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Monday, June 1, 2015



Cienfuegos, Cuba at dawn on April 25, 2015 as seen from the bay side patio of La Perla Hotel, part of the Hotel Jagua compound in the Punto Gordo peninsula.              —All images in this post by Phyllis Shess

Editor’s note: Throughout June 2015 on a daily basis PILLAR TO POST will feature articles, photos and insights resulting from what we dubbed our group: the April 23 Brigade’s Tour of Cuba 2015.
As Cuba-USA relations continue to thaw, many Norte Americanos are taking advantage of existing tour opportunities to visit the forbidden
Since 2011, “people to people” tours have been readily available under Cuban and U.S. government guidelines.  The tours, however must be cultural and educational in scope and be escorted as there is no free range touring of Cuba if you’re a U.S. citizen.  That may change fairly quickly, but it wasn’t the case this spring.

There are many tour operators in the U.S. that conduct legally sanctioned people to people tours to the Republic of Cuba.  The following information was obtained by participating in such a tour.

We selected an escorted tour by Discovery Tours Gate 1.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has granted the firm Discovery Tours by Gate 1 a license to provide people to people programs to Cuba. 

People to People travel is an initiative that allows U.S. citizens and legal U.S. residents to travel to Cuba on a limited basis to participate in cultural experiences and have direct contact with the Cuban people in order to learn more about them and their culture.

People to People travel are escorted and follow a pre-arranged agenda.  Our tour consisted of seven nights in Cuba (six days allowing for travel times). There is little to no free time during the week to explore as an individual.

Gate 1 People to People Package Included:

--Small groups of maximum 22 travelers guaranteed
--Round trip flights Miami-Cienfuegos & Havana-Miami (included in land only pricing)
--Airline taxes & fuel surcharges
--8 nights in accommodations that evoke the local character
1 night Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport, Miami
3 nights Hotel Jagua, Cienfuegos
4 nights Hotel Nacional, Havana
--Hotel porterage
--All transfers and people to people activities per itinerary in air-conditioned vehicles
--19 meals: 8 breakfasts, 6 lunches & 5 dinners (including welcome & farewell dinners)
--Bottled water during educational excursions
--Services of a Cuban English-speaking Guide and a USA tour manager throughout
--Comprehensive, guided activities & cultural exchanges including entrance fees per itinerary
--Active itinerary with unique cultural features
--Health insurance in Cuba (mandatory)
--Visa to Cuba (for US Citizens) and Cuban departure tax.

IMAGES OF CUBA / Photos by Phyllis Shess, April 2015

Cuban boy in Trinidad, Cuba, April 25, 2015.

For centuries the fortress Castillo del Morro has protected Havana and its Harbor, April 26, 2015
One Havana neighborhood has embraced the art of Jose Fuster, one of Cuba's living art treasures.
Student from Benny More La Escuela des Artes in Cienfuegos playing a selection from Mozart, April 27, 2015
Peacock in the lobby of the main restaurant Hotel Valencia, Old Havana, April 28, 2015
Vintage '50s Chevrolets in West Havana neighborhood, where Fidel Castro is rumored to have one of his homes.
Three friends hanging out on a street corner in the old section of Trinidad, Cuba, April 25, 2015
By day an art gallery; by night a residence in central Trinidad, Cuba, April 25, 2015
After a tropical downpour, a Cuban woman walks by the neighborhood pharmacy.  In socialist Cuba health care and education are free, May 1, 2015

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