Hola Cuba!

The Republic of Cuba, with a population of 11 million, is the largest of the Antilles Islands, separating the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico to the north, from the Caribbean Sea to the south. It is 775 miles long and ranges from 24 to 96 miles in width.

Through the People-to People program, the door has been opened by President Obama to allow people to finally visit the magical island of Cuba for the first time in five decades and meet and interact with the fascinating Cuban people.

People-to-People travel is designed as an educational experience, rather than a leisure tour. With this program, you visit various art organizations, schools, and projects that allow you to gain a greater educational understanding of Cuba’s culture.

Cuba is one of the last truly unspoiled countries in the world, practically free of the crime and drug trade present at some other tourist destinations. The hotels are numerous and prices vary from inexpensive to five-star luxury. Visitors can also stay in private homes. For the tourist who wants only a week or two in the sun, Cuba provides various smart resorts, plus glimpses of history in the making. Planning your visit to Cuba involves a few extra steps, but is well worth it.

Cuba casts a magical spell inviting one to experience the intoxicating pulse of Havana and all of her colonial cities like Cienfuegos. Cuba promises the rhythms of the mambo and cha-cha, some of the world’s finest beaches, and the world’s best cigars.

Meeting Cubans, understanding their challenges and achievements, and sharing your own experiences will help you make friends and discover the secrets of a proud, sensual, and colorful land.

While there are many People-to-People programs available to US Citizens, there is only one cruise line that travels to Cuba at this time that offers a People-To-People program for US Citizens. Cuba Cruise will again offer their seven night cruises beginning in December 2015 through March 2016.


Over 150 years ago, French immigrants settled in Cienfuegos, or “Pearl of the South,” due to its beauty and colorful history. In 2005, the city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage listing. There are two sections to Cienfuegos: the colonnaded center which houses the main city square and park and the Punta Gorda area, where a number of elaborate palaces are located.

Punta Frances

Punta Frances is located on the Isla de la Juventud, or the “Island of Youth.” It is the largest of the Cuban islands, other than Cuba itself. At one time this island was an American colony ceded to Cuba in 1907. The Punta Frances beach and resort area is on the northwest of this island where silver sand meets crystal waters. Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities.


Get ready for shocks, surprises, and eye-opening epiphanies! Twenty-first century Cuba is like nowhere else you have ever visited: economically poor, but culturally rich. Havana, with 2.1 million inhabitants, is the largest city in the Caribbean. Founded on its present site in 1519, it is one of the oldest cities in the Americas.

Most visitors are surprised to arrive in Havana and find a wildly exuberant city where taxi drivers quote Hemingway, and one can see classic American ‘50s cars being driven down streets surrounded by salt water taffy colored buildings.

Make sure you visit Old Havana where streets and alleys of this colonial-era city center have been immaculately restored. You will feel sucked back in time as you visit the plazas, churches, and forts here including the Catedral de San Cristóbal. Listen for salsa music, open-air bazaars and parties that last all night! Be sure to Walk El Malecón, the walkway bordering the ocean. Start in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and work your way toward the Hotel Nacional in Vedado. Take time to stop and sit on the sea wall. If you time it right, you will reach the Hotel Nacional in the late afternoon – a good time to grab a cool drink and enjoy the setting sun from the outdoor terrace under the palm trees.

Bahia de Nipe/ Holguin

Holguin is responsible for over 30% of Cuba’s vegetable crops, as well as over a thousand animal species. Years ago, President Fidel Castro imported exotic animals from Africa and filled a nature reserve. The people of Holguin pride themselves on the harmony that has been established between man and nature. In 1492, Christopher Columbus proclaimed this “the loveliest land ever beheld by human eyes.” Attractions include 34 rivers and six waterfalls, among them Guayabo (the largest in the country), and over 60 kilometers of beaches composed of exquisite white sand.

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is known as the most Caribbean city in Cuba, with many Afro-Caribbean influences on its culture. As Cuba’s second largest city, it blends multi-cultural traditions into the city’s past history and future promise. Santiago de Cuba has numerous old colonial buildings in the city center and is also home to one of the country’s universities, giving it a young and vibrant edge. This city is often regarded as the root of the Cuban Revolution and has been the birthplace of many national heroes. Santiago de Cuba exhibits an eclectic assortment of architectural influences, from the imposing El Morro castle to the exquisite colonial casas of Parque Cespedes in the historical quarter, to the glorious Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s most sacred pilgrimage site.

Visiting Cuba allows you to experience the culture and traditions of a land that has awakened refreshed and ready to welcome travelers within its boundaries. It will be a part of your memory for a lifetime!

For travel recommendations, please contact RSicilio@TRIPSandCRUISES.com
www.TRIPSandCRUISES.com or 800-411-8747.

Important Tips

  • Most US Citizens who wish to travel legally to Cuba must be a member of an authorized group. After registration with an affiliated group, such as the Fund for Reconciliation and Development (FfRD) or the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) you will receive an authorization letter that confirms your scheduled visit.
  • Cuba does not honor US travel insurance, so all US travelers must purchase special Cuban medical insurance, and provide proof of purchase.
  • Cuba has two currencies: The Moneda Nacional is used by locals and not convertible to other currencies. Visitors and many Cuban locals use the Cuban convertible peso (known as the CUC). You cannot currently use US dollars in Cuba. All money exchanges occur in Cuba at the airport, hotels, at exchange kiosks, and in Cuban banks. One CUC is equal to one US dollar, and all purchases must be made in CUC. Exchanging money is easy in Cuba, however currently exchange places add a 10% penalty to exchange US Dollars. You can exchange Canadian dollars to CUCs without this penalty.
  • American issued credit and debit cards are now allowed to be used in Cuba. However, many of the merchant terminals are not set up to take American issued credit cards. Be sure to bring enough cash to cover your trip.
  • Your American cell phone will not have any network signal in Cuba.
  • Internet service is very slow in Cuba, but hotels with business centers may have internet connections.
  • Americans traveling to Cuba will be allowed to bring back a small amount of now-banned cigars and rum. The new provisions allow Americans to bring up to USD 400.00 worth of Cuban goods, of which only USD 100.00 can be alcohol and tobacco.
  • Cuba has the lowest crime rate of any Latin American country, but good judgment must be applied, as in any travel situation.
  • Once you have all of these steps complete, grab your passport and travel visa (or Tourist Card) and start packing!
Rick Sicilio is the owner of Travel and Tours in Pittsburgh. He is an avid, worldwide traveler and has visited 68 countries to date. For over 21 years, Rick and his staff have been assisting clients to embrace their wanderlust and travel the world.