Monday, March 5, 2012

Gilbert, Arizona, Chamber of Commerce

Gilbert Chamber offers 9-day Cuba excursion

by John Stanley - Feb. 16, 2012 02:05 PM
The Republic |

The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce is organizing a nine-day excursion to Cuba this fall.

"This is really a unique opportunity for people to see Cuba before the tourists take over the experience," said Sarah Watts, spokeswoman for the Gilbert chamber. "It's a chance for travelers to go someplace new."

Although the trip is being organized by the Gilbert chamber, there's no business or commercial purpose, according to Watts. "It's nothing more than a travel opportunity," she said.

While Watts acknowledged the possibility that some people may have philosophical issues about traveling to a communist country, she saw no reason for them to object to others making a visit.

"We understand if people don't want to make a trip like that," she said. "But that's up to the individual. Americans are interested in knowing about other cultures and we're providing that opportunity."

Tempe and Glendale chambers found demand for their trips to Cuba so strong that they scheduled a second excursion.

Chamber Explorations, a California-based travel agency working with the Gilbert and other chambers to organize the trips, received permission for the trips from the U.S. Treasury Department, which authorizes registered guests to visit Cuba legally.

The Gilbert chamber's trip begins Oct. 2 and includes six nights' stay in Havana and two nights in the town of Trinidad.

A representative from Chamber Explorations will go over the itinerary and answer questions about the trip's logistics and paperwork at a March 2 meeting hosted by the chamber. The meeting is open to anyone interested in the trip and people do not have to commit to going in order to attend the briefing. They are asked to register for the meeting in advance by calling the chamber.

Highlights of the trip include a visit to an assortment of museums, including the Bay of Pigs Museum, a botanical garden, a sugar plantation and a trip to Finca Vigia, the house that Ernest Hemingway owned from 1940 to 1960.

Travelers also will visit the Catedralde la Havana. Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier once described the cathedral, built in 1748, as "music turned to stone."

And what trip to Cuba is complete without a visit to a cigar factory?

The travel package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Havana, plus eight nights in first-class hotels, 21 meals (daily breakfasts, seven lunches and six dinners), daily sightseeing excursions and sundry admission fees, modern bus travel, baggage handling, driver and guide fees, a Cuba entry visa, Cuban medical insurance and all taxes.

The trip will cost $3,779 per person, based on double occupancy. Travelers can opt for single occupancy for a $600 supplemental fee. The trip also will serve as a fundraiser, with $300 of each package going to the chamber, Watts said. There is a deposit of $500 per person to secure a spot. Final payment is due 75 days before departure.

Cuba travel meeting

When: 5:30 p.m. March 2.

Where: Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, 119 N. Gilbert Road, Suite 101, Gilbert.

Registration: Requested.

Details: 480-892-0056,

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