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!
January 15, 2020
Cuban Music and Art Tour, January 2020
January 13, 2020
Teresa, when we returned from Cuba in December, you’d asked us what we thought about our tour, guide and overall experience, and we promised our feedback: from start to finish this adventure was outstanding.
Setting up travel plans, including preparing visa, certification of travel documents, providing Q&A’s, contact information, picture of guide and his bio, planned accommodations and dinner reservations—all made us feel very secure in heading to Cuba for the first time.
Upon arrival our guide, Ari, met us and made us feel very comfortable. Ari was actually one of the highlights of our tour: very knowledgeable and exuding his love for Cuba, which he shares with wonderful enthusiasm. Spending a week with strangers can’t be easy, but Ari was so pleasant and he immediately understood us and met our every expectation. The places he took us for lunch would rival the best in New York to Paris.
Everything was well organized giving us a full agenda, but very relaxing approach—the perfect mix of music, art and culture. We had a wonderful time getting to know Cuba and some of its people.
Our accommodations and hosts’ homes were wonderful, and the restaurants you recommended for dinner offered food that was truly 5 star.
Our local city and museum guides were so skilled and knowledgeable we felt privileged to learn from them. Our trip to Trinidad was so worth the beautiful country drive; the city is like a museum with its history everywhere you turn.
Thank you for making our bucket-list trip a complete delight!
Cuban Music and Art Tour, December 2020
January 7, 2020
My wife and I just returned from 10 days in Cuba and we had the most incredible trip thanks to Cultural Island Travel! Teresa helped us choose a great private apartment for our lodging (it has better plumbing than our house in California!) and the host felt like family by the end of the stay. We always felt safe, we were able to truly connect with the local people, and we got to experience so much incredible music, dance, history, and culture. All the meals were great, and from the moment we were picked up at the airport I knew we were in good hands. Our guides, Ari and Fernando, were so incredibly warm and knowledgeable. We learned so much about Cuba and we cannot wait to go back! If you are considering traveling to Cuba, the only way to do it is with CIT. You will get to see Cuba in an authentic way and have experiences and connections with locals that you wouldn’t have on your own.
Custom Tour, December 2019
January 6, 2020
We arrived home from our Cuban tour a couple of days ago. I really appreciated your guidance in setting it up and we got along very well with the other couple, Margaret and Frank, on the tour. We have always traveled independently and this was our first tour. The trip was a huge success. Ebony is a delight and a fantastic guide. Her knowledge of the land, people, history and customs is extensive. There were some places closed (perhaps due to the holidays) and she readjusted our schedule accordingly.
Thanks again. We’ll be sure to refer our friends and let them know that Cuba is definitely open and one of the best place to visit.
Cuban Music & Art Tour, December 2019
January 4, 2020
Happy New Year!
Sharing some pics from our most magical time in Cuba…truly the experience/trip of a lifetime for my children and me.
I cannot thank you enough for working with me to design a fabulous adventure for my children and me.
It was a perfect blend of sightseeing, history, art, connecting with people, experiencing the culture and doing hands on activities. Whether it was wandering around old Havana and learning about its rich culture or visiting the lithograph/artist cooperative or visiting the organic farm to learn unique farming techniques and then cooking a most fabulous/fun meal or visiting a fashion collective or taking salsa lessons (beyond fun!) or visiting the main synagogue/Jewish cemetery or hiking up a waterfall on the outskirts of Trinidad or riding horseback for hours through the magnificent farms of Trinidad and more…it was truly awesome!
And the special sauce of the entire experience…our fearless leader Santiago and his sidekick/driver Orlando. Words cannot describe their kindness, competence, substance, big heartedness, professionalism, warmth and willingness to go the extra mile and then some. We bonded like family…especially my children. There is an indelible mark on all of our hearts from Santiago and Orlando….we will never forget them and are eternally grateful for spending a week with them as our guides/fearless leaders. I hope you can see from these pictures some of the depth of the bonds formed and the magical energy of the trip.
Thank you CIT for helping us have a unique and transformative (and fabulously fun!) experience in Cuba. Happy to be a reference for anyone interested in using your devices and experiencing the magic of Cuba. Believe me, I have been singing your praises to all who will listen to me about this incredible travel experience. I have copied my children and invite them to add anything that I may have left out. We are so grateful! Wishing you and all at CIT a happy/healthy 2020.
With deep gratitude, Valerie
PS. Rafa, Veronica, Anna, Susanna/Shoshana and Leo were great too! And the restaurants were scrumptious!
9-Day Custom Cuban Music & Art Tour, December 2019
January 4, 2020
It gives me pleasure to express my most memorable experience that was provided by “Cultural Island Travel” through Laura.
I am grateful that I was a part of an unforgettable cultural experience.
For a most successful touring experience, I highly recommend “Cultural Island Travel” for arrangement and travel. I have shared with my friends.
The room accommodations and friendly staff exceeded our expectations. The food was delicious, the arts, dance, music, beach, and shopping were all amazing. We felt safe through our entire experiences.
I can not wait to plan my next visit with you . Everything went smoothly through Laura and she took care of us from arrival to departure. We could not have been more grateful.
Cuban Music & Art Tour, December 2019
January 3, 2020
I’ve been on the run since we returned but wanted to chime in. I’ve given it a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that this was the best trip I have ever taken.
Of course being with Debbie is the first reason!
But I absolutely loved Cuba and loved the way we were introduced to its land and people by Irma. She is not only very knowledgeable but is also fun and charming to be around.
Everything we did was interesting and eye opening. The restaurants chosen were without exception outstanding. Debbie is still dreaming about the Ivan restaurant.
This trip has lingered with me every day so far. People ask me what I liked best and I have had a hard time picking anyone thing out. It was truly remarkable. I will write a fuller review if you’d like when I have a little more time.
But for now let me just say: THANK YOU.
And please pass on our Thanks to Irma. We miss her.
City & Countryside Tour, December 2019
January 3, 2020
Happy New Year!
This was my 3rd trip to Cuba and my BEST trip to Cuba! Thank you so much for your hard work in making this an experience to remember for my group.
Everyone had an amazing time. The restaurant selections were great, the hostel in Trinidad was awesome, and Luis, our driver took great care of us.
There are no words to express how we feel about Laura. She went above and beyond our expectations. Laura is definitely a gem!
My mom and I are already putting together a group for next year for the Jazz festival. I’ll be reaching out soon to get the ball rolling on that. Having said that, we will need the same Airbnb and of course….Laura! Lol
Thank you and all of CIT for this experience.
Cuban Music & Art Tour, December 2019
January 3, 2020
Happy New Year!!
It is with great pleasure that I can honestly say, that our trip to Cuba coordinated by your agency was absolutely amazing.
The itinerary coupled with our most knowledgeable tour guide Laura, made our trip the ultimate experience. Lodging, tours, food, were all just perfect!! The instrument and vocal talent of the Cuban people was most impressive.
Laura, did her very best to make sure that she responded to all inquiries and requests.
I shared the Cuba experience with friends who are interested in traveling there in the future. Cultural Travel Tours and our Tour Guide Laura are worthy of referral!! I will be sharing my satisfaction on Social Media.
All the best
Cuban Music & Art Tour, December 2019
Thank you and your team for this amazing tour. I’ve already given your contact information to one of my friends! Thank you to Joanne and Alyssa for inviting me on this trip to Cuba. I enjoyed every minute of my experience with everyone.
Laura was the best tour guide. She was so patient with all of us and made sure that we had the best experiences & the best food in Cuba. I would definitely travel to Cuba again, hopefully in the near future. And the best way to do that is with a tour guide like Laura!!
Happy New Year!
LA, Cuban Music & Art Tour
LA, January 2, 2020
Our hearts are still in Havana!!
We had the most amazing experience during our 5 day stay in Cuba, totally enhanced by the anniversary surprises. Irma was the best!!!. We can’t provide enough accolades about her knowledge, wonderful warm personality, flexibility in minor changes to the itinerary, and going the extra mile for anything and everything we needed during our tour. Maritsa and Margarita were great too, with their lavish yummy breakfasts (we especially loved the fresh fruit juices). The everyday itinerary was packed and amazingly diversified for our complete Cuban experience. Loved the choir and the private jazz concert, and getting to see a Cuban baseball game was an added bonus. Our drivers were also fabulous, especially the one who took us to the restaurants at night and waited for us to return to the B&B.
The only thing we missed was a little better weather. Do you think you can fix that if we come back? regular_smile
If there is anything else specific I’ve left out that you want to know, feel free to ask.
Rima, Marc & Jodi, City & Countryside Tour
Rima L., December 26, 2019
Thank you so much for planning and organizing our trip to Havana in November. You were so helpful from beginning to end, and your staff in Cuba was great. Laura, our main guide in Cuba, was a pleasure to be with. The other guides who were with us for the Old Havana tour and the museum tour were very knowledgeable and we learned a lot. We really enjoyed meeting the Cuban people when we visited the main synagogue and the homes of the Cuban baseball player and the car restorer. All of those people were so friendly, and my husband even got to drive an old car. We never would have had these contacts if we had gone on our own. We appreciated that Cultural Island Travel set up these visits and more. You asked what we wanted to do in Havana and made those things happen.
We loved staying in Old Havana, and we really appreciated the restaurants Laura took us to for lunch and those that you helped us select for our dinners. You and Laura were always so prompt and responsive. You truly made this trip special. I would highly recommend Cultural Island Travel to anyone traveling to Cuba.
Susan, Custom Havana Tour
Susan H., December 7, 2019
We had a fantastic time in Cuba. It was everything we hoped for and much more. Laura was great. Fantastic tour guide and such a great and thoughtful person. Very welcoming and any special requests she handled effortlessly.
Since our arrival, our experiences where both interesting and memorable. Day one at Hemingway’s house was a great way to set the trip off. So much history.
Everyday was a great learning experience. From the history of Cuba to organic gardening, cooking and more. Would love to go back.
Accommodations and transportation were bar none as well. Would highly recommend CIT.
Cesar Padilla, A Taste of Cuba Tour
Cesar P., December 5, 2019
I wanted to thank you again for putting together such a wonderful Cuba trip for us. What a special and terrific trip it was! The accommodations were very nice, and the host, Juanita, was a kind and responsive woman who cooked huge, lovely breakfasts each day. The restaurant choices for lunch were really nice and quite varied, and provided an incredibly peaceful oasis in the midst of each day. Really appreciate the dinner reservations you made for us. The only one we weren’t keen on was Wednesday night at Esto no es un Cafe paladar. The others were great – again, both atmosphere and food.
The three personal home/studio/workspace visits with Andy the artist, Ramses the photographer, and Fernando, the car restoration gentlemen, were exquisite. Not only did they give us the opportunity to have personal insight into their lives and professional careers, but their warm welcome and huge personalities just wrapped around us in a very unique way.
Ebony leaned in right from the very first day, and opened up to our thoughts, preferences, and shooting styles. She made many adjustments and accommodations to the schedule to tailor it to our expectations – each and every day. She introduced us not only to neighborhoods, but also to special locations. She continued to be creative in adapting to our styles, and was lovely through it all – as if it was no effort (we know differently, and appreciate it!). While the hours of the guided tour does not ideally match to special light of the day and best photographic times for the selected settings, Ebony worked within those parameters to make it the very best experience it could be.
I do have one more favor – would it be possible to get a copy of our itinerary in word? I want to make changes to the document so I have a record of how we actually spent each day, and keep this for my files.
With much gratitude,
Karen, Custom Photography Tour
Karen O., December 3, 2019
Thank you so much for arranging such a wonderful trip for John and me. Everything went perfectly, which was amazing, as we only gave you a weeks’ notice of our intention to go! You made sure that everything was in place for a smooth journey and we appreciated all your recommendations, especially the room with a park view and places of interest to visit.
We loved Havana and found the culture rich and interesting. We saw many different places, all worth visiting and became absorbed in the history of the place and read more when we returned in the evenings. The retro cars were fabulous and we loved the fact that our drivers had these in addition to the convertible trip we so enjoyed. The private musical experience was a first and the musicians were very talented. We enjoyed the restaurants that were selected for lunch and found the food to be much better than we expected everywhere we went.
It’s fair to say that Ebony made our trip. She was knowledgeable, engaging, flexible, great fun and nothing was too much trouble for her. She quickly figured us out and pro-actively made suggestions to improve our experience on a daily basis. She even met up with us on our first night and took us to a restaurant we’d never had found without her and we had a fabulous evening. Ebony never made us feel rushed and timed the days to perfection in terms of content. Overall, she was genuinely one of the very best guides we’ve had and we’ve travelled extensively (over 60 countries) so this is high praise from us and we won’t forget her! The additional guides were also excellent and enhanced our trip even further.
We have already recommended Cultural Island Travel to others and will continue to do so without hesitation as our experience was faultless, so once again, thank you.
Finally, I’ll put a summary of my comments above on the links you’ve provided below.
Susan and John, Havana Weekend Tour
Susan G., November 3, 2019
Well, I don’t even know where to begin. We LOVED Cuba! We had the best time. The boys and I absolutely loved our guides, Ebony and Laura. They were both so knowledgeable, accommodating and just terrific women to hang around with. I will miss them both and hope to stay in touch with them and maybe return to Cuba sometime in the future. I am also hoping that one, or both, of them will be able to come and visit us in California someday. First, we have to get rid of Trump! Not only were they great, but also Laura, our guide at the museum in Havana was wonderful. She made the art museum come alive with history and politics and it was just fascinating. Patricia, our guide for Old Havana was also terrific. Once again,, so knowledgeable and funny and a delight. Rafael, our guide in Trinidad is full of wonderful information and I think he talked for two hours straight without taking a breath. It was great. Our drivers, Jordan, and his father Carlos, were very kind and helpful. Wasn’t really able to talk to them as my Spanish is minimal, but they were very, pleasant and accommodating throughout. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, because everyone connected to the tour was excellent.
As I said, the boys and I loved Cuba. It is a fascinating place and the people are amazingly friendly and helpful and delightful, despite the many hardships they suffer. Cuba is so beautiful and there is so much to see. Your tour was great at covering so much, although I am sure it would take more trips to see it all. Hope that happens. And you, Teresa, have been so helpful from the very beginning of planning this adventure. Right down to getting me cash once I was there. Cannot tell you how grateful I am for all of your work on our behalf. I will write a review on one of the websites you gave me and tell anyone who reads it to use your tour company. You are really excellent in every way. I wish your company continued success, you deserve it. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give our Cuba trip a 15! Just really loved it. One of my favorite trips ever. Take care and many thanks, Shellie
Shellie, Cuban Music and Art Tour
Shellie S., September 17, 2019
Cuba was amazing!
Cuba was amazing. From the moment me and my friend Leslie arrived in Havana our guide Laura Gonzales showed us the very best time. We were chauffeured around the city in beautifully restored antique cars from the 1950s, inducing a convertible. Laura took us to the Hemingway home; showed us the sites around the city and arranged dinners for us. Out hotel, the Iberostar Parque Central, was top notch. On our second day, Laura’s husband took us on a walking tour of old Havana. We SCUBA dove and snorkeled at the Bay of Pigs. We had expert guides at the museums. We enjoyed great live music every day. Everything was perfect. I highly recommend Cultural Island Travel.
Matthew, City & Countryside Tour
Matthew G., June 4, 2019
Matt and I were on a tour in Cuba from May 24-May 28, 2019. Laura was a fantastic tour guide who went above and beyond the call of duty to make us happy and comfortable. She and her husband were both extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of Cuba. Laura the art historian gave us a fabulous tour of the art museum and was able to answer all of our questions.
All of the drivers we had were competent and safe. We enjoyed all of the planned activities. The restaurants we ate at were wonderful, and all of Laura’s suggestions were very good. She even made sure to be available after hours by phone if we had any questions, which we did! On one evening we were lost, and when we called Laura she redirected us.
Also the hotel was very clean and comfortable.
Overall it was a fantastic experience!
Leslie, City & Countryside Tour
Leslie P., June 3, 2019
Going to Cuba was a trip & experience I will never forget. I will forever treasure these moments in my heart. Thank you for making this possible and for all the work you put into getting this trip together for us.
The entire group you have working for you in Cuba are amazing. They were knowledgeable, warm, caring and welcoming. I felt like I was with family the entire trip. Day one we hit it off with Santiago what a wonderful man he is, then Ari and our drivers Jordon & Handy who made sure we were safe and had everything we needed. They were incredibly amazing, caring, beautiful people. We just love them all!!!
We will definitely recommend you to all our friends & family and hope that someday soon we will return to our beloved Cuba.
Maritza, Mireya & Roseann, Cuban Music & Art Tour
Maritza B., May 28, 2019
Laura L., May 13, 2019
We have returned to Florida after our wonderful trip to Cuba. First off I want to acknowledge how smooth the trip went as we were able to experience all of the itinerary items exactly as scheduled. I have to give credit to the planning and coordination by all of Cultural Island’s staff both in NYC and in Cuba as I’m sure there are many things that could have gone wrong in a less developed country like Cuba. We participated in everything on the schedule, except the Tango lesson in Trinidad as we decided to get massages which were more relaxing than having a dance lesson after the long walk with our professor tour guide, Rafael.
Our Cultural Island tour guides Ari and Irma were also wonderful. Ari is extremely knowledgeable about Cuba and Irma is both knowledgeable and was so much fun to be with during the private part of the tour going to Trinidad and afterward in Havana and Vinales. Ari was compassionate to one of our fellow tour participants who felt car sick at the beginning of our trip. Our driver during the out of town parts of the trip, Carlos was very safe driving the vintage ’56 Ford to Trinidad and back and around Havana and to the Vinales viewpoint. As a part of the program I even was able to drive a restored 1929 Ford around the block with Fernando, a well known Cuban vintage car restorer.
We found the Cuban people to be friendly toward Americans. We didn’t experience any incidents of dishonesty or being taking advantage of during our entire trip. We took taxis in the evening and had no problems deciding on the fare with the drivers and even had taxis wait for us at the restaurants which were usually in quiet neighborhoods with few roaming taxis for hire. For any American hesitant about safety when considering a cultural vacation in Cuba, they shouldn’t worry as we felt secure on the streets and everywhere else. Cuba has seen better times in the past as evidenced by the opulent buildings that are sometimes maintained, but are often neglected. The Cuban people are very resourceful, for example, by being able to maintain thousands of vintage American cars from the 1950’s and earlier despite the embargo as well keeping basic old Russian automobiles on the road that were flimsy when new. There is a measure of security with health care and education provided under their system. However, there are limited opportunities for economic advancement. Well educated professionals are making many times more money as taxi drivers and tour guides than the tiny amounts they would be paid by working in the profession they were trained for. It is encouraging to see the numerous small restaurants called paladars popping up in many neighborhoods and hopefully there will be more opportunities for Cubans in private business in the future. There are many interesting modern art works all around Havana which gives the old city some color and variety.
We had a few issues with the air conditioning and shower water in the Mercedes B&B that we stayed at in Trinidad, but these problems were solved by the second night. Later that evening Irma walked me to a hotel that had fast Internet as the regular internet connectivity in the town was very poor.
I took thousands of photographs and I will be sorting them out over the next week. I am planning to select about 50 photos to email to you. If you find the photos useful in encouraging clients to visit Cuba, please feel free to use them on your website and/or advertising.
Thanks again for the great vacation.
Ken and Ria, Cuban Music & Art Tour
Ken A., May 6, 2019
We were lucky to spend four days in Cuba. We enjoyed our two guides, Ari and Fernando much. They were both knowledgeable, and eager to share their country with us. They were always punctual when a car was sent for us. They both made us feel welcome and comfortable as we toured their country. Also making us feel comfortable were the two ladies that ran the B&B we stayed at. We would recommend Cultural Island Travel to anyone.
Roy and Dianne, City & Countryside Tour
Roy L., May 3, 2019
The trip to Cuba was wonderful. You did a great job in coordinating all the arrangements. Thank you.
Cuba may be economically poor, but it’s culturally rich with a fascinating history. Ari Aportela was an excellent tour guide. Knowledgable and informative as well as affable and candid. I certainly learned a lot from him. He did a great job of making changes in our itinerary to accommodate our interests.
The Iberostar Central Parque was very pleasant and also very well located in Havana. The Casa Amistad in Trinidad was excellent. Not only was the casa itself totally charming restful, the inhabitants were welcoming and very friendly. Both accommodations should be rated 5 stars.
As for the meals at the various paladars, I can only say they were always superb. I was always impressed by the variety of the menus, the quality of the food and the beautiful presentations. I have never had better albondigas, pork belly, lobster brochettes, etc. Joe loved the mojitos and the Cuba libres and praised the suckling pig entree.
In summary, it was a great trip. Thanks again for your time and efforts in making it possible.
Richard, Cuban Music & Art Tour
Richard L., April 15, 2019
It was the trip of a lifetime for us. I mentioned that it was a bucket list destination and I’m so happy that we did it and went through you and Cultural Island Travel.
First of all, you were so helpful and professional by answering all of our questions with prompt and concise responses. If we didn’t have you to organize our trip, we probably wouldn’t have gone so thank you so much. You get 6 out of 5 stars for customer service and satisfaction from Staci and I. If I can afford it, I’d love to go through you again.
Patricia was the best tour guide you could have paired us with. She made us feel at ease and secure in her wisdom, experience, and knowledge of Cuba that we didn’t have a single worry or doubt. She was funny, gregarious, and charming. We loved her and want to see her again someday. What a strong woman too. Working with us through her pregnancy. She was the bomb. Please give me her last name so we can find her on Facebook.
I’ve been telling everyone how unbelievable our time in Havana was and in hindsight, you packed a lot of wonderful experiences in a short amount of time for us and we are extremely grateful. The Hotel Nacional, the cars (Carlos our driver – what a cool guy), Fusterville, Pantagas cigar factory, our cooking class, the mechanic and his car parts made from scraps and ingenuity, Casa De Sol music school, our evening strolls down the Malecon, our Buena Vista Social Club music night, Margarita and Maritza, Imogene and Theresa (not sure if that’s her name. Please correct me if it isn’t because we’d like to stay in touch with her too), the amazing food, culture, soulful people, the mojitos and pina coladas, THE MUSIC, the list goes on. In short, it was a trip we will never forget and we have many souvenirs and memories we will cherish until the next time.
It was our pleasure getting to know you. Hope to see you in NYC someday. Hope you’d be interested in having lunch if and when we do get there.
Z & Staci, Custom Havana Tour
Z & Staci, April 13, 2019
I just wanted to thank you for all of your assistance in making my trip to Cuba possible. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The tour was very well organized and our guides (especially Camilla) were incredibly kind and knowledgeable and willing to answer any of our questions no matter how ignorant.The visual and performing art that we experienced on the tour was world class and incredible. The best part of the tour was being able to meet and speak with the Cuban people and to come to a better understanding of their culture.
Thank you again
Jennifer, Cuban Music & Art Tour
Jennifer S., April 7, 2019
Our trip to Cuba was extraordinary. We are not typical participants in tours because they tend to be large and impersonal, this trip was just the opposite. Our tour guides Santiago and Camila were knowledgable, friendly and most importantly showed their country off in the best of ways.
Yes the architecture is extraordinary, but the people are what make A Cuban trip really worth the effort. Camila and Santiago exude the friendliness, joy and exuberance for life that we witnessed all around us. This passion for life was palpable in the music, art and pride in the Cuban culture.
I could have spent days in the art museum with Camila as the tour guide. Her knowledge of art as it relates to history was very impressive. Being an artist herself, her appreciation of the art was transporting. Santiago’s expertise in architecture and history brought the buildings to life. It was great fun to eat with Santiago as his enjoyment of food is contagious.
Lunches were a definite treat. The company spared no expense by offering us whatever we wished on the menu, including drinks. It felt generous in the way one feels when visiting a good friend’s house and the hosts are interested in your fulfillment and pleasure in the experience.
My husband and I give the tour company an A plus rating. We would not consider shopping for a better tour company, since we don’t believe it exists. One added thought is that the days move along with expert planning. There is a flow and an abundance to the day, without it ever feeling rushed. Writing this review brings back the memories and I would now like to return soon.
Many thanks for the great trip.
Rosalyn, City & Countryside Tour
Rosalyn R., April 7, 2019
Rosemary V., April 5, 2019
This trip far exceeded our expectations in every way! Irma was absolutely wonderful, friendly, and knowledgeable. She made sure we had everything we needed, kept us on schedule but also allowed for flexibility when we needed to change things around, she answered all our questions and give recommendations about places to visit or things to lookout for along the way. We felt completely safe and secure with Irma, and the other tour guides and drivers we interacted with during our stay.
I was so appreciative of all the guides who showed us around, we really got to experience Havana on a level we could have never done on our own. I feel like I know so much more about the country, culture and history of Cuba now. It makes me want to learn even more and come back for another visit!
We did not have a disappointing meal even once during our stay. Each restaurant had friendly and helpful staff, plenty of options to choose from, and we couldn’t get over how fresh and delicious everything was, especially the fruits and vegetables.
Vivian, Oscar and the rest of the family at the Casa were also wonderful. Vivian gave us some great recommendations for restaurants and evening activities nearby. We tried out a few of her recommendations, and they did not disappoint. The casa was beautiful, spacious, clean, well stocked with necessities such as bottled water, and the breakfast prepared for us each morning was filling and tasty. We felt very welcome and grateful to experience a homestay such as this.
I think our only disappointment is that our trip was so short, but we defiantly plan on returning someday soon, and recommending others visit as well. Thank you so much for helping us coordinate this trip, you made it so very easy to do! I’ll be sure to leave a review on Facebook as well. We really appreciate you, and everyone we met during our Cuban vacation, especially Irma, we hope to work with you again soon!
I second everything Rachel said!
We couldn’t have had a better time! Irma was just the best! I am so thankful we had her for our whole time in Cuba! She really is the best 🙂 Our experience in Havana wouldn’t have been the same without her! I loved the city so much, and can’t wait to read more about the history!
Everything was just wonderful (as Rachel said!). The casa was amazing, Vivenne and Oscar made us feel so welcome, and it was such a great home to come back to every night! And we didn’t have a single bad meal the entire time we were there — everything was amazing! I just can’t rave enough about how much I loved everything!
I will also be sure to leave reviews as well, and hopefully will be able to send some people your way — I want everyone to experience Cuba now! I have a few people in mind who would love it!
Rachel & Emily, Havana Weekend Tour
Rachel B. & Emily T., April 2, 2019
Just want to let you know that the tours with Patricia went very well. Patricia is great and we all enjoyed being with her.
The restaurants that you chose for us were exceptional. We never would have found those on our own.
Thanks for making our trip to Cuba easy.
Sylvia, Off Shore Excursion
Sylvia B., March 31, 2019
There is always a little apprehension when first visiting a new country. After we went through customs we meet Laura our representative from CIT. I knew from looking at her warm, open smile we had nothing to worry about. And, we didn’t. She took such good care of us from the moment we said hello until we bid her goodbye at the airport on Monday. Laura is interesting and knowledgable. We learned a great deal about Cuban history and customs. Many times we realized that what we thought we knew about Cuba was not true. She also is very patient and kind. We could not have asked for a better tour guide.
Our group of six loved that we were able to have the opportunity of a very private tour. It made it very personal and relaxed to keep the tour to just the six of us.
We felt the opportunities we had — to listen to a magnificent choral group, attend a jazz concert just for us in a world renown musician’s home were experiences that were once in a life time. Each experience CIT provided an expert guide to explain the history and culture of Cuba whether we were at the museum or symphony hall. The guides were fascinating. I marveled at their knowledge, poise and skill.
Every paladar offered exceptional food. The food was absolutely delicious. One lunch Laura presented a traditional birthday cake she had made for my husband and our friend Ron. It was such a lovely gesture. When the cake was brought to the table all the patrons in the restaurants sang happy birthday in Spanish. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you CIT for making his birthday memorable. He will never forget it, nor will I.
I should mention that the Packard Hotel was a good choice, a very pretty hotel. It was very clean and well maintained. The staff were very solicitous.
This was a fantastic trip. I highly recommend CIT and of course, dear Laura.
Thank you, thank you,
Betty, Havana Weekend Tour
Betty Brennan, March 27, 2019
Hello Kristen & Donna,
Dave and I wanted to thank you for planning such an amazing trip for us! Everything was way above our expectations and more! Camilla and Naomi were so wonderful!
And our drivers Jesus, Carlos and especially Alfredo were all outstanding!
Ari left us speechless, he went above and beyond for us. He made our trip just a little more special! All his recommendations were superb and his service was exceptional!
Again thank you for an unforgettable vacation and we look forward to visiting Cuba again soon!!
Helen & David, City & Countryside tour
Helen Kioroglou & David Welch, March 26, 2019
The trip was amazing. Flight from Havana to Munich was 2 hours late, so I missed my Frankfurt connection, waiting at airport now for next flight.
The events included on the itinerary were very rich and diverse, many opportunities to interact with Cuban people which is what I hoped for. It is clear how resourceful and resilient the Cuban people are. Everyone was very welcoming, especially when they heard my parents were Cuban. I got to speak lots of Spanish so that was awesome. Ariel was able to locate my parents home in Santo Suarez, it was still there. That was the highlight of my trip.
Meeting with environmental scientist was very informative, he did not know of any linkage between contamination and increased Alzheimer’s, only to cancer and renal disease. Your tour guides made the trip. Camila was very knowledgeable, her guide of the fine arts museum was insightful and personal, she is a remarkable young lady, that was best museum tour I have ever been on. Naomi was so sweet, helpful and accommodating, it was a pleasure to spend lots of time with her. Our driver Luis was very professional and always timely, enjoyed many conversations with him as well.
It was definitely an emotional trip that far exceeded my expectations. I want to bring my kids back, maybe next year. All the participants on the trip got along so well, it’s like we were old friends. That enhanced the trip for sure.
Thanks for checking in. I will definitely recommend your tour group to all my friends. Thank you!
Ana, City & Countryside Tour
Ana M., March 20, 2019
I wanted to let you know that Dan and I had a wonderful time in Cuba. It was an amazing trip from the tours of Old Havana and Trinidad to all of the cultural exposure to Dance, Jazz, Cuban choir. It would be hard to say one was better the the rest. Irma, our tour guide was an amazing guide. Her knowledge of Cuba and her excellence English was what made the trip so amazing. We went to Fusterlandia and was able to meet the famous Cuban artist Jose Fuster who was a friend Irma’s so we got special attention .
Dan & George with Irma
The drive to Trinidad was a beautiful drive and especially since we were in a restored 1954 Cadillac. Seeing all of the old cars in Cuba was like stepping back into the 1960″s.
Thanks to you and Donna for putting this trip together for us. We will be telling everyone about what a great job you guys did.
at the La Guarida
Dan and George, Cuban Music and Art Tour
George S., Mar 11, 2019
Teresa, The trip was perfect from start to finish thanks to your attention to every detail in creating our itinerary! The restaurants were great especially Al Carbon. We spent lovely evenings at the National Hotel.Ariel was great! He was fluent in Cuban history, as well as so knowledge of American History & Politics, it made the days with him really enjoyable. He accommodated all of our requests with no hesitation. The cars and drivers exceeded all expectations. Maritza and Margarita were gracious hosts. We looked forward to breakfast every day with them. Their location was perfect and centrally located. We walked all over and always felt safe. Thanks for making it an unforgettable experience!
Gerry & Beth, Havana Weekend Tour
Gerry C., Mar 11, 2019
Our family of 17 spent an amazing four days in Havana. The staff at CIT (Krista & Donna) thoroughly handled every detail in preparation for our trip. Our guides Patricia and Irma were wonderful in taking care of us. They absolutely made what my oldest son described as an “epic” experience for us. They are both so impressive in every way. They are organized, intelligent, knowledgeable, personable and caring.We simply fell in love with them and we fell in love with Cuba. On the third day of our time in Havana, my youngest granddaughter (age 7) asked why they were not coming “home” with us. I cannot overstate how their professionalism contributed to this “once-in-a-lifetime” trip for all of us. I am happy to offer my highest recommendation for the CIT team for their overall effort in making this time so special for us.
Jim Quiggins, Custom Havana Tour
Jim Quiggins, Feb 15, 2019
Susan Greco and Jan Machnik, Jazz Festival + Custom Tour
Susan Greco, Feb 4, 2019
Hello Teresa and I am sorry for my delayed review and feedback to you…..
I couldn’t have had a better first trip to Cuba than the one I had last December!
I can truly say that I felt in love with Cuba from the moment you responded to my questions about what is needed for an American Citizen to travel to this beautiful country to the very last minutes I had there.
I can only say that Cultural Island Travel is the one to go to if you want to taste of the beauty of Cuba.
Our ineradicable tour guide Laura made me feel home while I was exploring Havana and the countryside of Cuba. She made sure all of us in our small group knew and had everything needed each of our days there to start. I was very happy to be guided by a girl who is very proud and loves so much her country.
From the beautiful hotel, the very well organized daily schedule and itinerary, the amazing and unique places we visited, to the amazing restaurants, dishes, drinks and laughs and last, but not at least – the new and incredible friends I made – all this because I decided to use Cultural Island Travel.
I am also already planing to visit Cuba again – for Havana’s 500 anniversary this year.
One more time – Thank you so much for the making my first taste of Cuba sooo unforgettable!
Thea, City & Countryside Tour
Teodora Todorova, Feb 1, 2019
We had a really good time in Cuba.
Our guide, Santiago was wonderful and extremely knowledgeable about Cuba. He was really flexible and patient, and it was obvious that he was genuinely concerned with our well being. Santiago was well-versed in the history, culture, geography and social-political aspects of Cuba, however it was his passion and kindness that really made Cuba come alive. Also, everywhere we went Santiago knew people, and this helped to make us feel at home. He speaks excellent English too!
Some of the trip highlights were the Farm-to-table cooking class at Cafe Ajiaco; Pinar Del Rio-Viñales Valley tour; Patio Pelegrín; Fernando, classic car restoration; cocktails at Hotel Nacional; Old Havana walking tour; tours of Gran Teatro de La Habana, Bellas Artes Museum; and Finca Vigia. And of course we really enjoyed the Havana Jazz Festival. The music was amazing!
Our B&B, Casa Marymar was really clean, comfortable, quiet, and a pleasure to return to each evening. Our hosts, Maritza and Margarita were very kind and helpful. They cooked us a tasty breakfast every morning, and always had special treats for us!
All in all a really wonderful trip! Muchas Gracias!
LouAnna & David Phillips, Havana Jazz Festival Tour
LouAnna Phillips, Jan 30, 2019
Sheldon Deckelbaum, Jan 27, 2019
We had a fantastic time in Havana, and sincerely enjoyed the tour you and your staff put together – it exceeded my expectations and was far better than any of the ship-led excursions we did.. My family each had something they loved about it, and both Camila and Naomi were wonderful. The meals we had in Havana (both lunch and dinner) were by far the best food we had the entire week – they were both phenomenal! My dad was over the moon meeting Fernando, talking shop with him and riding in his cars – my teens said they saw a side of their grandfather they didn’t know existed – that alone was priceless!!!
Truly appreciate all the efforts to pull this together so quickly, and we will definitely be sharing your info with anyone who plans a trip to Cuba!!!
Stephanie, Christmas Offshore Excursion
Stephanie C, Jan 3, 2019
Dear Kristen and Donna,
I just wanted to write and thank you so much for the magical trip to Cuba that you organized for myself and my kids for our special family adventure last week. We all agreed that it was our best trip ever, and we are still bathing in the after-glow of the experience! For me, it was really luxurious having all the complicated logistics taken care of, so that I could just sit back and enjoy the trip without any anxiety or responsibility. The itinerary that you worked out for us was the perfect mix of cultural activities, city sightseeing, great eating and a brief glimpse of the beautiful Cuban countryside on our one-day excursion to Vinales. We never got over the thrill of having a 1950s Buick and wonderful driver (Dani) all to ourselves for the five days. It was a gift that kept on giving, and we would experience a little frisson of delight each morning as he pulled up outside our casa particular with our guide, Camila. We all want to come back as soon as possible to explore further!
Our guide and local fixer, Camila,Paez was absolutely outstanding. She was friendly and delightful company, and was great about re-organizing our schedule and arranging alternative entertainment when a big storm complicated one of our tour days (but provided wonderfully dramatic shots of huge seas breaking over the Malecon). She was super knowledgable and articulate about so many aspects of Cuban life, politics, arts, history and architecture, and she hugely enriched our whole experience. The kids and I found her insights fascinating., and we enjoyed learning from her more broadly about what it means to be a young Cuban, and the hopes and aspirations of her generation. I must also give a special shout-out to her guided tour of the Fine Arts Museum. She provided sophisticated analysis and context for the artworks in a highly accessible way that was more impressive than any equivalent tour I have taken in museums in the USA. The other specialized guides that you/she laid on for us – for the walking tour of Old Havana and for the Museum of the Revolution – were also interesting and delightful in their presentations. It was so refreshing to be in the capable hands of so many talented young people! My kids (in their 20s) really enjoyed getting the Cuban perspective from their peers, and I enjoyed their energy and dynamism. They all spoke impressively fluent English and were remarkably articulate and thoughtful.
The kids with Camila in Fusterlandia
Our casa particular (Central Apartment near Waterfront Malecon) was perfectly situated for us. We were one street back from the Malecon, but had a view from our balcony through to the sea and the waves crashing against the sea wall. It was an easy walk for us to get into Old Havana, and all the local people were friendly. We felt completely safe wherever we went on foot – no matter what time of day – and there was none of the aggressive hustling or begging that often has one constantly on the defensive in other countries. The apartment was idiosyncratically laid out, but comfortable, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that not only did we each have our own bedroom, we also had individual bathrooms! Our host Alexander was helpful and solicitous, and his helper Yeli was great – really warm and friendly. Each morning Yeli would let herself into the kitchen by a separate door and prepare a wonderful feast of fresh coffee, fruit smoothies, fruit plates, rolls, cold cuts and freshly cooked scrambled eggs to fortify us for our day’s adventure. Although we had little language in common, we managed to have great fun communicating through a combination of broken English, broken Spanish and a lot of hand gestures and miming. Yeli also helped us out by running small errands, and I got the impression that she would have been happy to do more if we had needed it. One of only my regrets is that we didn’t learn until too late that Yeli had been a salsa teacher in the past. If we had known sooner, I would definitely have asked her to give us salsa lessons!
In short, it was the trip of a lifetime, and we really can’t wait to get back. Thank you both so much for all that you did to make this both possible and wonderful.
Happy New Year and warm wishes,
Lalage, City & Countryside Tour
Lalage W., December 31, 2018
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on our great trip. So here are some comments regarding the tour, guides, meals, etc.
1. Ari is a great guy who is knowledgeable, friendly, intelligent and helpful in every respect. Rather than go on at length, I will just say that I cannot think of how he could be any better. He is just excellent in every respect.
2. The tour construction is great as well. I confess that, when I first looked at the itinerary there were were at least a couple of things that I thought might not be all that interesting. For example, we don’t smoke, hate cigar smoke, and we are not car buffs. That said, both the cigar factory tour and our time with Fernando, the car man, were very interesting and I am really glad that we did both things, given how integral cigar production and maintenance of old cars are to Cuban society. I would not want to have missed either of those two tours. In the end, the tour provides a thorough, busy, but not frenetic exposure to diverse aspects of a very rich history and culture in a single week. We realize that is not easy to do, and we really enjoyed it.
3. The food was great, as were your restaurant choices, for which we thank you. We had no problem with finding excellent food that fit our non-meaty dietary needs. We did not have a bad meal, including lunches, and they were all very good to excellent.
4. We loved the people. We found the Cuban people with whom we interacted to be warm and friendly, very much including the drivers you folks employ. Maritza and Margarita, with whom we stayed, are two of the finest people we have met in a while. I looked forward to our morning chats over excellent breakfasts, they were delightful at all times, and the accommodations we first rate in every respect.
5. Every tour guide at whatever place we went to was excellent. They were all knowledgeable, friendly and informative.
We look forward to seeing Ari, Maritza and Margarita in the future, and to seeing more of Cuba; however, this trip really gave us a broad, thorough sense of the place, and a desire to return.
George & Maria, Cuban Music & Art Tour
George C., December 15, 2018
We cannot thank you enough for arranging to have Santiago as our tour guide of Havana! He is quite simply, THE BEST !!!!
Not only is he extremely knowledgeable but his command of the English language is nothing short of superb! In addition—he is charming and warm…..the perfect ambassador!
We would not hesitate to recommend your company for anyone interested in touring Cuba!
Rene Powers & Len Nichols, Custom Offshore Tour
Rene Powers, December 14, 2018
Good afternoon Kristen,
Kindly post this email on the Cultural Island Facebook page.
Please forgive this tardy thank you to you, Donna, Laura, and the team at Cultural Island Travel, for planning and executing our amazing Cuba adventure. Bob and I are still on a Cuba high! A special, heartfelt thank you to our wonderful guide and new friend, Fernando Ramos Cuesta, and our driver, Paul, who spent three days with us in Havana and Cienfuegos. We had difficult logistics to deal with, but everything went seamlessly. I still can’t believe that we made it the Finca Vigia, Hemmingway’s home, with time to spare; a dream come true. I have to admit that I cried when we had to say good-bye to Fernando in Cienfuegos. We also much enjoyed our visit to Santiago and our guide, Rogelio, but our time together there was too brief. Cuba is a beautiful country and it’s people are so warm and welcoming; can’t wait to return! A further testimonial, as you know, Bob and I are already planning our next visit in late February, subject to Fernando’s schedule, of course! Merry Christmas everyone and blessings for the new year!
With fond regards
Bob Cave and Karan Cowden-Cave, Custom Offshore Tour
Karan Cowden-Cave, December 11, 2018
Our Cuba trip was truly outstanding! Overall, there is nothing but praise we have for Teresa, Donna and Ebony from Cultural Island Travel. We were introduced to a friendly, happy country with wonderful people, food and culture. From the beginning of the trip planning, with the organization that the CIT team showed, it was clear that we were dealing with consummate professionals. The completeness of the background information, education on the country and the smooth visa process showed that there was nothing to be concerned about.
From the arrival in country to our heartfelt departure, the family enjoyed every minute of our experiences. Ebony O’Reilly was instructional, helpful, engaging and made every day more enjoyable than the day before. Ebony went our of her way to extend herself to our family. She arranged special times with restaurants, musicians, friends and a birthday party! We truly bonded with Ebony. Thanks to her very much (and Ari). If and when we return we will definitely request Ebony as our guide.
The casa particular lodging arrangements in Havana worked out very well. Liliana was very helpful and supported our requests without a problem. The living spaces and bedrooms were clean, well maintained and there were no issues. Next trip we might want to stay closer to evening activities. It was hard to get around in the evening after dinner.
Our drivers, Julio 1 and Julio 2, were also terrific. Senor Julio even went back to Fusterlandia to pick up a package that was left behind. They were very accommodating and generous with their time and patience.
Our visit to Trinidad was also very memorable and our favorite stop. The location for our stay really made us feel very much a part of the community and celebrate the beauty of Trinidad, it’s people, and the museum-quality of the area. Our tour guide was very enjoyable, knowledgeable and fun! We loved going to the beach and relaxing on the Caribbean with the entire family and Ebony. That was a real cap to our time in Trinidad.
Memorable excursions to Revolution Square, the tunnels in the harbor, visit to fantastic Fusterlandia, the Old Havana tour, rides in 50’s convertible cars, private jazz and vocal concerts, the Compas Dance group and the cigar factory tour certainly made the cultural part of our trip really very special. Spending more time along the malecon, relaxing in the Central Park area and visiting more museums would be on our next trip. As well as partaking in more of the nightlife!
Your team did a fantastic job and we truly appreciate the efforts of everyone involved.
The Scott Family, Cuban Music & Art Tour
Candice Scott, December 9, 2019
It is a truly surprising destination, Cuba is. We have never imagined in our entire lives, to have set foot in this unique, and irresistible country. It was quite an amazing experience to visit Havana, Cuba in such a short time, 3 nights and 4 days at that. However, we consider it as one of the best and memorable travels we have ever had so far. We had the best time ever. We would have to say it was a vacation of a lifetime! Tours: The tour certainly gave us a glimpse of the history of Cuba, its rich culture which is diverse. We saw different and interesting things worth seeing, the architecture is impressive, not to mention the colorful buildings that lined up busy streets, and seeing those classic vintage cars are a sight to behold! And riding on them is not to be missed! It gives you a feeling of nostalgia, as if you’re going back in time. We also had private performances to experience their music and a private salsa dance lesson. In all cases, the food was very good and tasty! Well prepared and healthy. It far exceeded our expectations. The whole experience came out very smoothly and we had so much fun. There was a good amount of activity and have enough time on our own. It was definitely a worthy adventure to have explored Havana via Cultural Islands Travel as our travel agency. Guides: For the most part, we were awed at how Ebony made us feel we belong as if we’ve known each other for long. She clearly exhibits willingness to help us enjoy our time which we did. She’s a very nice young lady, with great personality, a wealth of knowledge and went way beyond all expectations to show us everything she possibly could. She was fun to be with, very engaging and extremely accommodating. She was even our photographer and never complained, she was not strict as to the time and had never shown impatience. She was truly focused on the customer ensuring we were satisfied. She assisted us willingly to our comfort. The guide’s itinerary as suggested by the company owner of Cultural Islands Travel were very informative and friendly. We would certainly use and highly recommend Cultural Islands Travel and Ebony as travel specialist, again. Overall, we had an excellent experience and would highly recommend Cultural Islands Travel. We really enjoyed our time with her. Thank you very much for everything!
David & Leilani, Havana Weekend Tour
David Benedicto, December 3, 2018
Our visit to Cuba for me and my family exceeded our expectations, by far. Our guide, Ebony, provided expansive, enthusiast insights into Cuba’s history and its culture. We were impressed with both the amount of tours included and with the friendly, expert guides.
Our B&B was comfortable, the breakfasts good, and the hosts friendly and helpful.
Thank you, Teresa, for handling the preparations and paperwork for our visit.
I will certainly recommend Cultural Island Tours at every opportunity.
My best wishes to you, Ebony, and our hosts.
Gwen, Tatiana & Jacqueline, A Taste of Cuba Tour
Gwen Charter, December 3, 2018
Peggy, Havana Weekend Tour
Peggy Dolgin, November 19, 2018
Judy & Michael, Havana Weekend Tour
Judy & Michael Goldberg, November 19, 2018
On plane heading back with great memories and fantastic experience. Our guides (and new friends!) were exceptional, the activities and dinners and entertainment fabulous and they went above and beyond! We can’t wait to share our experience and encourage our friends to visit and only through you and your incredible team!
Kalmon, Havana Weekend Tour
Kalmon Dolgin, November 19, 2018
Patricia was fantastic. Her knowledge of Cuba is excellent. She taught us so much about Cuba’s history and what is happening today. We saw so much we are going back exhausted.
The guides were knowledgable, personable and helpful
The food was beyond excellent. The only problem is we ate to much.
Patricia’s love of Cuba has rubbed off on us. I cannot wait to return.
Our bus driver was lovely and helpful.
Thank you so much for putting this trip together and putting up with my changes gracefully.
A fantastic trip! Cannot wait for you to put the next trip together.
Marilyn, Custom Tour
Marilyn, November 5, 2018
Sherry, November 4, 2018
I want to thank Teresa Sanchez at Cultural Island for making my trip to Cuba a memorable and unforgettable experience. Teresa was fantastic and very calming in helping me make last minute preparations to Cuba (I was literally getting on a plane in a few hours). Her recommendations were excellent. She put me in touch with our tour guide Santiago, who made it possible for us to see more than we could have imagined.
Santiago was the best tour guide ever! He took us to places we would have never known about on our own. My daughter and I spent two whole days touring Havana with Santiago and wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Teresa also recommended Margarita and Maritza’s airbnb, Marymar, which was one of the highlights of our trip, as Teresa said it would be. Margarita and Maritza felt like family and made Havana home. It’s always hard to leave vacations, but it was especially emotional to say goodbye to Maritza, Margarita, and Santiago.
My daughter and I could not be more thankful to Cultural Island and Teresa for all their reassurance and connections!
Raquel, Custom Havana Tour
Raquel Takacs, October 2018
I would like to thank you for your services. Santiago went above and beyond my expectation. He showed and spoke of his home with such pride. He answered all of our questions. I learned quite a bit about Cuba from him. Wish we had more time.
I will recommend your to anyone I know coming to visit Cuba. Thank you so much for making this visit a life-changing event.
Yvonne, Havana Cruise Excursion
Yvonne Faye Williams, October 19, 2018
Good Day, We want to give the highest recommendation to Santiago. He was very knowledgeable of Cuba History. There wasn’t one question unanswered. We couldn’t thank him enough for the Cuban Hospitality. I personally would like to say thank you for sending your best tour guide. Thank you Cultural Tours for Great Cultural Tours. I am the one left in orange colored dress. Please share with Santiago our appreciation.
Dionne, Havana Cruise Excursion
Dionne Rosa, October 19, 2018
The level of customer service received from you was stellar. I had a major problem when my OFAC compliant cruise ship tour was canceled with approximately 12 hours to disembarkment. I really feared I would be stuck paying the cruise company a lot of money for a tour that did not give me the immersive experience I was seeking my first time in Cuba.
Santiago, my tour guide, was an absolute gem. He’s very knowledgeable and his passion for Cuban history was obvious. He even made me comfortable enough to practice speaking Spanish and encouraged me to do so with the Cuban people.
You even provided me with recommendations for evening activities and for the best places to eat in this short turn around time. Miraculous!
I loved every minute of my visit to Cuba and you were definitely instrumental in making that happen. Much gratitude to you and Santiago.
Regina, Offshore Havana Excursion
Regina Evans, November 19, 2018
From the beginning of our trip to the end, Cultural Island Travel, Teresa and Laura, took exceptional care of us! The details were precisely explained and planned prior to our departure making all paperwork easy to prepare and the tour itself once we were greeted by our educated tour guide Laura, was so interesting and diverse yet flexible enough to accommodate any changes we may have wanted to make! I cannot say enough about this agency as it was one of the most memorable, educational and fun trips I have ever experienced. I thank Teresa and Laura for their guidance, patience and kindness! Obviously I would highly recommend Cultural Island Travel!
Maria D, Havana Weekend Tour
Maria D, October 2018
This company and their team are the best .We had a wonderful time on the Taste of Cuba tour. Arian and his team of guides were fantastic, helpful and informative. The food, entertainment and overall experience was fabulous. We loved every part of it!! I have already recommended Cultural Island Travel to several of our friends and I am sure we will go back in the future. I really don’t have a single thing that I could criticize that they had control over. It was exceptional and worth every penny we spent.
Bob, A Taste of Cuba Tour
Bob Bell, July 2018
Thank you so much to Teresa at Cultural Island Travel and our wonderful tour guide Ebony for making our trip to Cuba so memorable!! We were 4 girlfriends traveling from the states and really wanted to see Cuba now before too much changes. We were hesitant to just wing it and go on our own, and are so glad we chose this tour company. They took all the worry out off the planning of the trip, handled our visas and travel certificates and really assured us that everything would be fine. They really listened to what we wanted to experience and went out of their way to make us happy. They found us things to do and experience that we probably wouldn’t have found on our own. They were very flexible with our schedule and we could change up things based on how we were all feeling. They recommended great places for dinner and all of our farm to table lunches were delicious. For me this was a special trip as my family used to have a tobacco business in Havana prior to the revolution and they even were able to find the old manufacturing plant from old pictures that I had sent them. I couldn’t believe they found it and that the building was still standing over 60 years later!! We found the Cuban people to be very gracious with great senses of humor!! If you want to experience a hassle free trip where you don’t have to worry about anything, you won’t go wrong going with this tour company.
Liza, City & Countryside Tour
Lizabeth Lewellen, July 2018
To say it again, Doreen and I had a wonderful time in Cuba. Even before we returned home, we agreed that we’d like to return, seeing Havana again and areas that we didn’t visit on this trip. That’s probably a few years away, but I can certainly see doing it.
Irma was wonderful – warm and gracious and obviously able to excel at any job she took on. We appreciated not only her knowledge but also her organizational skills. She was immediately attentive to the few minor changes we wanted, and she made everything work in a way that maximized our enjoyment. Flexibility is important, and it was always available when we asked. But far more than that, Irma was delightful to be around. She was a great exemplar of the friendliness we encountered everywhere on the island.
Handy (whose name I’m probably misspelling) was also great. Despite his inability to speak English he communicated perpetual cheerfulness, and cleaned that car inside and out before each day began. Late one afternoon, after the schedule was complete, he drove to each little market Irma identified in Doreen’s successful effort to buy whole-bean Cuban coffee.
Camille (another misspelling)? who handled the first day due to Irma’s illness, plus Karol and Rafael, who showed us around Old Havana and Trinidad, were knowledgable and also very friendly. I want to give a special nod to Laura, who spent just a short hour with us at the Fine Arts Museum. Despite being very young, she was incredibly poised, and her guided walk was far more interesting than many I’ve experienced from more seasoned guides in US museums and others around the world.
The arts presentations were varied enough to be consistently interesting, and always of high quality. The restaurants were always good as well, but Doreen and I are not made to sit and stuff ourselves three times a day. No problem. We enjoyed Dona Eutimia but then had Irma cancel the two remaining reservations so we could bounce around more freely at night. Once, “dinner” consisted of late-night sandwiches and ice cream at the Art Factory and, on our final night, we had Italian food at Five Corners at 9:30, after wandering around, having drinks at a couple of spots, and shopping for small items to bring home.
Michael Scully, July 10, 2018
We both had a great time.
I don’t know if you noticed but when we left you at the airport Mary Kay started crying because she said she was going to miss you and Cuba.
Also, I want to thank you for going out of your way to take us to see Fernando and his work shop. He is so proud of what he does, as he should be. I’m sure I will never ride in a model T again!
Edwin Baldoni, A Taste of Cuba Tour
Edwin Baldoni, June 28, 2018
Kristen, good day to you-
What we like foremost about the trip was your super responsive help coordinating the trip. Then, Mario the guide, is a phenomenon. He is very personable, knowledgeable and did a great job of education us about Cuba, was always very punctual both in meeting us and keeping the daily activities on track. He took us the very nice restaurants. The older car he used was in very good condition, the driver, Handy, was great
Carlos the architect did a super informative job in showing us around old Havana. The trip to the Hemingway estate was a highlight of the trip.
As advertised there was salsa music in abundance.
The hotel was very nice especially the pool area, the nightly entertainment, and an elaborate assortment food for breakfast.
The Cuban people were exceptionally nice to us.
A big part of the Havana allure was the old cars. However, the fumes from the worn engines where a significant problem for us. One way to mitigate this is to use a hotel not near the capitol and its congestion and also to always use a yellow taxi. I don’t use Facebook, but you have our permission to post this email if you wish.
Darryl, Havana Weekend Tour
Darryl Gillis, Jun 20, 2018
Cultural Island Travel did an outstanding job leading our group of 55 corporate executives through a day tour of Havana, Cuba! Each guide was friendly, welcoming and willing to help us with whatever we asked of them. CIT had our day perfectly planned. We started the trip taking two private jets from Fort Lauderdale to Havana, escorted by a very experienced CIT guide. Once we landed, three additional CIT guides greeted us on the ground and helped us get through customs. The team took our group for a drive on two motor coaches through the major squares in the city, highlighting historic monuments and detailing Cuban culture along the way. They brought us to La Corona Cigar Factory for a private tour and set up a private rum and cigar pairing at Gran Teatro de La Habana. It was a first-class experience! Even during a torrential downpour, CIT helped us navigate our way to two of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars where mojitos and daiquiris were waiting for us: El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. CIT also arranged for our entire group to enjoy delicious meals together at two paladars: Al Carbon and La Guarida. Our executives will never forget this trip. We are so glad we trusted Cultural Island Travel to get the job done – and we would do it again!
Cynthia Johnson, Custom Tour
Cynthia Johnson, CenterPoint Properties, June 8, 2018
Sorry for late reply, this trip is just fantastic!
Havana is such a beautiful city with so many historical sites and unique culture to explore, I even start to plan next visit before I came back.
I’m especially appreciate that the effort you make to chose the best guides, as the name —cultural island travel— suggested, they are just so cultural. Santiago is just the best tour guide! he really have a great knowledge of every aspect of history, society, economy and so on, the intellectual discussion inspire me a lot. And also he is a real people person with charisma and empathy, really caring. He is trustworthy and warm, I’ll definitely recommend him to people I know who have plans to travel to Cuba. Dr.Carlos literally knows every detail of this city’s historical sites and he is so passionate about sharing those stories, which makes me a insider of the city’s history! Fernando is also very cultural and professional.
Also thanks for the effort to chose the B&B, I enjoy my time in the casa, it has beautiful colonial style inside and have a very convenient location. And the couple travel with me is also very humorous and lovely! It’s such a great time. I make a last minute decision for this trip and thanks for such a quick response all the time. I really appreciate your effort to arrange such a wonderful tour for me!
Xiaoyang, Havana Weekend Tour
Xiaoyang Liu, June 8, 2018
I wanted to drop you both a quick note to let you know that our trip to Havana through Cultural Island Travel was absolutely fabulous.
We enjoyed the many activities including the interaction with the people of Cuba, the culture, the music, the food. Everything was fantastic.
We especially liked traveling and being guided by Santiago. He is an asset to you company!
Alec and Connie, Havana Weekend Tour
Eligio Alec Mendez and Connie Woodring, June 6, 2018
Phenomenal trip, Krista. Thank you!
Tour guides were great. The group was great. Itinerary was excellent. Thank you so much! We will be back!
Tom George, Havana Weekend Tour
Tom George, June 1, 2018
I hope that you have had a nice Memorial Day Weekend.
Thank you for putting together the most wonderful trip to Cuba for me! I absolutely loved the country & it’s people, and cannot wait to go back. I enjoyed working with you & CIT and am grateful for such a well put together and flexible itinerary, with freedom to explore on my own as well. Thank you also, for the last minute hotel changes in Trinidad. You have been fantastic to work with, with your patience, expertise, following up on all my questions, and walking me through so much on travels to Cuba. I enjoyed working with Ebony as my guide, and the other client on the tour and I got along fantastically well. The dinner reservations were a nice added touch. Thank you for all that you have done to make my trip so memorable & stress free, and to have put together such a quality tour of such a beautiful country!
Thank you again!
Mary Latta, May28, 2018
Marta, Custom Offshore Tour
Marta, May, 2018
Dokhi and I would like to thank you for helping us with arranging such a wonderful and memorable trip to Cuba. We really enjoyed our visit!
The trip was very well planned and organized. We learned a lot about Cuban culture and enjoyed visiting the beautiful City of Havana and Town.
The foods were great and the recommended restaurants were excellent.
Our guide (Ms. Ebony) was one of the best we have had in our many years of traveling around the world! She was very pleasant, courteous, patient and knowledgeable. Your organization should be proud of her and keep her happy!
Overall, we are very satisfied with the entire trip and will highly recommend to anyone who might be interested to visit Cuba.
With our best wishes to you and your organization.
Matt & Dokhi, City & Countryside Tour
Matt Pourfarzaneh, Ph.D., May 15, 2018
What a great time we had with Irma and Umberto! A very good, and educational time was had by all. The tourists, left to right, are George, Kathie, Steve and Peggy.
Thanks to all at Cultural Island for making it happen!!
Steve Smith, City and Countryside Tour
Steve Smith, May 9, 2018
Greetings from Havana. I’m about to leave Cuba tomorrow for Miami… And I just wanted to thank you and your staff for putting together such a wonderful trip with speed, professionalism, and good humor.
Laura, the guide in Havana, is absolutely amazing. She could not have been more attentive or fun or knowledgeable. So many thanks to everyone in the organization. I had a great time.
Bob Pontarelli, Havana Weekend Tour
Robert Pontarelli, May 3, 2018
My names is Teodora and I am writing to share my great experience with Teresa, who made me deciding to have my Cuba Trip in a blink of an eye.
I was just surfing on the Internet looking for places and trips for New Year’s Eve 2019. I have always wanted to go to Cuba, but never made the step towards researching.
Your company was one of the few I picked and decided to contact.
Starting with the amazingly built Cultural Island Travel Web Site, to all the testimonials and pictures there to the kind and very helpful Teresa…. My trip to Cuba was the fastest trip choice I have ever made in my life!
Teresa responded right away. Was very nice and friendly. Answer all the questions I had and quickly e-mailed me what she thought I would like. After couple more back and forth sentences it was all done….
She kindly helped with where to go and find a plane ticket, to pick my payment plan, to fill all forms and etc. ….
And here I am – already set up for the New Year’s Eve and not anywhere , but in a 5 Star Hotel in Havana, Cuba!!!
Originally I am from small country called Bulgaria, located in Eastern Europe! Our Customer Services there ( in general) is far from the one developed in the USA. I also am a traveler, been to many places, but one more time …… I have never made a trip choice so fast as this one…
I am incredible happy to travel with Cultural Island Travel!
Teodora Todorova, April 18, 2018
We absolutely loved our trip with your company. Irma and Ari were delightful and so informative. We feel we have made friends for life. Umberto was a great driver and very dependable. We loved the small group and fellow passengers. I have recommended this to all of my friends. You are doing a wonderful job.
You were so very helpful and so pleasant in our preparation. It was really appreciated in this new adventure of traveling to Cuba. We will certainly highly recommend you. Thank you again for all of your work on our behalf.
Patsy and Kendall, City & Countryside Tour
Patsy Taylor, April 9, 2018
I’m so glad I chose CIT for my trip to Cuba. It was a wonderful experience overall. The events were so well planned and executed. Most of all, I want to congratulate you on the staff. Everyone — the guides and the drivers — were knowledgeable, nice and a pleasure to chat with. It was so nice to tour Cuba with people who clearly know their history and are so proud of what they have accomplished. A special shout out to our drivers Umberto and Jandy, for making us feel safe and comfortable on the road. Patrica, Camilla and Raphael were wonderful at sharing so much information on Cuban Art, Havana and Trinidad in such a witty and charming way. Last, but certainly not least, we could not have been assigned a better guide than Irma. Irma is so knowledgeable, charming and gracious a host that I have to assume she’s your star. She is honest, witty, sociable and so capable. I have no doubt that I will recommend both CIT and Irma to all my friends and colleagues who express an interest in visiting Cuba.
Lastly, I am very grateful for your recommendations on both the accommodations and the places to eat. I had a very comfortable stay at both the Sevilla and the B&B in Trinidad. I also appreciated the advanced reservations at the Paladares. I was not expecting much in the way of food, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
Thank you again for a great trip.
Loida, Cuban Music and Art Tour
Loida Ramos, April 2, 2018
Krista, Shabi and Donna,
We arrived back late last night following a wonderful week in Cuba. The People to People arrangement was the best since we were able to meet so many fantastic people. It helped we all speak Spanish fluently. Our guide Ari and driver Manoel were absolutely great, always on time, able to improvise as needed and full of information. We really enjoyed the private homes and paladares. The house in Havana Este across from the Fortress was particularly impressive.
The Havana – Trinidad – Havana itinerary allowed for a nice break from the more tumultuous La Habana 🙂 The stop at the sugar cane plantation near Catalina was very interesting. We would suggest making that stop on the way to Trinidad rather than on the way back to Havana because the timing and location.
My daughter wanted to have more time in the Museo de Bellas Artes (Cubano) than we had (but my son was probably OK with it). So much happened in Cuba in such a short time that the art needed more time to do it justice.
We would like to thank you for arranging such a great vacation. We came away with a strange combination of feelings: more tourism would be great for the Cuban people though hopefully it won’t change do away with the classic feel that envelopes the people and the country.
John, Cuban Music and Art Tour
John Cowles, March 31, 2018
The trip was amazing. We really enjoyed being with Mario.He was so knowledgeable and caring. He was always on time and he was very flexible. The thing that we really liked was getting to know him and hear about life in Cuba. He gave us such a great perspective on what it’s like to live in Cuba. We would definitely recommend others to Mario and to you all. We also like the bandb. Maritza and Margarita were so nice and their place was very nice. We loved living in a neighborhood. We thought Cuba was amazing and we would love to go back. We also loved the other tour guides at the art museum two young women who were so incredibly smart and passionate and knowledgeable. They were fantastic.
Stacey Stewart, City and Countryside Tour
Stacey Stewart, March 31, 2018
We’re back! Everything was outstanding!
Irma did a wonderful job! The first thing I remember about Irma is that she was smiling all the time. Whatever we asked for and wherever we wanted to go she took care of. We could tell Irma was trying to make our trip the best it could be. Talking with Irma provided many interesting conversations and we learned a lot about Cuba and its history. And the restaurants Irma chose were amazing! Each meal was great! It’s hard to pick our favorite restaurant because they all were so good!
Handy was a super nice person to meet. He did a great job getting us to Trinidad and back, quickly and safely. He opened the door for us every time we got in or out of the car. He was a true gentleman.
All the tour guides did a terrific job. The team were all experts in their areas, and were all truly delightful. We are very happy we did this trip with cultural island travel. Thanks Teresa for making the planning so easy. Traveling home yesterday was smooth and quick.
The accommodations were all clean and comfortable. I would recommend these sleeping arrangements to anyone.
If I was to say my favorite part I would pick going to the beach in Trinidad or seeing the Hotel Nacional. But walking around old Havana, touring through the streets of Trinidad, seeing the tile artwork, visiting Hemingway’s house and riding horses to the waterfall were also all wonderful so it’s impossible to say which experience was the best.
Thanks again for everything!
Josh and Maria Kaufman, Cuban Music and Art Tour
Josh and Maria Kaufman, March 23, 2018
It was a dream experience. It was everything I hoped for and more. It leaves me feeling I want to come back and spend more time at some of the locations — like the art museum. Maybe combine a personalized tour with personal time afterwards.
Absolutely nothing to criticize. Ari and Irma were outstanding. Getting Ari to ourselves the first day was nice, because I felt I could ask endless questions beyond the tour about growing up in Cuba. They were both knowledgable and enthusiastic. Having specialists in architecture and art history and others to share their knowledge in each venue made this tour super in every detail. All were excellent. And they all were very responsive to us, helpful in every way.
Our B&B was the best. We bonded with Maritsa and Marguerita, who kept the place immaculate with everything we could possibly need. The breakfasts were exquisitely presented, on time no matter when, and delicious.
I appreciated Patricia more than Elliot did because she provided very current information about housing and rehabilitation of existing, crumbling structures, comparing the old and new housing, etc., how the system works. Elliot, who is very knowledgable himself about Cuban history, pushed her to enter buildings of interest to all. There was some time pressure, but she, as well as Ari and Irma, all accommodated us whatever our special requests, even if meant disrupting the schedule a bit.
We were both awed by the depth of knowledge of Camilia.
I am in love with Cuba. Still have a lot to learn and want to get back to monitor the improvement the people make in their lives as the government modifies its system to benefit the people better. The resourcefulness of the people, the energy and liveliness, the generosity and patience they demonstrate are an inspiration. Their love and outstanding expressions of art and music and dance are irresistible for me. I thank your excellent program for exposing us to all that.
Last but not at all least, providing us with those private concerts and salsa class was a superb part of the tour. And the other details, like stopping for mojitas at the Hotel Nacional, were lovely additions.
Lunches! All tasty and sumptuous. They couldn’t be better, even for me, the vegetarian.
We have friends itching to visit Cuba. We will highly recommend Cultural Island Tours.
Best to you,
Barbara Ida, March 21, 2018
I hope you will be able to enter my evaluation…
Ease that will Please without any Toil to Spoil!
If you have a busy schedule, don’t feel like you have the time to get organized, plan your events, your restaurants and your hotels, Take this Trip!
With only five days, and about five words of Spanish, it would have been impossible for me to get acquainted with Cuba’s psychological, historical, artistic and geographical landscapes had it not been for my Cultural Island Travel. Lily, my guide, is a sophisticated, intellectual young woman who is knowledgeable about the arts, history, politics and she is very proud of her city and country. She was prompt, organized but relaxed and casual. My host Jose greeted me each morning with a cheery “Buenos dias” and a non-intrusive knock on my door with a great cup of Cuban coffee.
Coming from a New York winter, 80 degrees with an absence of humidity was my first immediate source of delight. Very quickly, it became apparent the Cuban people were warm, friendly, relaxed, joyful and so helpful. They generously exchanged smiles and words with a tourist with only a few words of Spanish. In four days, Cuba’s history was delivered generously through anecdotes, laughter, and facts whether we were looking at its monuments and architecture on our walking tour or enjoying it from the comfort of a colorful convertible.
I feel fortunate to have experienced the broad range – from the funky, to the exotic to soulful to the pedestrian – of what Havana has to offer. I am such a satisfied customer and I have recommended this trip already to some of my busy friends.
Mary, City and Countryside Tour Feb 2018
Mary R., March 19, 2018
The service we received from both you, Kristen, and Donna Abuan was outstanding. You promptly answered all our questions, no matter how silly or repetitious they were. Everything ran smoothly on our trip to Cuba, especially because you had prepped us so well.
Our tour leader, Fernando, and his co-leader Camila were excellent – friendly, knowledgeable, diligent, helpful, and fun to be with. They listened to our wants, adjusted the trip where possible, and gave good recommendations for our free time. They were very patient with my less-than stellar Spanish and helped me to communicate more effectively and accurately. Fernando and I made a deal in which he would correct my Spanish, if I would correct his English – it was great! Greta and I had Fernando to ourselves – incredible! We got together with Camila and her two clients, which was fun also.
Music and dancing were everywhere! I particularly liked the fact that we got private showings for the Guitar School, jazz musicians, acapella choir, and salsa lessons.
My favorite tour activities were the tours of Old Havana and Trinidad. Very informative and a great intro- duction to the cities. Also the visit to Patio Pelegrin, an amazing community project.
All the restaurants were fabulous. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite. The ambience was great, the food delicious. All were excellent choices. When I asked how one could tell the difference between a paladar and a state-owned restaurant, I was told you just had to know. I suspect that the paladares and maybe the state-owned restaurants also, have different access to food than the common Cubano.
Havana Casa – Casa Jolas was outstanding: the owner was especially kind and helpful; the apartment was immaculate and cleaned daily; breakfasts were timely, delicious and plentiful; the location was great. I would highly recommend this casa for any future guests.
Ginny Preston, Havana/Trinidad/Pinar Del Rio Tour
Ginny Preston, March 13, 2018
Wow, what can I even begin to say that does this wonderful experience some justice?! I have wanted to go to Cuba my entire life- #1 on my bucket list and I couldn’t be happier that I chose to go with Cultural Island travel. Days after going through a painful family loss I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and got in contact with Teresa, who helped me set up my trip, she was so helpful. Very pleasant to talk with, always helpful and really good about answering any questions and offering great suggestions.
Cuba in general- I can’t wait to return. Amazing people, dance, food, sights, music…literally everything. It really lived up to every expectation I had and beyond. Where I said in Vedado was wonderful and I’m so happy I chose to stay at a local B&B for a more authentic experience. Jose was so kind and really made me feel very welcome, helped me practice my Spanish and by the end of my stay I felt like an old family friend.
I did a few days on my own with a guide, Mario, he was wonderful. I really felt like I got to see Havana through the eyes of a local. He too was very helpful in offering suggestions on where to go and what to see. I felt very comfortable navigating the city with his help.
My time with the tour group was also great. Santiago, my guide with the group, was absolutely wonderful. He knew so much about Cuba! He also helped me practice my Spanish which I greatly appreciated. He took great care of us and really made my experience in Cuba one I will truly treasure for the rest of my life. I cannot speak highly enough about him, or our driver Yasmany – who was also wonderful. They both did an amazing job of making sure I had a wonderful time with nothing to worry about. I made some wonderful friends during my time with Santiago during our travels around the island.
I can’t wait to go back and am truly grateful for everything Cultural Island travel and my guides did to help me get the most out of me trip. The experience is one I will hold dear and remember very fondly for the rest of my life. Thank you!!
Jennifer Lippens, Cuban Music and Art Tour
Jennifer Lippens, March 8, 2018
Thank you! Everything was fabulous! It was great going straight to lunch after arriving. We all loved Trinidad! Raphael was outstanding with his enthusiasm for the architecture of the city. We especially liked the Salsa lessons and the professional choir in Havana! The Paladar choices were great as were the dinner choices. It was wonderful seeing Ari and Ebony again, too. As before, we love the Parque Central Hotel.
Thank you for all your work putting the itinerary together. We had a fabulous time!
Julie Cliff, group leader
Julie Cliff, February 2018
I wanted to tell you that I had a good time in Cuba. Mario was a great guide. He made the trip enjoyable. He was well versed and I felt comfortable with all the information he shared. His energy kept everyone going. He made the tours interesting. Additionally the hotel was great and the food at the hotel was great. All in all a great trip.
Octavia, January, 2018
I want to thank you for arranging our Cuba trip with such short notice. We had an amazing time and I feel lucky to have met such wonderful people, and learn so much about Cuban culture. I particularly want to sing the praises of our tour guides, Fernando and Camilla. They were both impressive for so many reasons.
Fernando was so personable and intelligent, and gave us wonderful insights on the musicians and daily life of people in Cuba. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was able to portray the big picture for our agendas.
Camilla also was so much fun to be with, and provided us with a different perspective into Cuban life and history. We were all impressed by her knowledge of art; and her ability to relate it to Cuban life. She is an excellent communicator and would make a great teacher or museum director one day.
Robin Lynn Smirlock, January 24, 2018
We had an amazing trip! The hotel was great and perfectly situated. The itinerary was excellent, we saw so much and did so much in just a short period of time! Also great balance of sightseeing but also downtime in the evenings to do dinner and your own activities at night. The activities on the itinerary were so personal and intimate, we really got a feel for how Cubans live and the culture. I mean we went in to peoples actual homes and they were so welcoming and friendly.
The personal music performances were great. We cannot day enough about our tour guides. Mario was excellent and Camilla was top notch! She helped when Mario was busy with the other part of our group but also gave us a tour of the art museum and she was so knowledgeable about the history, the time periods and the artists. Patricia the architect who did our walking tour was amazing as well. Every paladar we ate at was superb. This truly was an amazing experience. Our group of 7 was also a great size for a group! Overall we truly were impressed with every aspect of our trip! We have already recommended the company to at least 10 friends who saw my husband posting pictures about our trip and I imagine even more requests about info will come. We definitely plan on coming back for a longer trip with your company!
Thanks for everything!
Colleen Black, January 10, 2018
We are at Ft Lauderdale airport waiting to board out flight back to Denver. I just wanted to send you a quick note to say what an awesome experience we had in Cuba! Mario is an outstanding guide, and we enjoyed spending time with him. He made our trip easy and fun. Im sure it wasn’t as easy as it looked, but he was able to adjust our itinerary to fit with the weather,etc. so we wouldn’t miss anything. For example, when it looked like rain, he made a call, and we went Hemingway’s house first when the sun was out, and to the indoor choir concert after. If we wanted to sleep in a little, he adjusted our pick up time. If we wanted to end our tour-day at a certain place, he dropped us off there. Just “little” things like that made a big difference. Our driver was great as well, making us feel safe and comfortable from place to place.
We also really enjoyed our B and B. Great location, nice accommodations, and our hosts were very friendly and helpful. We really enjoyed talking with them. We highly recommend staying at their home.
The restaurants at night, overall, were great. My favorite was esto no es un cafe. Perfect location and perfect for new years. We had our table all night and they had a special New years eve dinner. There was also a private dinner with music at the cathedral next to us, so we could easily here the music from the show. 🙂
San Christobal was good with good service, and Im glad we went. Laguardia was also very good.
And the restaurants were went to for lunch were very good. So all in all, we really enjoyed the food!
The people, of course, were the best. We can’t wait to go to Cuba again! 🙂
Kris 🙂 Jan 2018
Kristine Eule, January 5, 2018
To those of you who didn’t go to Cuba in 2017 because you thought you could no longer travel, or thought they were damaged by the hurricanes……well, we had a great time without you! As a retired detective, I am probably one of the most skeptical people Cultural Island Travel has ever had the ‘pleasure’ to deal with! When I started to research going to Cuba, I came across their website, and knowing very little about the island, I asked a ton of questions to make sure these folks were as good at the Cuban Experience as they claim to be. They answered every question without hesitation, and gave me some great references to check, so we decided to book our travel through them. Without a doubt, our year-end trip to Cuba through Cultural Island Travel was one of the best experiences we have ever had, and as well-seasoned travellers, our expectations are always very high. What a phenominal place to visit so close to the US. The people there were just great, and we were asked over and over again when the Americans were coming back! Dealing with Cultural Island Travel is not like any other experience we have had, and we couldn’t be happier! I usually shy away from being part of a travel “group” due to images of that guide walking down the street holding a pink “follow me” sign high abover their head with what looks like a group of school children following behind. Our experience in Cuba couldn’t have been any more different. To start, our “group” consisted of my wife, myself, and just one other person who was matched with our age and interests. It was like travelling with extended family. Our “guide” was not really a guide, but more of an “assistant”, who was extremely knowledgeable and very professional. They go to great lengths to set up YOUR trip and customize it to YOUR interests. They start by answering every question you have, and taking the time to explain the culture, customs and processes you will need to know to experience the Cuban landscape in the best way possible. Their staff can arrange everything to be very structured, or they can give you suggestions, point you in the right direction, and let you explore on your own. They were some of the most professional and accomodating people we have ever had the pleasure to spend time with, and I can’t say enough how much of a 1st class operation this group is. From the old cars to the archetecture, to the up and coming food scene and an always vibrant atmosphere, this is a trip I would recommend for anyone wanting to escape to a place where time moves slow. Cultural Island Travel is just the people to get you there, and they will make sure your experience is an unforgettable one.
Joe Sellens, December 2017
I am back from my wonderful tour of Cuba, and I wanted to let you know how much I liked having Santiago as a guide. He may well be the best tour guide I have ever had!
His knowledge of Cuba is incredible, and his ability to make you feel at home and comfortable is also a great big plus! He complemented me too and said that he had learned a great deal from talking to me and that whereas some people experience Cuba on a superficial level, he felt that I had gotten deep into Cuban culture. It was a wonderful thing to hear and no one has ever said anything comparable to me on a tour before anywhere, anytime.
We had great discussions about word differences in English and Spanish, and he helped me translate, since my knowledge of Spanish is minimal.
I also liked a small restaurant he took Jennifer and me to one night . It was just a hole in the wall, but the food was wonderful and there was a young guitarist there named Frank Batista who played solo guitar for the patrons. You can check with him for the details of where the place was. I think it was in Trinidad.
He made a special effort to accommodate me due to the fact that I have a great deal of difficulty walking and had experienced a sprain in my left leg shortly before the tour started. He even took me to an emergency travel clinic. I fought him on it, but am glad we went, since it was nice to have a second opinion about what was wrong with my leg and be reassured, and also have a small sample of Cuban health care. I thought the people at the clinic were very friendly and the doctor was good.
Because I visited the clinic,I missed seeing Fusterlandia,so he took me there the day of my flight so I wouldn’t miss it since I really wanted to see it, being an artist. He also gave me special care at the airport to make sure I got my bags checked and got through customs ok.
He got me rides on lots of the various conveyances, including the Coco Car, which I liked, and the 3-wheel carts in Trinidad. And we all had fun driving around with the driver of our Ford Fairlline, Jasmany.
He provided quick service when we had plans to meet, and I really enjoyed all the places we went and the people we met. He helped me meet several Cuban musicians, including the jazz musicians that work at the bar downstairs from where I was staying at 1 Malecon,and another jazz rock group that I wanted to hear one night when the others went off for dinner. At that place, I got to meet an old poet friend of the band and had a long conversation with one of the members who spoke English about music in Cuba and a friend of his in Chicago. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to do this without Santiago’s assistance.
He also took me for a Cuba Libre the day before we met Jennifer, the other gal on the tour. She was very nice too, and very bright and we both had great discussions with Santiago on a variety of topics.
The day before Jennifer joined us he also took me out to eat at great restaurant that I think is called Biki, and it was excellent. And he showed me the Pharmacy Museums in downtown Havana, that are quite incredible.
He and Jasmany even made a special stop for me at the statue of a giant Shrimp next to the shrimp factory so I could get a photo of it. And Santiago also took lots of nice photos of me.
All in all, I would say that Santiago is a huge asset to Cultural Island Travel, and my trip to Cuba would have been very difficult without his help.
Nancy Mosen, December 2017
Good morning Teresa:
Happy New Year and a few lines to thank you and your colleagues for the wonderful time I had in La Habana.
Everything worked out just fine and the tour guide, Laura, couldn’t have been more helpful and pleasant.
I am looking forward to another, more extensive, trip to Cuba. Keep me posted of upcoming tours.
Carlos (Dec. 2017)
I had a great time in Cuba, thanks for Ari and his team. The thing that I liked most was a sense of flexibility with everything taken care of, great attention to details and extremely friendly people, in 3-4 days they became friends… Would be happy to share my experience with anyone having any doubts.
Ritu (Dec. 2017)
As to the tour, it was so interesting. The activities were well-chosen to give us a small taste of everything. I learned so much about the history of Cuba and its people. I must admit I was woefully ignorant of most of this before the trip. All the Cuban people we met were friendly and forthcoming. Loved riding in the old cars, which we did a lot since there were only two of us (that was a bonus!). High points for me: Tobacco farm and Fusterlandia (there was no mention at all of that in the guidebook I bought! Just fantastic!)
The Iberostar was very nice. Good breakfast buffet, good restaurant (we ate dinner there one night), friendly and helpful staff, down to the waitresses and maids. The restaurants were for the most part very good, especially the lunch places. My favorite was ChaChaCha.
All of the guides we had were very good. Especially Patricia (Old town walking tour) and Laura (Revolutionary Museum). The only thing I might suggest an improvement on is that the days were so packed with activity that there was not enough free time for shopping (Patty and I love to shop!) and we never had a chance to try that beautiful rooftop pool at the hotel. On the other hand, I can’t say there was anything I would have skipped, so it’s a tough balancing act. We should have stayed an extra day to allow for those things I guess!
Finally, Ari. I can’t say enough good about Ari. He went out of his way to make the trip perfect for us, for example getting us tickets for the ballet and rearranging the schedule so we could attend the performance. Everything was perfectly orchestrated. And we so enjoyed his personality! He was a perfect match for us. I am so glad he was our guide.
In summary, A+ all around.
Nancy Wheeler, November 27, 2017
Returned safely from trip yesterday. We had a fantastic time!! Our guides were amazing. The apartment in Havana was spectacular, and the B and B in Trinidad was a tropical delight.
Our cultural activities were most enjoyable and the local guides were exceptional. Every one we met in Cuba was warm and welcoming to us. The city of Cuba was like an aging duchess, still regal and majestic in spite of having seen better days. This trip was a most memorable, gratifying experience, and I’m so glad we went.
Everything was meticulously arranged also.
I am sorry for the unfortunate burdens that the Cuban people have to bear, but in spite of that, they display such positivity and determination.
Just a marvelous country and its people.
Thanks for all you did to make our trip such a memorable one!
Vaya con Dios!
Doreen Rose, November 2017
This was our best vacation yet! Our guide was fantastic and knowledgeable as she lives in Havana. The hostels/B&B’s we stayed in were great and the food at the paladares (restaurants) was great. Most of all, we were able to interact with the locals and had a very authentic experience rather than be the typical American tourist. There was music everywhere and we were able to experience performances and then talk to the musicians. This was especially impactful because my son is a musician. We had a great guide at the museum who was able to put the art in a historical context. The people in Cuba are awesome! Also, Cultural Island Travel was always there to answer any questions we had before our trip. Thank you Teresa Sanchez for your guidance pre-trip and muchos gracias to our lovely guide, Ebony! I can’t wait to go back!
Mary (Nov. 2017)
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