Travelers on an International Expeditions itinerary interact with the local people. // © 2013 International Expeditions
Cuba is making tourism news again, with a range of tour operators offering interpersonal cultural exchange journeys.
Tauck, for one, has announced that it will be offering Cuba itineraries following the recent renewal of its license to operate tours to the island-nation. Tauck’s first departure to Cuba under its renewed license will begin on Oct. 6, with additional trips scheduled throughout the remainder of the year. Tauck’s return to Cuba follows the company’s initial launch in 2012 — which was one of the most successful new itinerary launches in Tauck’s 88-year history, according to CEO Dan Mahar.
“Interest in Cuba is incredibly high, and we were thrilled to help so many of our guests experience Cuban culture, art, music, food and more,” said Mahar. “Our Cuba trips earned rave reviews last year, and we’re looking forward to providing the same enriching, engaging people-to-people experiences beginning in October.”
Tauck’s eight-day Cuba itinerary begins with an orientation and overnight stay in Miami, Florida, with guests embarking on a charter flight to Havana the following morning. Included in Tauck’s pricing are accommodations at the Hilton Miami Airport in Miami and the Melia Habana in Havana, a roundtrip charter flight from Miami to Havana, all ground transportation, all sightseeing and admission to all attractions, entertainment and meals. Prices start at $5,490 per person, based on double-occupancy, plus roundtrip airfare to Miami.
International Expeditions has a 10-day Cuba itinerary that includes Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Bay of Pigs and Vinales. Throughout the journey, guests interact with local artists, chefs, Cuban entrepreneurs, a youth choir, Cuban naturalists and conservation groups. The program starts at $4,198 per person, and is virtually all-inclusive with the exception of domestic airfare, charter flights from Miami to Cuba and personal items.
For a limited time, Insight Cuba is offering savings up to $500 per person with its Fall in Love with Cuba promotion, available on five itineraries with 14 departures between October and December. The seven-night Classic Cuba tour is a good example. It includes the UNESCO World Heritage site of Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Playa Larga, where guests discuss music education with the students and teachers at the Korimacao Community Project for underprivileged youth.
Insight Cuba limits its groups to a maximum of 24 people to give clients a more intimate experience. Lowest rates start at $1,895 per person with the discount, and include first-class accommodations, a Cuban guide, an Insight Cuba tour leader, all meals, a U.S. Department of the Treasury license and letter of authorization, all entrance fees to scheduled activities and events, all in-country ground transportation and transfers, travel health insurance, emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellation insurance (up to $1,000, or additional coverage for a fee), an Insight Cuba guidebook and a 24-hour emergency service hotline.
IsramWorld is launching a series of journeys to Cuba as well. The company’s eight-night tours will be presented to niche audiences by three IsramWorld brands. Tours for general travelers will be available through Latour, while tours for LGBT travelers will be available through PrideWorld. Tours for travelers interested in Cuba’s Jewish heritage and community will be available under the IsramWorld banner.
All tours will include an extensive program of encounters and meetings with Cubans under a “people-to-people” program approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. Tours are priced at $3,985 per person and include roundtrip flights from Miami; stays in top hotels in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara; many meals; a full program of touring and meetings; and a pre-trip overnight and briefing at the Sheraton Miami Airport. The first tour departure to Cuba is Nov. 29, with a total of four departures scheduled in 2013. About 20 weekly departures are planned for 2014, except during the mid-July through September hurricane season.