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|Itinerary at a Glance|
|1||Miami Overnight/ Pre-tour
|4||Havana & Las Terrazas|
|5||Havana & Callejon de Hamel|
|6||Havana, Alamar & Cojimar|
|7||Havana, Santa Clara &
|9||Depart Cienfuegos/Arrive Miami|
|Style||Fully Escorted & Guided
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Highlights||Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Cojimar, an authentic Rumba block party, Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia, and a dinner in a "paladar".|
|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.|
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 few tour 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, and prices this low, space is sure to fly!
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Day 1: Day 1 – Saturday, September 13: 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 or similar.
Day 2: Miami/Havana. Today, transfer to the Miami International Airport to board your non-stop flight bound for Havana, Cuba’s capital city and designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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.
Enjoy a leisurely orientation walk with your guide through the vibrant cobblestone streets as you immerse yourself in the colors of Cuba which surround you. 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.
Afterwards, enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. Accommodation: Hotel Nacional. Dinner provided.
Day 3: Old Havana. Begin our day with a visit to a primary school (ages 5-12) located in Old Havana. 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. Then continue to visit the Graphic Arts workshop.
Today you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon, visit the Vocal Leo, a group of 14 talented singers who perform under the direction of Corina Campos, general and musical director of this unique, award-winning group known internationally for its distinctive interpretation of choral music. The group is named for the Cuban guitar virtuoso, composer and orchestra conductor, Leo Brower. After watching a performance or rehearsal, discuss the professional music scene in Cuba and the USA. Today, we will also visit Beth Shalom Synagogue in the Vedado Section of Havana where we have the opportunity to deliver medical supplies and medicine to the pharmacy which distributes our gifts throughout the local community.
This evening, we meet in our pre-reserved meeting room at our hotel and engage in a discussion with an English-speaking Cuban expert (Rafael Hernandez) on the history of U.S./Cuban relations in the 20th & 21st centuries with the opportunity to ask questions in an uncensored format.
Enjoy dinner this evening at a privately owned restaurant located in Old Havana. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 4 - Tuesday, September 16: 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.
Continue to the kindergarten of the community. After a tour of the facility conducted by the director and teacher, discuss early childhood education in Cuba and the USA with school staff. Then, enjoy a brief presentation by the children.
At our next stop, we’ll 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.
Visit the art studio of Lester Campa (When in residence).
On the way back to Havana after lunch, we 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.
Return to Havana and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Evening optional activities will be available which may be arranged locally. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 5 - Wednesday, September 17: Havana & Callejon de Hamel. After breakfast, 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.
Our next visit, the Martin Luther King Center in Havana, is at the forefront of promoting social responsibility and progressive change through application of the core Christian values upon which it was founded. Meet the staff, view a PsychoBallet session and learn more about Center’s work in distribution of medicines, HIV prevention, housing projects, and care of the very young and the elderly. The MLK Center reaches Cubans of every denomination and across all walks of life.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, visit the Clave Sol community project. This neighborhood project was established by parents in the San Augustin neighborhood, in an effort to provide safe, wholesome afterschool activities for their children. Children select among various string instruments and then learn to play them, to perform not only Cuban but international music. During our visit, meet the children, their teachers and hear them rehearsing for upcoming performances. Explore the Used Booksellers Market, a cross-cultural treasure trove for readers of every genre. Meet local independent booksellers and engage in friendly conversation with Cuban readers about popular Cuban and American literature. Afterwards, enjoy dinner on your own. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 6 – Thursday, September 18: Havana, Alamar & Cojimar. This morning, drive to Finca Vigia, Hemmingway’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 will be served at a local paladar.
This afternoon, we’re in for a real treat. We travel to the Centro Pro Danza de Cuba, created in 1994 by Laura Alonso, the daughter of Cuba’s legendary ballet royalty, Alicia and Fernando Alonso. Alonso teaches children of all ages and regardless of talent or ability to pay, and she provides professional-minded dancers, who weren’t accepted into the national ballet school and company, with an opportunity to grow study and even perform. You will tour the school, housed in a crumbling mansion that was once a hospital and is slowly being refurbished, watch a rehearsal. Then, engage in discussions with the directors and dancers about dance opportunities in Cuba compared with those in the USA.
Visit Lazaro Salsita, a wonderful art project for children in Central Havana, run by Lazaro Medina. Here, children learn not only how to create art, but also how to invent materials from just about anything. His most popular materials are typically discarded “Granma” and “Juventud Rebelde” newspapers. Lazaro has received national recognition as a “neighborhood leader” for his community-based project. Meet Lazaro, his young students and maybe try your own hand at creating a sculpture made out of old newspaper or discarded string.
After some well-deserved ‘down time’ at the hotel, join your fellow travelers for your last dinner in Havana, served in a privately owned restaurant. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes as you enjoy live, traditional Cuban Buena Vista-style music and salsa dancing. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Enjoy a special visit to the Santa Clara Music and Performing Arts School, with dance, theater and music performances by the students. Participate in a discussion with faculty and students about the role of music and education in the USA, and the impact of music on Cuban life and its importance in education in Cuba. Please note that this visit is only possible during the school year (September through early June). Should this school not be available, or in session, during your trip, an equally enjoyable and interesting visit to another community project will be substituted. Lunch will be served buffet style in the Los Caneyes Hotel in Santa Clara.
Today, you will also visit the Jewish Community Center in Santa Clara. Afterwards, continue the drive to the charming old Spanish colonial town of Cienfuegos. Check in to your hotel before dinner on your own this evening. Accommodations: Jagua Hotel, Cienfuegos. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 8 - Saturday, September 20: Cienfuegos – Trinidad - Cienfuegos. After breakfast this morning, depart for Trinidad where you will visit the Casa del Alfarero, a pottery house that was founded and has been managed by the Santander Family for generations. Today you’ll learn the process of ceramic production and have the opportunity to create a piece of your own.
Continue to one of Trinidad’s many “casas particulares” or bed and breakfasts, where you’ll enjoy a tour and a discussion with the owners. Learn how bed and breakfasts are one of Cuba’s new entrepreneurial opportunities in a society where the state typically owns most enterprises. Ask questions and share insights about U.S. businesses, including the ever popular bed and breakfasts that are ubiquitous in the U.S.
Continue to Templo de Yemaya, where a Santeria Practitioner along with some of the religion’s devotees explains the basic principles of Santeria. Discuss the role of religion and religious organizations throughout both Cuba and the US.
Lunch today is at the beautifully restored Hacienda de Manaca Iznaga, located in the heart of the Valley de los Ingenios, a series of valleys once known as a center for sugar production. Built in the late 1700s, the mansion displays an exhibition of paintings depicting the lives of slaves on sugar plantations.
After lunch, learn about the region’s harsh past, where great fortunes were made on the backs of African slaves, and where many descendants of the Afro-Cuban slaves still reside. Return to your hotel later this afternoon to freshen up before dinner. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a privately owned paladar in Trinidad.
After dinner, join Cubans at either Casa de la Musica or Casa de la Trova for a community block party, a celebration where locals from all walks of life and generations come to eat, drink, build friendships, and discuss neighborhood matters. Enjoy the celebration, regarded as one of the best experiences of the trip, and engage in discussions with the locals about community life in Cuba and the US. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 9 - Sunday, September 21: Depart Cienfuegos / Arrive Miami. Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Cienfuegos 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, especially in hotels, may not be sufficient to satisfy demand in certain periods. While all inclusions in your tour will be maintained, it is possible that the itinerary may be rerouted to accommodate hotel availability. Please be flexible and understand that we will always do whatever we can to assure the best possible experience for all our Cuba travelers.
† These visits are subject to availability. When not possible to visit, appropriate alternate visits will be included.
Dr. Steven Derfler -Director Educational Resources, Inc.