Thursday, September 27, 2012

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 & ViƱales 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

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