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THIS IS NOT THE FULL BROCHURE

We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

Welcomed news as of December 18, 2014!

About the announcement from the White House today calling for
the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

This morning the Treasury Department sent a very brief email to Cuba Cultural Travel which stated that new regulations would be published “in the coming weeks”. None of the announced changes by President Obama take effect until the new regulations are issued.” So for the time being, legal travel to Cuba remains unchanged until details are released by the Treasury Department. US travelers continue to need a license from the U.S. Treasury Department.

As new development take place, we will pass the news along.

Comments from our Past Cuba trip:

Your multiple experiences offer the best advice for planning future trips. I thought we got "excellent value" for our trip (esp. in comparison with the NYT trip).

-Aimee, November 2014

As I watched the news tonight that Obama was restored open travel to Cuba, I am reminded of the wonderful trip you arranged for us to visit Cuba. We will never forget it. Thank you so much.

-Barbara, November 2014

Hello Gwen,

I've been meaning to write you and what better time than this historic day! Don't you wish you were there now to hear the church bells ringing? I had a wonderful time on the tour. I was glad to stay again at the Parque Centro as it is efficient and so nicely situated in Habana. Our guides Oscar and Lazaro were accommodating in every way, from the moment we met until our farewell at the airport. I enjoyed the architectural focus to this tour as well as the memorable people-people exchanges. The presenters and lectures were fascinating, and always piqued curiosity and further interest in this beautiful country and its people. As for our meals, we had delicious cuisine in friendly places. (My top favorite was the Vinales farm-table restaurant). I want to thank Serious Traveler team for accommodating my dietary preferences. I tried to be low-key about it and Oscar was most helpful in communicating to the restaurant staff on my behalf. I had very good meals and found that the restaurants were more than happy to create and prepare a plant-based/ non-dairy entree.

I was able to make some music connections from colleagues in the States. I'm attaching a video of Cato, a well-known and respected Tres player in Havana. Aimee and I ventured down to the Cohiba Hotel one night to hear a jazz group recommended by another Cuban musician that I connected with in Havana.

The day after I returned home from Cuba, I came down with the flu! So I lost quite a bit of time in "processing" my trip. I took almost 900 photos and 4 little videos. I am now in the process of sorting through them. Unfortunately, I brought a new camera with me and when I returned home, found that it was not the quality I had expected. But I have photos, even if they're not too sharp, and great memories of Cuba 2014!

All the best for now,

-Linda B., November 2014

Cato
http://youtu.be/ielKO5EkAzI

Tobacco Leaves
http://youtu.be/QB9iDOIcBtI

Girls Ballet Rehearsal Pro Danza
http://youtu.be/xjzmNf_QZls

Swan Lake Pro Danza
http://youtu.be/33ZRSeiiFQ4

Other images from Linda (click for larger view):

 

Good news about Cuba. Maybe we helped in a small way!

-Jo Weiss, Cuba '03 & '04

 


with Cuba Cultural Travel

March 26 - April 1, 2017 • 7 days
$3775 per person based on double occupancy
beginning and ending in Havana, Cuba. Airfare Additional
Single supplement $150

View pictures from our past tour, March 2 - 9, 2013 Click Here

There are people-to-people trips that meet with just anyone. Ours has prominent artists and leaders in their field, architects, musicians, dancers even a former ambassador and a filmmaker.

It is well worth the money. Anyone can see the old cars, but how many will travel to a delectable dinner in one of the old convertibles roaring down the Prado?

 

Dear Friends,

Things are about to change, and indeed they already have. The beginning is establishment of diplomatic relations.  Soon we hope travelers will not need the license now required by the U.S. Treasury Department. This is a good thing. On the flip side, tourists will begin arriving headed for the beaches and clogging Havana’s streets and few deluxe hotels. Will there still be room for the 50’s cars on Havana’s narrow streets? Will we still feel comfortable strolling the Old Quarter chatting with the musicians? Will we still be able to get into those very few elegant hotels?

Time will tell.

In a recent Smithsonian magazine, Havana is mentioned as “a Time Capsule–Go now–before the city preserved by trade sanctions disappears under LED billboards, new cars and cigar bands.”

When I started Travel Concepts International 30 years ago, it was in the spirit of offering cultural tours to better understand the world an its people. This trip will focus on providing the type of intimate interaction and privileged access you have come to expect from the Serious Traveler.

The trip is not about following the tourist trail. The trip is about meeting the amazing people of Cuba who are doing incredible things in the world of music, dance and art. We will meet leading artists in their studios, attend private music performances and enjoy the company of students, professors, diplomats and historians.

One important thing I learned from our past trips is–be flexible! The program may be changed a bit; in fact it most certainly will. It’s Cuba! You won’t be disappointed with any modifications, as change always brings opportunity. Of course, we’ll also learn about the history and culture of Cuba. We’ll discover her colonial architecture and blending of European and African art forms and religions. We’ll step back in time to the 50s and 60s observing wonderfully preserved autos, restaurant décor and big band style music. Visas are still required. Many airlines are planning flights to Havana. We’ll work with you to make the best arrangements.

There are those waiting in line from other companies to snatch up the hotel space I now have confirmed, so if you are interested, I must ask you to complete the reservation form and return it to me quickly.

I look forward to welcoming you.

Gwen Erwood
President, Travel Concepts International

Price includes
  • 5 night accommodation at Hotel Sevilla Havana (standard room)
  • 1 night accommodation in private Casa Particulares Viñales (night of March 31)
  • Daily breakfast in Cuba
  • Meals as listed in itinerary (4 lunches & 5 dinners, including tips)
  • Air conditioned bus throughout the trip equipped with cold water at all times
  • Admission to all museums and public buildings listed in itinerary
  • Cuba Cultural Travel (CCT) Escort and local Cuban tour guide
  • Compliance with U.S. Treasury Department

Not included

  • Round Trip Airfare to Miami-Havana-Miami (TBD) *
  • Cuban Tourist Card/Visa **
  • Cuban Airport Departure tax (25 CUC = $25 USD)
  • Airline baggage fees ($20 per bag, $2.00 per pound over 44 pounds – weight includes carry-on)
  • Airfare to/from Miami (if required
  • Accommodations in Miami (a group rate at a nearby hotel will be provided if necessary)
  • Meals other than listed on itinerary
  • Gratuities for guide and driver (recommended amount is 7-10CUC per person per day for guide, and 5-7CUC per person per day for driver)
  • Individualized hotel expenses (mini bar, room service, laundry fees, etc)
  • Trip cancellation insurance

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Day 1 March 26 Arrive Havana
Sunday

Afternoon arrival in Havana. Clear immigration and customs and baggage, a process that takes about an hour and a half. Upon arrival in Havana, a Cuban representative will welcome the group and transfer us to Havana. Welcome to Cuba!

En route to the hotel we will make a brief stop at Plaza de la Revolución, the center of government, which contains most of the major ministries and is the site most commonly used for massive public rallies.

Afternoon Check-in to Hotel Mercure Sevilla perfectly located in the central part of Havana, remodeled in 1923 by the American firm of Schultze & Weaver.
Trocadero 55 e Prado y Zulueta Habana, Havana 260, Cuba
+53 7 860 8560 http://www.mercure.com

Some historic landmarks surrounding the hotel include:
Paseo de Marti (el Prado), a tree lined pedestrian promenade leading to the sea.
• Havana’s Central Park and the first monument erected in Cuba (1904), dedicated to National Hero Jose Marti.
• The Capitolio Nacional, a fabulous monumental building inspired in the Capitol model and built in 1929 by Cuban and foreign artists. Gardens designed by famous French landscaper Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier.
• The Bacardi Building, erected in 1930 and remaining today one of the most fabulous examples of art deco in Cuba.
• The recently restored lavish Palacio de los Matrimonios and the former Casino Espanol of Havana, built in 1914 by Luis Dediot.
Parque de la Fraternidad. This is “Old Taxi” central. Here you will find all makes and models of American cars from the 50’s. It is a great opportunity to mingle and converse with taxi drivers and engage in their favorite subject: their cars.

This evening, we’ll meet in the lobby and walk across the street to Centro Asturianos for our demonstrative lecture on Cuban Music at Bar Asturias by Prof. Alberto Faya who has been working as a musician, professor and researcher within the Cuban musical world for over 20 years. He has obtained national awards due to their work in the field of music and musicology. They will be joined by a quartet of extraordinary young musicians who will take us on a musical journey through the history of Cuba. This will be an interactive experience, with the audience encouraged to engage the lecturers and musicians.

Welcome dinner at La Terrazas. Fresh grilled specialties on the 3rd floor terrace overlooking Central Park. (D)

****Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havana

Day 2 March 27 Havana
Monday

Complimentary breakfast is served at the restaurant on the hotel lobby level everyday from 7am-10am.

9:00 am Walking tour of Havana Vieja with Maria Elena Martin, a renowned architectural historian and conservationist. Ms. Martin recently published Havana Art Deco Architectural Tour book.

Thanks in part to history and ideology, Cuba -- and especially Havana -- is a treasure trove of architectural styles spanning six centuries. With buildings dating from the 16th through the19th centuries, Havana is perhaps the most authentic colonial city in the Americas. Since 1982, when the city became a UNESCO World Heritage site, the government has embarked on an ambitious preservation and restoration program concentrated in the Old City. However, a severe lack of funding and materials has hampered efforts. Therefore, the decay and neglect of the past 40 years coupled with the destructive tropical weather continues to claim buildings every year.

Visit the Plaza Vieja. This plaza is the oldest plaza in Havana, dating from the 16th century. Learn about the massive historic preservation program which began in this plaza under the leadership of city historian, Eusebio Leal.

We stroll through the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719.

Visit Fototeca, the leading photographic guild in Cuba and the most prestigious venue for showcasing work from leading Cuban photographers.

12:30 pm Lunch at Paladar Mercaderes. This impeccably restored mansion is a welcome retreat from the bustling streets of the Old City. Enjoy delightful tapas and a selection of seasonal specialties.

Visit the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments.

Tour the Plaza de la Catedral. Experience the Taller de Grafica Experimental. The Taller is more than Havana’s printmaking workshop. It is a studio, a school and most of all, an art institution that preserves and develops the sophisticated art of print making with relative freedom of spirit and form.

Return to the hotel at your own pace via Obispo Street, a pedestrian promenade, stopping at some of the most significant buildings such as the Art Deco Style La Moderna Poesia, the Ambos Mundos Hotel, and the banks of the former Havana Wall Street.

Some may choose to visit La Bodeguita del Medio, the most famous of Hemingway’s haunts. Dancing and fun where Hemingway enjoyed the famous mojito and famously declared “Mi Daquiri en Floridita y mi Mojito en Bodeguita”.

7:30 pm Dinner at Paladar San Cristobal. This cozy paladar has a reputation of excellence in both nostalgic atmosphere and local cuisine. The food is refined and balanced. President Obama and his family recently dined in this unique restaurant.

Optional late night entertainment: Visit the cool bohemian club El Gato Tuerto (“One-eyed Cat”), a laid back venue featuring various styles of traditional Cuban music from sultry Boleros known as Feeling, a soul-like genre heavily influenced by jazz, and Trova, another unique musical style that gained its popularity in the 70’s. (B-L-D)

****Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havana

Day 3 March 28 Havana
Tuesday

9:15 am Meet in the lobby and board our bus for our Artist Studio visit to 3 y 31. This new cooperative is home to three young and very talented Cuban artists: Adrian Fernandez, Alex Hernandez & Frank Mujica. They belong to an emerging constellation within the island’s contemporary visual arts scene. By three different mediums (photography, painting, and drawing) and refined technique, the artists explore conflicts and problems existing in present day Cuba. The artists will receive us in their studio space and discuss their work.

10:30 am Artist Studio visit: The Merger. A collaborative venture created under the name of “The Merger” consisting of artists Mario Miguel Gonzalez (Mayito), Niels Moleiro Luis, and Alain Pino. The Merger recreates ubiquitous and mundane objects on a grand scale, presenting palatable socio-political metaphors to their viewers.

11:30 am Visit to Centro Pro Danza. Founded by Laura Alonso in 1988, this school of dance serves 850 students. The center has held many highly professional Cuballets not only in Cuba itself but also abroad, in countries such as México, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden and the United States. You will have an opportunity to meet and talk with the dancers who will offer their own stories, giving us a glimpse of life as a dancer.

Tour the whimsical home of artist José Fuster who has made a major contribution to rebuilding and decorating the fishing town of Jaímanitas, located in the outskirts of Havana where he lives. Jaímanitas is now a unique work of public art where Fuster has decorated over 80 houses with colorful ornate murals and domes.

Lunch at La Foresta in Siboney.

This afternoon we enjoy a panoramic bus tour of modern architecture in Western Havana. Few people realize the important place Havana holds as a treasure trove of 20th Century architecture. Our guide will be Architect Pedro Vazquez. He will highlight some of the best examples to be found in this incredibly diverse area of the city, including the Hotel Riviera and the Christopher Colon Cemetery.

On our return to the hotel we tour the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba overlooking the Malecón and the Straits of Florida. When it opened in 1930, Cuba was a prime travel destination for many illustrious guests including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway.

4:30 pm Return to the Hotel. Dinner on your own. Suitable recommendations will be provided.

OPTIONAL: Dinner and cocktails in the private home of CCT escort Oscar Fernandez. Cuban contemporary artists will be invited to discuss current trends on Cuban art. A quintet of musicians from the ISA Youth Orchestra will perform a series of Cuban standards and classics. Individuals pay for this meal.

OPTIONAL: Visit to the World Famous Tropicana nightclub. Individuals pay ticket fees; transportation provided for 10+ participants. (B-L)

****Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havana

Day 4 March 29 Havana
Wednesday

9:15-10:30 am Lecture by Juan Alejandro Triana, a graduate of the University of Havana and a faculty member of the Department of Economics at the Instituto Politechnico Jose Echevarria (ISPJAE). His research and publications have focused on micro-financing in Cuba and Cuba-U.S. economic relations. He will discuss the new economic reforms including state ration stores and new private businesses. He will explain the changing policies of privately owned businesses in Cuba and the concept of micro-financing and how it differs from similar programs in other countries. This presentation will take place in the hotel business center.

11:00 am Board our bus and depart for La Finca Vigía. Formerly the home of Ernest Hemingway, today it still houses his expansive collection of books. It was here where he wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Please keep in mind that there are restrictions on passage to preserve the house in the intact state that Hemingway left it.

Visit Finca Yoandra, a farm located in the neighborhood of Mantilla that produces more than a 100 varieties of organic fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants. The farm also serves as a community center, providing social programs and leisurely activities for the local elderly. We will get a chance to meet and talk to some of the senior citizens.

1:00 pm Lunch at Il Divino. This farm has a very large wine cellar and a beautiful backyard that’s nice for a walk before or after the meal.

If time permits we visit the picturesque fishing village of Cojímar. Ernest Hemingway loved this little seaside town. He kept his boat, El Pilar, in harbor of Cojimar, and he used this village setting for his story The Old Man and the Sea, which won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

4:00 pm Visit to the Arts & Crafts market, a great place to interact with local, everyday artisans. You’ll find just about anything here, a great place to find souvenirs or gifts for your friends and family back home.

Return to the hotel. Remainder of afternoon free to explore Havana Vieja or enjoy views from the rooftop bar and pool area of the hotel.

7:30 pm Dinner at Casa Miglis. This curious Scandinavian and Cuban fusion paladar boasts a sophisticated menu and delightful decor.

In keeping with the Hemingway themed day you may choose to venture on your own for a nightcap at Bar Floridita in Havana Vieja - a short and easy stroll from the Hotel. This popular tourist destination and hangout of Hemingway offers the legendary Daquiri, live music and a life size bronze of a smiling Hemingway leaning against the bar – a great photo opportunity. This bar is often crowded so please be prepared to jostle for a place to sit. See the recently refurbished Sloppy Joe’s – another Hemingway hangout located steps from the hotel. (B-L-D)

****Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havana

Day 5 March 30 Havana
Thursday

10:00 am Attend a private dance performance of the Compañia Irene Rodríguez. We will receive a warm welcome by her and her company at the Centro Asturianos. Irene is considered by many to be the finest flamenco dancer in Cuba. Irene will introduce the dancers, many of whom speak English; describe the history of her own dance career and formation of her independent dance company; and discuss the cultivation of artistic talent in Cuba, opportunities and challenges of being a professional dancer, and the arts more generally in Cuba.

11:00 am Visit the Museum of Cuban Art with curator Aylet Ojeda. The museum is dedicated exclusively to Cuban Art from the earliest days of colonialism to the latest generation of Cuban artists.

Lunch on your own. Suitable recommendations will be provided. Some may choose Paladar Al Carbon by Chef Ivan Justo located near the Museum.

Afternoon OPTIONAL: Private Salsa and Rumba dance lessons at La Casa del Son. Casa del Son is a popular dance school in Havana. We will meet the directors, Silvia and Raymond, who with their troupe of professional dancers will give us demonstrations and lessons of various popular Cuban dance styles. We will be partnered with experienced dancers who will guide us through several organized lessons.

6:00 pm Meet in the hotel lobby and depart for a visit to Fabrica de Arte Cuba (FAC). This former tramway power plant located in the Vedado neighborhood was built in the beginning of the 20th century and is the most current collaborative art project in Havana. FAC offers the newest in performing arts, contemporary art and photographic exhibitions.

7:30 pm Dinner on the rooftop at the stylish Paladar Atelier, equally known for its atmosphere and exquisite cuisine. The lighting and textures of the house, coupled with walls adorned in modern art, create a cozy, romantic setting. The chef boasts international experience, serving a range of cuisine from traditional Cuban dishes, Paella, and seafood.

9:00 pm Return to the hotel. (B-D)

****Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havana

Day 6 March 31 Havana
Friday Viñales Valley

9:00 am Hotel check out and board a bus for our overnight in the Viñales Valley. Considered by many to be the most beautiful place in Cuba, the Viñales Valley National Monument holds stunning landscapes and jaw dropping vistas. The area is also famous for being the premier tobacco growing area in the world. This is a photographer’s paradise!

11:30 am Arrive in Piñar del Rio for our visit to Proyecto Grabadown. The Grabadown Project was started ten years ago by Jesus Carrete and his daughter Linianna, who was born with Down Syndrome. What began as way for Jesus to share his love of art with his daughter has grown into a well respected community project supported by many other families who have discovered the benefits of engaging their special needs children with art and music. Starting with a simple printing press that offered the children a chance to express their creativity, the program has grown into a multi-discipline creative workshop where the children are encouraged to sing, dance, create art and take a more active role within the community.

Continue to the town of Viñales and meet local guide & Cuba Cultural Travel (CCT) representative Yaniel Luis.

1:30 pm We continue to Finca Confianza in the valley with stunning views of the mogotes. We will learn about the production of a multitude of organic fruits, vegetables, grain and tobacco. Lunch will be a community event on the farm where we will be served a large variety of organic fresh vegetables, fruits, chicken and roasted pork.

3:00 pm Visit the home of Ramón Vázquez León, an artist born in Viñales, Pinar del Río, who graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in Havana. Ramón creates fantastic worlds full of allusions with his bright colors.

4:30 pm Check-in to Casa Particulares (private homes of Cuban families). All of the Casas are located on one street in a quiet neighborhood and many of the homes share connecting backyards so there is often a lot of visiting between families.

Evening Sunset dinner at Balcon del Valle or in a suitable restaurant in the Village center. (B-L-D)

Casa Particulares in Viñales Valley

Day 7 April 1 Viñales Valley
Saturday Depart Havana

Breakfast in the home of your Cuban family. Home-cooked food prepared fresh by your host.

This morning depart Viñales for the Havana airport. Afternoon flight departs Havana for the U.S. (B)

• Tips may be given to your Cuban guide and driver at this time. The recommended tip is minimum 7CUC per day, per passenger for your guide and minimum 5CUC per day, per passenger for your driver.

BE SURE TO COLLECT YOUR BELONGINGS FROM THE SAFE DEPOSIT BOX IN YOUR ROOM

PASSPORT
VISA
PLANE TICKET
OFAC LETTER OF AUTHORIZATION

Please Note: This is a “Working” Itinerary. There may be some changes, additions and/or subtractions to the Final Itinerary. All venues and artist’s studios are subject to final confirmations. Be assured that any changes made will be done to enhance the total program, and to promote a smooth operation of the tour.

* CCT will handle reservations, tickets, and visas for all participants if participants will fly together from Miami-Havana-Miami. Airfare costs & flight schedules should become known Summer 2016. Participants will be contacted directly by CCT once confirmed charter flight information becomes available. Participants will be invoiced for the balance of the trip cost and airfare approximately three months prior to trip departure. Information on accommodations in Miami will be provided in the coming weeks as well as travel tips and emergency contact info.

** Cuban born travelers, please contact Cuba Cultural Travel prior to mailing your deposit and reservation form.

THIS IS NOT THE FULL BROCHURE

We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.

© 2017 Travel Concepts International, Inc. CST 2005743-40

Travel Concepts International, Inc.
Cultural Tours to Better Understand the World and Its People

5500 Bucks Bar Road • Placerville, CA 95667 U.S.A. • Voicemail/Telephone/Fax 1-530-621-3007
Voicemail/Tollfree in U.S.A. 1-800-762-4216
G
wen@SeriousTraveler.com • Web site www.SeriousTraveler.com