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|Itinerary at a Glance|
|3||Callejon de Hamel &
Havana, Alamar &
|5||Havana & Las Terrazas|
After many years, Americans are again able to travel to Cuba under a new 'people-to-people' program authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department, which provides an opportunity to interact with Cubans through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and more. Friendly Planet is proud to be one of the very few companies in the United States to have been awarded a People to People license by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control . Join us for a unique adventure to experience this island which sits 90 miles off our shores and shares such an amazing and extraordinary history with the United States!
Cuba’s culture is rich with contributions from its indigenous, African and European roots. But above all, the people of Cuba are the island’s greatest asset. They are friendly, welcoming, resourceful and full of life. This program will introduce you to the people and provide ample opportunities to interact with them in meaningful and rewarding ways, learning and teaching each other about life in Cuba vs the USA. But don't wait to reserve your spot. With a rare opportunity like this, with prices this low, space is sure to fly!
Sorry, there are no currently available tour dates.
Our Refer A Friend program is not applicable for our Cuba programs.
Minimum age for this tour is 12.
Day 1 - Monday, Dec 17: Miami. Accommodation has been reserved for our group tonight at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Miami Airport. Join your traveling companions at the orientation which will be presented to the group at 8:00 PM in a private room at the hotel. Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Day 2 - Tuesday, Dec 18: Miami/Havana. Bienvenidos a Havana! Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins this morning as you board your non-stop flight bound for Havana, Cuba’s capital city and designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Upon arrival, after customs formalities, meet your Cuban People to People Host and head right to the heart of Havana. Our guide will lead us on a leisurely stroll through the cobblestone streets of “Habana Vieja” before we have lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch continue to the Angela Landa Elementary school* located in Old Havana. This primary school (ages 5 - 12) is located in a beautiful historical building which has been carefully renovated by Havana’s Office of the Historian. Interact with the children in their classrooms and participate in a discussion session with some of the school’s administrators and teachers about Cuba’s education system and how it compares to that of the United States. (This is the opportunity for you to personally deliver the educational supplies you have brought with you to Cuba.)
Before dinner at the hotel this evening, attend a brief orientation meeting to review your travel itinerary and the documentation procedures for re-entry into the USA. You will then participate in an open discussion with English-speaking Cubans, including a historian from the University of Havana. The theme of this open, uncensored discussion centers on the history of U.S.-Cuban relations in the 20th & 21st Centuries. Hotel Nacional (L,D)
Note: On occasion, when the Angela Landa Elementary School is not available, another school will be visited.
Day 3 - Wednesday, Dec 19: Callejon de Hamel & Old Havana. After breakfast, board your air-conditioned coach as you set off for your tour of Havana. First stop is a visit to one of Havana’s most famous cigar factories, where hundreds of workers still roll the Cuban cigars by hand. Continue to the Plaza de la Revolucion and the Museum of the Revolution, the Cemetery of Christopher Colombus, the Miramar area, Morro Castle, with its magnificent views of Havana and the Museum of the City. Next, stop by the colorful neighborhood of Callejon de Hamel. Here you’ll find brilliant mural paintings, stalls selling herbs for curing colds and lovesickness alike, kiosks offering beaded bracelets representing spirits of the orisha religion (combining African spirit worship and Catholicism) and of course, music everywhere. You’ll meet and exchange ideas with artists, including Salvador Gonzalez Escalona or a member of his family (when in residence), whose prolific murals, which reflect the culture and religious beliefs of this area, adorn the neighborhood. There are numerous community activities in the Callejon de Hamel, including art instruction aimed at educating the children in the neighborhood, and you will discover how the African Cuban religion (a fusion of African belief systems like spirit worship and Christianity), called Santeria, is portrayed in the street art.
Proceed to La Mina Restaurant in the Plaza de Armas for lunch. After lunch, visit a local ration store in the Vedado section of Havana and learn about the differences between Ration Stores, Cuban Peso Stores, and CUC Stores. 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. Your sightseeing concludes this afternoon with Havana Club’s Rum Museum. Here you’ll learn everything about Cuban rum, including a tasting of the aged brown liquid.
Current day Cuba finds itself in the initial stages of encouraging investment in local business. One area where new ventures are flourishing is in the restaurant industry. This evening, meet with the owner or general manager and some of the workers of one of Havana’s finest and most interesting new restaurants, El Gijon. Hear firsthand how new businesses – especially restaurants - get started, find working capital, and make a profit in a society where private business ventures are almost unknown. Also, learn about the history of the “Association” restaurants, of which El Gijon is one of the best. Afterwards, enjoy dinner at El Gijon. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Thursday, Dec 20: Havana, Alamar & Cojimar. This morning travel to the Alamar district on the outskirts of Havana, an expansive housing project started in the 1970’s and now home to hundreds of thousands of Cubans. Alamar began as a social housing project of the 70’s and 80’s. Now, hundreds of thousands of Cubans live in apartment blocks four stories high, in Soviet-style pre-fabricated concrete buildings. Community gardens, called organoponicos, are located between the buildings, where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, for their own consumption and for local sale. Similar to co-op and community gardens in the United States, these organoponicos offer Alamar’s residents access to fresh produce as they facilitate community building. Few visitors to Cuba ever have the opportunity to visit this area and experience how many Cubans live on a daily basis.
There are many historical and cultural ties between Cuba and the United States, and one that is known and appreciated by all is that of the legacy of Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1960. Visit the mansion and museum of Hemingway, Finca Vigia, where his 9,000 book library is preserved, as well as his animal trophies and famous fishing boat, Pilar. Later, visit the village of Cojimar, setting for the novel The Old Man and the Sea. Lunch will be served at Hemingway’s famous hangout, the Bodeguita del Medio, in Old Havana.
This afternoon, you’ll visit Beth Shalom Synagogue Pharmacy, where pharmaceuticals that are donated by visitors from throughout the world are given out, free of charge, (This is the opportunity for you to personally deliver the educational supplies you have brought with you to Cuba.) (This is the opportunity for you to personally deliver the pharmaceutical supplies you have brought with you to Cuba.)
This evening, dinner is served in the rooftop restaurant of the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where Hemingway lived in the 1930s and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and where you will enjoy live, traditional Cuban Buena Vista-style music and salsa dancing. (B,L,D)
Day 5 - Friday, Dec 21: 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. 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.
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 barrens. Engage in a lively exchange with members of a local farming community and discuss with Cuban Guajiros (farmers and cowboys) the importance of reforesting. Discuss how the Cuban experience in Las Terrazas has had a positive impact on the ecological movement on society and its similarity or dissimilarity to efforts in the USA. You’re in for an authentic, country-style lunch prepared in and served in a local farmhouse in the nearby countryside.
We return to Havana this afternoon with ample time to explore the musical sounds of Obispo Street and partake in Havana Jazz Festival events which are yet to be officially announced. Dinner this evening is at our leisure and not included. (B,L)
Day 6 - Saturday, Dec 22: Old Havana. Our day is focused on African heritage in Cuba. We begin our day with a visit to the Casa de Africa in Old Havana which houses sacred objects relating to Santeria collected by ethnographer Fernando Ortiz. We then visit the old port town of Regla across the harbour from Havana Vieja which is a center of Afro Cuban religions, including the all male secret society of Abakua. We’ll visit the diminutive Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Regla where we will find the Black Madonna which is venerated in the Catholic faith and associated in the Santeria religion with Yemaya (spirit of the ocean and patron of sailors). We will also visit the Museo Municipal de Regla which records the history of Regla and its Afro Cuban religions. Next we visit the Yoruba Cultural Society where the Museo de las Orishas is located. Lunch today is at the Aljibe Restaurant.
After lunch we continue our research today to Guanabacoa, a small village that frankly got swallowed up by the big city nearby, Havana. Locals call it “el pueblo embrujado” (the bewitched town) because of its strong Santeria traditions. This small town was formed in 1607 and later became a center of slave trade. Today Guanabacoa is a sleepy yet highly colorful place whose roots are tied directly to Afro Cuban culture and music.
Day 7 - Sunday, Dec 23: Havana/Miami. Adios Havana! After breakfast in the hotel this morning, bid farewell to Cuba as you are transferred to the airport for your return flight to Miami. (B)
FRIENDLY PLANET'S LICENSE NUMBER FOR SELLING CUBA: CT-2012-295959-1
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