The door keeps opening wider and wider to full-scale tourism to Cuba from the U.S. as two more U.S. tour operators—Abercrombie & Kent and Globus—announce programs to the once-forbidden island, while still other tour operators wait in the wings for their licensing on partner programs with non-profit cultural, educational and arts groups.
Abercrombie & Kent, for example, has partnered with the Foundation for Caribbean Studies, a licensed people-to-people non-profit organization, on an itinerary that takes Americans beyond Havana to Trinidad in central Cuba, a Spanish colonial settlement and UNESCO World Heritage site, and the rural countryside. A&K clients will also have the opportunity to explore Cuba’s cultural and historical wonders, while meeting local people to talk about daily life in Cuba and to enjoy mojitos, salsa dancing and intimate dinners at paladares (privately owned restaurants) for a first-hand introduction to Cuba’s growing private business sector.
“We’ve built upon our experience in Cuba, as well as the rest of the world, to ensure our guests will discover Cuba at its most intimate, authentic and in complete comfort,” explains Abercrombie & Kent USA president Scott Wiseman. “We have arranged an expedited immigration process on arrival, exclusive accommodations at Cuba’s best hotels and a carefully planned itinerary that includes private access to Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigia for an informative discussion with the curator and local staff involved in restoring the home and its lush surroundings.”
Among the highlights of A&K’s tour—Cuba: The Forbidden Isle—travelers will experience the island’s best hotels including exclusive stays at the five-star Iberostar Gran Hotel Trinidad, a beautifully restored boutique hotel in the center of Trinidad and exclusive rooms at Havana’s historic Hotel Nacional. They’ll also have VIP access to Fincas Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home at Cojimar, before it opens to the public, viewing his immaculately preserved home in small groups of three or four.
In addition, they’ll travel to Matanzas—A&K says they’re the only travel company visiting this culturally rich city—on a private visit and tour a 19th century pharmacy, hosted by descendants of the original owners. They’ll also enjoy a hands-on lesson in local environmental conservation by planting a tree at the beautiful Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens.
On the 11-day program, A&K guests travel in comfort and style on the newest and most deluxe motor coach available with first-class leather seats and air conditioning and they arrive there aboard a charter flight from Miami to Havana that includes expedited check-in and baggage retrieval, in addition to a dedicated immigration agent. The program is priced from $4,325 pp dbl with the inaugural departure scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 10, followed by Oct. 14-24 and 17-27, Nov. 23-Dec. 2, Dec. 12-22 and Dec. 21-30.
Beginning Aug. 10, Globus travelers will be able to book a Cuba vacation for the first time, with help from their partners, the Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture, when Globus will present travelers the opportunity to experience the faith, colorful history and culture of the island with its new itinerary for 2012: Cuba: A Spiritual, Historical and Cultural Journey.
“From its beautifully adorned churches and vintage cars, to its world-renowned cigars and lush, tropical climate, this newly created offering to be among the first to visit Cuba presents a once-in-a-lifetime experience to Globus travelers,” says Scott Nisbet, chief executive officer for the Globus family of brands. “We’re thrilled to be among an elite group of tour companies selected to transport travelers on this spiritual journey to a bygone era.”
Spending seven days in Havana, Globus travelers will enjoy a blend of spiritual, historical and cultural sights that includes a walking tour along the cobblestone streets of the old town; visiting El Templete where Havana’s first Catholic Mass was celebrated nearly 500 years ago; a discussion about Havana’s unique architecture from a local architect; and a guided tour through world-famous Colon Cemetery, where an expert will explain the flamboyant chapels, vaults, tombs and galleries.