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In December 2014, as all of us have heard, Presidents Obama and Castro announced a mutual agreement to work towards restoring diplomatic and trade ties following a 55-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba. Nearly immediately after they hinted at sweeping changes in everything from the island’s Internet connectivity to, yes, Americans’ vacations, the travel industry scrambled into action, certain that one of the first dominoes to fall would be the travel restriction.
But amid all the excitement and headlines over new flights and itineraries, helping prospective travelers decode and navigate policies that weren’t yet clear — and to differentiate between rumors about hoped-for changes and developments that were actually in the works — hasn’t proven to be easy. In fact, visiting Cuba still isn’t exactly a breeze, even if some rules have loosened up.
Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? Travel journalist Donna Tunney — ShermansTravel’s cruise expert — has all the latest news. Check back every Tuesday for trends, new amenities, and money-saving ideas that help you plan a perfect vacation at sea.
Dreaming of Cuba like everyone else? This December through April 2016, American cruisers will be able to sail into five ports in the country aboard a three-masted, 49-guest schooner. Small ship company AdventureSmith Explorations is adding Cuba to its roster of destinations, which currently includes Alaska, Europe, and the Galapagos. The seven-night People to People Cruise begins in Havana and visits a handful of ports along the island’s western and southern shores.
From $4,799 per person based on double occupancy, covering roundtrip air from Miami, visa, and mandatory Cuban medical insurance.
President Obama’s announcement earlier this month that the U.S. and Cuba are making efforts to normalize their relationship after decades of sanctions and travel limitations wasn’t exactly a shock. For several years, U.S. travelers have been allowed to visit Cuba with “people-to-people” cultural exchange programs that are approved by the government and presented through specially licensed tour providers. These have been the only legal way that Americans could explore the mostly off-limits island. With improved relations, Americans could soon see an easier process to travel to Cuba in the future.
We were interested to know, however, how tour operators will be handling this change in policy, and that their plans are for the future. Here are their responses.
As avid travelers, planning future trips is a pastime. But, going beyond the usual dream destinations, there are a few less likely places that we want to visit… but just not quite yet. Here are five cities we are looking forward to visiting… a few years from now: Read more
For a minute, let’s remove those Cuban stereotypes – you know, Castro, communism, and Teddy Roosevelt riding through Santiago, Cuba like the mustached maven portrayed in Night at the Museum. For decades, while America upheld its embargo on Cuba, millions of tourists from Canada and western Europe have flocked to the white sandy beaches at Jardines del Ray, or strolled the cobblestone streets in colonial Trinidad.
But things are rapidly changing: already, in the first third of 2014, Cuba’s seen more American tourists than Germans, Brits, and French visitors from all of last year, accounting for the second highest tourism earnings behind Canada. But that doesn’t mean traveling to Cuba from the U.S. is suddenly easy: the U.S. still holds a fifty-year trade embargo on the communist nation, and, without the guise of a foreign passport (or perhaps a fake Canadian accent), navigating those 90 miles south of Florida requires careful planning. Here’s how to do it… Read more
Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon, the Blue Lagoon: just a few of the natural and man-made wonders many of us, if we’re lucky, get to experience during a lifetime of travel. In most cases, visiting them is as easy as just showing up. But what about the countless other jaw-dropping sites we’ll never get to see? Whether too remote, or frozen under ice, or sunk at the bottom of the ocean, here are a few “hidden” sites that no technological advancements – or wishful thinking – can ever bring us closer to.
Earlier this month, a team of scientists discovered a previously-unknown volcano, located deep under the Pacific, 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan. Confirmed as the largest volcano in the world (about a hundred times bigger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which previously held the title), the rock mound, nicknamed Tamu Massif, would make for a pretty impressive sight – too bad its summit lies 4,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. Evidence shows that the 124-million-year-old volcano likely went dormant shortly after it formed, though that doesn’t bring us any closer to traversing its wide, craggy surface. Read more
The world’s top race car drivers, and the gamblers who love them, convene in Monaco this week for the annual Grand Prix. From May 23–26, the winding roads of Europe’s glamorous principality will be overtaken with automotive enthusiasts of every stripe.
While the Grand Prix is arguably the world’s most famous Formula 1 race, Monaco isn’t the only global destination car lovers should consider. From Germany’s legendary Autobahn, to Model T mash-ups in Cuba, here are four other spots where fans can get their fix. Read more
A new year is marching ahead, and along with it, a growing interest in adventure travel. Fire up your wanderlust for 2013 and beyond in these destinations, which are quickly gaining a reputation as hubs for adventure across land, sea, and even air, via two wheels, a paddle, or a pair of hiking boots. Here’s to another year of exploration and adventure, wherever your travels take you.
Namibia: How’s this for a stamp of approval from the adventure travel community: In October 2013, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the authority of the industry, is hosting its annual summit in this spectacular African country. No surprise, as Namibia has been on the rise for a while now, with its jaw-dropping panoramas of the red dunes of Sossuslvlei, safari excursions to catch glimpses of such rare wildlife as the endangered black rhino, and commitment to eco-friendly practices. Read more
After a summer of waiting and wondering, several prominent tour operators have received their government licenses or renewals to resume travel to Cuba.
Organizations that recently received the go-ahead from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issues licenses for travel to Cuba, include Insight Cuba; Friendly Planet Travel; Geographic Expeditions; MotoDiscovery, which offers motorcycle tours led by Cuba expert and guidebook author Christopher P. Baker; and the Fund for Reconciliation and Development (FRD), a nonprofit that supports reconciliation between the U.S. and Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba.
Last spring, when the U.S. government eased travel restrictions to Cuba, it marked what many believed was the opening of a new frontier for travel to the island country that, for 50 years, has been all but forbidden for most Americans to visit under the longstanding trade embargo. But the “people-to-people” program put in place by the Obama administration, which focuses on educational travel with a government-licensed operator, now appears to be on hold.
Dozens of tour operators, which as of September 7 included such well-known organizations as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic Expeditions, and Insight Cuba, with which I traveled to Cuba last summer, are still awaiting permits. Some groups, including the nonprofit Insight Cuba, have been forced to lay off staff, cancel trips (22 and 150, respectively, in the case of Insight Cuba), and refund customers’ money.
I’ve recently returned (and am still recovering) from several days in Keystone, Colorado, for the 2012 Travel Bloggers Exchange. This is the third year for this growing gathering of travel enthusiasts, from travel bloggers (such as yours truly) to tourism bureaus eager to spread the word about their destinations.
Not surprisingly, a common topic during the weekend was the explosion of adventure travel – as well as where the next hotspots are. Here, a few expert picks for places to put on your adventure travel bucket list.
Here’s my final post about my recent trip to Cuba (if you missed the first two, you can find them here and here, plus check out the photo gallery). My editors at ShermansTravel and I have enjoyed reading your comments and input from my initial post regarding the new regulations for U.S. travelers to Cuba, so if you have any additional thoughts – or travel tips of your own – please feel free to share in the comments section below. I’ve already heard about some readers who have trips planned – buen viaje!
Since returning from Cuba as one of the first everyday American tourists to visit the country legally in about five decades, I’ve been asked over and over again how the experience was. Here’s how I’ve been describing my trip: Fascinating. Exhausting. Eye-opening. Unforgettable.
But there are a few things I wish I’d been better prepared for – which is where this (and next) weeks’ posts come in. Here, some tips I picked up from my trip for those of you who also have Cuba on your travel wish list – and want to get there legally. (And if you have your own tips to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments section.)
Around midnight on my last night in Cuba, my travel buddy and I rumbled toward our hotel in a 1951 Chevrolet cab with the driver and his girlfriend, whom we’d become friendly with. Along the Malecón, Havana’s seaside esplanade, we spotted a group of locals hovering around a large fish that someone had caught and hauled onto the sidewalk.
But when we stopped to snap a few photos, it was evident that the sea creature isn’t a fish, but a shark. Exhausted fishermen struggled to hoist the four-foot body of the predator onto a bike taxi to sell at market; a few feet away, teenagers circled around the severed head, touching its fearsome teeth and screaming with skittish delight.
In a way, that scene – at once chaotic and colorful, raw and wild – helps illustrate a visit itself to this island nation, which has been all but off-limits for U.S. citizens over the past five decades. But, thanks to policy changes passed by the Obama administration earlier this year, the average U.S. citizen can now travel there legally, without the hassle of sneaking through Mexico or Canada, and the fear (and fines) of getting caught.
On June 28, Insight Cuba, a pioneer in U.S. travel to the island nation, announced that it has been reauthorized by the U.S. government to send Americans to Cuba. The New Rochelle, New York-based organization, which specializes in small group trips that interact closely with locals, has six itineraries already in place, from music-themed excursions to one that includes a visit to the Bay of Pigs.
Roughly 130 departures are scheduled between August 2011 and September 2012, with prices from $1,695 for a three-night stay in Havana and from $2,495 for a seven-night trip, one of which includes the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio. Prices are per person, double occupancy, and cover accommodations, mostly in four- and five-star resorts, all meals, ground transport, domestic flights in Cuba, all entry fees, guide services, U.S. Treasury Department license and Letter of Authorization and travel insurance (www.insightcuba.com for more information).
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