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|Itinerary at a Glance|
|3||Old Havana & Callejon
|4||Havana & Las Terrazas|
|5||Havana, Alamar, Cojimar
Matanzas & Cardenas
|7||Varadero & Havana/Miami|
24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Highlights||Havana, Cojimar, Callejon de Hamel, Las Terrazas, Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia, Varadero, Cardenas, Coliseo & Matanzas|
|What to Expect||This fast-paced, escorted educational program includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.|
Just 90 miles from U.S. soil, the Caribbean island of Cuba has remained elusive to most Americans. But thanks to the People to People program, now entering its third year, more and more American travelers are visiting Cuba as part of these unique educational exchanges. Friendly Planet Travel is proud to be among the first operators to be awarded a People to People license, and we’re especially excited about our newest program, Highlights of Havana & Varadero, featuring a 3-night stay in Havana and a 2-night stay in Varadero, long considered one of Cuba’s most beautiful beaches.
You’ll begin your adventure in Havana, where you’ll be introduced to a rich culture with indigenous, African and European roots. You’ll meet artists in their studios in Old Havana, visit schools, tour organic farms and explore an ingenious, creative society with much to share and an eagerness to learn. In Varadero, you’ll meet a young teacher who has become another of Cuba’s emerging private sector stars. You’ll tour a “coincidental” farm in nearby Cardenas and discover what growing fruit and making pottery have in common, and in Matanzas city, you’ll discover the ingenuity and artistry that goes into puppetry. Your 5* beachfront resort hotel is perfectly situated to offer opportunities to enjoy the Caribbean in your spare time.
We guarantee you it’ll be a travel experience unlike any other. But don’t wait too long to book. Cuba is in hot demand, and these tours will sell out quickly!
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Day 1 - Sunday, Jan 19: Miami Overnight/Pre-tour introductory briefing. Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins today with an overnight stay in Miami, Florida. If you are arriving at Miami International Airport, complimentary hotel shuttle service to the Crowne Plaza is available every 20 minutes from any 2nd level departure terminal, simply hail the driver as they pass. This evening at 7:30pm, participate in an introductory briefing to get acquainted with your fellow travelers and review your documents and program itinerary. You will be informed of the departure time of the group shuttle leaving the hotel tomorrow morning. Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Miami Airport.
Bienvenidos a Havana! You are welcomed by your private Cuban people-to-people representative holding a Friendly Planet sign outside the arrivals terminal at the Havana Airport. Board your air-conditioned coach, and jump right in as you head directly to your first destination in Cuba.
In the center of Old Havana, set out on a leisurely orientation walk through the cobblestone streets of this vibrant area. You will find many Cubans out strolling with their families offering you a perfect opportunity to interact with locals and immerse yourself in the colors of Cuba which surround you.
This afternoon visit a primary school in Havana (ages 5 – 12) and meet with some of the school’s administrators and teachers about Cuba’s education system and how it compares to that of the United States. Please note that should a school not be available or not in session, Friendly Planet will substitute the school visit with an equally enjoyable and interesting visit to another community project in Havana.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what lies ahead during your visit to Cuba, it’s time to check in to your hotel. After time to rest at the hotel, attend a brief orientation meeting to review your travel itinerary and the documentation procedures for re-entry into the USA.
This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. Accommodations: Hotel Nacional. Dinner provided.
Day 3 - Tuesday, Jan 21: Old Havana, Callejon de Hamel & Cuban Ration Store. After breakfast this morning visit one of Havana’s most famous cigar factories where you see hundreds of workers rolling the Cuban cigars by hand. Your motor coach continues on with visits to Revolution Square, Moro Castle, and Columbus Cemetery, a miniature city of mausoleums, crypts, family chapels, vaults, beautiful sculptures and ornate gravestones.
Next, visit the colorful Callejon de Hamel, one of the shortest but most interesting streets in Havana. Here you will discover how the African Cuban religion of Santeria, a fusion of African belief systems like spirit worship and Christianity, is portrayed in the street art and music. Meet with artists, including Salvador Gonzalez Escalona (when in residence), whose prolific murals that adorn the neighborhood reflect the culture and religious beliefs of this area.
Lunch at Prado y Neptuno Restaurant.
After lunch visit a local ration store in the Vedado section of Havana. Your Cuban host will explain the system of rationing and the two-currency system as well as the difference between Ration Stores, Cuban Peso Stores, and CUC Stores.
Return to the hotel and gather in a pre-reserved, private meeting room where you will engage in a discussion with an English-speaking Cuban expert on the history of U.S./Cuban relations in the 20th & 21st centuries with the opportunity to ask questions in an uncensored format.
This evening take a short stroll from your hotel to a privately owned restaurant for dinner. The restaurant this evening is a classic example of Cuba’s recently revised policies allowing private enterprise to flourish. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 4 - Wednesday, Jan 22: Havana & Las Terrazas. Depart for Las Terrazas in Pinar del Rio Province, a “must see” in Cuba and known worldwide for its magnificent, scenic beauty. Pinar del Rio Province is also home to much of Cuba’s tobacco farming.
Las Terrazas was founded shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 as a model community, where local farmers, known as campesinos, moved closer together in order to help each other overcome the hardships of sleeping in huts with thatched roofs, of living without electricity and of living without local schools or medical services.
First, stop briefly at the Clinica Las Terrazas† to learn how medical services are handled in rural Cuba. Locals visit this small, multi-purpose center for medical advice, often non-traditional and homeopathic, and referrals to larger medical centers in the city, dental care by the area’s sole dentist, and even a haircut by the town hairdresser, with whom the space is also shared.
At your next stop, visit the oldest member of the community, Maria. She is the sole proprietor of the town’s only coffee shop, Café Maria, where she and her family have been welcoming visitors for years to enjoy the “best coffee in the country.” Discuss coffee culture in Cuba and throughout the world and how cafes act as places for social interaction.
Las Terrazas is now part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, much of it reforested coffee plantation. Real reforestation began in the late 1960s by the local farmers who were concerned that their land had been degraded by former French coffee barons.
Now you’re in for an authentic, country-style lunch prepared and served outdoors at a local farmhouse near Las Terrazas.
On the way back to Havana after lunch, you’ll have the distinct pleasure of visiting “Fusterlandia”, the home and surrounding neighborhood of “The Picasso of the Caribbean”, Jose Fuster. Starting with a small wooden home as his canvas, Mr. Fuster has turned his dream into reality and transformed not just his own home but the entire neighborhood into a unique and colorful artistic landscape. Using the money he makes from selling his artwork, Jose adorns the community with sculptures and mosaics galore.
This evening you are free to enjoy dinner on your own. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 5 - Thursday, Jan 23: Havana, Alamar, Cojimar & Varadero. This morning, drive to Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuba retreat and visit Cojimar, the fishing village that was the setting for his book, The Old Man and the Sea. Then, drive to the district of Alamar on the outskirts of Havana. Started as an expansive social housing project in the 1970’s, these Soviet-style pre-fabricated concrete apartment blocks are now home to hundreds of thousands of Cubans.
Among the buildings in Alamar are community gardens, called Organoponicos, where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for their own consumption and local sale. Similar to co-op and community gardens in the United States, these Organoponicos facilitate community development and offer Alamar’s residents access to fresh produce. Enjoy a visit to one of these Organoponicos, which few visitors to Cuba have the opportunity to do.
Lunch today is an open-air organic feast served by community volunteers and workers from Alamar.
This afternoon, continue to the beautiful town of Varadero. Accommodations: Melia Varadero. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 6 - Friday, Jan 24: Varadero, Coliseo, Matanzas & Cardenas. This morning drive to Marilin Garden located in the Santa Maria neighborhood of Varadero and named for its owner. This enchanting place was created by a Cuban teacher, Marilín Molina, who decided to turn her home into a much-needed kindergarten. She cares for approximately 9 children, from Monday to Saturday while their parents work, allowing her to make a living running her own business. The Marilin Garden is yet another example of private enterprise in Cuba. Tour the facility and engage in an exchange with Ms. Molina and her assistants about the needs for daycare in this small Cuban community. Discuss how home-based daycare businesses are started and run in Cuba as well as in the USA, and enjoy time to interact with the children.
Continue to the provincial town of Coliseo, passing by the city of Cardenas. Here you’ll observe village life first hand, including the varied (and often quite creative) means of transportation that residents rely on, like handmade bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Then, drive to the Coincidencia Farm, founded in 1987 by Héctor Correa, an agriculturist with an interest in preserving certain native species of fruit that he knew and loved as a child. With a cart full of seedlings, he began to plant his farm. In order to multiply the effort, he created a seed bank so that any interested farmer could also cultivate the plants. In addition to farming, Correa created the first ceramics workshop in Matanzas, blending art with nature, essential sources of inspiration for any artist. Correa’s children have kept the family tradition, studying and working hard both on the farm and in the workshop.
After touring the farm and ceramics workshop, engage in a discussion about opportunities for creative expression in Cuba and the US, and how in both countries, artists often find perfect incubators for their creative drives through farming.
Later, visit a wonderful world full of puppets in Matanzas city, often called the City of Bridges and the Athens of Cuba. Visit the Pelusín del Monte Cultural Center, a space for the magical and wonderful world of dolls. Pelusín del Monte, a puppet created in 1956, became a national icon, In this cultural site that bears his name, there are different areas for the promotion, development and enjoyment of theater puppets. There is a workshop led by puppet master Zenén Calero, recognized artist in Cuba and abroad, and an outdoor theater with 150 seats amidst a tropical forest. The puppeteer, Dora Alonso, supervises over a 1000 books on this popular theater specialty. Visit the center and engage in a discussion about how the puppets are created and why this particular character remains a beloved figure throughout the country. Discuss the various American iconic puppets, some of which may also be known in Cuba.
Before returning to the hotel, visit a Craft Workshop. Artisans Mariela Alemán Orosco and Marilín Martínez Barrio, members of the Cuban Cultural Fund and the Cuban Association of Artisans and Artists, have received prizes and recognition for their creative work. During the visit you’ll tour the workshop and experience the creative process as it is taking place. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 7 - Saturday, Jan 25: Varadero & Havana/Miami. Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport and check-in for your charter flight back to Miami. Adios Havana! Breakfast provided.
NOTE: This itinerary provides a full time schedule of educational activities that will result in meaningful interactions between you and individuals in Cuba. U.S. law requires that all persons who participate in this program adhere to this full time schedule, and imposes on Friendly Planet the obligation to ensure such adherence.
Infrastructure in Cuba, including even the best hotels, may not always be up to U.S. standards. The hotels really do try to maintain quality accommodations, and in the properties we select for our tours, they generally do a good job. However, Cuba’s resources and climate do sometimes impact a hotel’s ability to keep up with maintenance and indoor air quality. For example, in Cuba’s tropical climate, you might notice musty odors in some buildings, including hotels. We do our best to select the highest quality hotels, restaurants and paladars that Cuba has to offer, but we appreciate your flexibility and understanding when you encounter a minor imperfection. Cuba has a long way to go before it’s hotels, highways, public restrooms and other features reach US levels, but all in all, you will not suffer any major difficulties in tolerating the small issues that may occur. If you have any medical or dietary concerns, however, please inform us when you make your reservation, so we can take whatever special precautions are required to assure your comfort and well-being. - See more at: http://www.friendlyplanet.com/sponsored/gmu-cuba-2014.html#tab2
† These visits are subject to availability. When not possible to visit, appropriate alternate visits will be included.
FRIENDLY PLANET'S LICENSE NUMBER FOR SELLING CUBA: CT-2012-295959-1