DESTINATIONS & ITINERARIES

WHAT'S THE PLAN?

cuba_sm_2015-map

NOTE: Travel to Cuba for U.S. groups is not inexpensive, but a review of competing programs shows The Committee on Illinois (dba Cuba Tours 4 U) rates to be an excellent value.
Please let Scott Schwar (sschwar@comcast.net) and Lisa Greyhill (lisa@adventure-travelers.com) – The Committee on Illinois partners – know if you are interested in traveling or have questions.

Classic car in Cuba
Ocean View in Cuba
ITINERARY EXAMPLE 1

CUBA ROAD TOUR

18 – 25 MARCH 2015

Departure: Miami
Havana Hotels: Hotel Nacional (5 nights)
Trinidad Hotel: Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar (2 nights)

NOTE: Departure time will be confirmed the month prior to departure. Normally flights are as listed but may change by an hour or two if at all.

We recommend that all travelers spend the night before in Miami to ensure they will be at the early airport check-in time to process required paperwork. Be advised that Cuba flight check-ins close at an unspecified time (at least an hour or two) before departure for final passenger list review by airport authorities.)

Day 1 – 18 MARCH
WEDNESDAY

Day 1 – 18 MARCH

Flight from Miami Airport –Charter Flight AA 9440
Estimated check in: 8:30 AM EST
Estimated Departure: 12:30 PM
Estimated Havana Arrival: 1:30 PM

The city of Havana (La Habana) was first settled on 25 November 1519 on the sheltered, natural Havana Bay and became Cuba’s capital city in 1553. It became a strategic and thereby wealthy jumping off spot for New World gold and silver being transported to Spain.

Visit to the Plaza de la Revolucion – This large square is surrounded by many of the major state offices with the impressive Jose Marti Memorial museum tower the highest point in the city. This city square is the center of the city for political rallies and special events including the open air masses held during the two Papal visits.

Group Lunch – La Barraca Garden Restaurant

Check in – Hotel Nacional with daily Breakfasts

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba was opened on December 30, 1930. In 1992 it went through a general restoration preserving the beautiful details and all the splendor of its eclectic architecture, a result of a mixture of Art Deco features with modern influences of that time. Situated in the middle of Vedado, the center of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the Florida Straits of the Atlantic Ocean, and its garden offers a great view of the Havana Harbor, the El Malecon seawall and the city. The Hotel stands out due to its refined elegance which since 1930 has attracted a large number of world famous leaders and personalities. The site of a famous mob summit in 1946, Meyer Lanskey went on to open a Casino and Nightclub at the Hotel Nacional in 1955 that matched the biggest Las Vegas casinos in revenues until closed by Fidel Castro in 1960. Royal Palms line the entrance to the hotel.

The Malecon is the nearly 5 mile seawall with 6 traffic lanes and a broad oceanfront walkway running from west from Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta to the River Almendares. The Malecon is a very popular gathering spot for all Habaneros, especially on hot summer nights. During storms, the traffic is often closed as the winds from the north drive large waves crashing over the sea wall.

Vedado once referred to the “forbidden” area outside the historic city’s walls that banned construction and retained its forest preserve as a buffer against attach. This residential neighborhood area is currently the commercial heart of modern Havana.

Transfer across Havana Bay to visit the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana

Group Dinner – La Divina Pastora on Havana Bay below Castillo del Morro

Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro was built between 1589 and 1630 at the entrance to Havana harbor on the peninsula point opposite the city buildings of Havana. Down along the water is the Battery of the 12 Apostles with each canon named after an apostle.

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana was built between 1763 and 1774 on the la Cabana hillside down from El Castillo del Morro after the English conquest of the city from that hill area. Steep walls, a deep moat and a majestic drawbridge make this long hillside fortress (it once housed 120 canon) a dominant feature on the harbor and a great spot for viewing old Havana at night. It also housed political prisoners and became Che Guevara’s headquarters after taking possession of the city in 1959.

9:00 PM – Canonazo Ceremony

Every night the picturesque Canonazo Ceremony takes place with an historical ceremony recalling the firing of a canon shot to announce the closing of the city gates and the raising of a chain in the harbor to protect against pirate attacks. A drummer marches soldiers dressed in 18th century Spanish Colonial uniforms to the ramparts at 8:45 AM to prepare the large canon for the loud explosion at 9:00 PM.

Day 2 – 19 MARCH
THURSDAY

Day 2 – 19 MARCH

Tour Partagas Cigar Factory and talk with workers about their training, quality control techniques and incentive programs.

Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas
Founded in 1845, this is Cuba’s largest and perhaps most renowned cigar factory, producing around 5 million cigars a year. The off-yellow-and-rust trimmed, neoclassical facade is resplendent in the Havana morning sunlight. At the fabrica you will see how skilled workers prepare and select the tobacco and then roll and sort the many cigar brands produced here. Throughout the day, you can stop in and buy cigars from the well-stocked shop, La Casa del Habano.

Walking Tour of Old Havana
Havana Vieja or Old Havana is the historic center of Havana full of Spanish colonial buildings surrounded by a city wall in Havana’s early years. Currently in restoration, the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The area incorporates 4 main squares: Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de San Francisco. The busy Calle Mercaderes and the bustling Calle Obispo are Old Havana’s major crossing streets. Calle Obispo starts to the west of the Plaza de Armas and is a main shopping street in Old Havana. It runs past the Ambos Mundos Hotel up to the El Floridita Bar, birthplace of the daiquiri, and the Parque Central where you’ll find the Capitolio and the Grand Theater.

The Plaza de Armas is Havana’s oldest square. The center area, often bordered by bookstalls, has a statue of revolutionary landowner Carlos Manuel de Cespedes at its center. At the northeast corner is the neo-classical El Templete (built in 1828) marking the spot where the first mass in Havana was said under a ceiba tree in 1519. This event is celebrated again every 16 November. Opposite is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Cuba’s oldest building and the second oldest fort in the New World. This fort and a city wall were built to protect the inhabitants from pirates. The weathervane atop the fort is La Giraldilla, the symbol of Havana representing governor Hernando de Soto’s wife who watched in vain for his return from his Florida campaign. On the west side of the square is the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (1780), the home of Cuba’s ruling governor and now the city’s historical museum.

Meet with representatives of the City Historian’s office to discuss the ongoing renovation of Old Havana and housing impact on neighborhoods

The cobbled Plaza de San Francisco faces the Terminal de Sierra Maestra, the dockyard for luxury liners. At one side stands the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asis, built in 1608 and rebuilt in Baroque style in 1730 complete with a 40 meter bell tower (campanario). Because of it excellent acoustics, the church was converted into a concert hall. Outside the statue of the legendary French Wanderer draws touches and photos.

Meet with students and professors at the Escuela Gaspar Melchor e Jovellanos and Escuela Carlos Mariategui Vocational Restoration Schools

La Plaza Vieja is the largest of the four Old Havana squares and is dominated by 18th century residential buildings. The square that once was a covered market and later hosted fiestas, bullfights and executions is now becoming more tourist minded with small museums, galleries and restaurants including a brewery.

Group Lunch –El Templete on Havana Bay at the foot of Plaza del Armas

Continue WALKING TOUR
Plaza de Catedral is a beautiful square surrounded by noble residences and anchored by the Cathedral of Saint Christopher, Havana’s patron saint. Construction of a church on the site began in the 18th century and was built into La Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana after the Jesuits were expelled in 1767. This undulating baroque structure, (“music set in stone”), featuring asymmetrical towers was completed in 1777.

Visit El Taller Experimental de Grafica printmaking artist studio

Visit El Floridita on return to the hotel – This very popular, elegant bar claims to be the cradle of the daiquiri Cocktail. It was author Ernest Hemingway’s favorite Havana bar and a statue of Ernie leaning on the bar in his corner area is a popular photo site.

Dinner on own – Visit one of the city’s new paladares

Day 3 – 20 MARCH
FRIDAY

Day 3 – 20 MARCH

Visit the National Museum of Fine Arts – Cuban Art Section. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes fills three floors of this square-city-block building. The central courtyard and zigzagging ramped stairwell can make navigating the upper floors confusing, so allow yourself plenty of time, and be prepared to get mildly lost inside. An extensive collection of Cuban art and sculpture is on display at the newly renovated main building here. Modern masters like Wifredo Lam, Raúl Martínez, Amelia Peláez, and Rene Portocarrero are well represented.

Visit Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA)
ISA, the schools of Visual Arts, Music, Theatrical Arts, Dance, and Audiovisual Communication, are home to professors whom are all active musicians, dancers, or artists. Study at the Institute is comparable to conservatory work in the United States.

ISA: Study in CubaISA was built in 1961 on the site of the pre-Revolutionary Country Club of Havana, which was so exclusive that dictator Fulgencio Batista was denied a membership. Considered Cuba’s best example of post-Revolutionary architecture, its red brick halls and pavilions are covered with Catalan vaults and cupola skylights.

Recently reopened, each faculty member provides a combination of theory and practice designed for students serious about pursuing artistic achievement through concentrated study.

From the 800 students in 39 specialties have come some of Cuba’s finest artists and musicians. Zaida del Río studied here, as did Emmy-winner Chucho Valdés. Many of the little trios performing all around Havana have ISA students in their ranks.

Lunch at El Aljibe
This very popular outdoor restaurant in Miramar is a favorite with Cubans and foreign visitors alike and is known for its unique chicken dinner specialty.

Visit Studio Fuster in Jaimanitas to discuss with artists and neighbors how the studio has transformed their entire neighborhood into a work of art and a model of individual private enterprise.

Visit the school Centro Pro Danza directed by Laura Alonso (daughter of world famous ballerina Alicia Alonso)

Dinner on own

On own – Attend Ballet at National Grand Theater if performing or the Tropicana

Day 4 – 21 MARCH
Saturday

Day 4 – 21 MARCH

Visit Community Farmers Market

Visit Callejon de Hamel
This neighborhood Cuban art project featuring vivid street murals and the sculpture of Salvador Gonzalez Escalona is an ongoing Afro-Cuban educational and artistic event, a Santeria shrine and a rumba street party every Sunday.

Visit to Hemingway’s home Finca Vigia and the PILAR boat in village of San Francisco de Paula. Meet with Gladys Rodriquez, Ada Rosa and the museum staff

Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author, born and raised in Oak Park, IL, first visited Cuba in 1928 and returned regularly from 1932 on for fishing, to write in his habitual room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel (now a museum room at the hotel), and in 1939 purchased Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm) in San Francisco de Paula. Finca Vigia represents one of the few areas where the U.S. and Cuban governments have worked together in recent years to structurally restore the house and preserve and then digitalize the many letters and documents left there for use in academic research. Circling the ground floor, you can see the house more or less as it was when Hemingway was living and writing here. There’s his library of 9,000 books, paintings, and stuffed animal heads. In addition to an old typewriter, the works of art by Picasso, Miró, and Klee are some of the more prized possessions. There’s a small tower separate from the main house that you can climb for a better view all around. In the surrounding gardens, you can see Papa’s pet cemetery, the swimming pool and the author’s dry-docked fishing boat, Pilar.

Lunch on own at La Terraza de Cojimar
This café/bar/restaurant in Cojimar is where fisherman in days past brought their daily catch. It was one of Hemingway’s favorite restaurants and featured in the Spencer Tracy film of The Old Man and the Sea.

Visit the village of Cojimar
The fishing village where author, famous deep sea fisherman, Ernest Hemingway docked his boat the Pilar. It was the home of his faithful boat captain Gregorio Fuentes and the setting for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

Visit Guanabacoa Museum to discuss African slave experience in Cuba and Religious

Practices with Santeria Dance Performance

Guanabacoa
Founded in 1607 and a major port of call for the slave traffic into the Caribbean, it has retained its close association with Afro-Cuban culture. The Guanabacoa Museum illustrates the history of the city with a heavy emphasis on the Santeria religion that sprung from the African religions brought to Cuba. It successfully blended orishas with Catholic saints, allowing its practitioners to worship within a Catholic country. Even today, Santeria is widely practiced on the island by all races. The museum courtyard holds traditional Afro-Cuban events and rituals throughout the year.

Group Dinner with Cuban guests – and music – Café del Oriente or
similar

Day 5 – 22 MARCH
SUNDAY

Day 5 – 22 MARCH

Morning Transfer by Bus to Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos, founded in 1819 on a beautiful bay, is known as the “Pearl of the South” and the capital of the Cienfuegos Province. Sugar as a key to its wealth and world famous performers sang and acted at the Teatro Tomas Terry built in 1886-89. The Gothic, Venetian and Moorish styled Palacio del Valle has been a home, casino and now a popular restaurant. Singer Benny More was born here and the area is known for its musical and dance tradition and legacy (birthplace of the Cha-Cha-Cha).

Lunch in the Palacio del Valle on the Cienfuegos waterfront The very popular El Floridita is an elegant bar that claims to be the cradle of the daiquiri cocktail. It was author Ernest Hemingway’s favorite Havana bar and a statue of Ernie leaning on the bar in his corner area is a popular photo site.

Visit Casa de Artex in Cienfuegos and meet local artists

Transfer to Trinidad

Check in at the Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar on Playa Alcon, Caribbean Sea for overnight

Day 6 – 23 MARCH
MONDAY

Day 6 – 23 MARCH

Walking tour of Trinidad
Trinidad
Founded in 1514 by Diego Velasquez, Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. This center of the sugar trade is famous for its original cobblestone streets and pastel colored, colonial era buildings. The city was isolated and largely unchanged over the years. The town center has been lovingly and historically restored and its Casa de la Trova where live music is performed regularly and the Casa de la Cultura with its studio and exhibition spaces are famous throughout Cuba.

Visit Casa del la Alfarero and meet artists working various stages of pottery production of utilitarian and decorative pieces. The Santander family has produced award winning ceramics over several generations.

Stop at the Casa de la Trova to meet with local musicians

Meet local artists in their studios.

Interact with local community at local markets and community centers.

Overnight in Hotel

Day 7 – 24 MARCH
TUESDAY

Day 7 – 24 MARCH

Bus transfer to Havana

Lunch enroute at Aguada de Pasajeros

Overnight in Havana – Hotel Nacional

Dinner on own

Day 8 – 25 MARCH
WEDNESDAY

Day 8 – 25 MARCH

Departure from Havana – Terminal 2, Jose Marti Airport

Estimated Check in: 8:00 AM

Marazul Sky King Flight 5K 5902

Estimated HAVANA departure: 11:00 AM

Estimated MIAMI arrival: 12:00 NOON

Fruit stand in Cuba
Building seen while touring Cuba
ITINERARY EXAMPLE 2

HAVANA – Las TERRAZAS – VINALES VALLEY

Havana-Cienfuegos-Trinidad land and air Program Includes:

Round trip flight from Miami to Havana
Miami Airport Departure Tax
US Treasury Department License with The Committee on Illinois to legally travel to Cuba
Cuban Visa (Note: persons born in Cuba will require additional time, paperwork and fees to process their Visa)
Cuba insurance for any medical expenses in Cuba
Group air conditioned bus transportation for transfers and program including Round trip bus transportation – Havana / Cienfuegos / Trinidad / Havana
Experienced Committee on Illinois tour leader
Bilingual Cuban group tour guide for entire stay
Cuba Health Insurance for any medical expenses in Cuba
Double Room at the Hotel Nacional per itinerary
Double Room at the Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar
Daily Breakfasts
Educational Program Sessions per itinerary
Lunch at La Barraca
Dinner at La Divina Pastora
Lunch at El Templete
Lunch at El Aljibe
Lunch at Las Terrazas del Cojimar
Dinner with Cuban guests at Hotel Ambos Mundos or similar
Lunch at Palacio del Valle in Cienfuegos
Lunch at Aguada de Pasajeros enroute from Trinidad

Not Included:

Transportation to and from Miami and within Miami
Lodging in Miami
Single Supplement
Cuban Airport Departure Tax – 25 CUC ($30) paid by travelers when leaving Havana
Meals and drinks not specified in final program
Taxis or individual travel within Cuba
U.S. travel insurance
Individual Tips for Cuban guide and driver

Costs based on 10 person group minimum for Land and Air

LAND Package: Double Room: $3,150 per person
Single Supplement: $250

AIR Package: Round Trip AIR and Cuban Visa – Miami/Havana: $545
(Airfare confirmed month before departure)

Total Cuba Trip Cost: $3,695 per person, double occupancy

Non-Refundable Deposit of $250 per person to reserve space by 31 JAN 2015

28 JANUARY – 04 FEBRUARY, 2015
People to People Educational Exchange, The Committee on Illinois

Day 1 – JAN 28 2015
WEDNESDAY

Day 1 – JAN 28 2015

Depart from Miami International Airport – Private bus transfer to

Havana via Revolution Square – Lunch – Hotel Nacional –La Baracca Garden Restaurant

Check in HOTEL CAPRI – Luxury hotel newly restored in modernized 1950s decor and re-opened in 2014

Transfer across Havana Bay past the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro

Dinner at La Divina Pastora -Transfer to the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana – 9:00 PM – Canonazo Ceremony

Day 2 - JAN 29
THURSDAY

Day 2 - JAN 29

Tour a Fábrica de Tabaco – Walking Tour Old Havana a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its 4 main squares: Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de San Francisco

Meet with representatives of the Historian’s Office to discuss renovation efforts in Old Havana

Lunch at El Templete across from Havana Harbor

Meet with students and professors at a local Vocational Restoration School

Visit El Taller Experimental de Grafica printmaking artist studio

Dinner at Hotel Capri

Day 3 - JAN 30
FRIDAY

Day 3 - JAN 30

Visit a Community Farmers Market

Tour the University of Havana

Visit Instituto Superior de Arte – Discuss with professors and students the architectural styles in Cuba

Lunch at El Aljibe outdoor restaurant in Miramar

Tour FUSTER Studio and Community Art Project in Jaimanitas to discuss with artists and neighbors how the studio has transformed their entire neighborhood into a work of art and a model of private entrepreneurial initiative

Visit Centro Pro Danza school of ballet

Dinner at a private paladar where we can discuss the challenges and satisfactions of this form of private enterprise in Cuba – Time to attend a Ballet Performance

Day 4 - JAN 31
SATURDAY

Day 4 - JAN 31

Visit with Special Education teachers

Visit the National Union of Cuban Jurists for open discussion

Group lunch in Vedado

Tour the Museum of Fine Arts – Cuban Section

Dinner at Hotel Capri – Optional visit to Tropicana

Day 5 - FEB 01
SUNDAY

Day 5 - FEB 01

Tour Ernest Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigia, in the village of San Francisco de Paula.  Meet with director Ada Rosa and the museum staff –

Visit the village of Cojimar, the fishing village setting for The Old Man and the Sea

Lunch at La Terraza de Cojimar, where fisherman in days past brought their daily catch

Visit Guanabacoa Museum to discuss the African slave experience in Cuba and Santeria religious practices with a folklore performance

Dinner with Cuban Guests at the Café del Oriente

Day 6 - FEB 02
MONDAY

Day 6 - FEB 02

Transfer to the Sierra del Rosario Bioshpere Reserve in Pinar del Rio province – meet ecological researchers and tour the project gardens and historic coffee plantation

Lunch at Casa del Campesino

Visit to Las Terrazas, a sustainable agricultural community including workshops – Visit with the students, teachers and doctors of the local school and community health center and visit the art studios of Lester Campa and Ariel

Transfer to the Vinales Valley – check in Hotel Jazmines

Dinner at hotel

Day 7 - FEB 03
TUESDAY

Day 7 - FEB 03

Meet the farmers and workers at a local farm and tobacco plantation

Lunch in town of Vinales

Transfer to Havana and Hotel Capri for overnight

Dinner on own    

Day 8 - FEB 04
WEDNESDAY

Day 8 - FEB 04

 Flight Havana to Miami
(NOTE: times will be confirmed the month prior to departure)

Havana-Land and Air Program Includes:

DEVELOPMENT

INCLUDED:

Round trip flight from Miami to Havana
Miami Airport Departure Tax
US Treasury Department License from The Committee on Illinois to legally travel to Cuba
Cuban Visa (Note: persons born in Cuba will require additional time, paperwork and fees to process their Visa)
Cuba Health Insurance for any medical expenses in Cuba
Group air conditioned bus transportation for transfers and program including Round trip bus transportation – Havana / Vinales /Havana
Committee on Illinois tour leader
Bilingual group tour guide for entire stay
Two bottles of water per participants daily
Double Room at the Hotel Capri and Hotel Jazmines per itinerary
Daily Breakfasts and Lunches and all but one dinner
Dinner with Cuban guests at the Café del Oriente

Not Included:

Transportation to and from Miami and within Miami
Lodging in Miami
Single Supplement
Cuban Airport Departure Tax – 25 CUC ($30) paid by travelers when leaving Havana
Meals and drinks not specified in final program
Taxis or individual travel within Cuba
U.S. travel insurance (recommended)
Individual Tips for Cuban guide and driver

Costs based on 10 person group minimum
(Note: Itinerary Subject to Change – usually for the better)
LAND Package: Double Room: $3,295 per person
Single Supplement: $ 350
AIR Package for this tour (required)
Round Trip AIR – Miami/Havana: $ 580 per person
Non-Refundable Deposit of $250 per person to reserve space

NOTE: Travel to Cuba from the U.S. is not inexpensive but a review of competing programs shows our combined rates to be a very good value.
Please let both Scott Schwar (sschwar@comcast.net) and Lisa Greyhill (lisa@adventure-travelers.com) Committee on Illinois partners know if you are planning to participate or if you have questions.