Sunday, September 30, 2012

Small Group Trips Offered by Collin Laverty

Dear Friend:

As you may know, you can once again travel to the Caribbean island of Cuba on U.S. government authorized educational and cultural trips. My company, Cuba Educational Travel, happens to be one of the few entities awarded a U.S. Treasury Department license (CT-2012-294261-1) to arrange these fruitful exchanges. My experience in Cuba over the last decade – as a student, researcher, leader of U.S. congressional delegations and friend of many Cubans – has allowed me to build a diverse network of contacts at all levels of Cuban society.

I personally lead all delegations and, unlike many of the competitors, my groups average out at 6-8 people and rarely exceed 10, allowing you to really get off the beaten track. You will be able to interact with elite musicians and intellectuals helping to drive policy on the island, while also getting into the homes of average Cubans and really experiencing day-to-day life in 21st century Cuba. All delegations include some history, culture and politics – meeting with students and professors, attending private concerts and hearing from young Cubans about the country’s future – and the small group size allows flexibility and the ability to customize the focus based on participants’ interests and desires. We do not do the large tour buses and tourist treks that the others are doing.

I offer quality trips but keep prices low in line with my desire to bring U.S. citizens and residents to Cuba that are truly interested in building bridges with the Cuban people.

I currently have spots open for five upcoming trips before the year’s end. Please contact me if you are interested in joining one of the trips or desire additional information. I’m also available to organize customized trips for groups of friends, family or professional associations on the dates of your choosing. All of my trips are 100 percent licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department and in full compliance with all Cuba travel regulations.

Please feel free to share this email with friends and family and I look forward to exploring Cuba together soon.


Collin Laverty
Analyst, Cuba – Latin America – US Foreign Policy
President, Cuba Educational Travel
US: 202-213-7050
Cuba: (53 5) 379-8518
*** I’m in Cuba until October 6th and most accessible via email until then.

Upcoming Trips
Oct 20 – 27, Havana and Pinar del Rio
Includes visits to all historical sites in Havana, meetings with leading scholars on U.S. – Cuba relations, private musical performances with Cuban musicians, discussions with young artists at top galleries, meals with university students, driving tour in classic 1950s American cars, and a trip to the tobacco growing region of Pinar del Rio, where participants can visit tobacco plantations, explore nature reserves and make friends with local campesinos.
$2,650 per person – lodging in private apartment or local bed and breakfast (casa particular)
$2,950 per person – lodging in 4 star hotels

Nov 3 – 10, Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad
Includes visits to all historical sites in Havana, meetings with leading scholars on U.S. – Cuba relations, private musical performances with Cuban musicians, discussions with young artists at top galleries, meals with university students, driving tour in classic 1950s American cars, and a trip to the historic cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
$2,450 per person – lodging in private apartment or local bed and breakfast (casa particular)
$2,850 per person – lodging in 4 Star hotels
Nov 11 – 19, Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad – opportunity to run in the Havana Marathon
Aside from the scheduled itinerary, those that are interested are welcome to participate in the Havana ½ and full marathon on Saturday, November 17th.
$2,450 per person – lodging in private apartment or local bed and breakfast (casa particular)
$2,950 per person – lodging in 4 Star hotels

Dec 8 – 15, Havana and Pinar del Rio
$2,650 per person – lodging in private apartment or local bed and breakfast (casa particular)
$3,050 per person – lodging in 4 Star hotels

Dec 16 – 24, Havana and Pinar del Rio – opportunity to attend the Havana Jazz Festival
The trip will have a special emphasis on Cuban music and participants will be able to take part in Havana’s world renowned Jazz Festival.
$2,700 per person – lodging in private apartment or local bed and breakfast (casa particular)
$3,100 per person – lodging in 4 Star hotels

*** The package price includes round trip airfare from Miami or Tampa, Cuban entrance visa, full medical coverage, lodging, in-country transportation, entrance fees for all planned activities and most meals. All trips include a 2-3 day excursion outside of Havana to one of the surrounding provinces.
** Direct flights from Los Angeles and New York are also available for a slightly higher price
* It’s possible to join for a portion of the scheduled dates or add additional days w/ a slight price adjustment

Tampa-Cuba air service had great first summer

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One year after launching charter air service between Tampa International Airport and Cuba, the flights have met expectations — and ridership is poised to grow in the coming year.
Next month, a travel service in Pinellas County will step up its program for bookings under a U.S. to Cuba travel program called People-to-People that was launched in April 2011 to allow U.S. citizens with educational interests in Cuba to visit.
That program could raise the profile of Tampa-Cuba flights. Additional Tampa-area travel service providers are preparing to participate in the program, but how many travelers might be drawn to it remains unknown.
In September, the first flights between Tampa and Cuba began under a program that allows travel for those with close family ties in Cuba.
Tampa International reported 39,736 passengers on Cuba flights between Sept. 8, 2011, when the first flight in 50 years between Havana and Tampa took off, and Aug. 31.
Service has expanded from one charter carrier to three, which fly a total of five weekly flights — four serving Havana and one serving Holguin in eastern Cuba.
"Our summer flights were completely filled," said Bill Hauf, president of Island Travel & Tours Ltd., who moved his operations from San Diego to Tampa.
"There's been a downturn since mid-August when children headed back to school, but December should be strong. Many carriers have taken a significant hit, including flights from Miami. All of us are trying to figure it out."
The good news for travelers from Tampa International — one of a dozen or so authorized U.S. airports to host Cuba charter flights — is that with competition among Island Travel & Tours, ABC Charters and Xael Charters, airfares and baggage fees have remained competitive, ranging from $379 to $435 for a round trip.
However, the Cuban government in September cracked down on excess baggage over concerns that entrepreneurs were bringing in goods for sale to restaurants rather than bringing supplies for family members. The government began to enforce a $4.55-a-pound tax for baggage weighing more than 66 pounds.
The impact of that fee on Cuba travel has yet to be determined, airline and airport officials said.
Ivar Fiskaa, owner of Scand-America International in Palm Harbor, is booking travel for the People-to-People program through a New York company and is using all three charter airlines that operate from Tampa.
"We set up the whole trip, from the Tampa flight to hotels to tours in Cuba," Fiskaa said.
The price for a five-day, four-night tour is $1,498 a person for those who qualify to participate in the People-to-People program.
Itineraries include walks though Old Havana, shopping for street food along Obispo Street, a visit to Ernest Hemingway's quarters and tours of museums and gardens, with an emphasis on mingling with Cuban residents.

Southern Illinois University to Sign Agreement with Havana

SIUE, SIUC officials sign agreement, plan travel study in Cuba

    Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 9:00 am
An envoy of university officials will soon be traveling to Cuba to sign an educational agreement between SIU and the University of Havana.
The representatives will consist of SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Aldemaro Romero, mass communications professor Cory Byers, SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng and SIU Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Sarvela. Their goal will be to establish a defined co-op relationship between the universities.
Romero has been working on the project since 2009 and said the signing on Sept. 22 will make it proper.
“We have already been operating as if the agreement has been signed, but, while we are there, we are going to have the formal ceremony for signing the agreement,” Romero said. “We will also have a lot of meetings with the administrators and faculty at the University of Havana in order to establish a specific cooperation in the programs we want to do with them.”
One of the benefits that could come out of the signing is an interdisciplinary studies class that would be offered to SIUE students next summer. The class would allow students to go to Cuba for 10 days in the middle of the course and then return home for their final.
The course has been prepared by Larry LaFond, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and would be offered for three or six credit hours, depending on the workload students want to take. LaFond said the class could offer students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“For the students, it is a great opportunity. Of course travel has been restricted to Cuba, but we do have some faculty that has gone there, but very few students,” LaFond said. “This is a unique opportunity for them.”
Romero believes the alliance between the universities will give students a broader world prospective.
“We are living in a globalized world, and the more international opportunities we offer for our students, the better,” Romero said. “To understand their society and history will help our students to open their minds to circumstances that aren’t commonly found elsewhere in the world.”
Sophomore Spanish major Alicia Jones, of Chicago, said she would like to take advantage of such an opportunity.
“It would be a great experience. I am a traveling person and Cuba is one of the places that I have always wanted to go to,” Jones said. “Through programs like this, I believe we could help Cuba with a lot of their issues, like poverty.”
The University of Havana sent a delegation to SIUE in summer 2012, and the school decided to start a documentary of the process for the greater good of the two nations.
“The idea is to show how a university in the Midwest with no apparent connections with Cuba is doing a diverse number of things in order to develop academic diplomacy by establishing connections in the academic and cultural fields,” Romero said.
Due to U.S. and Cuba relations, travel between the two countries can be a little more difficult than usual, and financial restrictions by both nations require the entire project to be privately funded. There are strict laws about using federal funds in Cuba.
Despite these hurdles, Romero said it will be worth the effort when the first SIUE student returns.
“[It will pay off] when I see our students go down to Cuba and then when they come back and will be able to say, ‘This was an experience that changed my life’ and has made them a more complete person all through an opportunity that most U.S. students don’t have,” Romero said.

Beth El Temple sponsoring trip to Cuba

Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 10:09 AM     Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 10:10 AM

Over the years, Beth El Temple has sponsored trips to unique destinations.
Now, the conservative synagogue is planning a spring trip to Cuba, home to a small but spiritually robust Jewish community surviving more than 50 years after Castro’s Communist revolution.
The trip, scheduled April 9-17, will be part humanitarian mission to Cuban Jews and part sightseeing to Havana, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and Trinidad de Cuba.
Cuba has about 1,500 Jews, with the majority living in Havana and attending three synagogues. The Conservative Beth Shalom houses the Jewish Community Center and a Jewish library.
Adath Israel is the Orthodox congregation. Centro Sefaradi has a shall chapel for services and offers a Jewish senior center and various classes. About 100 other Jewish families live in Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.
“There have been many restrictions for travel to Cuba,” said Michael Schatz, Beth El Temple executive director. “This humanitarian mission to the struggling Jewish communities in Cuba is really one of the few ways that we can reach out to these people.”
Gail Siegel and Paul Latchford have been working on arrangements for the trip to Cuba. They said that each mission participant is required to bring 15 pounds of basic staples, medicines and Jewish educational materials to donate to the Jewish communities of Cuba.
The trip includes seven nights and eight days in Cuba with one night in Miami, hotel accommodations, meals, meetings, lecture fees, entrance fees to sites and more.
Participants will attend Friday night services and a Shabbat dinner with representatives of the Havana Jewish community, Sabbath services and a meeting later in the trip with Jews in a private home in Santiago de Cuba.
Registration for the trip and the $300 per person deposit is due by Oct. 15.
For more information, go to Click on Events and Cuba 2013. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

New Commercial Tour Operator Receives P2P

Explore Cuba's Rich History And Culture With GeoEx

GeoEx is hosting trips to Cuba!Adventure travel company Geographic Expeditions(GeoEx) has announced that it has been awarded a license to begin offering historical and cultural exchange tours to Cuba, giving Americans a rare opportunity to visit a country that has essentially been off limits for decades. The first scheduled tour will take place November 3-10 of this year and travelers who book by October 1 will receive a $500 discount.

The GeoEx itinerary, entitled "Connecting with Cuba's Living History," puts the focus squarely on that country's rich culture. Visitors to the island nation will get the chance to meet with local artists, musicians, dancers and historians while exploring the UNESCO Heritage Sites of Trinidad and Cienfugos. They'll also roam the streets of Havana, a city that has remained nearly frozen in time for the past 50 years, while learning about Cuba's ambitious social programs during a visit to a state-sponsored maternity clinic.

One of the culinary highlights of the trip will be regular stops at paladars, which are private restaurants commonly run out of local homes. These unique eateries not only offer a savory sampling of Cuban food but are a prime example of how entrepreneurship is alive and well in the country. Owned and operated by an emerging group of restaurateurs, the paladars offer a glimpse into the culture while simultaneously serving up an excellent meal.

GeoEx, who was named the best adventure travel company in the world by "Outside" magazine, has charged their top Cuba experts with putting together an unforgettable experience for travelers. Judging from the itinerary it seems they have more than succeeded at that task. If you've ever dreamed of visiting Cuba for yourself, this is a great opportunity to do so and at a discount no less. Find out more by clicking here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Understanding Cuban Urbanism in Havana

University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee

Program Description

The Havana Winterim study abroad program 2013 shall provide students with first-hand exposure to the processes of Latin American urbanization and the unique characteristics of one of the oldest and most vibrant cities in the Western Hemisphere.

The built urban environment of Havana has been shaped by Spanish colonialism, independence movements, American economic domination and the Cold War.  Imagine seeing Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Havana City Office in charge of historic preservation and meeting the architecture and planning staff of the University of San Geronimo.  Students will get a chance to see examples of state-of- the-art urban agriculture, farm collectives and other unique examples of community-based ecological tourism.

Participating students must complete reading assignments and attend lectures before the trip.  These lectures and readings designed to maximize the in-country experience by exposing students to Havana’s unique Afro-Cuban culture and vibrant urban history.  The Havana Winterim is a once in a lifetime opportunity chase away the winter blues and expose yourself to one of the most unique cities on earth.

January 7 - January, 14 2013
NOTE: Dates may change depending on flight availability and cost.

Mandatory General Orientation: November 16, 2012, 2-4 p.m.
Mandatory Site-Specific Orientation: TBD...

Program Leaders
Michael Martin, Department of Urban Planning (

Study Abroad Advising
Natalie Malacrida (

Contact for administrative questions about application, registration, program cost, etc.

3 undergraduate and/or graduate credits Urban Planning or Urban Studies (497 or 797)

Estimated Cost: $3,605
•    Program fees are based on a realistic estimate of participants. Fees may change based on final enrollment and exchange rate fluctuation.
•    Cost includes support for a UWM faculty member, airfare, academic costs, accommodation, cultural activities, in-country transportation, some meals, health insurance.
•    Cost does not include personal spending money, most meals, books and supplies, or trip/travel insurance.
•    There are fee differentials for graduate students and non-Wisconsin residents.
•    Please see the top of the program page. Click on the term you are interested in and you will be directed to a budget sheet that contains program fees and other important financial information.
•    There are fee differentials for graduate students ($200) and non-Wisconsin residents ($200).

Scholarships and Grants
Financial Aid, Scholarships & Grants can be used for this program!

Based on eligibility, UWM undergraduate students may apply for a Wisconsin Study Abroad Grant.

Students may also apply for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Donald R. Shea Undergraduate Scholarship.  More information is available at:

More information on scholarships and grants can be found here.

Application Requirements & Deadline
The application deadline is October 15, 2012.

This program requires an online application and other required documents found as part of the online application; a $250 deposit (includes a $50 non-refundable application fee); and a valid passport.

NOTE: There will be a quick turn-around time after the October 15 deadline to confirm your participation in this program to keep the program cost as low as possible.

Applying for a Passport
Passports need to be valid for at least six months past the program's end date. The CIE Study Abroad office strongly recommends that you expedite your passport application. Information on how to apply for a passport can be found here.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Center for International Education
Pearse Hall 166
Telephone:  414-229-5182

Grand Circle expands Cuba program

By Gay Nagle Myers

Grand Circle Foundation launched its third people-to-people program to Cuba, with multiple departures through June 29, 2013.

The foundation is the charitable arm of Boston-based Grand Circle Corp., which consists of Overseas Adventure Travel, Grand Circle Travel and Grand Circle Cruise Line.

Grand Circle does not work with travel agents, selling tours directly to consumers.

The firm's Cuba license renewal, recently received from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, is valid through next June.

If the current license is renewed beyond June, additional departures will be added, according to Harriet Lewis, Grand Circle's vice chair.

The new 13-day "Cuba: Music, Culture & the Roots of the Revolution" program complements Grand Circle's two existing programs.

Departures on the 12-day "Cuba: A Bridge between Cultures," launched in November 2011, and the nine-day "Cuba: Havana & Viñales Valley," launched this month, are sold out for 2012 but are available through June 2013.

The newest program explores the seaside city of Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, followed by Baracoa, the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba.

The trip winds up in Havana for four nights before returning to Miami.

Participants will visit artists' studios, meet local community members and spend time with seniors or children served by relief agency Caritas Cubana while in Santiago.

In Baracoa, they will meet with local guajiros (gatekeepers of Taino Indian traditions), a cocoa farmer and a historian.

In Havana, the group will have people-to-people encounters with Cuban architects, students, artists and seniors.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.

Grand Circle Foundation has announced a new People-to-People program to Cuba for 2013 that will complement its two existing programs and expand opportunities for meaningful exchanges between Americans and Cubans.
Grand Circle Foundation’s three People-to-People programs focus are conducted in small groups of just 12-20 participants. While available to all Americans, the programs are paced for those aged 50 and older.
New for 2013 is “Cuba: Music, Culture & the Roots of the Revolution,” a 13-day program priced from $4,595. It visits Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa and Havana.
The program brings participants to the easternmost third of the island—and to the vibrant seaside city of Santiago de Cuba, founded by Diego Velasquez as a Spanish colonial capital in 1515. While there, participants will learn about the Afro-Cuban religion that developed in this region, visit artists’ studios, meet local community members, spend time with seniors or children served by the relief agency Caritas Cubana, and enjoy a dance performance followed by a discussion with troupe members.
Participants will then travel to Baracoa, which was once accessible only by sea and which retains the look of an unspoiled colonial village. The group will meet with the local guajiros, gatekeepers of Taino traditions, meet with Afro-Cuban musicians and dancers, a traditional cocoa farmer and his family, and a distinguished local historian to discuss Baracoa’s rich history.  Participants next fly to Havana, where the city is brought to life in a meeting with noted Cuban architects, and will engage in people-to-people meetings with students, seniors, artists and members of the Ludwig Foundation, an autonomous, non-governmental, not-for-profit public entity created to protect and to promote the work of young Cuban artists.
Grand Circle Foundation’s other People-to-People programs include “Cuba: A Bridge between Cultures,” its first program to Cuba that began in November 2011.  The 12-day program (from $4,295) explores Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos. Grand Circle Foundation’s second program, the nine-day “Cuba: Havana & Vinales Valley,” began operating in September 2012. The program visits Havana, Soroa, Vinales and Las Terrazas, and begins at $3,395. Both programs are sold out for 2012 but are available in 2013.
Approximately 1,950 Americans will take part in Grand Circle Foundation’s People-to-People programs in 2012, while 2,000 participants are expected between January and June 2013. Grand Circle Foundation’s license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to operate its People-to-People programs in Cuba (#CT-19272) was recently renewed and is valid until through June 2013. Should its license be renewed beyond June, an additional 1,000 participants are expected by the end of 2013.
To see a video of Grand Circle Foundation in Cuba, visit

Sustainable Agriculture Trips Receive License

NEEM receives coveted “People to People” license for exchange with Cubans with initial research delegations in December 7 & 28, 2012”

Durham, North Carolina – September 17, 2012– NEEM is public/private partnership replicating the Cuban Model of Agroecological and Sustainable Agriculture at Organoponico 

NEEM; an “Off the Grid” 11.2 acre FSA/USDA urban farm located in Durham. 

NEEM announces receipt of its “People to People Exchange” license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control Department of Treasury for travel to Cuba. This license allows NEEM to bring delegates to Cuba focusing on Agricultural& food security issues. NEEM led Delegations are hosted by founders of the island-wide agroecological movement responsible for creation of 33,000 urban farms and 480,000 jobs. 

“People to People is in keeping with our mission and vision. It is an expression of our work on sustainability and Cuba since 1996 in Durham, Washington and Havana to effect positive change between our two countries. We are honored to be one of so few licenses issued and our hope is that other applications and renewals are approved. Change will only occur through dialogue. In the meantime, we look forward to take a broad range of Americans to Cuba in the spirit of the license and sustainable concepts”. JA Ensminger 

NEEM promotes sustainable community development and use of disused properties for sustainable production as an economic development component and Farming as an honorable alternative profession in the low income communities in Durham. NEEM addresses food security, obesity, nutrition, early on-set diabetes and promotes sustainable concepts while providing access to fresh food in absolute food deserts. Projects since inception are in public schools, churches, parks, yards, historic sites & greenhouses in the most challenging communities. NEEMs profile is 100% sustainable production for those who socio-economically would not have access.  

"An important biological species is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat: MAN” (social media is on homepage) 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Attorneys invited to Cuba will get look at legal system

24 September 2012
1:55 a.m.
A group of Nevada lawyers will travel to Havana, Cuba, this month to learn about the country’s legal system and meet Cuban law professors and leaders.
“I’m excited just to see a different perspective,” said Frank Flaherty, president of the Nevada State Bar. “My gut tells me it’s going to be vastly different from our system.”
The weeklong trip for 16 lawyers starts Sept. 30 and includes a tour of the University of Havana, a meeting with representatives of Cuban parliament, a visit to the headquarters of the Association of Cuban Jurists and a meeting with leaders of the Cuban Society of Economic and Financial Law.
“I think when you look at different perspectives, it helps you germinate ideas,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty, who was elected in June, said the trip took about six months of planning. Because of Cuba’s tense relationship with the United States, every lawyer on the trip had to sign an affidavit swearing that the trip was not for commercial purposes.
The lawyers were invited to attend the trip and will pay between $4,200 and $4,500 in expenses. Flaherty said the attorneys decided to go for a number of reasons, including academic studies and international law practices.
Delegations from other state bars, including those in Washington and Minnesota, also have visited Cuba in recent years.
“This is the first communist country I’ll visit and I’m guessing it will be the last communist country I’ll visit,” Flaherty said. “It’s just really exciting.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Openings in October Trip

Cuba Today

October 20 to 27

Havana, Matanzas & Pinar del Rio

We have just a few seats left on this great program to Cuba October 20 to 27. Yes, it is a licensed People to People program, sponsored by Obsidian Arts, a great gallery and people to people connector in Minneapolis.
Join the Trip
It's a one week exploration of Havana, Pinar del Rio and Matanzas, at a great price: $2885 for airfare, hotels, transportation, guide, breakfast, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, visa, and program.

Click here to read the program. Click here to join

As a People to People trip there will be lots of opportunities to interact with the Cuban people, as well as soaking up the Cuban history and culture.

The group will stay in the 4* Presidente Hotel near the Malecón, walk Old Havana, join Cuban families on the ramparts of the Morro Castle for the cañonazo ceremony, visit the small towns of Regla near Havana and Las Terrazas in Pinar del Rio. Walk the streets of Old Havana. Meet artists and children involved in art projects for those with disabilities, visit organic and urban community gardens, talk with social scientists and university professors about how they see the direction in which Cuba is going. Explore the Pinar del Rio countryside, visit the Theological Seminary and the community projects in which they are involved. Go to nightclubs and concerts, -- A non stop week of education and contact so hard to sum up in a paragraph!

Sincerely yours,
Merriam Ansara
Director, Common Ground

Trumpet Player Cathedral Square
Hope you can join us!

Cuba Today
is a Project of
Obsidian Arts of Minneapolis

This is a People to People

If you go to the Common Ground website
you can chat live with someone 9 to 4 and
you also can call us

Yes, it is true. People to People licenses are being held up by pure venomous politics. In fact, for the organizations we work with, this is the last People to People trip until their licenses are renewed. We think depending on the outcome of the election and the might of the Cuban Right, the license renewals will come through. But this a moment to call your Congress people and urge them to push People to People travel forward, as well as the right of all people to travel. You can link to the Latin Americna Working Group and find out what's happening and who to call or write. Click here.