Cuba, National Botanic Garden sub director Nora Hernandez explained that 13 important Botanic Gardens are in operation in the Caribbean island, a development that has its origin in the visit to Cuba in 1966 of Austrian botanist Johannes Bisse, who enthused about the potential of the island for such projects. She also highlighted the support of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, for this project.

The National Botanic Garden in Havana opened its doors in 1984, with 1,482 acres now in use, housing a considerable variety of species from the entire world with several pavilions and even a Japanese Garden.

Linked to the University of Havana, the National Botanic Garden complements itself with a chain of others in the country, each with its own particularities; some are dedicated to ferns, cacti or orchids.

She noted that all over the world such places are very attractive, visited by 150 million people a year. Only in Europe, 50 million people visit these botanical sites every year.

Having experienced paths with suggestive names, exciting landscapes and with a great variety in the meeting's agenda, attendees went home satisfied with the knowledge acquired and convinced that Cuban nature tourism is top-flight.

Modificado el ( miércoles, 19 de octubre de 2011 )

Friday, October 7, 2011

Update on Austin-Lehman and Insight Cuba trips

Austin-Lehman says 'a lot to learn' with Cuba tours

By Gay Nagle Myers
Havana, CubaAustin-Lehman Adventures is the newest entry in the Cuba people-to-people tourism arena.

The firm's Real Cuba program will launch in February with a series of six 10-day departures through June, geared to 12 participants each.

Billings, Mont.-based Austin-Lehman Adventures, founded in 1974, obtained approval from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Sept. 15, after filing an application late last January.

"There is a lot to learn," said Dan Austin, founder and director. "We've never had programs in Cuba before. One of the biggest challenges is securing accommodations, because many of the really good hotels already are booked. Americans are the last ones to join this party."

Austin-Lehman partnered with author and Latin American authority Chris Baker to create an itinerary for the program.

"The itinerary focuses on daily interactions with the Cuban people," Austin said. "It is purposeful travel that adheres to the strict guidelines and rules set forth by OFAC."

Each of the six departures will follow the same itinerary. Baker will serve as a guide on several departures along with an in-country Cuban host.

Activities include meetings with community leaders involved in a 20-year-old restoration project; a visit to the studio-home of Cuban artist Jose Fuster; a trip to Finca Pinar San Luis, the rural farming home of the late tobacco farmer and Cuban cigar "ambassador" Alejandro Robaina; and a tour of Che Guevara's headquarters during the Cuban missile crisis.

"We will meet historians, museum directors, artists, musicians, photographers, gardeners, cooks and real people in their own neighborhoods, villages and towns," Austin said.

Price has not yet been determined, although Austin said it would be under $4,000, a price that will cover roundtrip charter air from Miami to Havana, hotel, meals and all trip costs.

Florida-based Marazul Charters, a company licensed by OFAC as a Travel Service Provider, is handling the trip arrangements.

"Excitement about an ALA program in Cuba has been running high among staff and past trip alumni," Austin said. "There's already a wait list with enough interest to fill the first two departures."

He described Cuba as an untapped market that "fits well with our core goals of exotic/desirable destinations, easy access from the U.S., lots of activities, a distinct and colorful culture, a friendly and welcoming host population and opportunities to immerse travelers in authentic Cuban life."

New Insight Cuba trip

Meanwhile, Insight Cuba, which launched its first people-to-people programs last month, added one more trip to its roster of more than 126 departures through August 2012.

The company is collaborating with the Havana Marathon organization to allow U.S. athletes to participate in the marathon and half-marathon on Nov. 20 as part of a five-day package running Nov. 17 to 21.

The marathon course winds through Havana, passing the Hotel Nacional, Revolution Square, the Capitolio building, three fortresses along the harbor and the Malecon esplanade along the sea.

The program, priced at $1,995 per person, double ($2,295, single), covers the marathon entry fee, a medical checkup, all meals, accommodations at the Melia Cohiba in Havana, ground transportation and the services of a Cuban host to coordinate marathon details and people-to-people activities.

As with all of Insight's programs, roundtrip charter air from Miami to Havana is extra. Marazul Charters, Insight Cuba's TSP, is handling the travel arrangements.

In coming months, U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba on people-to-people programs might be able to fly on authorized charter flights from additional U.S. gateways.

Charter air travel from the U.S. to Cuba has broadened to include more U.S. airports. Currently, the bulk of that travel is Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba to visit relatives under a policy change by the Obama administration in 2009. The charter flights also carry people on humanitarian, academic and religious programs.

The launch of the people-to-people cultural exchange programs, following an Obama policy change last January, opens another market for the charter operators as well as additional airports.

Previously, only Miami, Los Angeles and New York were authorized, although Miami had long been the main gateway for Cuba travel. But at least 11 other airports have been granted licenses in the past few months, including Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers in Florida as well as Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; New Orleans; Oakland, Calif.; and San Juan.

However, that does not mean that charter flights to Cuba are operating from all these airports at this time. Nor does it mean that anyone can book a flight. Tight regulations apply to both traveler and the programs' operators.

Regulations pertaining to charter flight operators are just as strict. Only charter operators licensed as Carrier Service Providers may arrange charter flights to Cuba.

CSPs are licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to operate air charter services between the U.S. and Cuba.

Charter companies lease aircraft from scheduled carriers, including American, Delta and JetBlue.

The first charter flights from Tampa to Cuba in 50 years departed on Sept. 8, operated by Miami-based Xael Charters. The company offers flights from Tampa every Thursday, in addition to its five weekly flights from Miami to Havana.

ABC Charters, based in South Florida, launched its inaugural flight from Tampa on Sept. 10.

Airline Brokers, based in Coral Gables, Fla., began weekly service from Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 17, using a leased JetBlue aircraft.

Tom Popper, director of Insight Cuba, said, "Insight will most likely continue to guide our participants through Miami until other routes are established and reliable."

National Geographic Expeditions plans the first of its 12 departures on Nov. 26. All flights will depart from Miami.

The firm reported that all its departures have sold out, "but we are still actively taking wait-list reservations. We have requested a number of new departures and hope to have those confirmed soon."