What Our Customers Say About Cultural Island Travel
I want to thank you so much for making one of our dreams came true. Traveling with you to Cuba wasn’t just amazing it was a life changing experience. Your expertise and the way you mesh like a real local made our trip so meaningful. We are already looking forward to our next adventure with Cultural Island Travel and even making excuses up so we can go back to Cuba soon.We highly recommend you as a tour guide/director. Rest assured that all of our friends will know about your company. So get ready for some more clients! Gracias!
I have always consciously avoided any kind of organized tour — but Cultural Island Travel literally handed me the country of Cuba. Our guide, Patricia, designed an intimate week just for us that absolutely dazzled my family. I have been gushing about Cultural Island Travel’s tour of Havana since we returned two months ago. They showed me the Cuba I had only dreamt existed.
Kristen, I am still mentally not home yet. Very difficult to come right back to work after a 24 year old dream is realized. I have been to 15 countries for pleasure, business and cultural exploration, but Cuba has far surpassed them all. Our guide(s) were excellent. Our drivers were excellent. I have new friends and brothers for life. Every turn of the corner is rich with history and it would be so foolish to walk those streets without guidance. Cuba’s history is a story truly told through its artists. I felt like I was experiencing every decade. Your service is flawless!
I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba and after exploring tour companies I came across Cultural-Island-Travel. In September I traveled there with thirteen friends and I can’t say enough about how supported we felt. Our guide was amazing and knowledgeable, and we all agreed that the journey exceeded our expectations. This was tested as a hurricane approached Cuba and we had to cut our trip short by one day. Krista and the others at the company went the extra mile (or ten) and got us to safety. We’re already planning another trip next year.
James Twyman, Author and Musician, October 2017
Thank you for your assistance with our recent Cuba trip. The tour was fabulous and Irma was an outstanding tour guide. We experienced no challenges arriving, during, or leaving Cuba. Everything was actually perfect.
Nicholas and Regina, September 2017
I have been on a number of tours, and this is, by far, the very best tour we’ve ever experienced. My friends Ron and Suzanne Sherman and I could not be more delighted and amazed at the excellently planned and executed trip by CIT. From the beginning, Krista Severeid always kept on top of arrangements and my endless questions. Once we arrived, our tour guides were more “goodwill ambassadors.” Laura Gonzalez and Irma give “customer service” a whole new meaning! These ladies were as attentive and wonderful! Always took the extra step to ensure our comfort and enhance our experience! Special mention goes to our driver, Josue. I told him I think he had a Cuba GPS chip implanted in his brain, there was never a street or shortcut or alley he didn’t know! Always felt very safe and protected. Our accommodations were superb! Even when Hurricane Irma intervened in the middle of our trip, the CIT staff and Laura and Irma kept on top of making sure we were safe and well taken care of! We were able to do a few things at the end, which Irma went out of her way to arrange. Could not recommend CIT more highly to anyone and everyone interested in a true, cultural experience in Cuba! Thank you, CIT!!
Guadalupe Lechuga, September 18, 2017
Hola! Hope you are well!
We finally are catching up at home after being away for two weeks and we wanted to sincerely thank you and Josue’ for your amazing hospitality. You both made us feel like family. We felt welcome, comfortable and had a ton of fun. You took us under your wing and created a truly memorable experience. We learned so much about Cuban history and culture thanks to you all.
You made everything seem seamless. That is the mark of a true professional. I know it’s not easy to do that, but you did.
We have been telling all of our friends about our amazing experience that you curated for us. We hope to send you some business over the next few years and may even return ourselves.
Chris, Karen and Jake Galla, August 2017
We are back from Cuba…
The trip was phenomenal…!
Hoping we will be able to go back soon…
And Irma was AMAZING…
We really loved her from day 1…
She was a great!!!
We are very grateful we had her as a tour leader…
Yvonne Jean-Francois, July 2017
I had a wonderful time in Beautiful Cuba and look forward to returning soon.
Our first tour guide Santiago was a delight. We all loved him!
Ebony was wonderful and helpful. We were taken to so many great places showing the real Cuba.
We had the pleasure of meeting her husband Ari. He was very attentive to all of us. They are a wonderful couple. I learned a lot of history and culture from them.
The excursions were well planned and very interesting.
Our bus driver Ruben was fantastic. He was always on time and took extra special care of us all. He was both gracious and had a wonderful personality.
It was wonderful to have our own private bus which was always keep cold for us in the humid weather. Ruben would go back to the bus to ready it for us! He was an excellent careful driver. We all marveled at his ability to get that bus down those narrow streets.
The food was excellent and plentiful. The restaurants we selected were wonderful and gave the flavor of Cuba.
The architecture of Cuba is amazing.
The hotel was the best ever! The accommodations were luxurious, We loved the lobby and our rooms were elegant.
The breakfast at the hotel was sumptuous!
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. My only drawback was that it only lasted 5 days. I wish it would have been 2 weeks.
Looking forward to returning to Cuba,
Linda Mercaldo, June 2017
I’ve been meaning to email to let you know what a great experience we had in Cuba! Our tour guide, Irma, was top notch – very professional and knowledgeable during our entire tour. The whole team that supported our tour from our drivers, walking tour, museum tour, etc. were all very helpful, courteous, and a pleasure to be with. We were very pleased with our accommodations at the hotel, almost everything we wanted to see and do was within walking distance in the evenings. The Cuban people are so friendly and we never felt unsafe, the food was excellent, and I really enjoyed the live music everywhere!
Most enjoyable was the walking tour, we got to see and learn so much about old town. The tobacco farm tour is a lot of driving and even though we really enjoyed the community project (the lunch there was amazing) we didn’t get to see the valley due to the rain and wet conditions.
Thank you, Kristen, for your prompt reply to all my questions on the front end. Traveling to an unfamiliar country, especially somewhere like Cuba, made me a little apprehensive but you and CIT were great to work with and made everything so easy. The experience is one I’ll never forget and I hope to be able to return to Cuba in the not so distant future.
Karen Fasciana, June 2017
Hi Jolie and Krista!
Again, I wanted to begin by saying the trip was remarkable! We all had a fabulous time and the kids learned a tremendous amount (as did we). The kindness of the people and richness of the culture are truly remarkable. Ebony, Irma and Josue were just absolutely amazing!
Some of our favorite things:
– cooking school, patio Pelegrin day way amazing (including seeing Vinales and tobacco plantation), seeing the jazz players at Abdala, the cannons at 9pm by where we stayed and of course the food (However, I would recommend you tell people that La Guarida is good for drinks, and seeing the building and rooftop view only – the food and scene are already too “Americanized” – I know this was our request, but your recommendations were actually better)
You chose fabulous places for lunch! Our 3 favorite places to eat were San Cristobal, Cafe Laurent and Dona Eutimia.
The accommodations in both Havana (Paradise B&B) and Trinidad (Casa Rogelio) were perfect. The place in Havana was particularly spectacular and it was easy to get taxi service in the evening either up the street at the restaurant or the parking lot by the fort. The pool was a special treat.
We will most certainly strongly recommend your tour group to anyone and everyone. The services were exceptional from beginning to end. The kids were totally welcome and engaged the entire trip – so certainly feel free to advertise that kids are welcome! Your planning for time in the day was also perfect – particularly with a couple hours to swim or relax each afternoon before we went to dinner and evening activities.
Thank you for an unforgettable trip.
Scotland Nash, May 2017
Dear Kristen, I had always been fascinated by Cuba and the tales of Che Guevara as a youth. Now seeing it I come away with the idea of Cuba being like a 1957 time capsule shaped by bureaucracy and selective outside influence and now starting to open itself to capitalism, It’s fascinating. I loved our guide Ari, he was informative and ever so helpful. He made the journey so much better then it would’ve been without him. The drivers were excellent especially Andy who I sat next to 90% of the time. Laura, the museum tour guide,was fantastic and very well spoken and informative. The highlight of my trip was meeting Mario Pelegrín Pozo and seeing all the good he does in his community, I felt the most at home there. Mario is such a great person and I’m so glad to have bonded with him.
Thank you for your time and courtesy,
Rob Sparandera Jr., May 2017
Terry and I are most excited to write you about Ari and the tour.
From the moment that he met us at the airport to our farewell, Ari was gracious, warm, informed and so personable and engaging.
Ari has a wealth of knowledge about the history and culture of Cuba in addition to a very complete list of good restaurants. If he was unable to answer our questions, he would come back the next day with the answer.
There was no question that he was unwilling to take on. For a young man, he knows a lot about human nature and how people function.
In the long and short of it, you at Cultural Island Travel have a gem in Ari. He makes everyone feel at ease.
We also both so enjoyed our tour emphasizing the music and dance culture of Cuba in addition to the gleaning the unique history of the island.
Amy and Terry, May 2017
We had an extraordinary trip. I keep remembering different details and sharing them with my friends, always ending with …. ‘you really should go!’
Ebony was thorough, thoughtful and responsive to our every need. She taught us the correct phrases/pronunciations when we tried to communicate in Spanish. She jumped into to translate when we were not getting a clear message across. She made great suggestions for restaurants, places to explore, and things to do in our free time. She balanced the needs of 4 different women with diplomacy. All in all, she was an integral part of making the trip such a huge success.
Dianelis and La Dona were a part of the fun as well.
As I said, I have been encouraging friends to start planning their own trips and recommending Cultural Island Travel as guides.
Thanks for taking such good care of us.
And I second that! Ebony was a perfect guide. Her own perspective and suggestions for some additional side trips and restaurants really added the frosting to the cake. So glad I went, thanks!
Jill Grace Young and Paula Gibbons, May 2017
Where do we begin? We did our homework before leaving and our four-day Cuba trip exceeded our expectations.
The Sevilla Hotel is lovely, friendly, and we learned to look forward to the music in the bar and in the lobby. The breakfast buffet lacked nothing! We loved being able to walk to dinner and to cafes nearby.
The itinerary for our 4 day trip was perfect; not too much, just enough of the things we wanted to see.
The transportation was tops! Gerardo and daughter Dianylis (I did not spell that correctly!) were wonderful and it was fun having lunch with them each day. Everything started and finished on time and that kept the day running smoothly.
Rob and I really enjoyed all the places we went for lunch, different from dinner choices. There were endless choices of new food and the lunch plan was extremely generous. At some point Rob and I had to eat less!
Our guide, Ari…where do we begin? We loved being with twenty-somethings. They support their home and country but were willing to chat outside the lines to the extent that they felt comfortable. We learned a lot from each of our guides in Old Havana, in the art museum and from Ari and novia, Ebony. SMART young people!
Ari is intelligent, relaxed and in the right job! He knows Havana’s nooks and crannies and pointed them out. He understands Americans/North Americans and their expectations and leaves no room for complaints or concerns. For Rob and me, our every need was anticipated and met! He surpassed expectations when we missed the craft market because it was closed. He and Dianylis put their heads together and took us to a wonderful flea market (for lack of a better word) where we found the Cuban flags for our nieces, posters and more! (We’d go back there…friendly, fun, intelligent vendors who wanted to talk!) Ari went above and beyond.
When others asked who we were traveling with we passed out the name of Cultural Island Travel so perhaps something good will come from that. From signing up online, asking you unending questions, getting every document we needed, that process was flawless!
Thank you for all you do! I hope we will find time next year to work with you again.
Donna and Rob, May 2017
We are home safe and sound with wonderful memories of one of our greatest trips ever! There are not enough words to thank you for sharing your knowledge of your country, its people, music and food! Thank you for making sure that we enjoyed ourselves and were so comfortable all the time. You have made this trip!
The care you put into making sure that Dan had the happiest Birthday goes beyond words. To see the smile on his face with each surprise of the day just made my heart happy. He has the greatest memories of that day. (Please say Thank You again to Gerrardo for learning Happy Birthday in English!)
And I know that you and Donna and Teresa made sure that Dan’s Birth Day was celebrated. It started the night before when Ari and Robert (another traveler) paid for dinner and wine for Dan. On his Birthday Day when we finished lunch – a Birthday Dessert was served and Ari and Gerrardo and wait staff sang to him in Spanish! Dinner again had a birthday dessert for him and then when we returned to our room at the Saratoga there was a Birthday Cake on his nightstand! And all who wished him Happy Birthday. Boy his Irish eyes smiled! Thank You.
Ari made sure that we had restaurants to go to at night that were just the greatest! Music always happening. He made sure we had safe transportation to and from the restaurants. Not a concern, but stress free knowing who the driver was. We can not say enough about him. What a representative of Cultural Island Travel!
And not but not least to you Kristen – you were so extremely helpful and supportive of (especially me) preparing for this trip. You were right, the passport expiration date was not an issue. I only got nervous at check in with Southwest when the woman said this expires before six months. And then she said not a problem but we are advised that we must advise you the 6 months. You Rock!
What a trip. It was a blast! Please fell fee to share any and all of this email with anyone that should see it and you want to see it.
Fondly and with appreciation, Christine
Christine, May 7th 2017
Our trip was great. Laura was fantastic and so was our driver. The ladies of the B&B were lovely. It was very clean. I am sharing our trip with several friends that are thinking of a trip to Cuba. We are thinking in the future to return however with an entirely different itinerary and different lodging. We were extremely happy with our trip
Hanne, April 28th 2017
We had a wonderful experience from the minute we arrived until the minute we departed. We weren’t involved in any of the planning, but thanks to Barbara and Teresa this trip exceeded all of our expectations.
A special thank you goes to Irma who was an amazing guide. She readily adapted the itinerary to meet our needs and took care of any unexpected happenings with ease and grace. Her English was great and she enthusiastically educated us on the people, places and politics of Cuba.
We appreciated experiencing the spirit of the people, quality music and art, as well as the country’s beauty.
Stephanie Matkov and Howard Dichter, April 27th 2017
I had a wonderful time and meet a lot of great people on the trip. I also wanted to let you know that Mario did an outstanding job. Mario was very professional and highly respectful to us. He took the time and made sure that everything that we wanted to see and do while in Cuba was taking care of. I am going to highly recommend him to any of my friends who are thinking about traveling to Cuba in the future.
Thank you for everything that you did for us to make sure our trip to Cuba was very memorable,
We enjoyed the trip and company of Mario and Carlos, our driver.
Mario was very helpful and understood the Cuban history very well. I hope to see him and
Carlos on future trips to Cuba.
Mario was a great guide and a good new friend. I look forward to returning to Cuba.
Kim Kingston and David Roberts, April 2017
Local residents enjoy trip to Cuba
- By Renee Beasley Jones Messenger-Inquirer
Lots of Owensboro residents travel to other countries, but perhaps only a few have ever ventured to Cuba. Even renowned guidebook author and travel TV host Rick Steves didn’t make the trip until last year, after the U.S. eased travel restrictions to the famed isle 90 miles off Florida’s coast.
In February, two couples from Owensboro — Bill and Susie Tyler and Gary and Darla Barker — visited Cuba as part of a group of 27 from several states, including a potato hybridizer from Alaska. A common thread among the group: Many play the ukulele. Some lovingly dubbed the trip “Cubalele.”
Tourists still can’t pack a bag and go to Cuba with the same ease they travel to Europe or other parts of the world. Instead, they must travel as part of a U.S. government-approved event,
which includes musical and cultural exchanges. So, yes, the group brought their “ukes” along and performed impromptu concerts for Cubans, who are known for their love of music.
Hint: The group used an experienced travel agent to arrange an approved trip (Krista from Cultural Island Travel).
In all, the group was gone 10 days, including travel to and from Miami.
“If you want to see Cuba before there’s a lot of development there, you should go now before it changes,” said Darla Barker. For example, she saw only one clothing store during her travels around Havana and Trinidad. And quaint horse-drawn carts are still in use.
“For many people, the highlight of a visit to Cuba is seeing functioning 1950s United States automobiles,” said Terry Tyler, who went on the trip with his wife Edie. “Our group had a vintage convertible motorcade through Havana that was great fun.” Terry and Edie Tyler were longtime residents of Owensboro who moved to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, in 2013. This year’s trip to Cuba marked their second. They went on a medical education tour in 2003. “For me, the highlight of the visit was seeing so many excellent Cuban musicians,” Terry Tyler said. “One morning we visited a voluntary music school just outside Havana. The kids ranged from preschool to high school. All of them could play classical guitar as well as anyone. They did not play classical music. Instead, they played modern Cuban music with the familiar rhythmic beat accented with conga drums. We almost never heard Cuban musicians playing any music from the United States.”
The group stayed in hotels and ate at privately owned restaurants. One day, they ate at a restaurant where former President Barack Obama had visited, and they met the server who waited on him.
Another hint: Seek out paladars, which are privately-owned restaurants. They may be in a home or business setting. Travel guides may be helpful in finding them.
“There was a certain ceremony with every meal,” Susie Tyler said. Other than breakfast, meals started with a cocktail — usually made with Cuba’s famous rum. And music accompanied almost every meal. Restaurants serve lots of chicken, pork and lobster. Fruits and vegetables are abundant. Guests who have heat-sensitive palates need not worry. Dishes are not spicy compared to some Caribbean cuisine.
Public restrooms can be an experience in Cuba, Darla Barker said. Some didn’t have toilet seats. Most didn’t have toilet paper. And, in one case, guests were given a bucket of water to aid with flushing. But, she said, adventurous tourists overlook those small inconveniences and focus on the beautiful countryside, grand architecture and warm reception.
Cuba’s people were delightful. The Tylers and Barkers never felt unsafe roaming the streets.
“The people did not seem unhappy or like they had a bad life,” Darla Barker said. The Cuban people didn’t seem to be in need as much as she expected. Panhandlers were almost nonexistent.
Members of the Cubalele group took items to give to the locals. Darla and Gary Barker gave a ukulele to a young girl who sang for the group. It was much appreciated because instruments are prized and hard to come by in Cuba. Some in the group left behind clothing in hotel rooms after their stay. Others took along whistles. Toilet paper, soap and cosmetics would be appreciated gifts for the Cubans, Darla Barker said.
The group visited Ernest Hemingway’s home. “There was his typewriter,” Susie Tyler said. “And there was the bed Eva Gardner slept in.”
Darla and Gary Barker are seasoned travelers. They’ve been to Europe at least six times. They’ve visited Panama and Belize. Cuban hotels where they stayed were as nice as any where they’ve stayed, she said. And Cubans were warm and loving. “(Traveling to Cuba) was something I always wanted to do, and I’m glad I did it,” Darla Barker said.
“CUBALELE” group, April 2017
We enjoyed our Cuba trip very much, well planned and Irma was just terrific as a guide, quick change planner, and guardian angel. We developed a close relationship during the days in Havana and Trinidad.
Aysun is in Turkey at the moment but I know she shares my sentiments.
Thanks again for a terrific job, including the changes made on short notice because of Snow Storm Stella.
All the best,
Peter Felfe and Aysun Yalcinkaya, March 2017