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The trip to Cuba is back. Here is the opinion of a tour operator: Travel Weekly

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Gay Nagle Myers

“Cuba is open!” said David Lee, founder and owner of Cultural Cuba, a company that offers trips to Cuba for Americans.

“We have been waiting for this since March 2020,” he added. “It is essential for Cubans that tourists come back, and now the day has come.”

Although Cuba was technically open for several months before the official reopening date, strict quarantine regulations, reduced airlift, lack of accommodation and low vaccine count in Cuba severely restricted visitor arrivals.

As of mid-November, however, fully vaccinated Cubans were over 77%, according to data from the Ministry of Health; its goal is to have 95% of the 11 million inhabitants vaxxer by mid-December, including children over two years old.

As of last week, vaccinated travelers must show proof of their vaccination and unvaccinated travelers must produce the result of a negative PCR test performed 72 hours before arrival. Quarantine and additional testing have been removed.

Lee said the elimination of quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers has been a game-changer in travel to Cuba.

“There is no question that we are seeing bookings for the holiday season,” said Lee. “Demand is high. In 2019, festive reservations were exhausted long before that. Now, of course, the reservation window is much shorter because Cuba has just reopened.”

Work with a travel counselor

Cultural Cuba, which works through travel counselors, caters to affluent and well-traveled visitors and became a member of the Virtuoso Sustainability community this year.

“Our goal is to support our travel consultant partners, so that their clients can enjoy legal trips organized transparently under the Support for the Cuban Peoples license with Cultural Cuba as the sponsoring entity,” said Lee.

A portal dedicated to travel advisers on the Cuba cultural site allows registered advisors to organize time slots with their clients and for Lee to discuss clients’ interests and their reasons for wanting to visit Cuba.

“Our travel counselors are our true partners,” said Lee. “They bring the customers to us, and we take care of the rest: paperwork, accommodation, flights. It’s transparent and secure. Everything is included and commissions start at 12%. We build routes based on what their customers want. see and do. A private guide is with them throughout. Our concept is to travel with a local friend who wants to take you into his world. “

What can Cuban travelers expect

Visitors can travel in classic cars from the 1950s, now updated with air conditioning. A photographer accompanies travelers for a day or two, takes photos and then presents them with a souvenir photo book at the end of the trip.

All guides and drivers are fully vaccinated and wear masks according to protocols.

Meals are taken at paladares, which are restaurants in private residences or apartments where the owners live. Menus go well beyond the rice and beans commonly found in Cuba, and payment for a meal goes directly to the owner as part of the Support for the Cuban People category of Legalized Travel for Americans Visiting Cuba. .

“The US government wants to make sure that the money goes to the Cuban people,” Lee said. “Our company supports several initiatives to support Cubans, including a preschool for disadvantaged children, much like Head Start in the United States. We also have a center for the elderly and we support a Cuban dance company.”

Nightlife overflows the streets of Cuba with music and dancing in every neighborhood, especially Old Havana. Guides transform into nightly concierges who call ahead to find where the best salsa bands are performing, for patrons who want to experience this scene.

Cigar pairings and rum tastings can be arranged, as can city tours by bike in Havana, outings for birdwatchers, and “downtime for travelers who just want to take a dip. afternoon nap, ”Lee said.

He described a visit to Cuba as a place full of magical possibilities. “The Cuban people are artistically talented, highly educated and culturally curious,” he said. “They are proud of their family and want to share their experiences and connect with their visitors. “


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