Experience Havana on a Virtual Tour

 

Ari and Ebony are going to take you on a one of a kind virtual tour of Havana!

From their 100-year old home in Old Havana, they will take you on a very unique virtual journey of everything that makes Havana so beautiful and enchanting.

Know more about Ari.

Know more about Ebony.

Sign up for our newsletter or email us at info@culturalislandtravel.com to book your tour today!

https://www.traveltocubalegally.com/get-more-info/

Closing in on all sides: Cuba nears declaring coronavirus victory

HAVANA (Reuters) – Reina Paula, a saleswoman at Havana’s La Epoca supermarket, said the same day that a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, local authorities sent the rest of the staff in a fleet of state vehicles to isolation facilities for testing.

Healthcare providers traced their relatives and sent them into quarantine, while state news outlets publicly appealed to anyone who had had close contact with them to come forward to prevent the virus from spreading.

“They followed the clinical steps like a Swiss clock,” said Paula, at home after recovering from the worst of COVID-19, the respiratory disease the novel coronavirus causes.

Those who tested positive were transferred to hospital, where they were given antivirals and immune system boosters, while the others were sent home to quarantine for two weeks.

Paula’s story illustrates the rigorous approach Cuba has taken to curb the coronavirus outbreak – helped by the Caribbean island nation’s preventive, universal and well-staffed healthcare system, centralization and use of coercion.

Doing so was politically vital for Cuba’s ruling Communist Party, which claims the country’s strong healthcare system as a key achievements, even as it has failed to deliver on the economy, partly due to a U.S. trade embargo.

New cases have dropped to less than 10 per day on average from a peak of around 50, and two thirds of the island is virus-free, according to official data.

Monday was the ninth consecutive day with no deaths from COVID-19, while the highly infectious disease continues to rage throughout the Americas.

“We could be shortly closing in on the tail end of the pandemic and entering the phase of recovery from COVID,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said this weekend.

Like many countries, Cuba closed its borders and schools at the start of the outbreak and urged Cubans to practice social distancing, though that was complicated by large queues outside shops amid growing scarcity.

But Cuba swiftly made face masks obligatory and quarantined large numbers of people rather than just telling them to stay home.

Disobeying pandemic measures carried a fine or even a prison sentence. And the Cuban state has used its monopoly of traditional news media to broadcast trials for such offenses to set an example and educate citizens on the virus.

It has also sent tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to homes nationwide daily to conduct screenings, underscoring a strength of the healthcare system, even as tight resources in recent decades have seen hospitals fall into disrepair and more frequent medicine shortages.

Cuba’s top epidemiologist, Francisco Duran, said early detection, hospitalization and the application of experimental treatments – many developed by the country’s own biotech sector – have helped reduce COVID-19’s fatality.

Cuba, with a population of 11 million, has reported 2,200 cases and 83 deaths. That translates to 0.73 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, slightly above Costa Rica’s 0.20 per 100,000 but far below Brazil’s 17.4.

The success has won plaudits from citizens.

“Once more,” Havana resident Marina Rodriguez said, “our country has shown that despite its difficulties, it is always able to control an epidemic.”

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Leslie Adler)

How to make a Hemingway Daiquiri

Excerpt from an article written by Colleen Graham.After spending some time in Cuba, Hemingway quickly became enamored with the daiquiri. In 1921 Constantino Ribailagua, of El Floridita in Havana, created this variation in honor of his daiquiri-loving regular.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Garnish: lime wedge

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

  3. Shake well.

  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  5. Garnish with a lime wedge.

  6. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

  • To create a better-tasting daiquiri, be sure to choose a top-shelf rum.
  • If you want to keep the taste authentic, Cuban rums like Havana Club, Ron Mulata, and Santiago de Cuba would be natural choices. Any Caribbean rum would be a good option, though. Keep in mind that in Spanish-speaking countries, white rum is often called blanco, just like tequila.
  • As with any daiquiri, the Hemingway is best with fresh-squeezed lime and grapefruit juices. You can typically expect to get 1/2 to 1 ounce of juice out of the average lime, which is enough for one or two drinks. A grapefruit often yields 5 ounces or more, so a single fruit should be plenty for a few rounds with friends.

For the full article: https://www.thespruceeats.com/hemingway-daiquiri-recipe-760527

Jose Marti Day – January 28th in Cuba

Today is a special day in Cuba, celebrating the birthday of Cuban National hero Jose Marti. Marti was a poet and philosopher and one of the great Latin American intellectuals. He also wrote the poem that eventually was adapted to song, Guantanamera.

Irma, one of our beloved tour leaders, shared some photos of today’s celebration.

 

 

 

 

 

Truly grateful

As the new year started, we find ourselves overwhelmed by touching messages and words of thanks from our clients, now our cherished friends, who have truly felt the magic of Cuba.

We would like to share with you some of the kind words our clients have said of CIT over the years along with photos that bore witness to their unforgettable adventure.

Roberta Newlon, 5 stars

I’ve traveled to Cuba five times with Cultural Island Travel (CIT) beginning in 2015 (and just recently two weeks ago) and each trip was more exciting and memorable than the previous.  For a photographer, Cuba is sublime and CIT successfully creates an atmosphere of amazement, creativity, and excitement. 

..it’s been an amazing experience learning about the Cuban people.  The CIT staff that creates the itinerary does a great job; but our Guide, Ebony O Reilly, makes it magical.  She’s extremely knowledgeable, professional, resourceful and creates an amazing experience for her people.  My friends and family ask me why I keep going back to Cuba.  I tell them to look on my Instagram and FB pages and they will see why.

My next trip with CIT will most likely be September 2020!

 

Lesley Wilson, 5 stars

Had a great time in Cuba!! Cultural Island Travel provides a great experience. All the tour guides are great but ask for Naomi If you have a choice. You will feel like she’s your best friend before your trip is complete. Can’t wait to visit again!!

Angela Sellers, 5 stars

I would like to send a sincere thank you to Cultural Island Travel (CIT)and Laura Gonzalez Chau, our amazing host and tour guide for creating such an amazing and affordable experience for our group. If you are considering traveling to Cuba, I would strongly encourage you to use this travel agency. Many people are hesitant to travel to Cuba, (CIT) will walk you through the steps and provide everything you need to travel. They communicated ensuring that every traveler had all documents. It does not matter if I return with 2 or more, I will return to Cuba and will ONLY go this route. Our itinerary was customized to maximize our every moment in Cuba.

If you want to travel without the stress of figuring out what to do, safety and an amazing vacation, choose Cultural Island Travel. They exceeded our expectations.

Robert Fierer, 5 stars

We had a great trip with our family. Theresa helped organize everything we wanted and was very helpful. Our guide, Fernando was awesome, helpful and interesting! All the special events, lodging and food were wonderful. Cuba is a wonderful place to visit and we can’t wait to return!

Paula Zackeru, 5 stars

As a single, female traveler, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived there. Was I going to be safe? Was I going to be able to go out at night and enjoy the music and nightlife that I had planned originally? I was treated like a princess and the answer is YES!

…this was a fantastic experience and I feel lucky to have found CIT. I am a travel agent and will be using CIT to book all of my future Cuba trips for my clients. I cannot wait to return to Cuba again and explore all of it’s beauty…people, sights and culture.

 

 

To read more of our customer feedback and to add your own, please check out the Google reviews at:  https://goo.gl/maps/7EjzBQDXc9RHy9wg8

 

Hotel or B&B? Deciding where to stay in Cuba

HOTELS vs B&Bs IN CUBA

When you plan your trip to Cuba, one of the big decisions you’ll have to make is: should you stay at a hotel or a B&B? We get a lot of questions about these options, so we’ve compiled a list of FAQs to help you make an informed decision.

Above: a private room at a B&B in Havana

Q: Are Americans allowed to stay at hotels in Cuba?
Yes, as long as they are not owned and operated by the Cuban government. We at CIT know which hotels are allowed and which are prohibited, so you can rest assured you’ll be compliant with all the current regulations.

Q: How do B&Bs work in Cuba?
B&Bs in Cuba are known locally as casas particulares. These are homestays or private accommodations offered by Cuban families under a government-approved system of private enterprise. Running a B&B in Cuba is one of the best gigs a person can have, so Cubans take great care in ensuring that their guests have a safe, comfortable stay and all around positive experience.

Q: How does CIT choose a B&B?
We have a hand selected list of B&Bs that we use regularly. These are places that have been tried and tested many times. Depending on your preference and group size, we can either do a private apartment/house, or rent a room in a homestay style B&B. Let us know if you need a certain bed size (full and queen are most common, but king is sometimes available), if you prefer first floor or a high rise, or if you have any other special requests or needs. We’ll always send you pictures of and details about the B&B before we book it for you. All B&Bs will have private bathrooms, AC, hot water, and a safe or your valuables.

**Please note: If you are leaning towards staying at a B&B, it’s always better to book sooner than later so we can reserve a trusted property for you. Our top choices can sometimes book up months in advance.**

Q: What are the main differences between the hotels in Havana?
There are two main 5 star hotels that we use in Havana: the Saratoga and the Iberostar Parque Central. Both are located in Old Havana; amenity-wise they are also very similar. Both have rooftop pools, gyms, concierge, etc.

The lobby of the 5 Star Iberostar Parque Central in Havana

Q: What are the pros/cons of staying at a hotel versus a B&B in Havana?

Pros of staying at a hotel in Havana:
– Old Havana location. The hotels that we use are mostly located in Old Havana, which is a fun and walkable area with top restaurants and venues close by.
– More amenities. All of the hotels we use have a pool, exercise room, restaurant, business center, money exchange, concierge service, etc.

The rooftop pool at the Hotel Saratoga overlooking Havana’s Capitol building

Pros of staying at a B&B in Havana:
– Value, value, value. Even a luxury B&B in Havana will be more affordable than a hotel. If you’re planning your trip on a budget, a B&B is the way to go.
– Authentic experience. Most of the B&Bs that we use in Havana are located in the popular Vedado neighborhood, which is slightly more residential than Old Havana though still very central. For people who want to be immersed in a real Cuban neighborhood, then a B&B in Vedado is for you.
– Interaction with your B&B host. Whether you’re doing a private apartment or a true “homestay” style B&B, you’ll definitely interact with your host at least upon arrival. Many people cherish the connections they make with their hosts and cite the interactions withtheir hosts as a highlight of their trip.

Cons of staying at a hotel in Havana:
– Price. People are often surprised at the cost of hotels in Cuba – they aren’t as cheap as you might think! Also, their star rating is not equivalent to the US. In other words, the best 5 star in Cuba is more akin to a 4 star in the States.
– Other tourists. Many CIT travelers head to Cuba with the goal to experience Cuba in an authentic way and can be put off by the presence of other tourists.

Cons of staying at a B&B in Havana:
– Fewer amenities. Every B&B is different, but if you’re someone who wants a pool, spa, gym, and restaurant available to you, then you should choose a hotel.

Q: What about hotels and B&Bs in other towns in Cuba?
Generally speaking the only other place we have travelers stay overnight is Trinidad, a charming colonial town on the southern shore of Cuba. Since it is a smaller town, the lodging options are more limited.

For hotels, there is the 5 star Iberostar, a very charming and upscale hotel right by the town’s main center. However, it is one of the most expensive properties in Cuba, and since it is so small, it does book up far in advance. There is also the newly renovated 4 star Memories, located right on Playa Ancón beach. This hotel is more basic, but less pricey than the Iberostar and many people do enjoy being located on the beach.

A room at the adults-only 5 star Iberostar Trinidad Hotel

For B&Bs in Trinidad, there are some gorgeous options, but they tend to fill up very far in advance. Overall the B&Bs in Trinidad are going to be more rustic and not as modern as the ones in Havana, but they all provide basic amenities like AC, hot water, and good breakfasts.

A private room at our favorite B&B in Trinidad

If you still have any questions about the different lodging options, feel free to reach out, and one of our friendly CIT representatives will be happy to help!

Contact: info@traveltocubalegally.com/800-494-1945

How soon should you book a trip to Cuba?

We often get asked: how far in advance should I book my trip to Cuba?

There’s no hard deadline per se, and our travelers range across the spectrum from last minute bookings to people who have planned everything months in advance.

The biggest two factors are the season of travel and your preference for lodging. If you’re planning to travel to Cuba during the winter holidays, Jazz Festival, spring break, or another busy time of year – then you definitely want to start booking your trip sooner than later. That way you can lock in your flight and make sure all your ducks are in a row before prices go up and everything is booked.

Also, if you want to stay at a B&B or private apartment (the most economical option), then it’s definitely advisable to book early. There are some amazing B&Bs in Cuba, but they can fill up far in advance.

If you prefer to stay at a hotel, then there’s not as big a rush. Unless it’s peak season, the hotels can usually accommodate even the most last minute travelers.

“What about the visa” you might ask. It’s no problem! We can get you the visa right away once you sign up for a trip; we can even overnight it to you if needed. The bigger concern is definitely making sure you are able to get your flight and lodging booked.

Whether you want to plan a spontaneous trip to Cuba or are looking to plan something a year from now, feel free to reach out! We’ll be happy to help you plan an incredible trip.

Call or email us: 800.494.1945 or info@traveltocubalegally.com.

Top 5 FAQs about travel to Cuba

We at CIT get calls every day from people unsure about how travel to Cuba works. See below for a quick rundown of our Top Five FAQs – please share!

Can Americans still travel to Cuba?

Yes! US citizens can still travel to Cuba legally as long as they are going under one of 12 legal categories as described by the US Treasury Department.

Most of the available categories don’t apply to the average person (i.e., you have a close family member who is a Cuban national) but there is still one broad category open to all US citizens: support for the Cuban people.

When you book your flight to Cuba you will need to declare your legal reason for traveling to Cuba, so it is important to make sure you know which category you’re traveling under, familiarize yourself with the requirements, and choose it accordingly.

What does “Support for the Cuban people” mean?

The basic idea behind “support for the Cuban people” is that your tourist dollars aren’t supposed to end up in the hands of the Cuban government.

So for starters, you cannot stay at certain hotels, eat at certain restaurants, or shop at certain stores, etc., if they are owned and operated by the Cuban government.

Also, there’s a reason this category is called “Support for the Cuban people” – you’re supposed to be engaging in a meaningful way with Cuban people every single day! This could mean visiting a local art gallery, taking a private dance class, attending a private musical concert, visiting a school, etc.

What documentation do I need to visit Cuba?

Everyone traveling to Cuba needs a passport, and your passport needs to be valid for up to six months after your travel date.

You will also need a visa, sometimes referred to as a tourist card. In order to qualify for the visa you need to declare your legal reason for traveling to Cuba under a general license (the 12 categories) and provide the necessary documentation.

As a courtesy for all of our travelers, we provide your visa and the Certificate of Travel, which declares your legal reason for traveling, as well as an official itinerary that demonstrates all of your “support for the Cuban people” activities.

What will be the process when I return from Cuba, how do I need to prove I did a “Support for the Cuban people” trip?

It depends. We have traveled to Cuba countless times and it’s always a different experience upon returning. Sometimes the authorities ask no questions; sometimes they want to see time stamped photos of every single day as proof of activities.

The safest and surest way to travel to Cuba is to do it through an agency such as CIT. We are well versed in the regulations on Cuba travel and will make sure you have a safe, legally compliant, and seamless trip!

Is Cuba safe to visit?

Yes! Cuba has very low levels of crime. You should just use common sense precautions like you would in any other place.

The Cuban economy relies heavily on tourism, too, so local people and authorities alike are invested in making sure that tourists feel safe and welcome.

Flights to Havana

Cultural Island Travel would like to reassure our clients that many major commercial airlines currently fly from the US to Havana.

We have prepared this map of non-stop flights to better assist in planning your travel dates.

Next stop…Mexico!

Discover the Magic of Mexico

Explore the legends and history of Mexico on this 7-day tour designed by CIT’s very own Irma Gonzalez! Immerse yourself in this colorful, ancient, and mystic culture and discover why Mexico City is considered the cultural capital of Latin America. 

You will enjoy some of the best Mexican food and try authentic tequila, pulque, and mezcal. You will sing with Mariachis, explore the ancient pyramids at Teotihuacán, and visit the magical towns of Puebla and Cholula. You will visit Frida Kahlo’s home and float down the canals at Xochimilco. Irma will show you everything she loves about Mexico in an authentic and personal way!

Don’t miss out on this incredible experience! Ask about our 2020 dates for CIT-Mexico today!