Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Canadians Benefit from Family Travel

Sunwing Announced New Family Suite Resort in Cuba

Sunwing announced the introduction of new Family Rooms and Family Junior Suites at 5
Memories Resorts in Cuba on December 20, 2012. This will allow larger families to plan their
holidays with more convenience and ease.

Features of the Family Rooms and Family Junior Suites include 2 double beds plus 1 twin bed,
accommodating 2 adults and 3 children, as well as a garden or ocean view, air conditioning,
satellite TV, hairdryer, in-room safe, iron and ironing board, balcony or terrace, and a mini-bar. In
addition, families can take advantage of all the family-friendly facilities and activities located at
each resort, including Kids Clubs, playgrounds, kids’ pools, and daily entertainment for all ages.

Sunwing is now offering introductory pricing for Family Rooms and Family Junior Suites at
Memories Resorts located in Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, and Varadero. Prices start from
$495 plus taxes of $290 per person for a Family Junior Suite at the Memories Paraiso Beach
Resort in Cayo Santa Maria for Toronto departures on January 11, 13, and 16, 2013; from $695
plus taxes of $289 per person for a Family Junior Suite at the Memories Flamenco Beach
Resort in Cayo Coco for Halifax departures on January 28, 2013; from $795 plus taxes of $286
per person for a Family Junior Suite at the Memories Azul Beach Resort in Cayo Santa Maria
for Regina departures on Jan 3, 2013; and from $1155 plus taxes of $286 per person for a
Family Room at the Memories Varadero Beach Resort in Varadero for Vancouver departures
on Jan 11, 13, and 14, 2013.

All Sunwing Memories Resorts & Spa vacation packages to Cuba include "Sunwing Airlines'
Champagne Service", which features hot towel service, a choice of hot meals at lunch and
dinner served with a choice of wine, and complimentary in-flight entertainment, including first run
movies. For just $40 more per flight segment, travelers can upgrade to Sunwing's Elite Plus
service, which features advance seat selection, separate check-in at a majority of airports,
advance boarding, 30 kg baggage allowance, and extra legroom seats.

Family Law and the Evolving Role of Women

Fund for Reconciliation and Development
145 Palisade Street, Suite 401, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
In association with the Cuban Art Space
Family Law and the Evolving Role of Women
Group leaders: Hal Mayerson and Sandra Levinson
February 17-24, 2013 – GROUP I
Sunday, Feb. 17: MIA Havana
5:30am Check-in at Miami International Airport
8:30am Marazul/World Atlantic flight 5931 departs
9:30am Arrival José Martí International airport, Havana
Afternoon program
Check into Hotel Parque Central
8:00 pm Dinner at El Aljibe with invited guests

Monday, Feb. 18:
9:00 am
Meeting with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP)
10:30 am – 12:00 pm Visit to the Literacy Museum
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm Welcoming lunch at the headquarters of the National Union of Cuban Jurists.
Discussion with Dr. Yamila Gonzalez Ferrer and Cuban lawyers, “New Issues
in Family Law in Cuba”
2:30 pm to 5:30 pm Walking tour of Old Havana with Mario or Miguel Coyla (if it is possible),
with emphasis on the main plazas of Old Havana and in Plaza Vieja, visiting
the Fototeca, the Diago Gallery and if time permits, the Taller de Grabado just
off Plaza de Catedral – talk with the artists, etc.
Dinner on your own

Tuesday, Feb. 19:
9:00 am – 10:30 pm Visit ISA, the Instituto Superior de Arte, one of the architectural wonders of the
hemisphere visiting the School of Visual Arts, talk with students and professors.
11:00 am Visit the Orientation House of Women and Family of the FMC at the Plaza de la
Revolucion ( if it is possible with Dr. Isabel Moy Ricardo or another specialist)
12:30 pm – 2:00PM Lunch at the friendship House
2:30 pm – 4:00 pm Visit the Organoponico in Alamar; talk about experience of women-led urban
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm Visit private studio of painter ( if it is possible of Juan Carlos in Centro Habana.
Can visit private studio of William Perez and Marlys Fuego in Centro Habana)
Dinner on your own

Wednesday, Feb. 20:
9:00 am – 10:30 am Discussion of US-Cuba relations and Cuba's process of reform with Jose Viera
11:00 – 12:00 N Visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Project
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm Visit to the Jaimanitas Community Project with Jose Fuster, lunch on your
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Meeting and discussion at Cenesex with Director and staff on issues relating to
gender and sexual bias in Cuba
Dinner on your own

Thursday, Feb. 21:
9:30 am – 10:30 am Dr. Leonardo Perez Gallardo and others will discuss the new laws of Cuba
which permit the purchase and sale of real estate and automobiles and the
impact on the economy of Cuba
11:00 am – 12:00 n Meeting and discussion with Cuban Educators
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm Lunch included
2:30 pm – 4:00 pm Meeting with specialist to discuss the “Public Health in Cuba. It’s Impact on
Women and Children” –( Coordinator, Ms. Maritza Rodriguez Lara, of the
FMC and a Psychologist specializing in health issues)
Dinner on your own

Friday, Feb. 22:
9:30 am – 12:00 pm Drive to Las Terrazas, visit the complex, visit two artists’ homes there (Lester
Campa, Jorge Deporte)
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm Lunch at Casa de Campesino (included)
Continuous with the excursion
4:00 pm Return to the Hotel
Dinner on your own
9:00 pm Opera de la Calle at the Habana Libre Hotel

Saturday, Feb. 23:
10:00 am – 12:00 pm Visit to artist home studios in Vedado, e.g., Alicia Leal and Juan Moreira
(painting, photography, prints); Yamilys and Jacqueline Brito (printmaking,
painting, drawing, mixed media work);
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Lunch on your own
2:30 pm – 6:00 pm Visit Fine Art Museum
Havana: Visit crafts market, rum museums
8:00 pm Farewell Dinner at Templete/ Barca

Domingo , Feb 24
7:30am Check-in at Terminal 2, José Martí Airport
10:30am Depart via Marazul/World Atlantic flight 5932
11:30am Arrival in Miami

for cost and registration form, contact

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Authentic Cuba Travel Announces Its Roster of Cuba Tours for 2013

With about 40 escorted tours to the Caribbean island announced for 2013, Authentic Cuba Travel has one of the best compilations of escorted Cuba Tours available today to North American travelers.
TORONTO, ON, December 15, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Toronto based Authentic Cuba Travel has already published almost forty tour departures for 2013 and counting. The Canadian company offers North American travelers the chance to get an up close and personal look inside the authentic Cuba through meaningful people to people exchanges and the exploration of Cuba's most unique destinations and attractions.
While travel to Cuba is still restricted for Americans, in 2011 some travel restrictions were lifted and new categories ofUSA Cuba Travel included allowing a larger number of US citizens to travel to Cuba legally as General License or Specific License holders. The latter includes the religious and people-to-people license.
Travel opportunities to the largest Caribbean island are abundant with Authentic Cuba Travel in 2013. Educational and cultural tours are designed around photography, performing arts, visual arts, architecture, dance, religion, health care, law and other themes. Setting the company apart from the crowd is their ability to gain access to incredible Cuban destinations. Secluded UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, UNESCO Heritage Sites and small picturesque towns and cities are all part of the Authentic Cuba Travel experience.
Among the highlights for 2013 are 6 unique Cuba Education Tours that will take US education professionals to get to know up close and personal the life and work of Cuban counterparts and learn about the Cuban education system while traversing historical towns and cities away from the tourist traps. Designed with hardworking K12 teachers and university and college professors in mind, the tours are very affordable and rewarding.
Another highlight this year is the addition of 4 editions of the popular Cuba Photography Tour that has captivated North Americans photographers over the last year. A unique chance to capture through the lens the beauty and authenticity of Cuba, these tours are oriented for all levels of digital and film photography and offer exploration of Vinales Valley and Escambray Mountains as well as UNESCO Heritage sites such as Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley.
Featuring private visits to the studios of Cuba's up-and-coming and well-established contemporary artists today, the Cuba Art Tours offer a rare glimpse into Cuba's visual arts so estranged to the USA market over decades of political isolation. This year there would be 4 editions of the art tours that will also feature a tour of the most important and largest collection of Cuban arts in the world.
Authentic Cuba Travel has many Cuba tours centered around different festivals and events throughout the year, including the Habano Cigar Festival, the Fire Festival, the Havana Film Festival, and the world famous Cuban Jazz Festival. There will also be a Cuba tour for library professionals to attend the Havana Book Fair, which is one of the most popular events in Cuba and features international and Cuban writers, political officials, and publishers.
Touring historical cities founded by the Spaniards in colonial times, exploring secluded charming towns, and discovering the modern landscape of magnificent cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba are among the highlights of the Cuba Architecture Tours that the company has launched for 2013.
For the nature lover, Authentic Cuba Travel will be offering several different nature tours this year to study the biodiversity of the island. Nature and Bird Watching Cuba Tours will take tour participants to explore Cuba's most significant UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, National Parks and Protected Areas while exchanging with Cuban ornithologist and scientists.
Jewish Heritage Tour is scheduled for June 2013. Serving as an introduction into the life of the Cuban Jews before and after the Cuban Revolution, this cultural tour attempts to bring together the Jewish communities of Cuba and North America. Encounters with the Jewish communities of Santa Clara and Cienfuegos and of course in Havana city will provide memorable experiences that will last a lifetime.
Other Authentic Cuba Tours available include a Baseball Tour for sports enthusiasts, a Business Tour that focuses on the business professionals and the economy of the island, and a Health Care Tour for medical professionals who wish to learn more about the health care system in Cuba. Authentic Cuba Travel also provides tours designed for lawyers and legal professionals to learn about the Cuban legal system from the Cuban perspective.
Authentic Cuba Travel is dedicated to sustainable tourism and a large percentage of the tour revenues remain in Cuba. Tour directors and guides are among of the most experienced and knowledgeable in the industry which ensures a safe and enriching Cuba travel experience for visitors.
Authentic Cuba Travel is a full service travel agency based in Toronto, Canada that organizes cultural, educational and adventure tours for schools, NGOs, business and community groups.
Even though each year nearly 2 million tourists travel to Cuba, they hardly have the chance to get to know the authentic Cuba that lies beyond the confines of all-inclusive full-packed tourist resorts. Once back home, those travelers realize they have hardly "traveled" to Cuba. It might have been a nice and low cost package vacation from the cold weather, but they do not know much about Cuba's culture and its people.
Authentic Cuba Travel votes for a different kind of tourism for those travelers who demand more from their vacations. With over 37 fully escorted Cuba tours announced for 2013, ranging from educational and cultural to arts and architecture and festivals and events, Authentic Cuba Travel captures the Cuban identity that defines the island as a unique Caribbean nation.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Opening Doors, March 3-10

Fund for Reconciliation and Development
145 Palisade Street, Suite 401, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522

in association with the World Pension Forum

Travel Service Provider:  Holbrook Travel

Cuba: Opening Doors

March 3-10, 2013


Mar 2/Sat
Gather in Miami (optional, enjoy Acqualina Resort in Sunny Isles at a special WPF rate)

Mar 3/Sun Havana Melia Cohiba/Royal Service Floor (D)
Optional morning meeting with pro-engagement leaders of the Cuban American community. Check-in at noon on a non stop ABC Charter American Airlines flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to Melia Cohiba Hotel Royal Service floor rooms. This evening there will be a welcoming dinner with introductions at paladar Atelier. Personal guests are the family of Jose Viera, formerly First Deputy Foreign Minister (fall 2012 lecturer at Universities of Richmond, Mary Washington, North Carolina and Wingate, CUNY Graduate Center, Social Science Research Council, and Brookings Institution)

Mar 4/Mon Havana Melia Cohiba/Royal Service Floor (BLD)
This morning after breakfast personally arranged briefing on "Changing Cuba" at the hotel by Dr. Rafael Hernandez, editor of Temas magazine (visiting professor at Harvard and Columbia Universities, fall 2011). Afterwards visit local markets in Havana and then have lunch with members of the international business community at the home and art studio of ceramist and painter Jose Fuster. See the community that provides his workforce and a medium for his creations. After lunch explore Old Havana, or "Habana Vieja," on foot with Miguel or Mario Coyula, encountering artisans and the self employed. This evening dinner and show at Hotel Nacional Café Parisien.

Mar 5/Tues Havana Melia Cohiba/Royal Service Floor (BLD)
This morning after breakfast there will be a personally arranged briefing at the hotel on the challenges facing Cuba's development. Dr. Jorge Mario Sanchez, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy will delve into market focused and self employment reforms (visiting scholar at Columbia University, fall 2011). Following the talk, go to the headquarters of the National Association of Cuban Economists (ANEC) to learn about their programs for new entrepreneurs.

This afternoon lunch with guests from the international press will be at Yoruba Association with a visit to the Santaria exhibit. Meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs followed by dinner at the home of contemporary artist Damian Alquiles and his wife Pamela Ruiz from New York with personally arranged guests from the diplomatic community.

Mar 6/Wed Havana Melia Cohiba/Royal Service Floor (BD)
This morning after breakfast there will be a personally arranged briefing on US Cuba Relations at our hotel by Dr. Carlos Alzugaray of the Center for the Study of the Western Hemisphere and the U.S and former ambassador to the European Union (visiting professor in fall 2011 at the City University of New York). Continue with a discussion of reforms and the role of the church at a personally arrange meeting with the office of Cardinal Jaime Ortega. (requested) Lunch on own.

After lunch there will be a briefing at office of the UN Development Program. (requested) Return to the hotel for a personally arranged briefing on the tourism sector by Antonio Diaz of the University of Havana. Dinner at paladar.

Mar 7/Thur Varadero Melia Las Americas (BLD)
This morning after breakfast check out of the hotel and depart for Matanzas Province; view Canadian and Chinese oil drilling sites along the highway. Stop in Cojimar, site of Old Man and the Sea, to see the Hemingway memorial.

After check-in, lunch at Hotel Melia Las Americas. After lunch, visit the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialog in Cardenas to observe its organic farm, biogas generator, computer education, and community service projects. Personal time to explore Cardenas. Dinner with food grown by CCRD

Mar 8/Fri Havana Melia Cohiba/Royal Service Floor or boutique hotel (BL)
This morning after breakfast meet for discussion of Varadero , Matanzas and Cardenas as center for tourism investment and employment with experts from the university of Matanzas and provincial government; visit yacht basin project; lunch at Xanadu, former Dupont mansion now club house of Veradero golf course; Continue to Matanzas City to see slavery museum and fortress where Irish American independence supporter was executed; visit La Vigia handmade book printing house founded during the “special period”. Continue back to Havana and check in at the Melia Cohiba Hotel or a boutique hotel in Habana Vieja. This evening have dinner on own, then watch a performance of Opera de la Calle at the Habana Libre Hotel.

Mar 9/Sat Havana Melia Cohiba/Royal Service Floor or boutique hotel (BD)
This morning after breakfast visit Finca Vijia, home of Ernest Hemingway. Return to the hotel for a personally arranged briefing on NGO work by representative of Oxfam.

This afternoon, lunch on own, time to explore the city and individualize people to people contact. Sites of interest include the Art Museum and the Museum of the Revolution. Performance of celtic music by Banda de Gaitas of Asturian society at Danza Teatro Retazos. Farewell dinner at Atelier.

Mar 10/Sun. Departure (B)
This afternoon transfer to Havana airport for nonstop flight to Miami arriving 6:10 p.m. (Allow 3 hours for connecting flights.)                                                       
                                                                                                                     * subject to modification           

for further information, contact                                                                                                           

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ely Chapter of Chicago / Lambda Alpha International

Sustainable Planned Communities & Cuban Society Mission

Mission to the Republic of Cuba - January 2013
Authorized by the US Department of Treasury
Office of Foreign Assets Control /Cuban Travel Program - People to People Missions

Havana City, Las Terrasas, Pinar Del Rio, Trinidad, Cienfuegos
January 6 to January 13, 2013

Dear Members and Colleagues:
You are invited to participate in an exclusive mission to The Republic of Cuba. January 6 to January 13, 2013; 8 Days and 7 Nights, Four Star Accommodations, Old Havana Hotels, Full Schedule of events and activities.

The Department of the Treasury, its Office of Foreign Assets Control, under the Cuba Travel Program, has issued The Ely Chapter of Chicago a People to People Travel License for thee purpose to engage in educational exchanges with the people of Cuba and its institutions.
Under the auspices of The Ely Chapter of Chicago, individuals will engage in educational and professional exchanges and participate in a series of activities focused in the topics of Land Economics, Land Use, Planned Communities, Community Development, Sustainability Projects and other related areas. If you have any questions and to confirm your interest and participation call the coordinator now at 312-545-3821.

Mission to Cuba 2013

Havana City, Las Terrazas, Vinales, Pinar del Rio, Cienfuegos, and Historical Trinidad
All mission Delegates will depart from Miami International Airport in Miami Florida on Sunday January 6, 2013. Check-In required before 1:00 PM, flight will depart 3:00 PM. The Mission includes 8 days 7 nights, returning to Miami International Airport Sunday January 13, 5:30 PM.
Mission Cost includes the following: Full Day Schedule, Four Star Lodging, airport transfers, mission documentation, licensing and processing, Cuban VISA, Exit Airport fees, all scheduled events, activities breakfast, lunch and dinners. All ground transportation, medical insurance, professional guides, 24/7 medical services, 24/7 personalized services, luggage fees up to 50 lbs. per delegate, travel package, luggage and individual tags. Charter Flight from Miami, FL to Havana City, Cuba is included. Travel Package Insurance, Internet Access, Cell Phone Use and Items not on Schedule are Available but not Included in Final Cost.

Requirements: US Passport valid to Feb 1, 2013 and Individual Data and Documentation.

Single Room Occupancy Per Person Mission Cost US Dollars: $ 3,990.00
Double Room Occupancy Per Person Mission Cost US Dollars: $ 3,790.00

To reserve delegate participation and

Friday, December 7, 2012

Entrepreneurs lead Cuba's new revolution – from spas to drag nights

When Raúl Castro relaxed the laws on private enterprise in 2010 he sparked an explosion in services tailored to tourists in Cuba
  • The Guardian
Explore the countryside near Trinidad, Cuba, on horseback
Explore the countryside near Trinidad, Cuba, on a private horseback tour. Photograph: Alamy
"Clown, magician, party quizmaster", reads the list of positions for which self-employed licences are available to enterprising Cubans. The opportunities for private sector jobs are myriad since the change in the law in 2010 allowed private enterprise to flourish. While options like these may well be lucrative career choices it is undoubtedly businesses that give Cubans access to the tourist dinero that are most sought.

Activities such as independent scuba diving tours and private dance groups are part of the burgeoning private sector. On a trip this year, travel journalist Claire Boobbyer found that Julio Muñoz's horseback tours (+53 41 993673) through the beautiful countryside near Trinidad were far better than the state options.
In a country that is as body beautiful as Cubait's little surprise that there's been a surge in private spas. Conner Gorry, born in New York but living in Cuba and author of the Havana Good Time app says: "State massage venues and gyms have always been popular but now these very smart and well-run, private spas are now driving competition." With services that range from Swedish massage to yoga classes and indoor cycling she rates O2, (Calle 26B #5, +53 7883 1663) as one of Havana's finest.
Havana's famously lively nightlife scene is also changing. Locals –and in-the-know tourists – now head to the independently run Fashion Bar (Kessell #52, Vibora Park, +53 7 644 2894). This supper club bursts its glittery seams with the best of the capital's formidable drag queen talent and is popular enough to warrant a strict reservations policy – still something of a rarity in Cuba.
Low taxation is also fuelling the boom: in order to boost private sector revenue the government has either suspended or reduced taxes. This is set to change early next year when full taxation will gradually be rolled out. It's inevitable that some less profitable businesses will fall by the wayside but until then the spirit of free enterprise courses through this socialist stalwart.

• Fiona is co-author of The Rough Guide to Cuba

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eased travel to Cuba not without hurdles

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
updated 9:48 AM EST, Thu December 6, 2012

U.S. citizens allowed to visit Cuba

  • Legal travel to Cuba has been off limits to Americans for decades
  • "Person-to-person" trips have been greenlighted by the Obama administration
  • Visitors are required to engage in continuous educational exchange with Cubans
  • Some operators have had difficulty renewing licenses to offer tours
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Louis and Bonnie Waterer are spending their retirement filling up their passports, one stamp at a time.
"There are a bunch of people who are trying to visit 100 countries before they die," Louis explained. "This is number 92 for us."
Country No. 92 for the Waterers is Cuba.
But up until a few years ago, even for intrepid travelers like the Waterers, visiting Cuba would have been close to impossible.
After Fidel Castro took power in 1959, Cuba went from being a favorite getaway for Americans to a forbidden destination. Diplomatic relations and direct travel between the United States and Cuba were cut off. U.S. citizens spending money on the island faced hefty fines for "trading with the enemy."
But after decades of false starts, the Obama administration has reinstituted legal travel to Cuba as a way to reach out to the Cuban people.
Classic American cars still in use in Cuba are a curiosity to many foreign visitors.
Classic American cars still in use in Cuba are a curiosity to many foreign visitors.
It's called "people-to-people" travel, and like nearly everything involving Cuba, controversy and politics are involved.
"Each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba," U.S. Treasury Department guidelines for people-to-people travel read.
And while the policy has kicked off a debate over what is a "meaningful" exchange, a flood of tour operators has entered the still uncertain world of travel to Cuba.
Americans interested in visiting Cuba are offered free CDs of Cuban music and itineraries that include welcome parties thrown by Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, neighborhood watch groups that were created with the original intention of thwarting a U.S. invasion.
U.S. visitors coming via people-to-people trips shouldn't plan on too much beach time.
Under the Treasury guidelines, tour operators have to plan nearly every moment of the trip, and "people-to-people" travel, at least in theory, excludes relaxing by the pool with umbrella-topped beverages.
Most Americans heading to Cuba go there with the desire to make a connection with a people they have been prevented from having any contact with for generations, according to Tom Popper, president of tour operator Insight Cuba.
"The fact that we are bringing Americans and Cubans together is an incredible thing," Popper said. "It's a travel experience for the Americans, it's an incredible thing for Cubans. Some people in parts of Cuba that we go to, they have never met an American before."
People-to-people travel isn't cheap or easy, though.
A four-night "Weekend in Havana" trip from Insight Cuba, without airfare, sells for about $2,000 per person.
Popper said the high cost of the trips is due to the fact that operators need to send guides with their groups to make sure they comply with the travel regulations, and that renewing the yearly U.S. licenses can take months of navigating a complicated bureaucracy.
This summer, many tour operators wondered if people-to-people travel was ending altogether, after the Treasury Department started denying licenses to operators or simply not responding to renewal requests.
Several tour operators contacted by CNN said that the process may have gotten bogged down by the fact that the renewal application is now close to 200 pages and requires that the operators explain how each stop on the itinerary fosters greater friendship between Americans and Cubans.
"You are doing what you are supposed to be doing and they are changing the rules as we go. The guidelines are so vague," said Michael Sykes, who ran the now-defunct Cuba Cultural Tours.
Sykes laid off four employees after his license expired in July and he was denied a renewal.
"The language is so cryptic and so bureaucratic," he said. "Your average Joe isn't able to do this -- you have to understand the secret language."
Sykes has now hired what he calls a "bloody expensive" lawyer to guide him through the process, and he is hopeful that he will be back to planning trips to Cuba by the end of the year.
Some of the tour operators said they thought the logjam of licenses was caused by political pressure, particularly from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who is Cuban-American and a fierce critic of the trips
"What these trips are all about is tourism -- it's tourism," Rubio said on the Senate floor last year. "The reason why this is problematic is it gives money to the Castro government."
Jeff Braunger, a Treasury Department official in charge of the Cuba licensing program, said in an e-mail that the department has approved licenses for 180 tour operators while making sure they are complying with the law.
"We revised the license application criteria to stress to applicants the seriousness of the requirements of the people-to-people licensing program, in part because of reports we received concerning travel under the licenses," Braunger wrote.
But some tour operators said travel to Cuba has become more cumbersome and expensive but is not policed any better. One tour organizer mentioned a recent licensed trip offered by a competitor that included a day of scuba diving.
"It's supposed to be people-to-people, not people-to-fish," the operator said.
And there are also complications on the Cuban side, tour operators said. Last month, the Cuban government abruptly canceled the landing rights for two of the U.S. charter companies operating flights to the island, reportedly over a payment dispute.
But most of the tour operators said the headaches are worth the opportunity to get in early on American tourism to Cuba, which is sure to explode when the embargo is eventually lifted.
"We are back in operations and hope to stay that way," Insight Cuba president Tom Popper said. Popper had to lay off 22 people as he waited several months for the company's license renewal, but he has since added 17 back to his staff.
On a trip organized by Insight Cuba last month, 12 Americans spent their morning speaking with Cubans at a neighborhood art project.
Michael Pettit, a lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina, said he was struck by Cuba's many contrasts during his first people-to-people trip in May.
"I love Cuba," he said. "The history, music, people, photography -- it's all beautiful."
The politics and uncertainty over continued travel between Cuba and the United States persuaded Pettit to book another trip right away, he said.
"One of the reasons I came again is because you never know when you might be able to come legally."


My comment:

We received a license in September after having been turned down six times. The process is absurd and highly politicized.

People who go without a license through a third country have not been prosecuted by the US for five years. They enjoy a far less costly and more spontaneous people to people experience, staying in private bed and breakfasts, eating in private restaurants, renting cars and using public transportation. Their tourist card visa costs 1/3 of what  group travelers have to pay directly to the Cuban government.thanks to a July regulation from the Office of Foreign Assets

President Obama could make the same unfettered experience available to all purposeful travelers if he granted them a general license just as he did to Cuban Americans, universities and religious organizations. No application, no report--just an affirmation that the purpose is not sun and sand tourism.

We are asking he do that here

For information about group tours which offer the benefit of a more structured learning experience.and legal authorization, visit:

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Monday, December 3, 2012

Horticultural Program with FRD and the UW Botanical Garden

The Fund for Reconciliation and Development

 in association with

the University of Washington Botanical Garden

February 22-March 5, 2013

Led by Dr. Sarah Reichard

This morning you will depart on your domestic flight to Miami. Upon your arrival in Miami, you will take the airport shuttle to your pre-arranged hotel. Overnight at Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel.
Early this morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Havana (included in tour cost). Upon arrival at the Havana International Airport, meet your guide and transfer to Palacio de San Felipe. This afternoon, gather for an orientation session with Dr. Reichard and your guide. Meet the founder and performers before attending the innovative musical show Opera de la Calle. Overnight at Palacio de San Felipe. (LD)
This morning meet the director of INIFAT (National Institute for Research on Tropical Agriculture) and hear a presentation about the institution by its members. Afterwards, visit the facility with a botanist. Also visit a local school and meet with the principal. Have a late lunch at Meson de la Flota. This afternoon, hear Dr. Carlos Alzugaray present an overview of U.S. Cuba relations. Dine this evening at the private restaurant La Guarida, which is the location of the Cuban Oscar nominated film “Strawberry and Chocolate.” Overnight at Palacio de San Felipe. (BLD)
This morning attend an organic farming workshop with Mr. Miguel Salcines at Alamar Organoponic Gardens. Agronomist Miguel Salcines is the garden leader of this group of 160 cooperative owners. A delegation of 10 owners will discuss the garden’s history, accomplishments and current challenges. We’ll also learn about the overall success, requirements, and horticultural practices of organoponics in Cuba. Time will be allotted to share information about similar programs at UWBG. Before lunch at El Alijibe restaurant, visit a Cuban food market and interact with the vendors. Here you have an opportunity to learn first had about Santeria, especially in terms of plants, herbs, and history. Dinner this evening is at Café Mercurio. This evening, Cuban friends will join us for dinner.Overnight at Palacio de San Felipe. (BLD)
This morning visit the National Botanical Garden in the outskirts of Havana. Explore the gardens with an expert before attending an exciting workshop with Havana Botanical Garden Society members. You can learn from Dr. Angela Leyva Sanchez, General Director at NBG, Research Director Rosa Rankin, who specializes in endangered species, and Dr. Sarah Reichard. Enjoy lunch with garden members at El Bambu ecological restaurant. This afternoon you will visit Las Terrazas, a self sustained community named after their 5,000 hectares reforestation project. Arrive in Soroa late this afternoon. Overnight at Horizontes Villa Soroa. (BLD)
Take a guided tour of the Orchid Garden, run by the University of Pinar del Rio. Meet the garden’s caretaker who offers insight about the garden, which features more than 20,000 plants and 700 animal species. The garden also hosts a botanical research center belonging to the University of Pinar del Río. Lunch will be at El Salto restaurant. This afternoon enjoy an interpretive short trekking adventure (2 km) on the trail “Maravillas de Soroa” with a local expert on the native flora and fauna. Overnight at Horizontes Villa Soroa. (BLD)
This morning hike with the biological station’s expert guide in the ecologically protected area of Mil Cumbres (Thousand Peaks), home to the highest concentration of endemic species in Cuba. Later interact with local farmers in the nearby San Juan de Sagua community and taste the famous local coffee. Following a boxed picnic lunch depart to Valle de Viñales. Overnight at La Ermita. (BLD)

Today you will have breathtaking views of the Valley and the Mogotes; flat topped hills dating back to the Jurassic period that can be found in only four countries in the world. Meet a farming family and tour their tobacco farm. Your host, Paco Hernandez, will explain how Cuban farmers collaborate with the government in order to get farming supplies and transport produce to market. Paco’s family is one of the many hardworking Cuban families that have been growing tobacco for more than 100 years. Your lunch today is at a very special location known as the Prehistorical Mural restaurant. This afternoon, visit with residents in the town of Vinales. Overnight at La Ermita. (BLD)
This morning travel to the Zapata Peninsula. En route, visit an herbal store where a specialist provides insight about the use of plants in the Afro Cuban religion Speak with customers about their purchases. Lunch will be at La Giraldilla. This afternoon join Dr. Reichard and local specialists from the Conservation station in a workshop. Compare Zapata Park’s ecosystem and the current conservation efforts with those in Seattle. Zapata Park is renowned for its great diversity of ecosystems, in which more than 1,000 species of plants and 37 species of reptiles, including the Cuban Crocodile, inhabit. The park is also considered one of the world’s premier bird watching destinations. After your workshop, have lunch at La Giraldilla with local naturalists. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Hotel Playa Larga. (BLD)

This morning, local bird experts guide us on hikes within Zapata Peninsula. Following lunch at La Cueva de los Peces, spend the afternoon at leisure. This evening learn about the KORIMACAO Project, an innovative community development initiative to help residents develop their artistic skills. After observing a performance, speak with the students about their experience. Overnight at Hotel Playa Larga. (BLD)

This morning return to Havana. This evening, gather for dinner at La Campana with Cuban friends and celebrate your journey throughout Cuba. Overnight at Palacio de San Felipe. (BLD)

This morning transfer to airport for a morning flight to Miami (included in your tour cost). Upon arrival, after clearing customs and collecting your luggage, you will be free to check-in for your return flight home on own. (B)

For further information, contact Sarah Reichard" <>

$4,535 (16 participants)
Cost is based on double occupancy. Single supplements available for an additional $300.