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It's true. US visitors to Cuba are now allowed to bring $100 worth of Cuban cigars back into the country and it's all thanks to a little speech this morning by President Obama, to announce the resumption of US-Cuba relations for the first time since 1961.
This major development, which will see the reopening of a US embassy in Havana and easing of travel bans, came about thanks to talks orchestrated by Canada and Pope Francis in the Vatican. According to the NY Times, the final step occurred just this morning, when two world leaders picked up the telephone:
It wasn't too long ago that travel to Cuba was near impossible but, slowly, opportunities are opening up for Americans.
Group IST has been granted a license by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets allowing the travel agency to offer an exclusive eight day People to People exchange program of Cuba throughout 2015.
If you've ever wanted to immerse yourself into the sights and sounds of old school Cuba, a la Jay Z and Beyonce, there is a new tour created just for you.
Insight Cuba, the longest running operator of legal people-to-people trips to Cuba, is launching a new six-day itinerary this fall, aptly called Vintage Cuba, for those who want to go back in time on a journey through the country’s colorful and complex history.
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We’re not sure if there’s a tourism boom taking place down in Cuba, but there must be an influx of cash from somewhere. That’s because the country’s main airport—the one over in Havana—is scheduled for quite an upgrade, as it looks like officials are getting ready to shell out around $10 million to upgrade, improve, and update the airport.
The main international terminal—Terminal 3—over at Jose Marti International Airport is the one scheduled for the facelift and renovation. New airport goodies include around eight new footbridges for boarding, and they’re even adding a whole bunch of new parking spots outside the terminal. More check-in capabilities, better air conditioning, and some energy saving features round out the renovation plans.
In late February Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea, a hellish country so batshit crazy that its President for eternity has been dead for almost 20 years. For providing a propaganda boon to North Korean leaderswho routinely torture and starve their citizensRodman was roundly and justifiably criticized [trigger warning]. After Rodman left, North Korea put the region on a path that now risks actual nuclear war.
Evaluating the controversy, Beyonce and Jay-Z apparently said to themselves "inserting himself into a hopelessly complicated, politically tangled geopolitical controversy worked out really well for Rodman; let's celebrate our wedding anniversary in Cuba!"
Spending a Caribbean vacation in a damp, dark cave might not be for everyone, but there is no doubt those who are up for it leave with a new perspective on the region.
The Canadian-based voluntourism organization Animal Experience International is on a mission to help animals around the world by matching clients with animal-related volunteer opportunities at sanctuaries, hospitals, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and conservation projects, including a bat conservatory in the Caribbean.
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Hey look! There's fun new airline stuff happening up in the Canada, too! Today, Air Canada makes the announcement that they're proceeding with the launch of a low-cost carrier little brother airline, to be called Air Canada rouge, a name decided through a Facebook contest. Yes, that "R" is lowercase, but we're going to uppercase it from here on out to save our sanity.
Beginning July 1, 2013, Air Canada Rouge will jet from Toronto to a variety of international destinations, some never before serviced by Air Canada itself. We're talking Venice, Edinburgh and Athens from $949 roundtrip, Cuba from $538 (roundtrip) and Jamaica, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic from $269 (one-way). These are the introductory, yay-we-will-fly-soon fares to get you all hot and bothered, and they're good for booking on aircanada.com and aircanadavacations.com until December 25, 2011.
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Unfortunately the flights aren’t searchable or bookable through your favorite travel site just yet, but there is another new option for those looking to head to Cuba. It sounds like Delta is the latest carrier to get in on the Cuba travel craze, and they’re working with a Miami-based travel agency to help you get there.
The airline is partnering with Marazul—that's the travel agency—to get passengers the necessary paperwork, passports, and other stamps and seals to get to and from Cuba. Some flights had already been available out of Miami last month, but now there’s plans to do a nonstop flight from New York-JFK right into Havana. If all goes well there will also be an Atlanta option—obviously—beginning this December. If you’re interested, the airfare from New York will set you back around $659, and the flights departing from Atlanta start around $599.
We've been covering the loosening of Cuba travel restrictions for years now. There was a Congressional bill floating around in late 2009 but, as we explained at the time, it had zero chance of passing. So then President Obama tried to take things into his own hands, promising to open up travel channels. It took several more months before anything happened, but in 2011 the administration announced that "purposeful travel" would be allowed for Americans who could get visas to the island nation.
All of which brings us to this week's news, which is that People-To-People trips are again departing from Florida to Cuba. Booked through Insight Cuba, the cultural exchange program is one of several on the horizon.
There are no less than 35 organizations angling for the US Treasury Department to approve their purposeful travel trips, which have to involve "meaningful interaction between travelers and individuals." Hipster travel snobs will be especially pleased to know that Treasury distinguishes between being a Cuba "traveler," which is allowed, and being a Cuba "tourist," which is not.
Want to travel to Cuba? Join the club. Despite Obama's January lessening of restrictions for trips to Cuba, a hop down to Havana for mojitos and salsa still isn't an easy feat for Americans. The biggest name in luxury package vacationsAbercrombie & Kenthas just pulled out of their sold-out Cuba trips owing to technical issues, and you may just have to hope for another emergency landing in Havana (thought really, don't).
Of course there's always another option, but it's not for weak of heart or muscle. 61-year-old long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is breaststroking her way the entire 100 miles that separates Cuba from the Florida Keys, risking sharks and bad weather.
Too bad the United passengers missed this action
Weird smells. In-flight drama. An emergency landing in Cuba. These three elements sound like the basis for a Weekend At Bernie's-sort of movie, but instead it was reality for 135 passengers onboard United Flight 931 this weekend, when their Washington-Dulles to Cancun, Mexico trip took a detourto Havana, Cuba.
The cause of the unscheduled stop? CNN reports: "The crew detected a burning smell, saying it was in the cockpit," and they landed the Airbus A320 on Castro's turf just to be safe.
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Oh wow. Steps towards the re-opening of Cuba are coming quicker and quicker now, and the latest advance is a huge one: Eight new US airports have been given permission to operate charter flights to Cuba. It was only back in January that Obama and Congress re-allowed educational and religious groups to travel to Castro's island, but their departure points were limited to NYC, Miami and Los Angeles.
With the news that eight more airportsdeemed to have sufficient customs and immigration facilitiescan now begin their own travel agency-arranged flights, you can expect to see many more "My Cuba Trip" photo slideshows from your neighbors. The new airports are: Chicago-O'Hare, Baltimore, Dallas-Fort Worth, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Atlanta and San Juan, Puerto Rico.