*Last update July 27, 2017; originally published June 16, 2016. **Disclosure – due to the rapidly-changing U.S. regulations and therefore, corresponding changes made by suppliers, including air, cruise and land companies, we cannot guarantee all information to be up-to-date and therefore, request you use this blog post as a guideline only. We at Getaway Dreams Come True will research any request for the latest information about your specific choice of travel to Cuba as a client intending to book and will of course give you a lifetime memories vacation there. Our owner has first-hand knowledge, having visited Cuba aboard the Mv Adonia in May 2016, then part of Fathom Cruises.
Visiting Cuba now that the two governments have relaxed regulations has become the current HOT destination. Traveling to Cuba? See the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
We have researched some possibilities you may wish to consider and they follow the sections regarding Commercial Direct Air Flights and Other Air Charters under the heading “Other Supplier Packages From Land and Sea Operators“, but first here’s a little bit of information about the country.
Cuba is an island nation rich in history, culture, beauty and natural resources. Its varied geography includes rolling farmland, rugged mountains, urban metropolises, quaint Colonial villages and stretches of alabaster sand beaches that melt into larimar seas. Cuban culture is influenced by its melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Spain and Africa. Home to nine UNESCO Heritage sites, Cuba is ranked very highly in the United Nations human development index. Its government has established rigorous sports, ballet and music programs, and offers free education to all. Cuba is home to 47 universities and has the second highest literary rate in the world at 99.8%.
With recent relaxation of the regulations to obtain required licenses for travel to Cuba, this island nation has become more broadly accessible to US travelers. Experience the sounds of rumba and salsa in the streets at night. Stroll past the vividly painted arches that grace the buildings of Old Havana. Admire the gleaming classic cars that roll past colonial architecture. Most of all, meet the warm and friendly Cuban people, who are as anxious to interact with Americans as we are to hear their stories and experience their culture first-hand.
Photos in Havana including aerial view above by Mimi Auchter
Supplier Packages from Land And Sea Operators
Cruise Industry News has created a quick chart regarding the “Main Players” cruise line options and brief information regarding the ship/itinerary as of February 2017 and also please see the handy chart at the end of this cruise section listing available cruises to Cuba and when they began or will begin. For in depth information, please read each cruise line’s options below.
Fathom Cruises – Began May 2016; Discontinued May 2017
Our owner of Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Agency sailed in May 2016 on Fathom’s Mv Adonia people-to-people cruise experience and has published several blogs of her travels, the first of which is Our Fathom Cruise Arrival in Havana; the second one is Walking Tour of Old Havana, and Tour of Santiago de Cuba rounds out the port reviews; also see My Fathom People to People Cuba Cruise Review and Is a Cuban Cruise on Your Bucket List? for general information on Fathom’s™ cruise to Cuba.
The cruise line first launched social impact do-good cruises in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, and also opened up the Cuba market to the world (including Americans!) in May. The Dominican Republic market showed little interest while the Cuba cruises have been extremely popular.
The Fathom brand will remain in Amber Cove, Dominican Republic and operate social impact shore excursions from other Carnival Corporation ships visiting Amber Cove, like teaching English, making water filters, and pouring concrete in houses. The ship, mv Adonia, was transferred back to P&O Cruises.
Carnival Cruise Line has received approval for Carnival Paradise to sail from Tampa on 4-day sailings, stopping in Havana, Key West and Cozumel and replaced the mvAdonia in Cuba June 29, 2017.
Announced December 7, 2016, Norwegian Cruise Line cruises to Cuba has begun in May 2017, 4-day sailings on Norwegian Sky with a day visit and an overnight in Havana. They will operate year-round and sailings are available for booking through 2017. Another Norwegian line, Oceania, had its inaugural cruise to Cuba departing Port Miami on Oceania Cruises’ Marina March 7, 2017. Meanwhile, Regent Seven Seas’ Seven Seas Mariner called in Havana during a pair of cruises in April 2017.
Royal Caribbean International – April 2017
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line announced its 1,602-passenger Empress of the Seas has begun sailings to the island nation on April 19, 2017, with a five-night trip from Miami. The voyage included a single day in Havana as well as a day in Costa Maya, Mexico.
Empress has now repositioned to Tampa to offer additional four- and five-night cruises out of Tampa that include calls in Cuba taking place through the summer, the company said.
Royal Caribbean has announced an additional ship, the Majesty of the Seas, will begin sailing to Cuba in 2018.
Fares for Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas new Cuba voyages start at $415 per person for the five-night trip out of Tampa.
Azamara Club Cruises, a boutique cruise line part of Royal Caribbean International, has also been approved for sail to Cuba; Azamara Quest had an overnight stay in Havana in April 2017 and Azamara Quest is scheduled to call on Havana for two more itineraries in November, sailing from Key West on November 20 and from Miami (round-trip) on November 27, 2017.
Victory Cruise Lines
Victory Cruise Lines (formerly Haimark Line) plans to operate the 5,000-gross-ton, 300-foot-long Victory I — the former Saint Laurent — which as been renovated and now boasts 4.5-star staterooms with a maximum guest capacity of 202. The line will feature high-quality personal service on board, shore excursions in port that are included in the cruise fare, as well as wine and beer at lunch and dinner at no additional charge.
“We intend to make our product the standard of excellence for small-ship cruising to the Great Lakes and Cuba, while providing great value for our guests,” said Bruce Nierenberg, president and CEO of Victory Cruise Lines. “The senior management of Victory Cruise Lines has over 100 years of experience operating some of the most successful and loved cruise products.”
Website itinerary is as follows:
|Day 1-2||Havana, Cuba|
|Day 3||At sea|
|Day 4||Maria La Gorda, Cuba|
|Day 5||At sea|
|Day 6-7||Cienfuegos, Cuba|
|Day 8||Trinidad, Cuba|
|Day 9||At sea|
|Day 10-11||Santiago de Cuba|
|Day 11||Disembarkation in Santiago de Cuba|
A similar itinerary from Santiago to Miami (in reverse) is also available on November 22 & December 14, 2017. The November 11, 2017 sailing offers an 11-day itinerary within Cuba from Santiago de Cuba to Havana. See their website for more information.
Photos: Victory Cruise Lines
Holland America Cruise Line
Holland America Line has received approval to begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting with the Dec. 22, 2017, 12-day holiday cruise aboard the Veendam. Nine seven-day itineraries will feature the capital city Havana, and three of these will add another Cuba call at Cienfuegos.
Depending on the departure day, cruises include the Cuba ports, as well as a combination of Caribbean ports, including Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Key West, Florida; and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
In addition to the seven-day cruises, an 11-day spring cruise sails March 17, 2018, and also features the Cuban ports of Havana and Cienfuegos, as well as Key West, Cozumel, Montego Bay and Georgetown. The final seven-day Cuba sailing departs on April 18, 2018.
Variety Cruises has launched “Cuba – A Magical Journey by Land and Sea” aboard the 72-passenger Voyager, a sleek vessel with little ornamentation inside or out. It features a sun deck, an aft bar, lounge area and a small spa along with the 36 cabins. Variety Cruises, whose roots date back to 1968, operates 12 mega-yachts to a variety of global destinations.
The six-night cruise includes two nights in Havana, one full day at sea, one night at Isla de Juvestud, and one night each at Cayo Largo, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.
What’s included? Excursions are included (Tropicana Club in Havana), as are all meals, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Please see their website for more information.
Oceania Cruises larger and newer ships, the 1,250-passenger Marina, has been approved and started Cuba sailings early in 2017.
Each voyage will feature authentic Cuban dishes that were born from old family recipes. Also on board will be engaging experts who will deliver lectures on Cuban history, art, and music. Guests can also play a fun game of Dominoes, which is a staple activity in the Caribbean.
They have new late 2017 itineraries which are open for booking as follows:
Panoramic Caribbean – 10 days on November 14 visiting Havana (two days), Roatan, Santo Tomas, Harvest Caye, Costa Maya, and Nassau
Hemingway’s Hideaways – 7 days on November 24 visiting Key West, Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba
Timeless Cuba – 7 days on December 1 and 8 visiting Havana (two days), Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba
Vibrant Vistas – 6 days on December 15 visiting Key West, Havana, Cozumel, and Great Stirrup Cay
Holidays in the Tropics – 13 days on December 21 visiting Key West, Havana (two days), Roatan, Santo Tomas, Harvest Caye, Costa Maya, Cozumel (two days), and Nassau
Pearl Seas Cruise Line – January 17, 2017
The new Pearl Mist began operating Cuban Cultural 10-day Voyages round trip from Miami to Havana, Isla de la Juventud, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, El Cobre, Santiago; Santiago de Cuba, and Parque Baconao, January 2017, and completed that deployment schedule April 27, 2017. The ship will restart beginning November 10, 2017 through April 29, 2018, and again October 24, 2018 through the end of 2018.
From the historically significant capital city of Havana to the quaint mountainside villages complete with neoclassical style homes, you’ll engage first hand with the local tradespeople, artists, musicians and historians to share your experiences and get their unique perspective into what makes Cuba so fascinating.
Your journey will include stops at intriguing museums, national parks, art studios and architecturally significant homes. Throughout your experience, an onboard Cuban educator will provide rich stories and facts that highlight the proud heritage and history of the Cuban people. You’ll learn the history behind the Cuban traditions and interact with locals willing to share their knowledge.
Their people to people exchange will be centered around several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Old Havana and its Fortification System, San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios, Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos.
Photos above from Pearl Seas Cruise Line
Scenic Ocean Cruises
Scenic Ocean Cruises will offer a 14-day round trip Miami cruise in 2018 to the following ports: Havana, Maria La Gorda, Isla de Juventud, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Casilda, Cabo Cruz, Santiago de Cuba, Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, and Cayo Frances via circumnavigation of the island. Cost starts at $9,595 per guest for sailing October 18, 2018.
Scenic also offers a 10-day cruise sailing between Miami and Cartagena on October 31, 2018, with a stop in Havana; other ports are Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Falmouth, Jamaica; and San Andres, Columbia.
Celestyal Crystal has been sailing from Montego Bay, Jamaica and Havana for a couple of months and has partnered with Apple Vacations for an all-inclusive experience which began February 3, 2017 sailing every week on Fridays from Montego Bay as shown below. For more information see their new website.
Prices are per person, double occupancy, inside cabin for bookings made through July 31, 2017. Sailings June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24; Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29. Departures May 5, 12, 19, 26; Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27. Sailings July 7, 14, 21, 28; Aug. 4, 11, 18, 25. See Getaway Dreams Come True for cabin options, occupancy and pricing. For more details visit Apple Vacations website or Celestyal Cruises website.
CUBA CRUISE ITINERARY DAY PORTS OF CALL —Friday Lv. Montego Bay 8:00 PM; Saturday Santiago de Cuba 7:00 AM 3:00 PM; Sunday AT SEA; Monday Arr. Havana (overnight) 8:00 AM; Tuesday Lv. Havana 10:00 PM; Wednesday AT SEA; Thursday Cienfuegos 7:00 AM 3:00 PM; Friday Arr. Montego Bay 8:00 AM. Times are approximate and subject to change. Excursions subject to change; cancelled events will be replaced by similar activities.
Celestyal Cruises offers a 7 day, All-Inclusive, cruise aboard the Celestyal Crystal. They offer the only true circumnavigation of Cuba with two days (overnight) in Havana and stops in Cienfuegos, Santiago and Montego Bay. Join Celestyal today to experience the “Real Cuba”.
Who Sails to Cuba?
|LINE||SHIP||APPROVED?||START DATE||DEPARTURE PORT|
|Celestyal Cruises, also known as Cuba Cruise||Celestyal Crystal||Yes||Already in operation; sailings began operating year-round late 2016||Havana, Cuba or Montego Bay, Jamaica|
|Holland America||Veendam||Yes||December 22, 2017||Fort Lauderdale|
|Lindblad Expeditions||Panorama II||Yes||December 7, 2016||Havana or Cienfuegos, Cuba|
|Pearl Seas Cruises||Pearl Mist||Yes||January 17, 2017||Miami|
|Ponant||Le Ponant||Yes; “People-to-People” voyage.||January 2017||Havana|
|Royal Caribbean||Empress of the Seas||Yes||April 19, 2017||Miami, then Tampa|
|Star Clippers||Star Flyer||Yes||December 27, 2016||Havana or Cienfuegos, Cuba (2 in Dec. 2017 & 2 in Jan. 2018|
|Victory Cruise Lines||Victory I||Yes||March 31, 2017||Miami|
|Viking Ocean Cruises
Norwegian Cruise Line
December 1, 2017
Resort Destination Packages
**It has become extremely difficult for Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Agency to verify changes made by the following hotels/resorts, and we can therefore no longer guarantee any destination packages listed below after March 31, 2017. Please read as a guide only and contact us at 724.824.3826 at which time we will obtain current options. Some resorts are behind schedule in opening, others have made changes to features, and still others may not operate at all.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Starwood Hotels & Resorts became the first U.S. hospitality company to receive U.S. Treasury Department authorization in April 2016 to operate hotels in Cuba. Later this year the 83-room Hotel Inglaterra will join Starwood’s Luxury Collection, and the 186-room Hotel Quinta Avenida will begin operating as a Four Points by Sheraton by mid-July 2016. The new Four Points is located in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood, which includes the country’s Embassy Row and is popular with business travelers. As part of the conversion process, technology upgrades were a high priority, sufficient Wi-Fi bandwidth included, to meet the expectations of U.S. travelers, whether business or leisure. “To the degree possible, it was our job to build in all the Four Points brand standards so that guests loyal to the brand recognize it as a Four Points.”
Both hotels are based in Havana and are scheduled to undergo renovations prior to re-opening as Starwood-branded properties. Starwood also signed a letter of intent to transform Havana’s Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of the Luxury Collection pending U.S. Treasury Department approval.
Overseas Adventure Travel (Grand Circle)
The operator announced plans for 12-day land adventure trips entitled “A Bridge Between Cultures” to the island nation round-trip Miami starting in January 2017; however January through May are sold out. September through December 2017 have availability. Prices start at $4595 including air available from all large cities in the U.S. Three cities in Cuba are included: Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad.
Their other option is a 13-day “Cultural Pathways from Camaguey to Havana” which also includes stays at Remedios & Matanzas starting at $5495. Excursions to King Ranch, Santa Clara, Camajuani and Caibarién will be included. January through June are sold out, but there is availability for September, October and December 2017 as of this writing.
Their new website provides the following information as of April 2017:
If you fall into one of these categories they offer two fantastic ways to explore: escorted people-to-people tours and hotel only options.
Vacation Express is proud to be part of the largest provider of travelers to Cuba, Sunwing Travel Group. Additionally, we have on-the-ground insight on the island from NexusTours, who also are our local representatives in Cancun, Jamaica and Punta Cana. And with over 26 years of experience as a leading U.S. tour operator and expert in Caribbean travel, you can rest assured that every aspect of your trip will be taken care of, down to the last legal requirement of the new regulations.
Vacation Express’ escorted tours allow you to explore Havana, the historic Cuban capital; Pinar del Rio, Nirvana for cigar aficionados; and many other places across the island where you will experience what daily life is like for the Cuban people.
If you’re planning on visiting Cuba for a reason other than an escorted tour, hotel-only is the option for you. Book your flight separately and have a room waiting for you at one of 40 hotels in six cities in Cuba, including limited availability in Havana.
Whether you’re visiting family, traveling for work, education or people-to-people experiences, Vacation Express promises an experience you’ll never forget.
What is included in the people-to-people tours?
Taste of Cuba. Experience Cuba for 4 nights at the Memories Miramar, Havana
With tour guide and most meals from $1899 per person
See important booking information below regarding travel to Cuba.*
This 4-night escorted tour will allow you to immerse yourself in the Cuban culture and experience Havana.
These packages include bilingual tour guide, transportation while with the group and select meals with the option to purchase airfare from your hometown to Havana.
- Visit the Angeles del Futuro children’s community project for circus and acrobatics.
- Walk through Old Havana’s historic center and tour art museums and craft markets.
- Learn about the cigar making process when you visit Pinar del Rio to meet a tobacco farmer.
- Visit the studio of the famous Cuban artist and ceramic sculptor known as the “Picasso of the Caribbean”, Jose Rodriguez Fuster.
- Included in your package:
- Activities as outlined in the itinerary
- Bilingual tour guide and driver
- Most gratuities
- Transportation with the group
- Hotel stay in Cuba at hotel outlined in the itinerary
- 2 bottles of water per person per day
- Most meals while in Cuba: 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
- Not included in your package:
- Airfare to and from Havana
- Transportation to/from hotel and airport
- Tips for housekeeping staff and Tour Director
- Travel insurance
- Cuban health insurance, standard travel visa and Cuban departure fee
*This itinerary is not set in stone; other exciting visits and experiences could be switched with the below activities. Travelers must participate fully in itinerary.
(This 5-night option is no longer listed on their website, so it is uncertain if it will be available in the future).
A 5-Night People-to-People Tour. Included in your package 5 nights at the Memories Miramar, Havana. With Round-Trip air from Miami and most meals from only $1999 per person – Fall dates available soon. See their website for more information.
The 5-night escorted tour explores the full spectrum of Havana, both old and new and the Pinar Del Rio area. Experienced, bilingual tour guides will lead your small group around local artists’ studios, tobacco farms, the Angeles del Futuro children’s community project for circus and acrobatics and UNESCO World Heritage sites. At times you’ll even tour Cuba in a fleet of classic American cars from the 1950s.
Your charter flights out of Miami and Havana will most likely leave in the early morning or afternoon to make sure you get to spend the most time possible in Cuba. After you book, you will receive your travel documents that will contain your definitive flight time.
Scroll down to see what’s in store on a 5-night escorted tour in Cuba, which includes round trip charter flights from Miami to Havana, transportation throughout the island, hotel stay in Cuba and so much more.
- Included in your package:
- Round trip charter flights from Miami to Havana, Cuba*
- One free checked bag and one carry-on bag (max 44 lbs. total for both items)
- Activities as outlined in the itinerary of your choosing
- Bilingual tour guide and driver
- Most gratuities
- Transportation throughout Cuba
- Hotel stay in Cuba at hotel outlined in the itinerary of your choosing
- 2 bottles of water per person per day
- Most meals while in Cuba: 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 5 dinners [They’ve included a breakdown of which meals are included on the individual tour itinerary pages]
- Cuban health insurance [required by law], standard travel visa and Cuban departure fee
- Not included in your package:
- Pre-departure hotel in U.S.
- Tips for housekeeping staff and Tour Director
- Travel insurance
Hotel Only Option
Discover hotels offered by Vacation Express from Havana to Cayo Coco for travelers eligible for this option.
If all you need is a place to stay, we’ve got you covered! You can book one of our 47 hotels in six destinations in Cuba. Choose from hotels in: Havana, Varadero, Cayo Coco, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Cayo Santa Maria. You can only book a hotel-only option if you’re eligible to travel to Cuba under one of the 12 U.S. government-approved categories, such as visiting family residing in Cuba when a qualifying relationship exists. As a reminder, travel to Cuba for tourism by U.S. citizens and all persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction is strictly prohibited at this time.
The hotels in our collection have been selected by Sunwing Travel Group, the largest travel provider to Cuba. Vacation Express offers rates that have been specially negotiated and exclusive room options you won’t get with other companies.
Keep in mind that Cuba is a developing country, and the hotels’ star-ratings may not line up with those in other countries. Generally speaking, the hotels in Cuba operate with limited internet, often change their menus based on food availability and might employ a more relaxed staff. The important thing to remember is the warmth of the Cuban people usually compensates for what the physical structures may lack.
Apple Vacations has partnered with Celestyal Cruises for weekly round-trip sailings every Friday from Montego Bay, Jamaica beginning February 3, 2017. For more information, see Celestyal Cruises under the heading “Other Supplier Packages from Land And Sea Operators”.
Apple Vacations, one of the nation’s largest and most trusted tour operators, is also proud to offer three unique people-to-people educational tours to Cuba in cooperation with U.S.-based Cuba Travel Services (CTS). Licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), these tours offer you the opportunity to immerse yourself in Cuban culture by interacting and engaging with the people of Cuba including artists, farmers, health-care professionals, children and other locals. See their website for more information.
— A 4-night Havana Getaway option is available from $2,818 per person at the Memories Miramar is available December 2016 – October 2017 as follows:
• Panoramic Tour of Havana • Antique American Car Rides • Old Havana Walking Tour • Salsa Lesson • Cuban Cocktails Demonstration • San Jose Craft Market • Hemingway Home Visit, Finca Vigia • Community Day Care Center • Day Trip to Las Terrazas • Private Artist Workshops, Studios and Gallery visits • Jose Fuster’s Community Art Project
- 4 Breakfasts (1 is on day of departure), 4 Lunches, 2 Dinners
INCLUDED IN PROGRAM: • Cuban tourist visa (provided at Miami Airport prior to departure to Cuba) • Round-trip flight Miami to Havana • Cuban departure tax of $25 USD • 3 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 2 Dinners • Activities and visits indicated in the itinerary (except optional excursions) • 4 nights accommodations at Havana hotel (Memories Miramar) • Welcome cocktail or non-alcoholic drink • Tips and gratuities for programmed activities • Transportation with driver per itinerary • Tour director services per itinerary • Cuban local guide services per itinerary • Cuban medical insurance (excluding pre-existing conditions) NOT INCLUDED IN PROGRAM: • Pre- or post- night accommodations in Miami • Transfers to/from Miami Airport in case of pre- or post- night stay • Baggage fees imposed by airline • Tips for housekeeping staff • Tips for tour director • Optional AV-OK Total Vacation Security Plan including cancellation/change waiver • Some meals not included as specified in the itinerary
— Also available is a 7-night Colors of Cuba from $3,118 per person (3 Nights Havana, 2 Nights Cienfuegos) at Hotel Sevilla in 2017 & Faro Luna 2017 (January – October 2017).
• Trinidad Historical Walking Tour • Time-Honored Family-Owned Ceramic Studio Visits • Cienfuegos Walking Tour • Thomas Terry Theater • Old Cigar Factory • Bay of Pigs Museum • Panoramic Tour of Havana • Old Havana Architectural Walking Tour • Salsa Lesson • Cuban Cocktails Demonstration • Private Artist Workshops, Studios and Galleries Visits • San Jose Craft Market • Hemingway Home Visit, Finca Vigia • Angeles del Futuro Community Project • Antique American Car Rides
- 5 Breakfasts (includes one on departure day), 4 Lunches, 3 Dinners
INCLUDED IN PROGRAM: • Cuban tourist visa (provided at Miami Airport prior to departure to Cuba) • Round-trip flight Miami to Cienfuegos/Havana to Miami • Cuban departure tax of $25 USD • 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 3 Dinners • Activities and visits indicated in the itinerary (except optional excursions) • 2 nights accommodations at Cienfuegos hotel • 3 nights accommodations at Havana hotel • Welcome cocktail or non-alcoholic drink • Tips and gratuities for programmed activities • Transportation with driver per itinerary • Tour director services per itinerary • Cuban local guide services per itinerary • Cuban medical insurance (excluding pre-existing conditions) NOT INCLUDED IN PROGRAM: • Pre- or post- night accommodations in Miami • Transfers to/from Miami Airport in case of pre- or post- night stay • Baggage fees imposed by airline • Tips for housekeeping staff • Tips for tour director • Optional AV-OK Total Vacation Security Plan including cancellation/change waiver • Some meals not included as specified in the itinerary.
—A 4-night Varadero option is available for $2768 from January – October 2017 at the Melia Marina Varadero Apartments. The following is included:
• Private Artist Workshops, Studio and Galleries Visits • Salsa Lesson • Meet with Students and Teachers of a Prominent Music and Art school • Afro-Cuban Community Visit • Old Havana Walking Tour • Panoramic Tour of Havana • Antique American Car Rides • Jose Fuster’s Community Art Project • San Jose Craft Market • Bay of Pigs Museum • Close Encounters with Nature Areas
• 4 Breakfasts (includes one on departure day), 3 Lunches, 2 Dinners
INCLUDED IN PROGRAM: • Cuban tourist visa (provided at Miami Airport prior to departure to Cuba) • Round-trip flight–Miami to Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport (Varadero) or Havana, depending on departure date • Cuban departure tax of $25 USD • 4 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 2 Dinners • Activities and visits indicated in the itinerary (except optional excursions) • 4 nights accommodations at Varadero hotel (Melia Marina Varadero Apartments) • Welcome cocktail or non-alcoholic drink • Tips and gratuities for programmed activities • Transportation with driver per itinerary • Tour director services per itinerary • Cuban local guide services per itinerary • Cuban medical insurance (excluding pre-existing conditions) NOT INCLUDED IN PROGRAM: • Pre- or post- night accommodations in Miami • Transfers to/from Miami Airport in case of pre- or post- night stay • Baggage fees imposed by airline • Tips for housekeeping staff • Tips for tour director • Optional AV-OK Total Vacation Security Plan including cancellation/change waiver • Some meals not included as specified in the itinerary.
Travel to Cuba must be booked at least 40 days in advance to allow ample time for the processing of required documentation.
Globus & Cosmos
Globus & Cosmos have announced six new Cuba itineraries for 2016, including an opportunity to cruise to the country. Their people-to-people tours, which range from nine to 17 days, including a nine-day Cosmos Cuba Discovery program, is priced from $2,475. In addition, Globus is inviting travelers to discover “Cuba by Land & Sea” with a new 10-day program cruising the Caribbean aboard the Celestyal Crystal, featuring port stops in Havana, Maria La Gorda, Pinar del Rio, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
Commercial Direct Air Flights
*The following air information was originally published in July 2016 and since then, many changes have been made by individual airlines including baggage and flight information given below. Therefore, Getaway Dreams Come True is not responsible for information regarding particular airlines as well as Cuban cities served which has been changed or updated after December 31, 2016.
For the first time in more than 50 years, regular air service between the United States and Cuba has been cleared to take off. The decision, by the U.S. Department of Transportation, awarded six U.S. airlines the right to operate regular routes to Cuba. In all, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines were given the go-ahead, and American Airlines began service from Miami to Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero in September 2016.
All travel requires passengers be able to prove that their travel falls into one of the 12 categories of ‘Purposeful Travel,’ as outlined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which include family visits, journalistic activity, educational activities, humanitarian projects, and more.
JetBlue, with a flight scheduled to Santa Clara from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Aug. 31, 2016, got the distinction as the first regularly scheduled flight to Cuba in more than 50 years with nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale and the central Cuban city of Santa Clara. JetBlue initially began operating Oct. 1, and American Airlines has also begun commercial airline service from Miami International Airport.
Changes in Baggage Procedures
The first and perhaps biggest change will be in baggage policies. Passengers on Cuba charters have grown used to liberal baggage policies, and passengers with luggage carts piled high with televisions, household goods and shrink-wrapped packages are a common sight at airports where the charters embark.
But with scheduled service, Pantin said, there will be restrictions on overweight, oversize and excess baggage. In general, passengers will be permitted no more than 100 pounds of baggage and no boxes or oversized baggage will be permitted.
Travelers on American flights will be allowed two bags of no more than 62 linear inches and 50 pounds each, she said. Except for passengers who have elite status or are traveling first class, fees will be $25 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second.
For its Cuba flights, JetBlue plans to allow one piece of checked baggage of up to 50 pounds for free. Passengers will be able to check baggage of up to 70 pounds but will have to pay an overweight fee. Luggage of up to 64 linear inches will be allowed. For baggage more than 64 inches and up to 84 linear inches, an overweight fee will be charged, said Philip Stewart, JetBlue’s manager of corporate communications.
Unlike most scheduled flights, passengers can’t simply choose a Cuban city and book a flight. They must fall into 12 categories of travel allowed by the U.S. government as mentioned above. When booking, passengers must complete an affidavit certifying they are going to Cuba for one of the approved categories of travel.
American is working with Cuba Travel Services, which also offers charter service to Cuba, to help passengers with visas to Cuba. Pantin said CTS will be in touch with passengers about visa requirements 30 days before their departure dates, but those who require special visas such as journalists and business travelers still must be in touch with the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., to obtain the correct documentation.
For those who need required tourist visas — generally those taking people-to-people trips to Cuba — JetBlue will sell them at cost to passengers at gateway airports on the day of travel. Stewart said JetBlue is still working out details with the Cuban government on the cost of those visas. JetBlue is offering starting fares to the three Cuban cities it will initially serve for $99 one-way.
American Airlines plans to set up special booths at the MIA check-in area where passengers can purchase Cuban health insurance and tourist visas and have their documents checked. If everything is in order, the passengers will get a Cuba-ready stamp allowing them to complete the check-in process, Pantin said. Mobile boarding passes won’t be available for the Cuba flights.
Non-Cuba residents, except for those from countries with reciprocal health insurance agreements with Cuba, will be required to purchase health insurance, Pantin said.
Passengers taking charter flights to Cuba are usually advised to be at the airport four hours in advance. JetBlue has shaved an hour off that and is recommending that passengers headed to Cuba be at the airport three hours in advance. American also “strongly suggests” passengers arrive at the airport three hours ahead of time.
Frontier, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines also have won DOT approval for non-Havana routes. American Airlines and Silver Airways also have announced their initial schedules for regular Cuba flights.
Round trips are available to book to any of the five Cuba markets American Airlines will fly to initially, including Cienfuegos, Holguin, Varadero, Camaguey and Santa Clara. Trips must be for a minimum three nights or include a Sunday night stayover in the itinerary.
- NOTE – As of April 1, 2017, several airlines have announced scaling back the size of aircraft and the number of flights from various American cities due to the overestimation of passenger demand thus far in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.
At the request of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, the Transportation Security Administration released a statement addressing the issue of federal air marshals on flights to and from Cuba. “In the spirit of enhancing the security of international civil aviation, the United States and The Republic of Cuba entered into an aviation security agreement that sets forth the legal framework for the deployment of U.S. in-flight security officers — more commonly known as federal air marshals — on board certain flights to and from Cuba,” said the TSA statement. “For security reasons, we will not divulge which flights air marshals will be aboard.”
The TSA said the agreement “will strengthen both parties’ aviation security efforts” and that it will continue to work with Cuba to expand air marshal presence on flights and to enhance security. “We wouldn’t fly to a place that we don’t think is safe,” Martha Pantin, a spokeswoman for American Airlines. Air marshals serve as “an active last line of defense against terrorism and air piracy, and are an important part of a multilayer strategy adopted by the U.S. to thwart terrorism in the civil aviation sector,” the TSA said.
The US Department of Transportation approved scheduled service of 110 daily flights to 10 Cuban cities, 20 of which are to Havana, in cooperation with eight US airlines. It’s estimated that the first of these flights will begin in early September.
Armando Garbalosa, Head of the Department of Aviation Security, says Cuban airports and security controls are safe and “there’s nothing to be afraid of.” According to Garbalosa, contact between the IACC and US aviation security authorities began in 2000 with regular visits, which have been made every year since 2003. Until today, TSA representatives have visited Cuba 33 times.
It seems that the agreement will be put into effect for the chartered flights that currently connect many US cities to Cuba and will then cover regular commercial flights made by airlines approved by the US Department of Transportation.
We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel look forward to assisting you with crafting your Lifetime Memories trip to Cuba.
You may wish to view other blogs related to Cuba and Fathom™ people-to-people experiences: