People-2-People In Havana, Cuba
Updated: Nov 19, 2019
As an empty nester, there is so much world to see, to explore, and to be intrigued. I am a travel guru and my love for traveling has allowed me to visit so many beautiful countries and I’ve been blessed to travel by land, air and sea to arrive at these beautiful bucket list travel spots. I must say however that my trip to Cuba was one that has inspired me in ways unimaginable and I’ve been blessed with the ability to give others the same opportunities I’ve received, at a cost of course, however, trips of this kind are worth exploring! Head over to across N abroad Travel and see our 2018 tour to Cuba.
Cuba is one of the most colorful and authentically cultured places I have visited but unlike its sister Caribbean islands it takes a little more planning.
On December 17, 2014, President Obama made a statement to shift the relationship the US had with Cuba, which lightened many hearts. And according to Benny Johnson of Babaku Blog The policies, enacted in the twilight of Obama's last term, brought sweeping changes to U.S.-Cuban relations. The Obama policies lifted broad American trade and travel to Cuba while opening up the isolated communist nation to the first world. One of the five differences between former President Obama and our current President Trump Cuba policies is that under President Trump as of June 17, 2017 he executed the order to strictly e
nforce what types of travel are allowed to Cuba-- People-to-people educational trips will now be strictly enforced. The crackdown is intended to limit the free flow of American dollars into the communist coffers. According to Fox News. “The Trump administration also says it will strictly enforce the 12 authorized categories allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba – banning one particular type of travel, known as individual “people-to-people” trips.
Obama eliminated the tour requirement, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to book solo trips and spend their money with individual bed-and-breakfast owners, restaurants and taxi drivers. Under President Trump the rules require a daylong schedule of activities designed to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans.
Excitingly arriving by cruise ship Empress of the Seas and existing after scanning my blue SeaPass card I entered the line for my passport and Visa to be examined and stamped to enter the country. Then through a TSA like line where the employees looked like either high school seniors or freshmen in college my backpack and body was scanned. Finally, heading to the line to exchange my funds to CUCs, I proceeded to the steps that would lead me to the grounds of the Capital of Cuba. The weather was pouring raining and humid but that was not a distraction for me because I had my traveling raincoat in backpack. I arrived on the first floor of Terminal Sierra Maestra San Francisco which is located in front of the Plaza de San Farancisco de Asis in Old Havana. With my black and white hi-top Vans because a good pair of walking shoes is a requirement, a full belly, a water bottle, and my body smothered with SPF45 sunblock and bug spray I was ready to experience this island.
Upon exiting the terminal in Havana and just a few steps to the right was The Malecon which is a seawall that stretches about 5 miles along the coast of Havana. Of course each country has their own eccentricity and unique being, and depending where you sit on the wall it’s also a spot for free WiFi. I mean who wouldn’t appreciate free WiFi while exploring a country as majestic and beautiful as Cuba?! Outside on the streets of the terminals there were also countless options of transportation like the busses both public and charter, coconut cars, horse and buggy, bicycle and cart, and yellow taxis and they are plentiful and open for negotiation. This makes the idea of travelling so intriguing to me as what better way is there to explore a new country than to immerse yourself amongst the locals?
Sometimes the story of someone visiting first hand may help you to create a well-informed thought on whether to go and enjoy some Salsa dancing with the sweet scent of wonderful and authentic Cuban meals twirling through the air in all its majesty. But let me tell you some more about my trip to this truly tremendous country amidst all that has been speculated on or said forthrightly.
I caught my AM tour bus outside of the terminal and began my exploration of the city that took me to many of the island’s highlights like Plaza de la Revolución, "Revolution Square", China “block” Al Ca Pon’s first hotel, The Lion statues on the Prado Promenade. Land marks like Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón (cemetery), located in the heart of Havana was named after Christopher Columbus, 150-acre, and holds over 800,000 graves is a must see monument. Some may not find this landmark noteworthy during their travel to Havana, Cuba but I sat up in my seat to view this national treasure. I am intrigued by the architecture and history and Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón (cemetery), it like a miniature city of marble, bronze, polished granite, angels, and crosses rich symbolism. It was named after Christopher Columbus is a 150-acre, and holds over 800,000 graves and with more than 500 major mausoleums, chapels, and family vaults and took 15 years to build. Definitely a must see when visiting Cuba.
While I only paid 10 CUCs for my bus tour it was worth so much more. Imagine the deals and steals across N abroad travel has in store for you! The featured trip will not only serve as a fun escape but also as a way to develop a viable People to People tour, getting all the information you need first hand from the most cultured folks on the island. Starting my day with a bus was an excellent source for getting my bearings on the city and even seeing areas and structures that would not be on my afternoon walking tour.
PART 2 OF AM TOUR
Returning to the terminal I haggled a ride with the one the drivers in a classic car for 15 CUCs to visit the Christ of Havana and The Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force). The Christ of Havana represents Jesus of Nazareth which is located on a hilltop, 167 above sea level, and the view of the city from that point was spectacular considering there is a clear view of the other side of the bay and you can see most of the prominent Havana buildings including El Capitolio. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza (a castle) was as massive up close as it looked afar. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is the oldest fort in the hemisphere, it’s a part of the old Havana facing the sea and it’s so exhilarating to touch and walk through.
My classic car was clean, air conditioned, comfortable and the driver was pleasant. Whether you are a car enthusiast or just an individual who appreciates the authenticity of a Cuban beauty these cars are a sight to behold. Think back to Fate of the Furious, the Fast franchise always seems to find a way to outdo and outshine their endeavors giving fans breathtaking and jaw-dropping views and the epic ride started in non-other than Cuba! The honor exhibited by the Cuban natives in helping Dominic Torreto in his time of need is true to their people.
Havana is a city of pedestrians. Most of the biggest attractions can be reached by foot, especially in Old Centro Havana, most attractions are relatively close together walking gave me a taste of the Cuban culture. It’s hard to get lost, considering most of the streets are organized into grids. I met my tour guide Franklin on the corner of Peseo de Marti and because I arrived early I was able to enjoy some live entertainment. Down the aisle and on the streets were lots of laughing, conversations, stores, and of course a little panhandling.
My tour guide Franklin arrived to begin my PM tour and it began with my second ride in a classical car but this time it was a sky-blue convertible. By now the sun is out, the cool breeze blowing in my face, and some beautiful Cuban music streaming out of the car’s radio as we rode down Prado Street towards El Capitolio, the Cuban Capital building.
The streets are narrow, full of people, music, and stray dogs were plentiful. In my opinion, Havana is like a big family reunion. My interaction with Cubans was always a comfortable experience for me, they spoke with pride when they talked about their country. As a matter of fact my tour guide Franklin, spoke of his days as an attorney, to be specific a prosecutor. When I asked why did you go from being an attorney to a tour guy he said he was always stressed and the job was quite intense. As a tour guide he was able to educate people about his country, which takes me back to the honor and truly authentic experience that awaits you on the upcoming 2018 trip to Cuba. While he is open to visiting the states he said he will always return to Cuba because he loves his country, could there be anything more genuine and beautiful than that?
One of the main reason why I love traveling so much is because it allows me to learn about the world in a deep and meaningful way. The transition from having a child at home to becoming an empty nester can be challenging for some but I say take the leap, explore, broaden your horizons and rediscover yourself while learning about all that the world has to offer. In Old Square (16th-century Plaza Vieja) a bright and eclectic large square surrounded by restaurants. I found young boys playing the European football game at which time my tour guide jumped right in as if he was a part of the game, afterwards he turned our attention to an iron statue “Hold My Fork While I Mount this Rooster” which was a naked female on a rooster holding a pitch fork. We saw other highlight statues such as Carols Manuel de Cespedes in the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, Spanish dancer Anthony Gades in la Plaza which also where I enjoyed some fresh coconut, Old Havana's Johnson & Johnson Pharmacy (also known as the Farmacia Drogueria Johnson in Spanish) is located in the heart of the city, and the famous Ernest Hemingway Bar the El Floridita Bar. While these were just a few of the highlights I experienced during my walking tour my guide spoke passionately about each. Franklin was not only an attorney in the generic sense of the occupation, he also speaks three languages fluently which is noteworthy and I believe a testament to the Cuban educational system which is free to its citizens.
Travel for me is an experience just as much as the destination’s offerings ultimately, it all depends on your purpose for traveling and for me it’s to see and experience the destination. That's exactly what I did when I visited Havana, Cuba. A bonus is that when I travel I get to experience firsthand locations and vendors that I may or may not add to rolodex for my clients.
The most important tip I can give you for planning your vacation not only a trip to Cuba but for any travel is to seek what you wish, truly inform yourself on all the happenings, be mindful of the laws as they apply to that destination and be safe!
across N abroad Travel has a 2018 land package to three cities in Cuba so go to the site and BOOK NOW. across N abroad Travel To travel, the US Embassy in Cuba makes all relevant information and requirements available and as such, being in the know is a mouse click away travel.state.gov
- A valid passport at time of travel
- A tourist visa
Bye for now.