By Rebecca Bosma, Atlas Travel Brand Ambassador
Cuba has held a spot on many travelers’ bucket lists for decades, although it has been relatively unreachable for American travelers since the embargo imposed by the U.S. in 1960. Recently, the embargo was restructured, granting U.S. citizens regulated access to this desirable destination. One of Atlas Travel’s Vacation Specialists, Susan Johansen, was recently able to take advantage of this opportunity and cross Cuba off her own bucket list, providing us with remarkable insight into its colorful culture, which is rarely explored.
Susan’s trip started with a group of 14 travelers in Miami, Florida, where a chartered flight transferred them to Cuba in under an hour. Although the flight itself was brief, the immigration and planning process is very involved.
After landing on the island, it was time to put the trip’s rigorous logistics aside and fully experience the culture for what it is: a veritable time capsule of a nation primarily untouched by American tourists. Susan cited this as one of the most exciting things about visiting Cuba: “The United States is the only country that restricts travel to Cuba. It was good to get there before it’s flooded with tourists, which will change things.”
A main focus of the trip was the group’s humanitarian contributions, a stipulation of U.S. travel to the country. This seemingly rigid obligation was described by Susan as a welcomed requirement and provided a cultural experience like none other. “The trip was about people-to-people interaction,” said Susan. “That’s the whole idea of it.”
Her group’s humanitarian efforts included interacting with children at a local school, as well as meeting and dancing with elderly citizens at a senior center with local music. Susan commented, “It was great to see the elderly members moving with such vigor!”
While exploring the island via motor coach, the group was accompanied by both Cuban and American tour guides. Susan and her travel companions found this extremely helpful, with the tour guides offering great answers to their many questions.
When asked about her favorite part of the trip, Susan was unable to provide just one answer. “It’s such a beautiful city,” she said. “The locals were very kind and we all felt extremely safe, even exploring the island on our own.”
Though the trip was only four days, the group was able to sample the local flavor. This included experiencing live Cuban music, exploring the beautiful beaches and even visiting a private local restaurant. This night of dining was especially interesting, since it offered a glimpse into the budding entrepreneurship of this evolving country.
Cuba is perfectly suited for various types of travelers, and especially appropriate for humanitarians and adventure-seekers looking to explore a country unseen by most Americans. Although travel is becoming easier from the United States, it is advisable to partner with an agency such as Atlas Travel to help plan and execute the complicated details. As long as all the provisions are carefully met, you have the opportunity to experience a true trip of a lifetime.
If you or someone you know is interested in visiting Cuba, please contact Atlas Travel Vacations & Cruises at 800-878-8626. You can also contact Susan Johansen directly at 781-258-2038 for more insight into her experience and to participate in a future tour.