Tag: Cuba Travel

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Cultural Exchanges Now Departing Florida, Destination Cuba

August 16, 2011 at 3:47 PM | by | Comments (0)

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.

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Think Traveling to Cuba is Tough Enough? One Woman is Swimming the Distance

Where: Cuba
August 8, 2011 at 10:02 AM | by | Comments (0)

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 vacations—Abercrombie & Kent—has 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.

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Cuba Libres All Around! United Flight Makes Surprise Stop in Havana

Where: Havana, Cuba
August 1, 2011 at 8:30 AM | by | Comments (0)


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 detour—to 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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Next Stop, Havana: Eight More US Airports Get Go Ahead to Fly to Cuba

Where: Havana, Cuba
March 9, 2011 at 9:15 AM | by | Comments (0)

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 airports—deemed to have sufficient customs and immigration facilities—can 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.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Che Guevara is Everywhere, Everything

Where: Cuba
February 25, 2011 at 11:01 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

They tell you Communists and religion don’t mix, but Cuba has a God. His name is Ernesto Che Guevara and he is omnipresent: on walls, doors, museums, shrines, monuments, galleries, billboards, t-shirts, caps, postcards, on people’s lips. Strange that Fidel, who has never been a shrinking violet, is almost nowhere to be seen.

Che’s arrival in Cuba in December 1956 was less than godly, crashing into the coast on the rickety yacht Granma and stumbling onto land half seasick with the Castro brothers. 60 of the 82 men squeezed on board that 12-person cruiser were immediately caught and killed, while Che ran off wheezing (he had chronic asthma) to hide in the Sierra Maestra mountains, near present-day Guantánamo Bay. There he bumped into the Cuban army, who promptly shot him.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Rampant Capitalism on Varadero's White Sand Beaches

Where: Cuba
February 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM | by | Comments (2)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

If you want to go to Cuba without going to Cuba, you have two choices: Guantánamo or Varadero. It's a toss-up for me; Guantánamo gets a bad press, it's true, but I suspect the north coast beach resort of Varadero only gets good write-ups because tourist dollars depend on it.

There's a rumor that Cubans are not allowed in Varadero, but that's not true. There are plenty of Cubans, serving the food and cleaning the rooms in the vast resort hotels plonked side by side along the skinny white sand peninsula that pokes out into the Atlantic like a knobbly twig. The issue is that ordinary Cubans can't afford to stay in the hotels there.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: In the Steps of Old Man Hemingway

Where: Cuba
February 23, 2011 at 10:31 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

If you haven’t read The Old Man and the Sea I highly recommend you do. It's a bearable 100 or so pages of splashing waves, circling sharks and melodrama giving an easy-grip handle on the strength and defiance of the Cuban character—at least, in the clichéd sense. It won Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, after which he famously remarked that “no son of a bitch that ever won the Nobel Prize ever wrote anything worth reading afterwards.”

Aside from that book, I can’t quite see the Hemingway obsession. But plenty of people do, and there’s a flurry of Hemingway-related activities for you to do in Cuba if you’re so inclined.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Cigars are Nothing to Be Sniffed At

Where: Cuba
February 22, 2011 at 10:45 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

The only people I saw tangoing in Argentina were tourists and, in the years I lived there, the only people I saw eating frogs’ legs in France were British schoolchildren. So I learned to distrust clichés and genuinely expected that the only people puffing cigars in Cuba would be foreigners.

It took three seconds in Havana’s arrivals terminal to learn that I was wrong; the tobacco smell hung heavy in the air like great thunderclouds. Smoking is banned inside the airport; this was coming from people’s clothes and breaths. Until recently, the Cuban government heavily subsidized cigars and cigarettes for people born before 1956. Read into that what you will. Suffice to say that smoking-related diseases kill around 6,000 people each year in Cuba. Castro himself doesn’t figure in that number, having given up smoking for health reasons in 1985.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Streets Full of Classic American Cars

Where: Cuba
February 21, 2011 at 9:45 AM | by | Comment (1)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

Cuba is an automobile enthusiast’s wet dream.

If you are one—a car enthusiast, that is, not a wet dream—then close your eyes and fantasize for a second. Imagine a catwalk of Chevys, Buicks, Chryslers and Plymouths, swinging their giant pink, mint-green or firey-red hips down a street lined with extravagant, crumbling mansions. In any central Havana square you’ll see them posing in the sunlight, radiator grilles pouting sexily for tourists’ cameras. (Off-stage they’re just as narcissistic.) All announce their arrival and departure on the scene with a thunderous drum roll from a thirsty engine and a dramatic puff of thick black smoke. The sight will blow you away, if the smoke doesn’t.

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Cuba, Now: Beyond the Hustlers to the Best Beach on Cuba’s South Coast

Where: Cuba
February 18, 2011 at 10:42 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

I was expecting an “ethereal colonial jewel,” a “sparkling colonial diamond,” a “perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement where the clocks stopped ticking in 1850.” At least that’s what I read in the Bible (aka Lonely Planet Cuba), as I rumbled slowly down a desolate six-lane motorway half-built with Soviet funds before the Berlin Wall collapsed. The surprisingly smooth tarmac stops abruptly when the bus heads south—via a pit stop for a Cuban version of a croque monsieur—towards the sparkling Caribbean sea and Cuba’s second-most popular tourist city of Trinidad.

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Cuba, Now: The Word You Need to Know for Edible Food is 'Paladares'

Where: Cuba
February 17, 2011 at 10:15 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

In my last post on Cuban food I quite rightly dissed cocina Cubana and its partner in crime comida criolla for its unimaginative, repetitive, lukewarm drudgery. But I wasn’t being entirely fair to the Cuban restaurant scene: I didn’t mention paladares. For there are glimmers of hope appearing at the Cuban table, at least if you’re a tourist with a wad of Convertible pesos and the latest Lonely Planet guidebook.

Paladares—privately-owned restaurants, run mostly in people’s living rooms or in crumbling and unlikely-looking mansions like the one pictured above—have brought spice to the Cuban menu. Legal since 1993 but operating clandestinely long before that, they’re obliged to serve only Cuban home cooking (rice, beans, pork) and no beef, so as not to compete with the uncompetitive state-run restaurants.

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Cuba, Now: Sacred Cows, Spit-roasted Pig and Peso Pizza

Where: Cuba
February 16, 2011 at 10:31 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

Old hacks love to joke that the sole Cuban contribution to world cuisine is rice “a la Cubana”—with an egg. "Take tins of tuna," scream the guidebooks. Carry peanut butter! Cereal bars! Vitamins! Laxatives! I thought they were exaggerating.

After a couple of weeks on the Cuban tourist trail, it’s with a heavy heart (and stomach) that I confirm everything you’ve heard about Cuban food is true. That is: the endless plates of Moros y Cristianos—"Arabs and Christians" or "rice and beans" to you and me—the soggy, gray tinned vegetables, the thinly sliced cabbage "salads," the powdered milk, the inevitability of the waiter’s apologetic smile when you dare ask for anything that isn’t fried pork, fried chicken, or, if you’re lucky, fried white fish.

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