CUBA'S Eastern Hidden Gems

9-Day Tour from Miami to Miami

Unlock the secrets of Eastern Cuba on this unique 9-day people-to-people program. This rare travel opportunity facilitates memorable interactions between Americans and Cuban workers, performers, artisans, and residents, and explores this beautiful island nation’s compelling history and rich culture. You’ll be immersed in everyday life here through captivating educational activities and conversations with Cubans about a wide range of topics. Visits include a print shop that still employs traditional printing and binding methods, a mechanical music-organ factory, the Casa de la Cultura in rural Velasco, Fidel Castro’s boyhood home at Birán, the Matachin Museum in an 18th-century Spanish Fortress, the semi-indigenous Guirito community, a cocoa farm, a rum factory, Santiago de Cuba’s historic city center, the San Pedro de la Roca Castle World Heritage Site, Teddy Roosevelt’s fabled San Juan Hill, and even a local family’s home and an elementary school. You’ll also join in a farm-to-table cooking demonstration and an interactive dance lesson, enjoy a scenic cruise on Santiago Bay, and see the changing of the guards at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. All this and more await as you explore and discover “Eastern Cuba’s Hidden Gems.”


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Trip Highlights include:

  • People-to-People interaction and meaningful exchanges with locals.
  • Small group size of not more than 24.
  • HOLGUĹN: Discussion with workers at a traditional print shop; meet staff at a musical-organ factory.
  • GIBARA: Interactive dance lesson, workshop with local fisherman, farm-to-table cooking demonstration at a local paladar (home restaurant).
  • VELASCO: Visit the Casa de la Cultura.
  • BIRÁN: Visit the boyhood home of Fidel & Raul Castro and interact with local community members.
  • BARACOA:Learn about the cocoa industry and meet workers at a local cocoa farm; discussion with members of the semi-indigenous Guirito community; interact with staff at the Matachin Museum; discussion at a local paladar with owner and staff.
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  • GUANTANAMO: Learn the origins of Cuba’s music at Casa del Changui.
  • SANTIAGO DE CUBA: Interact with workers at Jardín de los Helechos; visit the historic city center and enjoy a discussion with a local historian; scenic cruise in Santiago Bay; discussion with local fishermen; explore San Pedro de la Roca Castle; interact with a vocal group; visit San Juan Hill; interact with local university students; meet with parishioners at La Caridad del Cobra; workshop at Casa Caribe; see the Changing of the Guards at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery; learn about the history of rum in Cuba at a rum factory.
  • LA MAYA: Spend time at a family’s home, visit an elementary school.
  • Meals: Breakfast daily including a continental breakfast in Miami, 7 lunches, 6 dinners including a farewell dinner in Santiago de Cuba.

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CUBA Eastern Gems tour map
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Click here for a nice 6 minute video on Cuba Tourism:
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CUBA'S EASTERN GEMS: 9-day Itinerary

NOTE:
The itinerary below is for 2016 departures.
Tours in 2015 have slightly different day tours. Contact us for the 2015 daily itinerary.


DAY 1: Miami

Arrive in Miami and transfer to the Miami Airport Marriott for the overnight. Tonight, meet your USA Group Leader for at 6 pm for welcome drink. This is a good time to meet your fellow program participants, get your questions answered and prepare for your trip to fascinating Cuba.

DAY 2: Miami–Santiago de Cuba, Cuba–Guantanamo–Baracoa

Hotel Encanto Ordoño view

This morning, fly to Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second-largest city, located on the island’s southeastern shores. Upon arrival, continue to Guantánamo and visit CASA DEL CHANGUI, where you’ll learn about the origins of Cuban music and will interact with the cultural center’s members and musicians. Travel through lush mountain scenery and climb the stunning mountain road of La Farola, arriving in Baracoa, Cuba’s oldest city and the site where Christopher Columbus first set foot in Cuba. (CB,L,D)

DAY 3: Baracoa - Excursion to Guirito

Hotel Encanto Ordoño sea-view

As this is known as the “Land of Cocoa,” our first stop is FINCA DUABA to learn about the world of cocoa production and the strong cocoa bean traditions in this region. Meet workers and discuss the process still used by farmers in the area. Next is an interactive exchange with the semi-indigenous GUIRITO community to experience traditional Kiriba and Nengon music and dance. Over a light lunch with the locals, sample some of the most typical foods that are found only in this part of Cuba. Visit the MATACHIN Museum, located in an old fortress. Interact with the city historian and staff, and hear tales of Baracoa’s past and some of the village’s unique citizens. Enjoy dinner this evening at a local paladar (special, privately owned restaurant). Over dessert, discuss the free enterprise system in Cuba and the U.S. with the owner and staff. (B,L,D)

DAY 4: Baracoa–Biran–Guardalavaca

EL CASTILLO DE BARACOA view

Today, visit the farming village of BIRÁN, Fidel and Raul Castro’s birthplace and boyhood home. Learn about the Castros’ early years, their family, life in this rural community and interact with local residents. Arrive at your beautiful waterside resort for a 2-night stay. Enjoy an interactive DANCE LESSON before dinner. (B,L,D)

DAY 5: Guardalavaca - Excursion to Velasco & Gibara

Travel to the rural village of Velasco and interact with members of the community at CASA DE LA CULTURA. Discuss the variety of programs offered to local children, adults, and seniors. Learn the history of the unique building and the lengths it took to complete. Next, on to Gibara, where you’ll meet with local FISHERMEN to discuss how they make a living from the sea. Lunch today is a “farm-to-table” experience at a local paladar. Visit the restaurant’s garden, and discuss the different herbs grown and how they’re used in cooking. Enjoy a mojito-making DEMONSTRATION before returning to your hotel. (B,L,D)

DAY 6: Guardalavaca–Holguin–Santiago De Cuba

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Today includes time in Holguín, with a visit to a traditional PRINT SHOP. Interact with staff and learn about the process used to make paper, print, and bind their one-of-a-kind books. Continue to a mechanical MUSIC-ORGAN FACTORY to see these impressive instruments from yesteryear. Discuss with workers how these organs came to Cuba, what it takes to maintain and repair them, and listen to the familiar whistle sounds. Continue to Santiago de Cuba, where we visit Jardín de los Helechos, the GARDEN OF FERNS. Here, you’ll interact with workers to learn about the various ferns and orchids found in this garden and will also discuss what is needed to maintain this unique garden. Check into the modern Melia Santiago de Cuba Hotel for a 3-night stay. (B,L,D)

DAY 7: Santiago de Cuba

Start the day with a stroll through the streets of historic Santiago de Cuba with a local HISTORIAN, and discuss the various architecture types, restoration projects, and damage still present from Hurricane Sandy. Next, enjoy a panoramic CRUISE in Santiago Bay, arriving at quaint Granma Island. Over lunch, join a DISCUSSION with local fishermen and learn about their fishing practices and their community project that helps sustain the environment. Then, visit legendary SAN PEDRO DE LA ROCA CASTLE, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1638, it has been the site of battles against pirates, smugglers, and home to many well-known prisoners. During your visit, meet a local VOCAL GROUP that will impress you with their musical talents. Discuss the inspiration for their songs, various backgrounds, and future aspirations. A stop is made at SAN JUAN HILL, where Teddy Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and America’s Buffalo Soldiers emerged victorious in the Spanish-American War. Before returning to your hotel, join in a DISCUSSION with local university students and their professors to learn more about Cuba’s educational system. (B)

DAY 8: Santiago de Cuba

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Start the day with a visit to the church of Cuba’s patron saint, LA CARIDAD DEL COBRE (Our Lady of Charity). Located near a copper mine, the church sits on a hillside overlooking the beautiful valley below. Interact with local parishioners and discuss the history of this amazing shrine as well as some of the traditions, holidays, and special events celebrated here. Visit the sanctuary, which holds everything from the humblest of offerings to precious jewels, sports trophies, military decorations, and once held the Nobel Prize for Literature medal placed here by Ernest Hemingway. Next, visit CASA CARIBE to discuss the Santeria religion and how it has impacted Cuba and the United States. Learn about Santeria, first brought to Cuba by African slaves who worked at the sugar plantations. The religion has connections to Roman Catholicism and Native Indian traditions. This afternoon, visit SANTA IFIGENIA CEMETERY, where Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, is laid to rest. Witness the Changing of the Guards, hear the interesting folklore, and admire the magnificent architecture of this beautiful cemetery. Before returning to your hotel, stop at a RUM FACTORY to discuss the history of this factory and the importance of the rum industry in Cuba. This evening, enjoy a festive dinner, the perfect ending to your time in Cuba. (B,L,D)

DAY 9: Santiago de Cuba – Miami, USA

After breakfast, depart for Miami and your return flight to Miami. Please schedule connecting flights from Miami after 2:30 pm.
Note: Please coordinate Miami flight connection dates and time before purchase. (Breakfast)

While full participation in the scheduled program is required during the day, you are able to explore on your own during early morning hours or in the evenings.


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9-Day, CUBA'S Eastern Gems

TOUR DATES & RATES (Rates are per person in double. Contact us to confirm availability.)
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1/20/2017 to 1/28/2017 Cost: $2,979.00
2/3/2017 to 2/11/2017 Cost: $2,979.00
2/17/2017 to 2/25/2017 Cost: $2,979.00
3/3/2017 to 3/11/2017 Cost: $2,979.00
3/17/2017 to 3/25/2017 Cost: $2,979.00

NOTES:
DEPOSIT:
Reservations require a $300 per person deposit and final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
CANCELATION FEES:
45-22 days prior to commencement of services: 20% of total price
21-8 days prior to commencement of services: 30% of total price
7-1 days prior to commencement of services: 50% of total price
On departure day and later: 100% of total price


1.
The tour price includes: airport transfers, gratuities to wait staff at restaurants, porters at hotels, motorcoach driver, Cuban National Tour Director, and your Group Leader, Baggage fee on your charter flight from Miami to Cuba (combined luggage cannot exceed 44 lbs).

2.
Prices do not include air travel.
Participation in this vacation requires purchase of the following flights, not included in pricing.
Estimate $623 for Miami to Santiago de Cuba and Santiago de Cuba to Miami airfare. Add-on connecting fares from your U.S. gateway may be available - just ask for a quote. Air price includes luggage allowance of 44 lbs per person (total for checked and carry-on), required Cuba Health Insurance ($46), and applicable taxes. Flight availability is limited and pricing subject to change.

3.
Cuba visa fee (estimate $80) is additional and mandatory. These fees will be added to your tour package.

4.
Cuba health insurance (estimate $50) is additional and mandatory. These fees will be added to your tour package.

5.
Cuba departure tax (estimate $25) is additional and mandatory. These fees will be added to your tour package.

6. For your convenience, as credit and debit cards issued by U.S. banks have limited use in Cuba,
Program Gratuities ($195) are additional and mandatory. These fees will be added to your tour package.
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7.
Prices based on double room occupancy. A Single Room Supplement is $470. Triple rooms are not available.

8. For extra overnights in Miami, add per person: In single room $212; in twin room $117

7. Tour operated under the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorized People to People programs to Group Voyagers, Inc. (doing business as Globus), License No. CT-298139-1. The itineraries provide a full-time schedule of people-to-people educational exchange activities designed to result in meaningful interactions between the travelers and individuals in Cuba. United States law requires that all participants in the Cuba programs adhere to the full-time schedule of people-to-people activities.

9. The program requires walking on cobblestone streets and uneven pathways, climbing stairs, and participating in a full-time schedule of people-to-people activities.

10. Due to the special requirements to visit Cuba, participants will be required to complete visa application and travel reservation forms and sign an affidavit confirming that they are traveling under a people-to-people license and are aware of the travel rules. Participants are also required to send a copy of their passport photo page.
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These items must be sent within 7 days of making a reservation.

11. In Cuba, activities that have been scheduled far in advance can sometimes become unavailable for a number of different reasons. The purpose of the trip is to have meaningful interactions with the locals and if the planned people-to-people educational exchange isn’t available, rest assured that another that will be just as enriching will be substituted.

12. Small-Group Discovery –
Never more than 24 participants in a group.

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ACOMMODATIONS

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CUBA FAQ

PASSPORT & VISA

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Each traveler must be in possession of a valid, signed passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond completion of the entire trip. At this time visas ARE required for US citizens traveling to Cuba. We will obtain the visa required for you and provide to you in Miami. The cost of the visa is added to the program price.

Previous to arriving in Miami you will be sent an application (with instructions) that is MANDATORY for ALL travelers to fill out. Once all travelers have filled out the application you will send them back to us with copies of your passports, to which we will forward to the Cuban ground operator to be processed. When you have sent back your completed visa application, your visa will be shipped to you.

Participants holding all other passports should check with the consulate for regulations and instructions.

Due to the special requirements to visit Cuba, after reserving you will be required to complete the following forms and return them within 7 days of making a reservation:
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  • An affidavit confirming you are traveling under a people-to-people license and that you will participate in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities
  • Travel Reservation Form
  • Visa Application Form
  • A color photocopy of the photo page of your valid passport

HEALTH REGULATIONS

No vaccinations are required for entry into Cuba or return to the USA.

WEATHER

The Cuban climate is mild subtropical. Thanks to its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer and its narrow configuration, Cuba receives a refreshing action of trade winds and marine breezes. Average Fahrenheit temperatures are as follows:

Cuba Climate graph


PACKING

Please travel as lightly as possible so as not to restrict space in your cabin. Soft bags are more practical than hard suitcases. Sports or casual clothes are more useful. Swimwear for the pools. A pullover is recommended for cool evenings. Comfortable walking shoes are suggested.

Be sure not to pack sharp items in your hand luggage. Pack things such as scissors, nail clippers, pocketknives or knitting needles in your checked luggage.

Always carry your travel documents, medication, jewelry, traveler's checks, keys and other valuables in your hand luggage. Items such as these should
NEVER be packed in luggage that you plan to check.

Bring all personal-care items with you. Many products can be bought, but purchasing them can be inconvenient. We suggest you carry toilet tissues with you on excursions.

CLOTHING
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Dress is generally casual, however the “usual practice” for men is to wear long pants to meetings, exchanges and nicer restaurants. Ladies may want to bring a dress or pantsuit for dinners.

Special Note
: Monasteries and churches do not admit people in shorts or bathing suits, shirtless men, or even women wearing sleeveless blouses. For women rules may even be stricter, a skirt or dress is a must, as you may not be allowed to visit some of the monasteries and religious sites in shorts or pants. These rules are not always followed to the letter. Bathing suits are prohibited from being worn on all archaeological sites.

VALUABLES

Jewelry, money, documents etc., should be deposited in the hotel safes. The company and its personnel bear no responsibility for valuables kept by passengers.

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

For safety reasons it is requested that physical disabilities of any kind be advised at time of reservation. It is understood that participants requiring special attention or treatment will be traveling with their personal escorts.

LAUNDRY

Most the the hotels can provide service at additional costs.


CURRENCY

The currency in Cuba is Cuban Pesos. It is possible to convert dollars to Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs) at the airport. There is a kiosk before leaving the baggage area where money can be converted. The tour leader will assist in this as well. If you do not convert then, there are many places to convert money - for example, hotels, and the local Cuban guide will assist in this.

With regard to the use of Credit or Debit cards in Cuba the following applies: No card issued by a bank that has any connection with the United States will be accepted in Cuba, although MasterCard now say said it will lift a block on U.S. bank-card transactions in Cuba after March 1st 2015. Travelers are advised to check with their institution before traveling to Cuba to determine whether their institution has established the necessary mechanisms for its credit or debit cards to be used in Cuba.

Under the
new (Jan 16, 2015) regulations, American travelers to Cuba will be able to use an American credit card. However, it is not clear how long it will take for banks to begin offering the service. There are few ATMs in Cuba, and many establishments do not have the means to process credit card payments, so cash will be king for some time to come. You may also take pounds and euros, which get a better exchange rate in Cuba than the United States dollar.

You should plan to bring as much cash as you would normally spend on incidentals while traveling elsewhere.

LANGUAGE
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Your local guides speak English! The primary language in Cuba is Spanish and your tour guide is fluent in both Spanish and English.

ELECTRICITY

The power supply in most all of Cuba is 110 volts, the same as in the USA.

COMPUTERS & WIFI

There is limited WIFI.

TIME ZONE

Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time. When it is noon in New York and Miami, it is also noon in Havana, Cuba.

OTHER QUESTIONS
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1. Given the spending restrictions, how much money do you recommend bringing?
We suggest about $100 a day just in case, but of course, everyone is different. If you plan to purchase a lot of art, for example, the amount will be different. If not, you will mostly likely not spend that amount as many of the meals in the program are included. There are no longer daily spending limits while in Cuba for American travelers. Travelers are authorized to bring back $400 per person in merchandise, provided no more than $100 of the merchandise consists of alcohol or tobacco.

2. I have heard that "licensed U.S. travelers" are allowed to bring back from Cuba $400 of merchandise of which $100 can be tobacco/alcohol. Does this apply to us?
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Under the new (Jan 16, 2015) regulations, American travelers to Cuba may now bring back up to $400 worth of souvenirs, including $100 worth of cigars.

3. Is the 44 lbs baggage limit for checked & carry-on combined or just checked?
Combined. Excess weight (above 44 pounds) is charged at $2 per pound and is payable in cash at the airport. Any additional checked bags are $20 per bag plus any excess weight fees. Carry-on bags should not exceed the dimensions of 12"x11"x6".

4. Is it like the USA?
Things are and do sometimes work differently in Cuba than here in the USA. Activities that have been scheduled far in advance can sometimes become unavailable for a number of different reasons. The purpose of the trip is to have meaningful interactions with the locals and if the planned people-to-people educational exchange isn’t available, rest assured that another that will be just as enriching will be substituted.

5. What about trip insurance?
As required by Cuban government regulations, Cuban health insurance is included in the charter airline ticket cost. This protects you should you need medical assistance while in Cuba. The following coverage applies: $25,000 to cover emergency medical costs incurred in Cuba and a maximum of $7,000 evacuation insurance provided only if a Cuban doctor states that evacuation must happen in order to receive adequate treatment. You should consider buying additional trip insurance for trip cancellation protection, lost luggage, etc. Contact us for details.

5. What about payments and cancellation fees?
A non-refundable, non-transferable deposit of $300 per person is required to reserve. We accept checks, money orders, Visa, MasterCard, Discover/Novus, and American Express. Your booking is not confirmed and payment is not deemed made until the deposit is received and you receive a confirmation invoice. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
The following cancellation fees apply:
75-57 days prior to commencement of services: 20% of total price
56-29 days prior to commencement of services: 50% of total price
28-16 days prior to commencement of services: 75% of total price
15-0 days prior to commencement of services:: 100% of total price
There are additional cancellation fees associated with airfares.

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You are welcome to call us anytime at 1-239-992-9660, or toll free at 800-446-9660 or email us at travel"at"GoExploring.com.
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Cuba people-to-people cultural exchange