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“Our People-to-People tour of Cuba was a great experience. I got a rare first-hand look at a country that’s been an enigma for most Americans for many years. I learned about Cuban history, their pride in the Cuban Revolution and the parts of Cuban society that they are working hard to improve. I’m glad I went!” – David S., Holyoke MA
“In April 2015 I made my third visit to Cuba over a 15-year period. During each trip we met creative artists, musicians, teachers and other Cubans to discuss Cuba’s place in the world. The common theme of each of my visits is the impressive resilience and good humor of the Cuban people despite the economic challenges of the past five decades.” – Philip Sheldon, President, HE Travel
Cruise on a small (25-cabin) sailing ship around the western tip of Cuba
Tour fascinating colonial and revolutionary landmarks of this island nation
Snorkel near some of the prettiest beaches of the island
Visit the city and country residences of renowned author Ernest Hemingway
Dine in critically acclaimed restaurants and paladares (all meals within Cuba are included)
Relax on the spacious ship while taking in panoramic views from the water
Meet the colorful people who work, live and love on this beautiful island
After five decades during which our Florida Straits have served as a wall instead of a water bridge, the recent announcements by the Presidents of Cuba and the United States herald the start of rapid changes to daily life in Cuba. At this momentous time we invite you to join us for a People-to-People exchange while riding aboard the S/C Panorama. See this island from a unique perspective while still being immersed in the colorful Cuban culture of art, music, food, drink and dance.
Note: On alternating weeks, this trip travels from Havana to Cienfuegoes, and on other weeks, the ship sails this itinerary in reverse (Cienfuegos to Havana).
Day 1: Welcome to Miami
Plan your flight to arrive in Miami this evening. There are no structured group activities this evening, in order to offer maximum flexibility for arrivals. We will stay in a comfortable hotel near Miami Airport to allow easy access to our flight the next morning. We recommend arriving by late afternoon so that you can meet up with other tour members over dinner (not included in tour price).
Day 2: ¡Hola Habana!
We will gather at a designated meeting place in Miami Airport to check-in for our flight, allowing plenty of time for this process and security screening.
After the short flight to Havana and Cuban arrival formalities, we will hop on a bus and enjoy our first views of Havana. We will stop in “Habana Vieja” (Old Havana) and continue our exploration with a walking tour through the historic streets between the four main colonial squares.
Our lunch will be at a local “Paladar” (privately-owned restaurant) in the heart of Old Havana, “Moneda Cubana”, taking in some local delicacies and of course Cuban music.
After lunch, we’ll continue on to the Cruise Ship Terminal where we will meet our local guide and board our vessel, the S/C Panorama.
In the evening we will enjoy a scrumptious meal on board the ship while being serenaded by special guest musicians, Carpe Diem, a young Cuban trio. All but one dinner will be served aboard the vessel.
Day 3: Hemingway, Horticulture and Fuster, oh my!
Each morning we will enjoy breakfast onboard the ship. After breakfast today we’ll depart for a full-day tour of Havana and beyond. We will follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, visiting his beloved home, “Finca Vigia.” This is where he worked on some of his most famous literary works such as “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
After filling our minds, we fill our stomachs at one of the finest restaurants in the area, “Finca El Divino”. This is an amazing open-air restaurant overlooking orchards and gardens in the middle of the countryside. Boasting over 104 different varieties of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs this oasis is one of the best examples of Cuban Urban Agriculture. During our visit, we will meet with the local farmers and community members to talk about the importance of having a self-reliant agricultural sector.
After lunch, we travel to Jaimanita and the neighborhood artwork of Jose Fuster, one of the most famous modern Cuban artists. His work can be seen not only at his studio but all over the surrounding neighborhood where he has put colorful tiles on his neighbors’ concrete walls. The area is now fondly referred to as “Fusterlandia”.
If you love cigars then you’ll love visiting Cuba’s largest and perhaps most renowned cigar factory, Patragas Cigar Factory, or Romeo and Juliet, which produces around 5 million of the finest cigars each year.
Enjoy some free time at the largest art and souvenir marketplace in Havana, the San Jose Art Market, or return to our ship for a little R&R.
In the evening we will head to El Guajirito where we’ll mingle with musical artists from the Buena Vista Social Club and enjoy a late dinner and show before returning to the ship.
Day 4: A Little Song, a Little Dance and So Long Havana
After an early breakfast, we head to the home of Havana’s Compas Dance Group. We will watch as dancers, musicians and performers interpret Lillet Riviera’s choreography that merges the spirit of Spanish dances with Afro-Cuban rhythms and contemporary dance through new aesthetic codes. Female dancers not only dance but also use percussion, using any element at hand: drumsticks, castanets, heels, wood slippers, claves, chequerés and percussive chairs.
After the performance we will visit young emerging Cuban artist Daymi, who’s artistic influence comes from Pablo Picasso and Moises Finale.
By noon we return to the boat for a “Bon Voyage” Cocktail and set sail from the Bay of Havana. We will head west along the northwestern coast of Cuba, circle the far western tip of the island, then head south through the Yucatan Channel that separates Mexico from Cuba, toward the small city of Maria La Gorda.
Our Cuba sailing ship has a powerful motor that will be used much of the time, but when timing and wind conditions allow, the Captain will unfurl the sails for the majestic feeling of being silently propelled by the wind!
During our sailing, we will enjoy a scrumptious lunch in the classy, spacious dining room surrounded by large windows providing beautiful views. In our free time, we can read a book in the lounge or relax on one of many sundecks.
Dinner will be served onboard the ship while sailing to Maria La Gorda.
Day 5: An Education in Rural Cuba
Today’s adventure includes a ride via tenders and a visit to the community of La Bajada. As part of our People-to-People program, we’ll visit the local school and meet Cuban children and their teachers. We will learn about and discuss the differences between Cuban and American educational systems, particularly in rural areas of each country.
After saying goodbye to our new friends at the school we will head to “Guanahacabibes” National Park, one of the country’s largest nature reserves, which also boasts classification as an official Biosphere Reserve. The peninsula was one of the last refuges of aboriginals fleeing from the Spanish conquistadors and also holds some 140 archaeological sites linked to the life of aborigines, who were known as Guanahatabeyes.
Lunch today will be a BBQ on the beach with some time for a swim before returning to the boat.
Dinner will be at sea while sailing for Cayo Largo.
Day 6: Doctors within Borders
We’ll disembark in the late morning and head to the local clinic in Cayo Largo to discuss the medical system in Cuba and engage with the local doctors and nurses.
Next, we’ll head to the Turtle Breeding Center and Endangered Species Protection program for a visit. We’ll also get a chance to meet the locals and discuss their particular way of life on this isolated Key.
We will enjoy an early lunch at the Cayo Largo Marina, then do some snorkeling at the coral reef. After snorkeling, we will have free time at Playa Sirena Beach, considered to be one of the five most beautiful beaches in Cuba.
Dinner will be on the ship as we spend the night sailing off Cuba’s southern coast to Casilda, the port for nearby Trinidad.
Day 7: “Museum City of Cuba” – Trinidad
After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll disembark for our excursion in Trinidad, a meticulously well-preserved Spanish colonial city, with rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces and plazas. It’s no wonder that it’s referred to as the “Museum City of Cuba.”
Our tour will include a walk through the town with a representative of the Office of the City Historian to give us insights into this amazing city. We will visit local artists, including talented young female artists, then continue to home studios, the Museum Romantico or the Architecture Museum.
Enjoy lunch together in this most picturesque city, after which there will be free time to walk around this classic colonial town.
Dinner will be served on the ship this evening as we set sail for Cienfuegos.
Day 8: 100 Fires
Located about 250 km (150 miles) from Havana on the Southern tip of Cuba, Cienfuegos is the only city in Cuba to be founded by French settlers. In 2005 the historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will get a chance to explore the city and see some amazing architectural sites such as the Government Palace (City Hall), San Lorenzo School, the Bishopric, the Ferrer Palace, the former lyceum, and a few key houses.
Cienfuegos is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble representing the new ideas of modernity, cleanliness and order in urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th century. We’ll participate in a walking tour of the city center visiting the Graphic Arts Workshop where we will meet local artists. Our next stop will be the local open farmers market to see where local Cubans buy fruit, vegetables and meat.
All produce in the market is sold in Cuban Pesos, and our guide will explain the parallel economies of the Peso, used for most transactions among Cubans, and the CUC, which is the currency that international visitors obtain when exchanging US and Canadian dollar, the Euro and other currencies. As an example, we can visit neighboring Peso and CUC department stores on Cienfuegos’ main street. Comparing similar products such as fans, one can see that everything in the Peso store is made in Cuba, while most items in the CUC store are imported.
Lunch will be at a local restaurant, Los Laurelos, where we will enjoy not only excellent food but also Cuban music and a little Salsa lesson as well. We’ll engage with the musicians and singers, young and old, and enjoy a performance by the Chorus of Cienfuegos, awarded with the title of “Best Chorus in the Country” two years in a row.
We will return to the ship for our Farewell Dinner and a relaxing night with our new friends.
Day 9: Homeward Bound
After breakfast on board, we will transfer to Havana Airport for the return flight to Miami.
The price for a shared or solo cabin vary based on the Season, with ships sailing almost every weekend. Please contact us for details!
Price includes: Flights between Miami and Cuba in Economy Class; Cuban visa, departure tax, and port taxes; Comfortable accommodations each night, with one night at a hotel in Miami and seven on the ship; All meals from arrival in Cuba to breakfast on day of departure; All meals on land include two drinks (2); Services of two Cuban tour guides; Cuban medical insurance; and all ground and ship transportation as per itinerary. Upper Deck rooms have windows, Lower Deck rooms have portholes. Most cabins have two twin beds; larger beds for couples are assigned based on availability. This tour will include complimentary Cuban Medical Insurance. The Cuban government requires all travelers to Cuba to have medical insurance under an approved plan. This is provided with your package and you will receive a copy of coverage with your final documents.
Please note that the remaining 2016 sales are for individual cabins, rather than gay group departures. Other guests may or may not be LGBT.
Not included: Items of a personal nature, gratuities for guides, Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages onboard the ship.
We strongly recommend the purchase of Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance to protect your vacation investment in case of unforeseen circumstances such as flight delay, illness, or injury. Click Here to learn more about our Insurance partner.
- What if I am traveling alone?
- Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself. For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
- What is the physical activity level of this tour?
Physical Activity Level
Cuba travel requires a great deal of patience for potential unpredictable changes to the planned itinerary. Travelers must feel comfortable walking on uneven pavement during walking tours of Old Havana and rural or less developed areas. A basic knowledge of how to swim will also be necessary to participate in the snorkeling program.
- Do I need special permission and documents to visit Cuba?
- US relations with Cuba are a hot topic in the media, and clients ask us daily whether American citizens still need to follow special rules in order to go to Cuba.
While there are many business and political changes announced in the news each day, we still advise American citizens to use care and caution when booking travel to Cuba. It is best for visitors to Cuba to be part of a licensed educational and cultural experience. Our tour will follow the strictest set of rules, which simplifies entry into Havana and ensures a smooth experience with Immigration and Customs upon return to the USA. This trip is permitted by a special People-to-People license of cruise operator Group IST from the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The itinerary was designed to provide an in-depth cultural experience with numerous opportunities for meaningful interaction with Cubans.
At this time visas ARE required for US citizens traveling to Cuba and Group IST will obtain the necessary Cuban visa on your behalf. Upon receipt of your deposit you will be sent an application (with instructions). Each person must complete his/her own application and send it back to us with a copy of your passport. This is MANDATORY for ALL travelers to Cuba. We will obtain the visa on your behalf. The visa will be given to you upon your check in at Miami International airport with the Group IST airport representative.
Upon arrival in Cuba you will pass through Cuban immigration and be asked to present your Cuban Visa which will be stamped by an immigration official. Half of your visa will be collected and the remaining half given back to you. This half of your Cuban Visa MUST be kept in your passport and be with you at all times.
As travel restrictions to Cuba are eased, our itinerary may change in order to enrich our group experience. This is an exciting time to visit this island nation on the verge of many historic changes.
- Where does the tour start and end?
- This tour starts and ends in Miami, Florida. Chartered flights between Miami and Cuba are included in the tour price. The price also includes a night in Miami before flying to Cuba (usually an early morning flight).
- Additional Questions
- For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174