• Streets of Trinidad, Cuba

    6 Ways to Experience Cuban Culture

    <p>With the normalization of relations between the Unites States and Cuba, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/travel-to-cuba-now/" target="_blank">now is a great time to plan your Cuba vacation</a>. Here are six things to do for the best sightseeing and cultural experience in Cuba.</p> <h3>1. WATCH STREET PERFORMERS</h3> <p>Dressed in colorful costumes and shaking to the beat of the conga, these performers take over the streets of Old Havana daily. Be sure to catch at least one performance while you’re there. Jump up and join in the fun!<br><br><img alt="Cuban playing drums" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rY2" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>2. CRUISE THROUGH THE VIÑALES VALLEY COUNTRYSIDE</h3> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-travel/" target="_blank">The Viñales Valley offers dramatic views of rocky outcroppings surrounded by lush mountains.</a> You’ll see tobacco fields and witness traditional farming methods in action including oxen pulling rickety carts and hardened farmers cutting leaves by hand.<br><br><img alt="Vinales Valley" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYH" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>3. TAKE A RIDE IN A VINTAGE CAR</h3> <p>Take a short two-hour tour in the city or an all-day affair in the Viñales Valley. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Drivers are knowledgeable about Cuban history, customs and culture</a><br><br><img alt="Classic car" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rZ0" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>4. PEOPLE WATCH AT PLAZA VIEJA</h3> <p>Formerly used primarily for military exercises, this lovely plaza is now home to restaurants, cafes, bars and even a microbrewery. The architecture is eclectic and colorful and the stained-glass windows will certainly catch your attention.<br><br><img alt="Man playing guitar" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYW" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>5.SAMPLE STREET FOOD </h3> <p>You’ll find a wide variety of street food in Havana. Don’t miss the traditional <i>bocadito de jamon</i> (cured bacon and ham sandwich), <i>chicharritas de platano</i> (thin slices of fried plantain) and <i>pan con lechon</i> (roast pork sandwiches sprinkled with pork juices). Top off your delicious meal with sweet churros.<br><br><img alt="Cuban street vendor" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYb" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>6. TAKE A DIVE</h3> <p>Akin to its culture, Cuba’s coral reefs seem trapped in time. They are unspoiled and healthier than any other reefs in the Caribbean. You can see goliath groupers, whale sharks and hundreds of other fish in this decadent and brightly colored seascape.<br><br><img alt="Snorkeling" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYg" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE NEW CUBA</b></p> <ul><li>Be sure your travel purpose falls within one of the 12 approved categories, have a schedule of activities and keep your receipts. The easiest way to ensure you’re in compliance with the most current rules is to use a tour company that makes the arrangements for you.</li><li>You may return to the U.S. with no more than $400 in souvenirs including up to $100 in alcohol and/or tobacco products.</li><li><i>Casas particulares</i>, or bed-and-breakfasts, are great places to stay to be immersed in Cuban culture. There are many options in Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.</li><li>Carry cash. ATMs are scarce and most businesses do not accept credit cards. Check the exchange rate before you go, British pounds and euros often have a better rate than U.S. dollars.</li><li>Check with your cell phone carrier in advance to see what your options are for using your phone. Verizon is currently offering roaming service, and other carriers seem poised to hop on the bandwagon.</li><li>WiFi is spotty at best and often you have to pay for it — and it’s not cheap. You might just plan to unplug and enjoy the trip.</li></ul> <p><a href="https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf" target="_blank">For more info, check out this document from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.</a></p>

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  • Classic Convertibles in Havana, Cuba

    Travel to Cuba - NOW!

    <h2>IT STILL FEELS LIKE 1959 IN CUBA, BUT FOR HOW MUCH LONGER?</h2>   <p>“I didn’t realize when I boarded that plane in Miami that it was actually a time machine,” Sue Pannill says of her Classic Journeys trip to Cuba last December. “We got on in the 21st century and deplaned in Havana into 1959.”</p> <p>Her initial impression sounds more like <i>Twilight Zone</i> than <i>Back to the Future</i>, but Sue quickly warmed to the charms of this island country. “Yes, Cuba was gritty, faded and decrepit,” she says. “And I still can’t believe how fast I fell in love with it all.”</p> <p>And yet, you know what they say about love: It’s complicated. Sue delights in talking about doing the mambo (or was it a salsa?). She’s poetic about watching the rising sun strike the limestone mogotes in the Valle de Viñales. If you’re looking for a convert to smooth, aged Cuban rum, she’s your woman. An avid fan of contemporary art, she delighted in Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts and is thrilled by the work she bought from an artist in his studio.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="Vinales Valley" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mS&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9eD" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p>But, running through her list of memorable experiences, she stops short. It was as if expressing too much fun and fascination with the Cuban experience gives her pause. “We’re used to having everything at our fingertips, and it’s humbling to see how Cubans make do and are so very good-natured about it,” she says.</p> <p>And there it is: the understandable quandary that thoughtful visitors almost always raise. First, you hear a certain fascination and respect for the resourceful, ramshackle Cuba of today. And then it’s tempered by the sincere hope that things will change for the good of Cuban people. You somehow wish that both could happen, but you know that surely they won’t.</p> <p>Lettuce and carrots are a good example. “The produce is all organic, and it tastes fantastic,” Sue raves. But then we compare notes on the farmer who was recently quoted as saying, “Of course, we’re organic farmers. We can’t find or afford agricultural chemicals.” Do you begrudge a farmer the chance to increase his yield and income? Will something be lost if and when that day comes along? So much politics, economics and history are riding on those veggies. The people-to-people contact on a Classic Journeys trip stimulates conversations like that, as well as lively interaction among fellow guests, guides and the Cubans themselves.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="Farm in Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mS&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oq8" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p>“The way I like to put it is that Classic Journeys embedded us to give us more of a sense of what is really happening in the culture,” Sue says. She praises local guide Manuel for his role, too. A university professor of history and linguistics, he impressed her as a non-stop font of information. But even more than that, “he took the temperature of our group and made sure we got a chance to see and do things that really mattered to us.” The irony is that today a professor in Cuba can earn more money in the tourist industry than from a government income. We hope that the changes to come will allow him to pursue his original calling, but we’d miss the opportunity to explore his homeland with him.</p> <p>When asked if she’d go back to Cuba, Sue Pannill’s response is measured. “I don’t really feel I’ve left Cuba yet,” she says. “I don’t know how long the things I saw in Cuba will last, but I know this experience will last in my mind for always.”</p> <p>In a nutshell, that’s why so many people are heading to Cuba now. It’s still 1959 just 90 miles south of Miami, but the clock is ticking. Normalization looks to be the next tipping point for an island altered so many times before by conquest, war and revolution. History—exciting, unpredictable, thought-provoking history—is happening right now, and there will never be a better opportunity to see it for yourself.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="Havana Waterfront" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mS&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f9eI" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p><b>GO!</b><br> </p>

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  • View of Trinidad, Cuba

    Cuba for Families: One of "50 Tours of a Lifetime"

    <h2><i>National Geographic Traveler</i> magazine has selected our people-to-people Cuba for Families trip for its prestigious 2015!</h2>   <p><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cubafamily/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Adventures">See what happens on tour</a></b></p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cubafamily/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Family Adventure">WHY YOUR FAMILY WILL NEVER FORGET CUBA</a></h3> <p>By Edward Piegza</p> <p>We are truly honored that our Cuba for Families cultural exchange program has been selected for<i> National Geographic Traveler</i>’s  &quot;50 Tours of a Lifetime&quot; for 2015. According to the magazine’s official press release, the trip was chosen because it is one of the “most authentic, most innovative, most immersive, best-guided, and most sustainable tours.”</p> <p>In a way, I have my two sons to thank. They went with us on the very first People-to-People Exchange Program that Classic Journeys ran a few years ago. Their reactions – to the friendly Cuban people we met, to the eye-opening economic and social conditions, to the music and food, and most of all to the fun we had together – led us to start Cuba for Families as fast as we could.<br><br><img alt="Local cubans" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mT&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oyM" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Since then, family groups with kids from ages 8 to 18 have explored Cuba with us, and they all come back saying the trip is unforgettable. The trip means even more now, as the normalization of U.S./Cuba relations gathers steam. It’s so amazing to be in the country at a tipping point like this, with change so near. You really understand that you’re not just a traveler…you’re a living part of history. That is a tremendous gift to give to the young travelers in your family.</p> <p>There isn’t a moment in the<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cubafamily/itinerary/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Family"> daily activities of the Cuba for Families program </a>when you’ll think that this is vacation-as-usual. It’s starts on the drive in to Havana from Jose Marti Airport as you see horse-drawn carts and tail-finned American cars from the ‘50s wherever you look. Within an hour or so, you’ve been pulled out of your chair to dance with local muscians and artists in La Muraleando, a neighborhhood where the locals brighten up their rickety streets with crazy wall murals and sculpures made from found objects. By bedtime that first day, you’ve stood on the walls of a fortress overlooking the city for the firing of the cannons that’s happen every night since the 1770s.<br><br><img alt="Local Cuban musician" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mT&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oyW" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>You quickly learn hard-to-process things like the average monthly income of a Cuban, which is just $20. And suddenly, you start to understand why there are so few stores, and why the buildings are crumbling, and why the Cubans hang out on the promenade along the bay for company and (free!) entertainment. The rules we’re used to just don’t apply in Cuba. People buy food supplies with ration cards. And those vintage cars? While a few of them are in mint condition, most of them rattle down the road more than 50 years after they were made because people can’t afford anything newer. On top of all that, the people you meet smile and greet you warmly and seem more content than we could ever imagine. If that doesn’t provoke a conversation with your kids, nothing will!<br><br>The kids love the countryside too. On our drive out to the Viñales Valley, we stop at Las Terrazas. It’s a project where the locals re-forested mountainsides that were srtripped of trees by coffee growers in the 19<sup>th</sup>century. We stop at a village school, where chickens scratch on the sidewalk outside open classroom doors. Principal, teachers and kids all welcome us. If it’s hard to picture going to school like this, it’s just as hard to imagine that all education is free, right through grad school.<br><br><img alt="Cuban farm" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mT&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ozA" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>At Viñales, we go walking through farmland with a guide. People are working in tobacco fields, chopping at other crops with just a machete. Again, you see just how friendly Cubans are. They stop to talk…and the surprise is that you can really ask just about any question. They’ll tell you about their families, what they grow, and on and on.<br> </p> <p>It’s no wonder that our guests tell us, after they come home, their kids add this trip to their educational resumes, they write about it in their college applications, and they keep bringing up the lessons that stayed with them. One of our best friends says that she likes to take her family on trips like this because she wants them to think, feel and behave like citizens of the world. I think that goes a long way in explaining why Cuba for Families has been named one of the “50 Tours of a Lifetime”.<br><br><img alt="Classic Cuban car" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mT&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oz0" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Vacation">Cuba for Families</a></b> is one part of our People-to-People Exchange Program that also includes <b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-travel/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Travel">Cuba—Havana to the Viñales Valley</a></b> and <b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-havana-art-music/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Adventures">A Long Weekend in Havana</a></b>. For more information about any of our Cuban experiences, call 800-200-3887</p> <p> </p>

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