My Cuba Explorer Tours reports from travelers. 2Photo Trudi Unger Photography.
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POSTCARDS FROM CUBA
Real people. Real words. Real experiences and encounters
in Cuba that changed our travelers lives and outlook on the world.
Map of Cuba.
The world is a book and those who don't travel read only a page. St. Augustine. 354–430 A.D.
Balance of group time and personal time perfect
April 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Stephanie Sanders, Director, Barclays Global Investors
Novato, California

We loved our tour and had no problems or complaints with it. Our guide Neisy Pérez Rescala was wonderful. She did an amazing job of answering the group's questions. We felt so fortunate to be in the company of those with whom we met: the former Cuban Ambassador, the musicians at the music studio, the children at the school, and the artists. And even though we were horrible at it, we loved our dance class. The balance of group time and personal time seemed to be perfect. It was a wonderful tour and we have told many friends what a great time we had.
Everything interesting, but organic farm was my favorite
April 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Bridget Jourgensen, Commercial Property Management, CB Richard Ellis
Lynn, Massachusetts

Dear Rene, I wanted to let you know what a wonderful, interesting and enjoyable vacation we had with your group. Our guide Julie and driver Fernando did an absolutely fantastic job. They felt like family by the end of the week. The activities were extremely interesting, and there was a good blend of organized time vs. free time. The trip to the organic farm was my favorite activity (and the lunch there was by far the best meal we had). The hotel was really well located for walking around Havana and the staff was nice as well. Thanks again for all of your assistance in helping us plan this very memorable vacation!
My new friend in Havana. I gave this blue cap to him.
My new friend in Havana. I gave this blue cap to him.
Superb balance of visits to cultural and educational venues
April 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Jean Hine, Cancer Researcher, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, Arkansas

Hi Pedro, Cuba is a truly unique country: the warmth of its people will be a lasting memory. The island's cultural diversity was noticeable throughout our visit. The tour was awesome: a superb balance of visits to cultural and educational venues and free time for independent exploration of Habana Vieja. The range of ages, knowledge of Spanish and travel experience among the members of our small group enriched our trip. Our guide was knowledgeable and pleasant; our driver was skilled and had a nice sense of humor. Thank you again for all your help and best to you.
Had tears in our eyes when we left
April 2013 Private Arts, Architecture and Culture Tour
Susan Lentini, Administration, Lentini Insurance & Investments, Inc.
Santa Clarita, California

Hi Graciella. Unfortunately we are back to work today. In the meantime, wanted to let you know our experience was excellent. Had tears in our eyes when we left our fantastic guide, Laura and superior driver Manuel. I cannot imagine anyone doing a better job than these two. I'm sure the rest of the group felt the same. Bus, hotel, food, experiences were all incredible. Our only complaint was too much good food and now we have to be on diets. Both Jim Gasper and I would come back in a heartbeat, especially if we could have the same guide and bus driver.
Would have enjoyed more salsa dancing
April 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Ivie Sherman, Special Education Teacher, Centinela Valley Union High School District
Lawndale, California

Lilian, Cuba was definitely a land of great music, energy, and happiness. Most of the people were very accommodating. The men were definitely on the aggressive side if you were a young woman walking alone. For me the food was difficult as I LOVE vegetables and there were barely any except for carbs such as rice, potatoes, and corn. I would have enjoyed more salsa dancing. I enjoyed how varied the cultural activities were. The hotel had a great location for seeing the old city, not so much for salsa dancing :). Our guide was very sweet and knowledgeable. She tried her very best to make our tour enjoyable. I very much enjoyed the Literacy Museum, Fuster's house, the caves in Viñales. Thank you for all your help throughout the planning process.
Tour ranked as one of our best adventures
April 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Barney Schultz, Antique Dealer
Miami, Florida
Joan Schultz, Housing Specialist, City of Miami
Miami, Florida

We have traveled to lots of places in the world mostly on our own but occasionally on tours, and I have to say this trip will rank as one of our best adventures. It was good to visit a neighborhood center, an older adult center, the literary museum, and the organic farm -places that are probably not visited by most travelers to Cuba. The lunch at the organic farm was one of the best meals we has in Cuba. Our guide did a good job… We always felt you had our back if anything went wrong. Thank you for your help.
Neal Due–as and tourmate prepare dish at Santo çngel restaurant Cuban cooking class. Guide Alden at right.
Neal Dueñas and tourmate prepare dish at Santo Ángel restaurant Cuban cooking class. Guide Alden at right.
Had the best guide and trip ever
April 2013 Private Cuban History and Culture Tour
George Bagdon and Neal Due–as.
George Bagdon and Neal Dueñas. Click photo to enlarge.
George Bagdon, Civil Engineer, Retired
Neal Dueñas, Retired
Palm Springs, California

Our group had a great time on the tour of Havana and Central Cuba. Our guide, Alden was wonderful and we highly recommend him for future tours, especially for traveling Americans as his English is perfect. He was articulate, personable, knowledgeable and quickly responded to issues that came up during the trip. He helped us get the best rooms as well as made restaurant and performance reservations for us. Cuba is still a very unique vacation experience for even the most seasoned traveler. The people are extremely friendly and open. The buildings are colorful and everywhere you go you will hear the latin music and see people dancing. There is also a feeling of stepping back in time with the old cars and kids playing stick ball in the streets. It reminds you that the simple things in life may make you the happiest. Many thanks for arranging a unique and memorable trip for us.
Cuba experience mixed
April 2013 Private Cuban History and Culture Tour
Larry Kerray, Retired
Langley, British Columbia
Linda Kerray, Nurse, Richmond Hospital
Langley, British Columbia

Our experience of Cuba was mixed. We enjoyed the spirit of the people. Given their meagre circumstances, they have a joy and perseverance that is admirable. This is especially evident in their love of music and dance. On the other hand we were saddened by the state of the economy and infrastructure. Although the basics are provided, it appears to be a hard existence. The architecture is amazing but its crumbling state reminds one of being in a bombed city. We enjoyed all of the sites we visited and associated history. The Tour guide and driver were excellent. They went out of their way to satisfy our needs. The guide was very personable, articulate, knowledgeable and flexible – a credit to his profession. He exceeded our expectations to research our requests, make reservations and address problems. I would highly recommend him. Having experienced many guides in other countries around the world I would say he is the best we have experienced so far.
A country of many contrasts
April 2013 Cuban Arts, Architecture and Culture Tour
Jane Blomstrand, New Teacher Induction Coordinator, Contra Costa County Office of Education
Lafayette, California

Hi Graciella, Well we have re-entered life without Cuba, it has been hard. We thoroughly enjoyed our Cuba tour. Cuba was one of the most fascinating countries we have ever visited. It is a country of many contrasts and the people are friendly, lively and hospitable. Our tour guide, Laura Norat, was outstanding. She was pleasant, knowledgeable and very accommodating. She was a wonderful source of information. In fact, we would love to be able to contact San Cristóbal Travel Agency and let them know how outstanding she was. I have communicated with a traveler on Trip Advisor about your company and highly recommended your group. Thanks for a wonderful vacation.
Sad many Cubans live in terrible conditions
April 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Janet Schilling, Dietitian, Executive Director, Weigh of Life
El Cerrito, California

Thanks for your help, Pedro. I'm hoping our relations with Cuba are improving enough that such licensing will no longer be needed! We had a great trip. Neicy was a great guide and speaks English very well, and Juan Manuel an excellent driver. The music, dancing, and tours were great. We're just so sad that so many Cubans live in terrible conditions and that their economic situation has only gotten worse since the fall of the Iron Curtain, with no more help from Russia and it's allies. They should increase production of bananas, pineapple, mango, cocoa and coffee to sell to us--so we don't have to buy so much from Chile in the wintertime.
Reminded me so much of Spain
April 2013 Private Arts, Architecture and Culture Tour
Kandi Lancaster, Teacher, Walnut Creek Intermediate
Concord, California

The people are wonderful. Havana Vieja reminded me so much of Spain… then I realized that's because it was settled by the Spanish! I enjoyed getting out of Havana to Viñales. The food was much better than I had read about. Music was enjoyable as well. Our guide Laura was extraordinary. The breadth of her knowledge was amazing. If she weren't able to answer our question immediately, she would return the next day with the answer. I like that when we asked about a particular site or event (like the steps of Universidad de Havana) she and Manuel, our driver, would adjust the route so we could see it. I appreciate that Laura always asked our input and was open to adjusting plans to meet the group's needs and wants. The only thing I could suggest is perhaps some background reading prior to the trip. I began reading "Waiting for Snow in Havana" by Carlos Eire but it moved too slowly for me. I especially liked "Cuba Plane Reader" published by Go Nomad – a collection of essays about people, places and foods of Cuba. Lastly, right now I am engrossed in "Fidel and Che" by Simon Reid-Henry. It helped to have some background on Cuba before getting there.
Many memorable moments (and photos too)
April 2013 Private Arts, Architecture and Culture Tour
Roger Lancaster, Technical Manager, Retired
Concord, California

Cuba's a wonderful country with educated compassionate people eager to share their heritage and livelihood. The day-to-day activities were not stressful, allowed for flexibility with plenty of personal time for visiting the local sights. I enjoyed the agriculture and architecture portions of our tour the most. If all your guides are as informative as Laura you will not have any issues with travelers not understanding what Cuba is about. The driver was safe and reliable. We knew each day that our experience would bring us many memorable moments (and photos too) of our first trip to a marvelous country.
The guide, driver and bus were fantastic
April 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Robert Sommers, Tax Attorney
Piedmont, California

We made it back to the U.S., safe and sound, although Immigration put us through the ringer and asked for the documents, as well as inspected everything in our luggage. Thank goodness we had the information and did not try to sneak anything into the U.S. Please warn other tourists as to exactly what is allowed into the U.S. under the embargo. Overall, it was a great experience and extremely interesting. The guide, driver and bus were fantastic, especially the guide – the best I've ever had. Please consider sending her a tour-guide microphone with a small speaker box for larger tours. Overall, a big success, even if there were a couple of bumps along the way. I have about 500 pictures from the trip.
Remind U.S. travelers they cannot use credit cards in Cuba
March 2013 Cuba Education and Culture
Dorothy LoCicero, Social Worker, Los Angeles County
Torrance, California

Cubans are a proud, well-educated people still promoting the few virtues of communism. They are reserved, not smiling and only friendly if they are soliciting your business or your tips. They live in the past, which is where they have been for 60 years. They are quickly learning the advantages of tourist money and what that can do for their country; however, this is being exploited by having CUCs for tourists and pesos for Cubans. The tour was well organized and presented the best Cuba has to show to the world which is quite limited and I imagined it would be. Everything went smoothly except the almost two hour delay in getting the luggage off the plane when we arrived in Havana. U.S. tourists should be reminded they cannot use credit cards in Cuba and they should take lots and lots of cash because the Cuban CUC is worth more than the U.S. or Canadian dollar which was a huge shock.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Please read Money Matters in Cuba for everything related to currencies, foreign exchange and spending in on the island.
Our kids enjoyed the tour as much as we did
March 2013 Robert McElvaine Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Stephens Family, Shannon, David, Helen and James
San Antonio, Texas

We enjoyed our tour tremendously! The Cubans we met were all warm and welcoming and eager to share their beautiful city with us. Havana is a city so rich in art and music, it's hard to take it all in. We found the tour touched on many aspects of the city that we never would have found on our own. And best of all, our 13- and 17-year old kids enjoyed it as much as all the adults! Our guide, Grency was wonderful – so cheerful and engaging all the time. I enjoyed everything we did. Thanks for a wonderful trip!
Weather and hotels were perfect
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Marie Cowart, Retired
Tallahassee, Florida

Our Cuba tour was a memorable one. I learned so much and had an enjoyable time. The people were wonderful, warm and friendly as well as industrious. Their economy is moving along as we saw with much renovation of historic buildings as well as thriving businesses. The weather and hotels were perfect and typical of the area. Our guide, Laura, was intelligent, well informed, gracious, patient, diplomatic, and we all fell in love with her. The driver was warm, friendly and safe. Thank you for putting the tour together.
Joyce Carey and tourmate at Calejón de Hamel in Havana.
Joyce Carey and tourmate at Callejón de Hamel in Havana.
Will repeat program in 2014
March 2013 Normandale Community College Cuba Tour
Joyce Carey, Communication Teacher, Normandale Community College
Bloomington, Minnesota

We stayed at the O'Farrill Hotel in Old Havana. It was an excellent location. The rooms were very nice and clean. The hotel is laid out with a center courtyard and there was music every night. The lunches and dinners on the tour were exceptional. We ate at some great spots including the El Aljibe (fabulous food and ambience in a quiet neighborhood) and El Templete (wonderful seafood!). The lunch at the Organopónico farm was truly divine! We all took pictures of the beautiful fresh vegetable dishes. Magnificent! Our guide, Meylin Núñez, was top notch! She was helpful and very knowledgeable. The walking tour of Havana was filled with information. She was loud and easy to understand. Working with her was a joy. We would definitely recommend her for future trips. Everyone was very happy with the overall program. Our days were full but not over-full. Our days began at 9:00 in the morning and ended mid-afternoon on most days giving people ample free time to explore on their own. Cuba Explorer Tours prepared the land program. They also purchased the Havana flights. They were easy to work with and responsive to our emails and answered questions in a timely and professional manner. I would definitely use their services again.
My room at the Tejadillo had two balconies
March 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Marcia Grommé Clark, Teacher, Summit High School
Bend, Oregon

Cuba was great, the people and music are fabulous. The live music was amazing. The Casa Fúster was the best and the food there was great. The guide for the Museo de Bellas Artes gave a fascinating history of art in Cuba. I enjoyed the Escuela Taller workshop school and would have liked to spend more time there than the Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito, which was not at all impressive. The lights going out in the caves added an element of danger to the walk and made me very happy with the flashlight function on my phone. Rosa was a lovely guide! Hotel Tejadillo was in a great location and my room was fabulous with two balconies because one is never enough, kind of like daiquiris at la Floridita.
Art and music are part of the fabric of Havana
March 2013 Private Arts and Culture Tour
Linda Skallman, Human Resources Manager, Retired
St. Paul, Minnesota

Cuba is a country in which history is always right in front of you. Havana is a truly beautiful city with its old buildings, winding streets and the easy access to the sea. I hope that the economy can improve so that they can continue to preserve and protect the amazing architecture. The people were warm and friendly. I loved the way art and music were a regular part of the fabric of the city. Liliana, our guide, was wonderful. She was an incredibly mature young woman who was able to handle our large group with little effort. When you consider that most of us were old enough to be her grandparents I think she did an amazing job. I thought we saw a good slice of the country considering the short time available and the restrictions that come from both the U.S. and Cuban government. The drive to Trinidad was long, but the bus was comfortable and the scenery was beautiful.

Plaza Vieja from Steven Moss's photo gallery.
View my Cuba tour photo website
March 2013 Private Arts and Culture Tour
Steven Moss, Sales
Dana Point, California

I've updated my tour website with the latest pictures and news. Come check it out at http://cubamay2013.shutterfly.com
Thank you for the Cuba experience
March 2013 Private Arts and Culture Tour
Jill Gaumer, Clinical Social Worker
Wilmington, Delaware

Overall, it was a grand experience! To see a country so difference from the built-up, material, and busy U.S., was a treat. To drive along undeveloped coastlines was really wonderful. I hope that Cuba, when things do open, will maintain some of its ecological purity. The Tejadillo was scenic as it was three grand homes joined to make one hotel. What it lacked in amenities it made up for in ambiance. The Trinidad Hotel had clearly seen better days. It was interesting to stay in a place that seemed to have stopped in the 1950s. Lily, our tour guide was amazing. She had facts, figures, dates, answers and context all at her fingertips. Her presence and management of the group was outstanding. She was a joy and a great representative for Cuba. She is clearly, proud of her country and able to articulate the strides it has made in the last 50ish years. The bus driver was great also. He gradually became one of our number. I loved seeing Hemingway's home. A highlight for those of us who read "The Old Man and the Sea" someplace in high school. The organic farm was great. The lunch there was one of the best. Boca de Guamá was fabulous. Really liked Cienfuegos and the theater there was great. All in all, it was quite an adventure, well paced, well timed and a very good overview of our next-door neighbor.
Plenty of cha cha chá
March 2013 Private Arts and Culture Tour
Judith Smith, Physician Recruiter
New Castle, Delaware

I thought the tobacco farm was interesting. I lived in North Carolina for a while (one of the biggest tobacco producing states in the U.S.) and have seen some really big tobacco producing operations. I know how the commercial producers work in the U.S. and I appreciated learning how a small farm handles the same issues as the big guys. Sorry there were no rumba bands, but I heard plenty of cha cha chá, samba, merengue, mambo and tango while we were there. (And a rumba or two as well).
Left a lasting impression
March 2013 Private Arts and Culture Tour
Lee O'Brien, Library Administrator, Cecil County Public Library
Newark, Delaware

Cuba was a vibrant, friendly, authentic place with layers and layers of history, culture and decrepitude to be explained and understood. Our trip was a wonderful unique experience. It's left a lasting impression and has raised my awareness of Cuba. I look forward to continuing study of the art, history, culture and politics of the country. We visited so many varied sites throughout the country! From historic Havana, to an organic farm, to the beach, to the alligator farm, we got a real broad sampling of what Cuba is, was and hopes to be. We also had time to relax and explore some on our own. Giving gifts to our friends in the convent and at the organic farm was very rewarding.
Great country and people
March 2013 Masters School Community Arts, Education and Culture Tour
Martha Solinger, Lawyer, Lehman Brothers Holdings
Pelham, New York

Cuba was fascinating, beautiful, interesting, and nice. I think it has some real economic problems to solve, but great country and people! What I liked best about my tour was meeting and talking to real people; the variety of things we did; the group we were with.
Giant palm tree in Vi–ales Valley. Photo Julie Horvath
Giant palm tree in Viñales Valley. Photo Julie Horvath
Told Obama embargo should end
March 2013 Private Arts and Culture Tour
Bertie Galpin, Retired
Newark, Delaware
Larry Galpin, Retired
Newark, Delaware

We had a great trip. The itinerary was appreciated and enjoyed seeing other parts of Cuba besides Havana. The arrangements worked out well and travel from Miami (and back to U.S.) was a non-event. Our tour guide, Liliana, was very good with her English and in covering many subjects. We got what we expected and a little more. Below is a letter I sent to President Obama, VP Biden, and Delaware U.S. senators and U.S. representative.

I would like to know why my government has not ended the Cuban embargo. It has been fifty plus years with no results except hurting the U.S. economy (lost opportunities) and adding to the misery of 12 million Cubans.

I just returned from Cuba where we were well received. I was impressed with how the Cubans are functioning under their system of government. These people are in their second generation since the Revolution. Most of the people we met seem well educated and healthy and have great pride that everyone has access to education and health care. There are signs that some aspects of "free enterprise" are being adopted. I also noticed that the Koreans and the Japanese have captured the car market. The Chinese have captured the bus market. The Canadians and the Europeans have captured the resort market. I also sensed that the Cubans want normal relationships with its closest neighbor.

The embargo does not make sense at any level. The U.S. embargo provides a rallying point for the Cuban government to justify their policies. The U.S. does business and has open relationships with other communist countries (especially China). We support countries that have worse human rights policies than Cuba.

Many Americans (including Cuban Americans) are asking to have the embargo lifted. Why has this not happened? I hope that the few, older Cubans in Miami are not influencing the policies of my government.


Dese Arnaz.
Desi Arnaz (1917-1986) was born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in Santiago de Cuba. His father was Santiago's youngest mayor and then served in the Cuban legislature. His mother, Dolores Acha y de Socias, was considered one of the most beautiful women in Latin America, and her father, Alberto, was one of the three original founders of the Bacardi Rum Company. The 1933 coup, led by Fulgencio Batista, that overthrew president Gerardo Machado, landed Arnaz's father in jail for six months, and stripped Desi's parents of their wealth and power. Upon the father's prison release the family fled to Miami. In 1951, Arnaz produced the premiere of I Love Lucy. He played Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo. His co-star wife, Lucille Ball, was Lucy. Two generations of Americans were transfixed by comedic episodes of I Love Lucy.
Motivated to go by many years of watching Desi Arnaz
March 2013 Jewish Mission Tour
The Ambos Mundos was home to Ernest Hemingway between 1932 and 1939. From room 511 he wrote, "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
The Ambos Mundos was home to Ernest Hemingway between 1932 and 1939. From room 511 he wrote, "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Learn more about the Ambos Mundos.
Barbara Stapen, Retired
Newark, Delaware

Cuba was a trip I wanted to take for many years. I'm not sure why, maybe too many years of watching Desi Arnaz. We flirted with going in 2000, but decided that it was not practical, much less illegal. I found myself in a 1950s–'60s time warp in La Habana. Our hotel reminded me of an old European style one, complete with a beautiful iron worked see through cage. And an elevator man to run it. We were in the center of Old Habana and were able to walk everywhere. The architecture was both phenomenal and neglected. But the Cubans have embarked on a campaign of restoration. The restored and unrestored areas emit an aura of grandeur of days past with a look to greatness in the future. I found the people to be very pleasant and open about the difficulties and realities of life in Cuba, especially once the Soviets pulled out. There is a thriving beginning tourist business. And the impression I got was that they would embrace a lifting of the U.S. embargo.
Very tasty lunch at Organopónico Vivero Alamar
March 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Maureen Newby, Research Scientist, University of Washington School of Social Work
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Thom McDonald, Small Business Owner
Bainbridge Island, Washington

The best part of tour for us was the great group of people we were together with for the week. By the end of the week, we had all truly become a tight-knit "family." About half of our group spoke Spanish, and all were intensely interested in learning as much as possible about the Cuban people and Cuban society. Our group leader, Rosa, did an excellent job. The Cuban people who appeared to be generally happy despite the challenges that they face in their daily lives also impressed us. The restoration of many beautiful buildings in Havana Vieja was truly impressive. We enjoyed nearly all of the tour destinations, but some were especially interesting for us. The tour of Organopónico Vivero Alamar (and its and very tasty lunch) and the visit to the Casa del Niño y la Niña [House for the Boy and Girl] were among our favorites. We also enjoyed the visit at the home of muralist José Fúster and the lecture on "Cuba Today" by Professor Salsamendi from the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales. Interestingly, upon our return to the U.S., no immigration or customs official asked anything about where we had been.

Thom's thoughts: I have considered myself to be some kind of socialist for all of my adult life, and for that reason, was somewhat surprised to see what appeared to be an important class divide between those with access to convertible Pesos (CUC) and everyone else. At several points on the tour I asked about this and never felt that I received a satisfactory answer. For those of you who are Cubans living in Canada, I would like to hear your views on this subject.

Response by Cubans in Canada: Your observations are accurate. Many Cubans receive financial support from their families in the United States and other countries. There is also a new class of entrepreneurs emerging with access to CUCs earned on the island. If the U.S. embargo of the island were lifted, an end of scarcity of goods and elevated incomes would result. Cubans would be in a better position to realize their aspirations for a more perfect equality.
Itinerary was a lot to take in in one week
March 2013 Cincinnati University Journalism, Education and Culture Tour
Isaac Dippold, Chemical Engineering, University of Cincinnati
Coldwater, Ohio

I loved Cuba! It was a great trip, and I really enjoyed Havana. The people are so inviting and friendly. They were always willing to help with anything, and, it seemed, they worked hard at everything they did. I really enjoyed the culture of Havana and would love to go back someday. I really liked going to Organopónico Vivero Alamar and the art museum in Havana. They were both really great places, and I could have spent a lot more time there. Walking around Old Havana was also great. Geldrys, our tour guide, and Guillermo, our driver, were both fantastic! They were very friendly, personable, and always willing to help. I would say though that our itinerary was a lot to take in in one week. I often felt rushed, but I think a longer trip there would have alleviated this. I would have also liked to have a single day on our itinerary that would have been completely free so we could explore more on our own.
Enjoyed visiting a country without McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks
March 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Darrah Hallowitz, Teacher, Terra Linda High School
San Rafael, California

Really enjoyed Cuba. People warm and friendly. Havana is charming and feels safe during the day and night even for a single female. So enjoyed visiting a country without any American corporate interest (the usual McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks etc.) Music was wonderful and everywhere. For the most part, things look clean and the people open. Our guide was great even though very young. Especially enjoyed fort and cannon ceremony, salsa dancing, walking through old Havana and trip to the country.
My impressions of Cuba: Great
March 2013 Robert McElvaine Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Monica Patel, Human Resource Professional, Oppenheimer Funds
Brooklyn, New York

My impressions of Cuba, its people and their culture: Great! I loved the day trip to Viñales and the tobacco farm day.
There is no country (including my own) in which I feel safer
March 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Carol DeuPree, Teacher, Pasadena Unified School District
Altadena, California

Cuba is absolutely my favorite place to travel. The people are warm and gracious to U.S. travelers, despite our countries' horrendous policies directed toward their country. All the dire warnings about safety issues that are promoted by our State Department are absurd. There is no country (including my own) in which I feel safer. Cuba appears to be a country that does more than pay lip service to its concern for children, the sick, and the elderly. I love the fact that everywhere you hear beautiful music and see fabulous art. Cuba obviously has its priorities straight. The trip was much more affordable than my previous tours to Cuba. There was a university professor that spoke to us who was especially informative about all aspects of Cuban culture. She was extremely candid about the strengths and the weaknesses of the current political structure and economic policies. I found her vision for Cuba's future to be interesting and thought provoking. I also enjoyed our visit to the Literacy Center.
Days full, was exhausted, but still eager to explore
March 2013 Cincinnati University Journalism, Education and Culture Tour
Casey Carver, Spanish Student, CECH Learning Design Collaborative
Cincinnati, Ohio

I've been busy getting adjusted to life back in America. My impression of Cuba was that the people were so friendly and welcoming. I have never felt safer anywhere in my entire life. There is more violence around my campus than there is in all of Cuba. I loved how warm and welcoming everyone was and I felt connected to everyone I was able to talk to. Our tour guides were THE BEST! I loved Cuba and how to come back soon! As for things that could be improved, there isn't much to change. I thought that our days were pretty full and was exhausted by the end of each day, but still eager to get up and explore the next morning. Also I wish we had been able to do some less touristy things and be able to meet more natives. My favorite part was meeting with college students my own age and getting to know them; I wish I could have connected with even more people! Overall the trip was great though! Thanks for coordinating everything and making sure that everything ran smoothly!
Bring toilet paper and soap
March 2013 Jewish Mission Tour
Barbara Levine
Wilmington, Delaware

Loved the trip. The sounds and sights were amazing. Thanks for your help. The only problem I had was toilet paper and soap (should have brought from home) never enough!
Great people, very poor country
March 2013 Jewish Mission Tour
Leonard Stapen, Teacher and Salesman, Retired
Newark, Delaware

Great people, very poor country. Buildings falling apart, it's a shame. Food was ok, but the beef was bad. Tour guide was great as well as the driver of the bus. Hotel was ok considering that it was old and not brought up to our standards but clean. Again, our guide was excellent and the people we met where great and honest. No problems at all.
Cannon at San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. Photo Barbara Whitman.
Cannon at San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. Photo Barbara Whitman
Music embedded in many activities
March 2013 Robert McElvaine Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Barbara Whitman, Dental Hygienist, Gentle Dental
Portland, Oregon

As visitors, we found the people very approachable and friendly. Culturally, we found the music embedded in many activities. It was also very enjoyably diverse. There is a lot of structural decay, but people seem to be moving on with their lives. The literacy rate is very impressive. Easy access to basic medical services is also commendable. We liked the variety of sights. It was the main reason we chose this particular tour, and we were not disappointed.
Cuba Absolutely!
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Joseph Pankowski
Tallahassee, Florida

Wonderful, loving people who like Americans. They are struggling financially, but are making progress. The tour was an opportunity to see a beautiful island with mountains and seashore second to none, and also the chance to interact with its people in various settings.
A country full of history
March 2013 Normandale College Cuba Tour
Janet Merrill
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Cuba is a lovely, friendly, safe place to visit. Music and arts are fabulous. The art museums were awesome. The guide at the National Art Museum was outstanding. I especially enjoyed visiting artist's studios. The landscape is beautiful, and Havana is full of interesting sights. It is full of history and story, all of which is well preserved. I want to go again. The tour guide, Meylin, was outstanding. We all fell in love with her. She was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, that every minute was a pleasure. The pace of the tour was great, full, but not tiring. There was a good balance of group activities and individual time. The variety of places to visit was interesting, both urban and rural. I loved getting out to the west, and visiting the organic farm. I liked that everything was so well organized in advance, that I was well prepared. I honestly can't think of anything I would have had done differently. That the hotel water heater was broken was not a big problem for any of us in our group.
Nancy Thomson and tour guide Laura Norat.
Nancy Thomson and tour guide Laura Norat.
Let the people of both nations be neighbors again
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Nancy Thomson, Educator
Port St. Joe, Florida

This Cuban tour is one of the best trips I have ever made. I feel like I left a piece of my heart in Cuba. My hope is that some day our governments can put aside their differences and let the people of both nations be neighbors again. The visit to Convent Belen, singing and dancing with the seniors there, was one of the highlights. The only thing I would change would be to add a school visit to the itinerary. I would love to go back and take my daughter with me.
Thank you for putting the tour together
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Marie Cowart, Health and Long Term Care for Elder Persons
Tallahassee, Florida

The Cuban tour was a memorable one, I learned so much, and at the same time had an enjoyable time. The people were wonderful, warm and friendly as well as industrious, their economy is moving along as we saw with much renovation of historic buildings as well as thriving businesses. The weather and hotels were perfect and typical of the area. Our guide, Laura, was intelligent, well informed, gracious, patient, diplomatic, and we all fell in love with her. The driver was warm, friendly and safe. One of the hotels, the Plaza, kept running out of food at breakfast, not well organized. Thank you for putting this together.
Cuba goes down in my travel journals as an A+ adventure
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Marjorie Turnbull, Director, Tallahassee Community College Foundation
Tallahassee, Florida

I cannot say enough about the great experience we just shared in visiting Cuba. The sights, sounds, people, food, music of Cuba all folded into one to give us unbelievable memories of a place we know so little about. We are all in agreement that we got the best guide, Laura (bright, enthusiastic, warm, knowledgeable, calm and capable), and best driver, Leo on the Island. Betty's planning was superlative. And the price was amazing! But the truth is it was all of you who made the trip one for the books. This fun loving, talented, interesting group of folks made every day a new adventure. The 2013 trip to Cuba goes down in my travel journals as an A+ adventure! The Hotel Nacional (I stayed in last year so was familiar with it) was a wonderful hotel; the Ancón and Plaza hotels were OK but not just great. I think that is to be expected in the older hotels in Cuba and we can't use our U.S. standard to judge them. Last year I also stayed at the Meliá in Havana and would frankly prefer to stay in an older hotel with ambiance and history rather than a hotel that is like the cookie cutter hotels in our country. We had wonderful meals. There was just the right balance of time on our own and visiting sites. Thanks again for making the arrangements for the trip appear to be easy. Betty has given you high praise in how wonderful you all were to work with. Cuba is so special. Time for the Embargo (or as the Cuban more appropriately call it the Blockade) to END!
The people, for the most part, were proud
March 2012 Robert McElvaine Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Caroline Hoff, Teacher, Retired
Clinton, Mississippi

I found the people of Cuba very friendly and helpful. The people, for the most part, were proud of their country and while they wished for a higher standard of living, were eager to share with us and tell about life in Cuba. The best part of the tour was the tour. I was impressed with all we saw and the diversity of the itinerary. Also the meals provided were very generous. Our guide was very knowledgeable and even provided us with evening reservations. I have no problems with the tour. Some complained because of lack of hot water, but I thought the hotel was fine, rooms spacious and nicely appointed, staff friendly and abundant food.
Best travel experiences ever
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Dale Alan Olsen, Professor, Retired
Tallahassee, Florida

Diane and I just want to tell all of you how much we enjoyed our week together in Cuba (and Miami) with you. It was one of our best travel experiences ever, and we have had lots of travel experiences. Thank you Betty for making everything work so smoothly and for choosing such wonderful places to visit, eat, and enjoy. Words can't express our thanks for everything. Also, we'll never forget Laura, her charm, intelligence, knowledge, beauty, cheerfulness, efficiency, patience, and more; and Leo was such a friendly person, an excellent manipulator of that huge blue and green Chinese tour bus, and an exceptionally safe driver. Once again, thanks for your friendship, and praise the Lord for our safe trip and all the things we learned to make this world a better place.
Our guide Alden Daniel.
Our guide Alden Daniel.
Not possible to see and learn more about Cuba in a week
March 2013 Cuba Culture and Nature Tour
Robert Gentile, Educational Technology, West Chester University, Retired
West Chester, Pennsylvania

The trip exceeded expectations in every way. The tour guide, Alden, was excellent, attentive, knowledgeable, and open to providing honest answers to any question about Cuba. I am not a "tour person," but transportation and communications in Cuba are difficult, and it would not be possible to see and learn more about Cuba in a week.
Our guide Laura Norat.
Our guide Laura Norat.
Thinking people in the U.S. say: ¡Viva Cuba!
March 2003 Private Arts, Architecture and Culture Tour
Our tasty lunch at the Organopónico. Photo James Hicks
Our happy group in front of the ancient fortress La Chorrera near the mouth of the Río Almandares in Havana.
Christopher Desmond Reeves, Scientist, Amyris
Orinda, California
Carol Betty Reeves, Teacher, Walnut Creek School District
Orinda, Californiav

Dear Laura, Carol and I want to thank you for the great time we had in Cuba. It is a wonderful country with a lot of truly spectacular beauty. We hope to return someday and visit places we didn't have time to see in our short week there. You did a fabulous job of teaching us the history and character of your wonderful country. It is important to us that Cuba remain true to its ideals. Thinking people in the U.S. do not want to see businesses like MacDonald's or Starbuck's on the streets of Havana. They hope that Cuba finds a way to prosperity without losing its unique character. However, capitalism is insidious and perhaps inexorable. Cubans have found creative ways to do "business" with the tourists and, like most, they want more than they have. Cubans clearly want opportunities that are difficult to have under your current government. You were honest about some of the mistakes that your government has made and we hope you will help make a better future for Cuba. We really hope the U.S. will drop the embargo in the next few years and maybe also free the five. Cubans should focus on making their own lives as rich (in all its connotations) as the tourists who come to visit your lovely country.
Best part: music, architecture, and warm temperatures
March 2013 Normandale College Cuba Tour
Constance Manos-Andrea, Psychology Instructor, Inver Hills Community College
Maplewood, Minnesota

Cuba, its people and their culture: Friendly, warm, happy. It was interesting to observe indirectly the socio-political system. It seemed it was important for us to learn of the revolution and Cuba's unique development and form of socialism. The best part of the tour was the music, architecture, and warm temperatures. The tour guide was excellent.
Cubans warm and generous
March 2013 Cuba Culture and Nature Tour
Frederick Davidowitz, Dentist
Palos Verdes Estates, California
Sherry Davidowitz, Physician Psychiatrist
Palos Verdes Estates, California

Dear Graciella, We enjoyed our Cuba trip very much. We found the people of Cuba to be warm and generous to us as Americans. Havana is a city where one can see architecture of neglect and also magnificent rebirth. We enjoyed our free time to roam around Havana and explore some of the sights seen in passing on our organized tour. The hotel Presidente location was too far from the city. Our guide provided excellent suggestions for dinners and entertainment on our free nights. In Trinidad the hotel was a disappointment. All in all, the trip was very worthwhile.
The bottom line…
March 2013 Cuba Culture and Nature Tour
Karen Searle, Agri-tourism, Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations LLC
Livingston, Montana

Good Morning Graciella, You are right, the way to make the tour better is to ask for feedback. I'll sit down with my daughters and we'll put together some recommendations for you after we settle in. The bottom line is that Cuba is amazing. We love, loved our guild Alden. The people we met were dear.
An extraordinary experience
March 2013 Tallahassee Community College Cuba Tour
Jeanne O'Kon, Professor, Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee, Florida

Dear Graciella, First, let me say that everything arranged by your agency seemed to be VERY well done and perfectly in order. Your agency made it easy to accomplish somewhat difficult travel! Second, I cannot say enough wonderful things about our guide Laura and our driver Leo. They were so intelligent, kind, and capable. We had a wonderful experience with them! We learned so much on this trip about the history, political structure, and economic situation of Cuba. It was highly educational and informative, and that's what I was hoping for. Cuba is a country in development with a beautiful culture and a very rich history. I liked being able to see different cities, such a Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. We also got to see the more rural areas of the island. Fortunately, I speak Spanish and it was extremely useful. All of the Cuban people were very tolerant of any errors that I may have made! Overall, this was an extraordinary experience. I hope to return to Cuba one day. And I hope that the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. continues to improve. Everyone has much to gain from that! We appreciate everything you did to make this trip a reality. Wanted more free time for us to simply explore on my own.
Accessibility of being in Old Havana was good
March 2013 Normandale College Cuba Tour
Carol Horsley, Underwriter and Catering
Bloomington, Minnesota

Cuba is a great country to visit and ultimately it makes you appreciate the freedom and way of life you have at home. The socialist model although commendable, has left the ordinary people in poverty and a crumbling infrastructure of housing and welfare of its people. The country's people have a lot to offer in the way of artistic abilities to the outside world. It is tragic that the lack of trade opportunities especially the embargo and OFAC visitation restrictions has affected the ordinary Cubans so adversely. The people are creative in coping with their limited resources and environmentally astute – we could learn from them and aid them if the Embargo were lifted. Our guide was super and was very knowledgeable, friendly, and just a wonderful addition to our trip. I would highly recommend her. The tour included a good variety of views of the country. The accessibility of being in Old Havana was good as it was close to most of the things we saw. The food types were limited (especially in the vegetable category) but it was very typical of the diet of the locals. Their choices and quantities are very limited. Our menus as tourists are clearly more generous in quantity and choice than the locals ever have. I would have liked to see more of the other areas of Havana that are more developed and shown the distinct differences between the have and the have-nots there. Again it gave us a real appreciation for what we have at home. There were no real problems with our tour.
Our guide Alden was perfection itself
March 2013 Introduction to Cuban Culture and Nature Tour

Read my full report.
Nancy, Professor, Playwright (first name only by request)
New York, New York

Dear Graciella, I absolutely loved my tour, and I thought the organization of it was superb. Our guide Alden was perfection itself. I can't say enough about his intelligence, kindness and competence. He was a great hit, both for me personally and with the group in general. He did not put a foot wrong – always in the right place at the right time, but kind and understanding to the various dynamics of the group. We were all very impressed with him. The driver was also excellent – always punctual, always polite, no uncomfortable moments on the road, even in difficult driving areas. Read more of this fascinating report…
Detailed and honest discussions about life in Cuba
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Steven Lustgarten, Educator, Barcuh College (CUNY)
Mount Vernon, New York

Hello Lillian, Upon arriving in Cuba and seeing the buildings and autos, I felt like I was taking a step back into time to the 1950s or even the 1940s on the basis of the architecture. This was a positive feature of visiting Cuba and in fact a reason why I would recommend the Cuba Education and Culture Tour. Another impression was seeing that so many buildings were old and in need repair and seeing also that the sidewalks were crumbling. That gave me the impression that the Cuban people were very poor. Consistent with this impression was my experience on several occasions where people on the street stopped me told me that they were poor and asked that I give them money. Read more of this fascinating report…
Donald Sullivan, center, with tourmates at farmers market in Havana.
Donald Sullivan, center, with tourmates at farmers market in Havana.
People making the best of a difficult life
February 2013 NWF Cuba Nature and Culture Tour
Donald Sullivan, Journeyman Limited Energy Electrician, IBEW
McMinnville, Oregon
Roberta Packard, Registered Nurse, Head Start of Yamhill County
McMinnville, Oregon

The Cuban people we met while touring Cuba were a friendly and resourceful people making the best of a difficult life. We returned to the USA convinced that the U.S. embargo on Cuba does more harm than good. Shortages are blamed on the embargo and not on the economy. Despite some problems, we had a great time. We loved Cuba and the people. We would like to see a tour in which the participants stayed in Casas Particulares and met with the tour guides each day at a specified time and place for each day's tour activities. We would like to see a tour with less bus riding and more nature activities.
I had a wonderful trip
February 2013 Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents Cuba Tour
Anne Quackenbush, English Teacher, Dunkirk Public Schools
Cassadaga, New York

Hi Michael, I found you, our guides Laura and Davilo available, receptive and happily helpful, no matter what was happening. I had a wonderful trip, and when Cuba comes up on my list again, I would have no hesitation traveling with you and our guides. You set up our dinner at Sociedad Asturiana Castropol Restaurant, as well as transportation to and from. I also thought it quite the 'perk' that we received one drink as part of our package at each dinner, and, I think it was the last dinner (we were upstairs at a nice restaurant in Habana Old Town), Leslie, Robert, Carol and I ordered a bottle of wine, totally figuring we would pay for it, and the waiter came over with the check, and told us it was gratis.
Malcolm Blier admiring 1950s DeSoto in Havana.
Malcolm Blier admiring 1950s DeSoto in Havana.
Coming away with some powerful impressions
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Malcolm Blier, Architect
Lexington, Massachusetts

As a fluent Spanish speaker, I was able to have many interesting and unvarnished conversations with all kinds of people. I have to say that Cubans are possibly the most welcoming people I've met on my travels. I was struck by the realities of life under the blockade and the day-to-day grind of getting by. Understanding the struggle for supplies, the currency differential and the hope for some change that never comes, it's a sobering undercurrent to a tour of interesting places and great music. While the tour is certainly presented with honesty and frankness, one does not get that message so clearly put. Our guide Danilo was terrific. His English is really impressive, translations perfect, really nice guy, highest praise. Overall, a very enjoyable experience, coming away with some powerful impressions.
We loved our guide Onelio.
We loved our
guide Onelio.
I really enjoyed my trip
February 2013 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Colin Franks
North Saanich, British Columbia

Paul Baily was an excellent host, very articulate and helpful. Our guide Onelio was also very good, with a sense of humour. Overall I really enjoyed my trip.
People were open to talking
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Victor Capoccia, Health policy, mental health finance and delivery, non-profit philanthropy and management
Watertown, Massachusetts

I loved the overall experience. People were open to talking. Seeing the city, and country side in all stages of development, from deteriorated to renovations in progress and near complete; from water buffalo, to old Soviet tractors, to organic farms; from street vendors selling peanuts, to 'window cafeterias' to 'formal dining' (of sorts). I was impressed how focused the government is on the five principles: literacy, health, culture, sports, and education. The trade off between a literate, health accessible, engaged population and personal freedom and independence was evident. You can't help but be impressed simultaneously by the graciousness, education, and hunger for more economic security of the people. Read more of this fascinating report…
Fortunate for fine rich trip at a modest fee
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Ellen Mass, Executive Director of non-profit organization
Cambridge, Massachusetts

I have been trying to digest this extraordinary tour of your enterprise, and am sure it will take a while to do so. Tonight at my reading book group, I spoke about its variety and high standard of both education and accommodations in Old Havana. It went beyond my expectations in both. I loved hearing from the Children's Community Center and dancing, from the Senior Center, from Marta Núñez Sarmiento at University of Havana and the changes being made and coming later, currency issues, and future partnering. I thought our young guide was fantastic to put up with the teasing and constant questions of our group. I was a bit alarmed here. But he came through with flying colors. Some of the group was cliquish but good willed and nice enough. All was subjected to U.S. scrutiny but our guide and hosts took it in good stride, and seem to know what we are like as well. Read more of this fascinating report…
Everyone loves our fabulous guide Danilo Vargas.
Everyone loves our fabulous guide Danilo Vargas.
Guide smart, diplomatic, and fun to be with
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Vicki Blier, Interior Designer
Lexington, Massachusetts

I found Cuba to be such a complex mix of steadfast idealism, disillusioned deprivation, and lucky people cashing in on the one golden opportunity that tourism presents. It's wonderful to hear music everywhere, and such very talented musicians. But at the same time, these poor guys have to play Guantanamera forty times a day. The current reality forces most Cubans that we come into contact with into a constant hustle to get a good tip, or to inflate a taxi fare, or to trade a Peso Nacional for a Peso CUC as a "show of friendship" or sell a CD. I can't blame them for trying, given the reality of their lives, but it is sad. And then I get off the bus, for another lunch of more chicken than I can eat at one meal, knowing that the typical Cuban gets three pieces of chicken a month… Our guide Danilo was great with a wonderful command of English, full of facts and information, smart, diplomatic, and fun to be with. The recording studio, the Escuela Taller, the Caves, the organic farm and its lunch, the Bellas Artes museum, and on our own: the cemetery visit and private conversations that we had with Cubans that we met along the way, possible because we speak Castellano.
Cubans hold no resentment toward Americans
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Ellen Yavel, Teacher, Retired
Manhasset, New York
Robert Yavel, Dentist
Manhasset, New York

I was amazed at the friendliness of the people who are so poor and the fact that they hold no resentment to Americans in spite of the 53-year embargo that has had a detrimental effect on their lives. It is about time that this embargo ceases. I was impressed at the industriousness of the people as well as the importance of music in their culture. It was encouraging to see that the government is restoring the many Catholic churches in keeping with the original construction techniques. Martin was an excellent tour guide. He was willing to adjust the schedule to accommodate some of the people who had requests and then spent extra time with us to see that we did not miss planned activities. He made good suggestions for paladares. Mario was very cautious bus driver. The both of them made a nice combination. I thought that this tour was better than some of the other American run tours as it was only 11 people whereas the other tours had 45-48 people and a large bus. By comparison we accomplished more.
Cuban musicians at our restaurant in Viñales Valley. Photo Beverly Greenspan.
Cuban musicians at our restaurant in Viñales Valley. Photo Beverly Greenspan
It seemed that there were people playing music everywhere
February 2013 National Wildlife Federation Nature and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Beverly Greenspan, Physician, University of Connecticut Health Center
West Hartford, Connecticut

I was very glad I went on this trip and I learned a lot about Cuba. I was impressed with how the Cuban people are making do with so little and how many people seem to be musicians – it seemed that there were people playing music everywhere we went. Our San Cristobal travel agency guides Grency and Laura were superb, very hard working, knowledgeable and I did feel they were open and honest in talking about their lives when we asked them questions, which they invited us to do. Evidently Cuban schools provide excellent language training as they spoke English well and someone told me Grency was fluent in German as well. Read more of this fascinating report…
Cuba made a great impact on me
February 2013 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Patricia Pepper
Vancouver, British Columbia

Dear Graciella, The trip made a great impact on me. I found the Cuban people most resourceful. Our guide Onelio was truly special and I came to understand the Cuba of 2013 through his recounting of historic events and cultural values. I loved when he said "My country." He was speaking from his heart.
Senses overwhelmed by Cuba's natural beauty
February 2013 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour

Read my full report.
Laura May and Patrick May
Vancouver, British Columbia

Dear Graciella, We had a wonderful trip and really enjoyed every minute we spent in Cuba. The people were very friendly, polite and eager to share their culture and heritage. We found ourselves constantly talking to people on the street always willing to tell us about their country or a certain place not to be missed. We were welcomed and even invited into people's homes as if we were old acquaintances. In one occasion we were walking past a house where people were singing and playing music, out of curiosity we peered through the open doorway and were instantly invited to come in. Read more of this fascinating report…
I was exposed to so much
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Sherri Gray, Instructional Technology Coach, Stoneham Public Schools
Danvers, Massachusetts

Hi Lilian, I thought the Cuban tour was fantastic. Everyplace we went, from Havana to the tobacco farms, to the mountains, offered a unique experience. The people of Cuba welcomed us and shared so much about their country and culture. There is art at on every street corner and we were immersed in the music and colors of Cuba. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip from start to finish. Martin was a fabulous tour guide. He was friendly, open, and eager to share everything about his country. He was able to accommodate everyone on the tour. I wanted to see the National Ballet of Cuba. Sunday was there last performance. He made sure I was able to go. The small size of the group made it easy to get to know everyone quite well. I enjoyed all the activities. I would have liked to go inside a Cuban classroom and see how it is conducted. There was a school right across from the hotel and I did so want to go in as I saw the children gathered there before school every morning. The hotel food wasn't great but the fabulous meals we had at the other places quite made up for it. A fabulous country and I felt that I was exposed to so much. I would have liked a bit more free time to wander about. That is just something I like to do. I was really happy I picked the right tour to go on, and again, I had a fabulous time. I can't stop talking about my trip. Thank You!
Paris of the western world, not!
February 2013 National Wildlife Federation Nature and Culture Tour
Stan K. Sujka, Physician, Urologist, Orlando Urology Associates
Winter Park, Florida

A place that at one point was the Paris of the Western World (according to Ernest Hemingway), and now, while the walls still stand, the inside is rotting away. The social revolution has failed. The government cannot feed its people. Its main source of income is the generosity of the American Cubans. The people are friendly and warm, but they are prisoners on the island. Their prison walls are composed of poverty ($20 dollars a months and food ration cards) and an oppressive government. What I liked best about the tour was the birding adventure, the political discussions, and Hemingway's house, now a museum.
Could not wait to leave
February 2013 National Wildlife Federation Nature and Culture Tour
Shari Sujka, Doctor, Orlando Urology Associates
Winter Park, Florida

I was surprised that the Cuban people do not seem to have any animosity of Americans at all which was nice and their English was really good, not like when we were in Ecuador where Spanish was a necessity. My family and I have been on all seven continents and Cuba has been the only place that I could not wait to leave. They took a beautiful place and destroyed it for no good reason. I really feel bad for the people.
I applaud Cuba for outlawing gambling
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Madelyn Holmes, Professor of History, Writer
Burlington, Vermont

Dear Pedro, I really enjoyed the Cuba trip and will recommend it to others! The tour was excellent and all the restaurants, site visits and speakers were first-rate. For me the visits to the organic farm and the tour of the music studio were the highlights. I was very interested to see how Cuba is dealing with the problems that they are facing and am impressed that the government is creative and imaginative in trying out new policies. I am very aware that Cuba stands out in the world as trying to do things their own way. I am impressed with the historical achievements of providing for free education and free medical care for all, and appreciate the caution in opening up the economy to foreign business. I applaud Cuba for outlawing gambling, even the lottery, and for not allowing foreigners to buy property.
We published a photo book about our trip
February 2013 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Paul Bailey, Professor, Langara College
Denman Island, British Columbia

Hello Graciella and all, Here are some comments regarding the tour and shared with Langara College. I thought the tour was great! Our guide Onelio was outstanding: personable, candid, well schooled in Cuban history and extremely organized. Oh, yes, and humorous as well. He was a pleasure to be with. The driver, Horacio, was thorough and skilled at weaving through narrow streets and efficiently finding detour routes when needed. I felt totally secure in his driving hands. All of the hotels were fine even though there was no hot water for two days at La Ermita. The hotel uses solar heaters but the weather was cloudy and cold. And the Villa Soroa water only had water available for certain hours. But hey, that's Cuba. Villa Soroa had wonderful food and affordable wine to make up for the inconvenience. The adjacent Orchid Botanical garden was well appreciated. The hotel at Cienfuegos, La Union, was marvelous. Could have stayed there for a week. When we returned the second time to Havana we could not stay at El Presidente due to overbooking. Instead we were sent the five-star hotel Quinta Avenida Havana in the Miramar district, which was a major upgrade that we all appreciated in terms of accommodation.
Cuban people were the stars of our tour
February 2013 Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents Cuba Tour
Charles Doggett, Publisher and Minister, Retired
Hermitage, Tennessee

The friendly, loving people of Cuba were the stars of our tour, especially our guides Danilo and Laura! As an outdoor lover I also enjoyed Zapata Swamp and Escambray Mountains!

OMG! Charles Doggett wrote an amazing book about his Cuba Explorer Tour. We love it and purchased a copy! Check it out by clicking here.
Liked Cuba and the varied things we saw
February 2013 Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents Cuba Tour
Anne, English Teacher (first name only by request)
Cassadaga, New York

I found the people very warm, inviting and helpful at every turn. The country we saw was just beautiful. I liked the pace and the varied things we saw. I'm particular to architecture and rock formations, and I saw much of both. Our guides (and I'm glad there were two of them) were forthcoming, candid and enjoyable. They spoke of the culture and the history without boring us. What I didn't like about Cuba was the non-western bathroom facilities, not in the hotels, but outside of them. I guess there is not much you can do about that. I also felt that the conditions for animals were poor.
Several promised itinerary items were switched
February 2013 Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents Cuba Tour
Carole Price, Teacher, Glassboro Board of Education
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Amazing country! I was very pleased to visit Cuba, to experience their culture, and meet very friendly people. Really liked Old Havana and learning more about Cuba's history. What I didn't like was that several promised itinerary items were switched to other activities.
Thank you for representing Cuba factually
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Joanne Lustgartem, Board Member of the Guidance Center, Gartner, Inc.
Mt. Vernon, New York

Hi Lillian, Overall this was a fantastic trip with a special thanks to you for truly representing it factually. We all loved our guide Martin; he was the best. And Mario, our driver was also terrific… more to follow.
Miss the excellent week we had together
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Marnie Isaacs, Executive Director, Interface with Native communities, Kaktovik Community Foundation Anchorage, Alaska
Jon Isaacs, VP Planning and Environment, URS Engineering & Development
Anchorage, Alaska

Hi Lilian, We just got home from our most wonderful trip to Cuba! We stayed an extra few days to see Trinidad and enjoy a bit more time there. Our group has been emailing each other about how we miss the excellent week we had together – and especially guide Martin, and bus driver Mario's good care of us. We all thought Martin was the best of the best guide. We'll be sending a letter to Cuba Explorer Tours commending his superior skills as our guide and hope you could get a copy to him. We will give you a longer response shortly, but please know that Jon and I agree this was one if our best trips – and we travel a lot. I only wish we could send an email to Martin directly but that's a far bigger problem that governments will hopefully solve sooner rather than later. Thanks again to you and Cuba Explorer Tours for giving us so much to enjoy, learn and think about. It all was excellent.
Anne Jarema, right, and guide Martin Roselló Pérez.
Anne Jarema, right, and guide Martin Roselló Pérez.
Lovely trip, but need better direction for gift giving
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Anne Jarema, Teacher, Retired
Suffern, New York

Hello Lilian, I had an interesting experience on the plane home. Linda from Vancouver who was on a tour with another company sat next to me and we were comparing trips. I mentioned some of the things we had done and she kept saying, "We didn't do that. We didn't go there." She was stopping other people from her group as they came back on the plane and saying, "Wait until you hear what they saw." I heard their tale of how their bus was late 45 minutes while the bus went out to the airport to pick up tourists. They didn't have our guide Martin, or our bus driver Mario who made our trip perfect. Linda took down the name of Cuba Explorer Tours. The tour was wonderful, not a hitch. Martin and Mario were the greatest. I had a number of gifts and was not sure of what each of the community centers were like. If I had known at the beginning of the trip I might have been able to better plan for where the gifts would be appropriate. Otherwise, the trip was perfect in every way. The people I met were wonderful.
I give total experience a B+
February 2013 National Wildlife Federation Nature and Culture Tour
John Rogers, District Manager, Ann Arbor News
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I give total experience a B+. It would be A- except for stay at that shabby hotel near Trinidad. A cold swimming pool and poorly maintained beach on the ocean didn't help. Our two guides and bus driver were peerless; they made a big difference to make it a happy trip. Also the Cuban people themselves are wonderful.
People genuinely friendly and hospitable
February 2013 Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents Cuba Tour
George Miller, Photographer
Albuquerque, New Mexico

The people we met and interacted with were genuinely friendly and hospitable and the cities and history were as intriguing as expected. The dinner at Santo Ángel Restaurant in Havana was excellent, the various buffets offered some good Cuban food choices, but the other Havana restaurant meals had micromanaged menus with food quality about as generic and bland as Denny's – not the taste of Cuba I want to remember. My take-home feeling is excitement for finally seeing and experiencing Cuba
There is so much more I will have to return
February 2013 Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents Cuba Tour
Carol Dillenburg, Biology Teacher, Forestville Central School
Forestville, New York

First, I would like to thank you for all the work you did to plan and coordinate our trip to Cuba. I know that trips seem to run smoothly only because of the pre-planning done prior to the trip. I truly enjoyed the trip to Cuba. The beauty of the land was breathtaking. The colonial architecture of Habana Vieja is still beautiful. The people were warm and friendly, and oh, those old cars! If I was disappointed in anything, it was that we were not able to go birding with Dr. Kirkconnell, as was indicated in the original itinerary. He was not available because of field research. I would also have enjoyed a talk by one of the researchers at the Crocodile Reserve to explain the program. There is so much more I would like to do in Cuba, I will have to return. I had a great time and would love to return to Cuba. I have traveled enough to realize that, especially in Communist countries, you just go with the flow when the unexpected happens. I try to focus on all the new and beautiful experiences I've had. In any trip, there are surprises that the leader has to deal with and I think you did the best. Thank you for your efforts and would not hesitate to return to Cuba under your guidance.
Jo Ann Odom rides bull in Viñales Valley.
Jo Ann Odom rides
bull in Viñales Valley.
Favorite activities: the Escambray Mountains and Trinidad
February 2013 National Wildlife Federation Nature and Culture Tour
Jo Ann Odom, Elementary Teacher and Librarian, Jefferson Country Public Schools
Lakewood, Colorado

I enjoyed this trip very much. Many of the people were very friendly, but in contrast some of the hotel staff were not. The people are ingenious at making do with what they have and getting around some of the ridiculous rules and regulations imposed on them. Our guides and bus driver were great! Many are hoping for big changes in the near future. They seemed appreciative of the gifts we took. My favorite activity was the day in the Escambray Mountains and the visit to Trinidad. I enjoyed all our other excursions, too. I was glad to tip, but having the right change for it was a constant concern.
Better time on my second trip with Cuba Explorer Tours
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Joan Wechsler, Advertising, Television, Entertainment, The Interpublic Group of Companies
New York, New York

Pedro, I returned from Cuba yesterday and wanted to share my impressions of this, my second trip to Cuba, with the two of you. I know you are using a different vendor for tours than the one you used in 2010 and the guide we had Rosa was sensational, as was the driver, Alex. Rosa's English is excellent, she is knowledgeable and flexible and went out of her way to accommodate special requests. She put in some long days with grace and humor, with a bunch of disparate Americans all speaking at once. The location of the hotel, Tejadillo, could not be better. We strolled around Old Havana early in the morning and late into the night every day and felt safe and free of hassles. The last time we stayed at the Havana Libre and did not stroll around primarily because there was very little to see. Staff of the hotel is professional and we could not have asked for better service, or more cheerful service. I was delighted and surprised to see and hear Dr. Manuel Yepe again. In my book, he is Cuba's best ambassador. Some of us had dinner at La Guarida and this turned out to be a highlight. If you have clients asking about paladares, this should be your number one recommendation. I noticed a lot of improvements over the last three years: the quality, variety and quantity of food is better; those political banners are, for the most part, gone; more buildings are spruced up; people are more open. There is more traffic and many more tour buses. Another of Cuba's iconic ambassador groups, the Buena Vista Social Club, is alive and well and I was thrilled to see them. In any event, I had a wonderful time and look forward to my next trip.
Cuba good, but tipping and duel currencies confusing
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Jackie Marshall, Guidance Counselor, Spanish Teacher, Port Washington Schools
Glen Cove, New York

The people are so warm and proud of their history and culture. Music is fabulous and adds tremendous joy to the trip. The pace of the tour was great, and the freedom to roam and discover some places on our own was a highlight. The double currency is a problem and confusing. Although never specifically explained, it is clear that the majority of Cubans who have no access to CUC's [tourist dollars] and earn a very low wage. Conversely, those in the tourist industry make a fortune by comparison. The reluctance to pay the guide a tip of five CUC's per day is a direct consequence of this dichotomy. Does she get to keep the entire amount or does she have to share this with the tour company or the government? If the former, then five CUC is too much. If the later then this should have been explained to us beforehand. The double currency is only going to lead to greed, corruption and ultimately exploitation of tourists.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Please read Money Matters in Cuba for everything related to currencies, foreign exchange and spending in on the island. Go to Tipping in Cuba for best practices for gratuities.
Grateful I was able to visit and experience Cuba
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Marianne Carl, Finance, Bank of America
New York, New York

I loved Cuba, the people, the music, and the culture. I am grateful that I was able to visit the country and experience it. The people were very friendly and helpful and wanted us to learn about their culture and who they are. The architecture in and around old Havana is so beautiful. I really enjoyed everything we did. My favorite things in order were the Viñales Valley Indian caves (the lunch was fabulous could have stayed all day to eat the rice and pork), the urban farm (lunch was very good), loved seeing José Fúster's home and the artwork he did in the neighborhood, Hemingway's Finca Vigía home, and I was glad to experience the Museum of Literacy. These were my favorite things, however, I was glad to experience many other things as well. I was very satisfied with everything about the tour. We were fortunate to have a wonderful tour group and everyone loved, loved, loved our guide Rosa. She was very helpful, fun, cheerful, and a pleasure to have her as our tour guide.
Cuba is a destination that attracts a certain type of soul
February 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Tony Mendoza, Writer and Script Supervisor
Chicago, Illinois

Hi Rene and Pedro, I just got home from a wonderful trip to Cuba. It opened my eyes and filled me with all sorts of emotions. Thank you for your part in organizing it. We got to see many amazing things that I wouldn't have seen on my own: Abdala Recording Studios, the organic farm, Fústerlandia, and some schools to name a few. Rosa was a great guide, and a wonderful spirit. I can now count her as a friend in Cuba. And the group got along quite well. It seems Cuba is a destination that attracts a certain type of soul.
So few Americans in Cuba we were mistaken for Canadians
January 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Elizabeth Myers, Teacher, Rochester City School District
Scottsville, New York

Cubans are very friendly, and mostly very helpful. Not many U.S. visitors there. Sometimes we (from U.S.) were mistaken for Canadians. This is understandable, and a good new experience. Quality music everywhere! One very sad thing: so many people – strangers – asked for handouts. Although I saw no homeless people and no shacks, there is clearly a great lack of material things. The tour offered a broad range of experiences. Our time was mostly well planned. I had never visited a recording studio before. Learning about the literacy campaign inspired me. I have the impression that CET is established partly from humanitarian motives, not just to make money. That is very important to me and was a large reason I chose this company and convinced my friends to sign on.
Our Cuban guide Ariannet Arias.
Our trip guide Ariannet Arias.
When people ask what we thought, we answer fascinating
January 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Linda Hartmann, Project Manager, METIS Technologies
Martinez, California
Harvey Hartmann, Air Traffic, Chevron Corp
Martinez, California

This trip exceeded our expectations. I attribute this to our guide, Ariannet and to the efficiency and planning your company does for your tours. I'm sure you have many wonderful guides on your staff but I want to compliment your company for having the good sense to hire Ariannet, she was professional, flexible, open, friendly and extremely informative. . She is a jewel and she helped make our trip memorable. When people ask what I thought of Cuba, I most often say "fascinating." If I had to pick a favorite activity I'd say the trip to the cooperative farm or the trip to the countryside, least favorite a stop by a famous local street art colony. We saw beautiful scenery in the country, got nostalgic about the American classic cars and Hemingway's home, ate good food, drank a bit of Cuban beer, even visits to community centers and museums were interesting and better yet, informative as we always had a guide to explain and answer questions. We spent most of our time in Havana. It's a city that has been allowed to deteriorate but is still impressive and could be stunning if fully restored. This trip to Cuba was a once in a lifetime opportunity, thanks to Cuba Explorer Tours for giving it to us.
Loved the tour and check out my YouTube videos
January 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mark Hall, College Instructor, Butte College
Chico, California

Hello Pedro, This is the second Cuba tour I have taken with your organization. I found the country just as wonderful this time as on my first visit a year ago. The Cuban people are very open and friendly. The city has a unique charm I have no found anywhere else in the world. I highly recommend a visit to Cuba and using Cuba Educational Tours. Your company was very professional and promptly replied to all my questions and concerns. They used their expertise to make the entire process as easy and straightforward as possible I certainly hope I get the chance to return to Cuba. Our tour guide Grency Rodriguez was excellent. She was full of energy and enthusiasm. She answered all our questions with patience and humor. She was highly organized and was wonderful at responding to the wishes of the tour participants. She is a wonderful representative of the tour company and the friendly people of Cuba.

My first visit to the island with Cuba Explorer Tours in 2011 by Mark Hall.

My second visit to the island with Cuba Explorer Tours in 2012 by Mark Hall.
The low crime rate is a major achievement
January 2013 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Mark Klempner, Safety Consultant, Willis North America
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

An amazing group of people who get by under difficult economic conditions. People were good-natured and easy going. The low crime rate is a major achievement. The music is among the best anywhere and so abundant. I was also impressed with the works at Museo Bellas Artes and of artists new to me. I have been to many countries where people have to ask tourists for money but I haven't seen people elsewhere so persistent in their requests. Just seeing Habana, the cars, buildings, people, daily life, the music etc. was great. I got a better understanding and appreciation of the African influence especially in religion, which if I had time, I would study. The Partagás tobacco factory tour was one of the best activities. The Rum tour was also good.
Thanks for good service and a price accessible for members of my congregation
January 2013 Richard Brewer's Cuba Religious Encounter Tour
Richard Brewer, Lutheran Pastor, Retired
Pleasant Hill, California

We are home from Mexico and Cuba. We were very happy with all of the tour arrangements and our guide was wonderful. There were no negatives. Visiting Cuba is taking a step back in time, not only because of the old U.S. cars, but also because of the failure of the high promises of the revolutionary spirit of fifty to sixty years ago. I was reminded of visiting behind the Iron Curtain and seeing Soviet style government and culture. Cuba's biggest hope is that tourism is the number one moneymaker. Nothing leads to change faster than being exposed to other people and other ideas. Your arrangements were good. Our guide, Ariannet Arias, was simply perfect. She was always on time, as was the driver with the bus. My group loved her from the start. She knows her job and does it well. We enjoyed going to some many different locations for lunches and dinners. The itinerary was quite inclusive for our brief experience of Cuba. I just say THANK YOU for your good service, arrangements and a price that made the trip possible for members of my congregation.
My mother-in-law realized her dream of introducing her far flung family to Cuba
January 2013 Ann McGovern Family Cuba Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Sybil Scheiner, Massage Therapist, Journeys Health Spa
Cruz Bay, Virginia

Hello Pedro, Please forgive me for not responding to your email sooner. I've been absorbed in daily life since I returned, but haven't forgotten you! Thank you for helping Annie (my Mother-in-law) live her dream of introducing her far flung family to Cuba! I think we all appreciated and benefitted from the experience. It was a truly wonderful time, to be together as a family, in Cuba. I felt very moved to be able to meet Cuban people and to see their land for the first time and to get a glimpse of their rich combination of cultures. Read more of this fascinating report…
James Hicks inspects lettuce seedlings at Organopónico Vivero Alamar.
James Hicks inspects lettuce seedlings at Organopónico Vivero Alamar.
Hotel Presidente fit my image of Cuba as a classy place
January 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Our tasty lunch at the Organopónico. Photo James Hicks
Our tasty lunch at the Organopónico. Photo James Hicks
James Hicks, Wildlife Biologist, Colorado Division of Wildlife
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Rebecca Hicks
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Hi Lilian, Your Cuba Explorer Tour was a complete success. Your organization did a great job of preparing the program. You had all the best people talk to us. Nancy, the guide, was the best. I cannot overstate the fabulous job she did keeping us together and really making the educational information very successful. The Cubans should be very proud of all the people we met on our tour. The Hotel Presidente was wonderful and fit my image of Cuba as a classy place. The meals were all great. The only suggestion I can make is to facilitate helping find more entertainment at night. I am very happy with your tour and will do it again and suggest the tour to others. Thank you!
Total WOW for Cuba and you
January 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Carol Neubert, Teacher, Canton Central School District, Retired
Canton, New York

Hello Lillian, We are home and we had a wonderful time in Cuba. It was a very educational trip. As Americans we know so little about Cuba because of our government's embargo. It is really a shame. Our tour guide, Neisy, from San Cristóbal Travel Agency was very good. She had only been leading tours for a year, but she was enthusiastic, energetic, organized and had done her homework. She was usually able to answer our questions, and if she couldn't she found the answer by the next day and reported back to us. She was able to keep us on schedule, while never making us feel rushed. She had a natural ability about how to work with a group. Read more of this fascinating report…
Liked tour but felt propagandized
January 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Patrick McCaffrey, Metallurgical Engineer
Carnegie, Pennsylvania

Dear Lillian, Everything about the tour setup was good. But I felt Cubans are stuck in the past in terms of their historical perspectives. Example: Bay of Pigs is still a current topic with them even though it happened 52 years ago. Still, I feel for the Cuban people and will send info to my Congressman about the problems of the Embargo.

Cuba Explorer Tours travel advisor René Cabezas accompanied Edwina Machelle Warder and other tour participants on our special New Years 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour. Click the image to enlarge. Photo Katie Bun
Thanks for sending travel advisor René on tour
New Years 2013 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Edwina Machelle Warder, Barber
San Bernardino, California

Dr Gail Thomas, Professor of Sociology, Soka University of America (SUA), Aliso Viejo, California
Edwina Machelle Warder
Hello Cuba Explorer Tours, I wanted to express my appreciation for René's participation on our tour. He interacted positively with the tour guide. He asked questions and took mental notes on how to improve the experience for your clients. He also was of great assistance to the elderly participants on the tour, assisting them with ambulatory concerns and opening doors. After exiting the tour bus he even ensured the tour bus was for the next day. René is respectful, mannerable, and a joy to be around. He is a perfect representative for your company. I have no problem recommending your company to those interested in visiting Cuba. Our tour guide from San Cristóbal was knowledgeable and engaging. I received the full experience of Cuba.

Elon University students created a really fun video about Havana and the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar. Click the image above to watch it.




Super smart logo design for Organopónico Alamar created by Elon University students.
We created a website on organic farming in Cuba!
January 2013 Elon University Cuba Tour
Randy Piland, Faculty, Elon University
Burlington, North Carolina

Cuba was a great trip. It was all we heard it would be with the sights, sounds and food. The group totally enjoyed themselves and we had very little problems overall. It did seem though the hotel ran out of water each day and showering was a problem for some. I seemed to be up early enough to not be a concern. We learned a lot about Cuba in general and what our limitations are there as tourist. All in all we were able to accomplish what we set out to do! Thanks for helping make this happen. Out of the four different trips, two to Costa Rica, Portugal and Cuba our team were highly complemented by other students, faculty and administrators. We can't wait for Mr. Salcines and all those at Vivero Alamar to some how see it. We hope to put it on a DVD and send it to them so they can load it on their non-internet computer. I want to start now in planning a return for January 2014. Finding the right topic will be the challenge. Our hope is to again engage with the subjects and do less touring in order to really do the work needed to produce more quality productions.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Great website. We are proud to have helped Elon students go to Cuba. Click here view their remarkable internet contribution to organic agriculture in Cuba.
We had a wonderful time, guide was the best
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Maarten Hemsley, Finance and Accounting, Retired
Duxbury, Massachusetts
Mavis Hemsly, Retired
Duxbury, Massachusetts

Mavis and I returned last night from our trip. Thanks for all your help. We had a wonderful time and Liliana, our guide, was great. All the best for the holidays and new year. Liliana

From Mavis: Adding to Maarten's email, I just wanted to say what a pleasure Liliana was. She was a great guide, full of enthusiasm and really connected with the whole group. Her knowledge of the history of the Island was outstanding, and nothing was too much trouble for her. We have been on a lot of trips where the guide seems disconnected, but not so in Lilly's case. Although she is young, she has a great future ahead of her in tourism. She is a credit to the company. Please pass this along to your colleagues in Cuba. Many thanks and a happy new year.
Second time to Cuba with you
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Sandra J. Price, Retired
New York, New York

This was my second year visiting Cuba with your organization and Rosa Bland. I enjoyed myself so much the first time I had to go again. I have no complaints, as all the accommodations were excellent including hotel, restaurants tour guide and driver. The Cuban people are exceptionally polite, honest and accommodating. I left my camera in a restaurant and was assured that it would be there when I returned the next day. Yes, it was there. Happy New Year.
Cuban art is passionate and complex
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Antonietta Corvasce, Retired
Washington, DC
Stephen Goldstein, Retired
Washington, DC

We are a well-traveled couple and found our trip to Cuba an amazing experience. Although the country is stuck in time, there is beauty in the people, architecture and overall culture. We were fortunate to be there for the annual Jazz Festival, an incredible treat. Much of the Cuban art is passionate and complex. As first timers, it was necessary to visit most sites. At times it was too touristy. Our visit to the organic farm was a highlight. Although we traveled over three hours to Viñales Valley, it was well worth it. The beauty of the countryside and the Mural de la Prehistoria gave us another positive perspective on Cuba. Perhaps most important, our tour guide Alden and driver Julio could not have been better. We will highly recommend a visit to all our friends. Best for the New Year.
I will influence our government to lift the trade embargo with Cuba
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Larry Daniels, Building Contractor, Retired
Salinas, California

Visiting Cuba is not for the fainthearted but I think one cannot find a better place to meet upbeat and determined people trying to make a better life for their children in the face of daunting adversity. Music, dance and art are thriving in spite of an oppressive government that is failing to provide some of the essentials of life. I feel sadder but wiser as a result of this trip and am determined to do what I can to influence our government to lift the trade embargo with Cuba. I could not imagine a better guide than Liliana. She is dependable, fluent and articulate in English, smart and well informed and clearly concerned about our comfort and enjoyment of our Cuban experience. She and the driver, Alberto, are both simpatico. Highlights for me included the organic farm, Las Terrazas, a dance performance my wife and I attended on our own, a young and talkative cab driver we met, the desperate mother we helped by purchasing some diapers and milk for her sick child. Viva los Cubanos!
Santería dancer in Old Havana. Photo Patricia Scheans
Santería dancer in Old Havana. Photo Patricia Scheans
We were lucky and had great seats for all the jazz shows
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Patricia Scheans, Nurse Practitioner, Legacy Health
Portland, Oregon

I thought it went very well. Our guide was excellent! The Hotel Presidente was clean and nice in an antique way, and it was close to the Jazz concert venues, so we could walk, which was great. Combining the jazz festival with the cultural tour was brilliant. The arts and music focus really brought out the culture. Some days were a little too busy. The Art Museum needed more time (or less time with a guide and just let people roam at their own pace). The day out at Las Terrazas was extra great, as was the visit to Fúster's house. I struggled at first with having enough information about flights, but Graciella helped with this. All of our paperwork was available in a timely manner. Coming back, we were asked by customs about having been in Cuba, but we told him our purpose and that we had our license, and we were fine. We were lucky and had great seats for all the shows, which were fantastic.
U.S. embargo is so stupid – get over it!
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Stephen Wagner, Data Systems Manager, Retired, AT&T
North Palm Beach, Florida
Simon Beachley, Credit Manager, Retired, Arbor Material Handling
North Palm Beach, Florida

We arrived home safely Monday via Miami. The architecture is incredible, but unfortunately, it's crumbling. The U.S. embargo is so stupid, and out of date – get over it! From what we saw, a beautiful country. Loved Las Terrazas. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba was terrific. Built in 1930, designed to look like the Breakers in Palm Beach, which it does (we live here). Had some great meals at four paladares: La Guarida, Doña Eutemia, Decameron, and Café Laurent, other meals so-so, some decent, some ugh. Tour Guide, Linnet Brown, was outstanding. We had a wonderful time. Thank you for organizing this wonder trip.
Planning to send fifteen friends with you next year
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Nita Bryant-Azmar, Registered Nurse, Retired
Los Angeles, California
Amir Azmar, Pipefitter
Los Angeles, California

Our tour guide was very informative, helpful and she worked well with the group. We liked the trip so well that we are planning to send about 15 others on the trip next year with your organization.
Jacqueline Carrera in Viñales Valley. Photo William Fay.
Jacqueline Carrera in Viñales Valley. Photo William Fay
Havana like an old European city transported to the Caribbean
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
William and Jacqueline in Old Havana.
William and Jacqueline in Old Havana.
William Fay, Marketing Researcher, Keller Fay Group
Skillman, New Jersey
Jacqueline Carrera, Human Resources, Pfizer Inc.
Skillman, New Jersey

We had an amazing trip, thank you for helping to arrange it. The most important feedback I can offer is that our tour guide, Grency, was fabulous. She did a superb job at educating us, making it fun, and managing a very diverse group of travelers. It was the trip of a lifetime. Havana is like an old European city transported to the Caribbean, with its classic architecture, large, cobblestone squares, art, history, and culture. We can't wait to return one day. We were also able to establish the first contact in four decades with Jackie's Cuban cousins in Havana. We brought back many wonderful photos, a few of which are attached here.
Just to be able to go was amazing
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Harriet Yelon, Sociologist, Retired
Columbia, Missouri
William Yelon, Physicist, Retired
Columbia, Missouri

Lillian our tour guide was absolutely the best ever. She answered questions above and beyond the call of duty and always took a count of the participants, made sure we got to where we were going and would highly recommend her for any tour. I loved Cuba. The people are very warm, friendly and want to assist you in anyway. I enjoyed everything we visited on the tour, as it was my first time. It gave me a good perspective on what's happening now in Cuba. The lunches provided at the different venues were excellent and the service as well. The bus driver Alberto was also excellent. As a sociologist I have always been interested in Cuba and couldn't wait for it to open up with travel as it did. My excitement overrides little problems of the tour. Just to be able to go was amazing. I would have stayed longer if I didn't have to get back to Columbia for relatives coming. The memories are important to me. We brought a bag of essentials for a particular person and she got received that. How wonderful to be able to do something for someone with so little. I left everything behind that I had in clothes to Lillian for her family, tipped with enthusiasm and was sorry I couldn't have done more. I am hoping, like everyone else that the embargo is completely lifted but can also see the problems it presents for Cuba. What an opportunity and thank you for providing that. Happy New Year to you.
Truly heart-warming experience
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Beverly McLaughlin, Psychologist, North Carolina State University
Durham, North Carolina

My time in Havana, Cuba was much more wonderful and complex than I could have imagined, far exceeding any attempt at verbal description! However, in a simple attempt to share a few words, I would say that the people were friendly and courteous, the food, especially seafood, was fresh and tasty, and I was "awe struck" with the old architectural structures and new developments. The music and art scenes in Havana were exceptional, about which I was consistently delighted! The Hotel Nacional, where we stayed for our nine-day tour, was clean, comfortable, historic and beautiful, and is where I will surely return for my next visit, with friends in tow! I really can't say enough about how satisfied I was with my experience with Cuba Explorer Tours. Both stateside and while in Cuba, information given was generally thorough and accurate. Our guide was very approachable and did all she could to create a caring, helpful and welcoming atmosphere. Our group, collectively, was fabulous! Thank you Havana, and thank you Cuba Explorer Tours. I am grateful! An exception is the following: I would be definitive that tourists who return to the U.S. via Cancun make at least an overnight stay in Cancun versus attempting at all to make a connecting flight on the same day.
Cuban senior citizens welcome choir made my heart swell
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Adrianna Greene, Retired
New York, New York

Cuba called me back. I was there 12 years ago, mainly because of the people and the culture. The people are welcoming gentle and caring. For example, ladies called out to us as we were crossing the street at the wrong time. The welcoming senior citizen choir made my heart swell. I had no problems. I would love a direct flight from JFK to La Habana. Feliz año nuevo, gracias por todo!
Cubans unfailingly polite and kind
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Ann Stuart, Processing Assistant, North Carolina State Laboratory Public Health
Durham, North Carolina

I loved Cuba. It is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. The Cuban people were unfailingly polite and kind. I also loved the Spanish Classical architecture of the old buildings along with the tropical setting – just gorgeous! And everywhere music! Our guide Grency was excellent, very charming and knowledgeable. I was disappointed that we were not able to visit Hemingway's old home but I understand it was closed for a movie project.
Trip was a delicious experience
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Nolan Col, Adjunct Professor, Santa Fe College
Gainesville, Florida

Got in last night after spending a couple of days in the Yucatan. Here are a few first blush impressions of Cuba: Vibrant enchanting communities. Racially harmonious culture. Pronounced poverty. Crumbling infrastructure. Music seeming to emanate from every quarter. Openhearted generous people. Indomitable proud spirit. Viva Cuba. Overall, our trip was a delicious experience. Cuba Explorer Tours is first rate. Liliana is an articulate, knowledgeable and resourceful guide. Both she and Alberto are warm, caring, genuine people. It was a pleasure to spend time in the company of such consummate professionals. On a minor note, the laundry service in the Hotel Nacional was too good. Regardless of what I wrote on the bags or told staff every item came back washed and ironed!
Loved tour, but a day of rest required
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Leslie Nelson, Retired
Tucson, Arizona

I loved Havana! The buildings were just beautiful, particularly the old ones. I found the people very helpful and nice always. We liked our guide; she was always very considerate and very "up" all the time. My only suggestion is on a nine-day tour there should be one complete day with nothing planned. That would allow people to go back to favorite places, lounge by the pool, sleep in or do whatever they wanted. Other than that I loved the tour. If I were ten years younger or so, would plan to go back.
Your guide made everything so easy for us
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Sandra Pettway, Retired
New York, New York

I want to express my sincere gratefulness on the hospitality of the people of Cuba. I have high praises for the tour guide Ariannet. She is superb, very knowledgeable and made everything so easy for us. Your country is beautiful! I came home both excited and contented at the same time. I hope to return soon.

We were right up closed to Chucho Valdés! Photo Sara Frank
We were right up closed to Chucho Valdés! Photo Sara Frank

We attended the local synagogue in Havana. Photo Sara Frank
We attended the local synagogue in Havana. Photo Sara Frank
We saw the real, original Cuba
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Michael Frank, Physician Dermatologist
West Bloomfield, Michigan
Sara Frank, Artist
West Bloomfield, Michigan

Had a great trip. Cuba is a wonderful country with warm, friendly people. The architecture was amazing, and it was good to see it before it is "modernized" after lifting the embargo. This is the real, original Cuba we saw. Music everywhere. People happy getting by and trying to do the best they can. People grateful for contact with tourists from North America. The hotel was an amazing historical site. Although there were newer, and perhaps glitzier hotels, the ability to stay in the historic Hotel Nacional was wonderful. The hotel, like a lot of Cuba, was a "faded rose" – still a rose, but with some of the bloom removed due to its age and due to the embargo and maybe government regulations. Our guide, Grency, and all the ancillary guides were great, patient, and made us feel comfortable and welcome. The group of people we travelled with was very compatible. We got along better than any other trip I have ever been on, as we all had no false expectations. The art museum deserved a whole day, and it would have been wonderful just to get a walking tour of all the artist sites and graffiti. We picked up a little here and there, but art was everywhere, and it made us happy just to see it and hear the music. The private restaurants we ate at were wonderful. The state restaurants we ate at with the tour were passable, with the exception of El Patio, as mentioned before. There was a bit too much rum on the trip (I could never say no when a glass was shoved in my face, even at 9 AM). I wish that the Jazz Fest was more forthcoming with a schedule sooner than the day before so we could all make plans. I wish that Jazz Fest had a program with descriptions of the types of music that each group played, what instruments, a short biography of the artists, etc. And I was particularly disappointed in that there was no "traditional" big band Cuban music (such as Buena Vista Social Club, or Celia Cruz, etc.). Some of the other tours had opportunities to see them at different venues during the week, but the Jazz Fest concerts that we had the opportunity to see were more straight ahead jazz.
Cuban jazz master and president of the Havana International Jazz Festival Chucho Valdés. Photo Sara Frank
Cuban jazz master and president of the Havana International Jazz Festival Chucho Valdés. Photo Sara Frank
I'm still trying to get my bearings
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Delois Wickliff, TV B.A. Administration Coordinator, NBCUniversal
Los Angeles, California

Graciella, let me just say that I had a wonderful visit and met so many new friends on the tour. Cubans were friendly and curious about Americans. Cubans are physically beautiful and stylish too. Havana with all its ruins is still a elegant place and the architecture just awesome. The tour itself was educational and fun. Our tour guide, Grency Rodriguez, spoke good English and was knowledgeable and exercised patience with such a large group which was no small feat. Our bus driver, Carlos, was most courteous and a good, safe driver. The Havana Jazz Festival was wonderful. The music was topnotch and this goes for the musicians I encountered in the restaurants too. My highlights included visiting the different squares; lunch on the Santa Maria Beach, the organic farm, and the Havana Jazz Festival. Not to forget the Hotel Nacional de Cuba was beautiful, helpful staff, and a lovely room, and within walking distance to some good small restaurants. Many thanks to you and your co-workers in providing all the details to make our travel flow so smoothly.
Very good first introduction to Cuba
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Daniele Spellman, Organizational Analyst, University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California

Hi Graciella, writing to you as I listen to one of my favorite new CD by Sintesis, one of the groups I got to know out of the jazz festival. The whole experience was terrific and I congratulate you and your agency on having put together an excellent program. The accommodations at the Nacional were better than I'd expected; one small problem, the shower was pretty useless but that didn't stop us from enjoying our stay. Our guide, Linnet Brown, was excellent, personable and informative; she took very good care of everyone in the group. The program was diverse enough to give a good feel of some of the issues facing Cuba today, although a bit too much packed on and too many visits on certain days. The jazz festival on the whole was excellent. The trip was a very good first introduction to Cuba. We loved Havana and its people and hope to learn more in the future. Thank you.
Artist at work on Havana sidewalk. Photo Ralph DePalma.
Artist at work on Havana sidewalk. Photo Ralph DePalma
Never met people with so little yet so happy
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Man on balcony in Havana. Photo Ralph DePalma.
Man on balcony in Havana. Photo Ralph DePalma
Ralph DePalma, Mosquito Control Technology, City of Key West
Key West, Florida

Graciella, I cannot describe with any justice the wonderful Cuban people that we met on our trip. The Cuban people were the best part of the entire journey. I felt more comfortable with them on the streets of Havana than I have ever felt in Miami or New York. We walked the streets at night and felt completely comfortable and safe. We met a lady in Nassau on the way to Cuba that best described the Cuban people. She said she had never met people with so little yet so happy. I agree. With regards to the touring and logistics I am amazed that Liliana was able to move so many people around on schedule from place to place with so much efficiency. She was absolutely a treasure. Happy New Year.
Seriously priceless
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Mary Ellen Gibson, Executive Director, San Luis Obispo County
San Luis Obispo, California

Thank you for an exceptional experience! I am well aware that it is very difficult to deal with multiple personalities on a trip like this one. Plus, we are not normally people who travel with a tour, preferring to make our own way. I am in awe of the skill and professionalism of our guide, Lily. She was charming throughout. Our driver was very kind, helpful and careful. The tour was very educational and interesting as we visited various significant locations in Havana. I was unable to attend all the music venues, but the ones I attended were outstanding. Seriously priceless. Wonderful trip, marvelous time, educational experience.
If you can't have fun in Cuba, you can't have fun
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
David Shapiro, Attorney at Law
Los Angeles, California
Deborah Shapiro, Research Assistant
Los Angeles, California

We just returned from the most incredible vacation imaginable… in Cuba! It exceeded all our expectations! Having traveled to approximately 150 countries, I can honestly state that our trip to Cuba is in the top five. I am already planning (literally) my next trip to this endlessly fascinating destination – a magical place with vibrant music, wonderful food and accommodations and among the nicest, warmest, kindest individuals we have ever had the pleasure and privilege to meet. We make this recommendation without hesitation or qualification. If you can't have fun in Cuba, you can't have fun!
Old taxi waiting for a fare at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Photo Winfred 'Maxx' Myrick
Old taxi waiting for a fare at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Photo Winfred 'Maxx' Myrick
Thanks for assistance before and during
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Winfred 'Maxx' Myrick, Radio Executive, Howard University
Silver Spring, Maryland

Graciella, I enjoyed my first trip to Cuba, thanks for your assistance before and during. The people of Cuba are a proud people with an abundance of dignity and grace. I thought the tour, our guide Grency, and driver Carlos were great and very informative and helpful. I think the activities were well paced and gave us a general look at the city of Havana and it's people. The restrictions to travel from the U.S. and access to currency from U.S. banks were problematic and confusing, especially after seeing the hypocrisy of all the American companies doing business in Cuba with the so-called embargo in place. Not sure what good it does or whom it helps, it certainly isn't fooling anyone. I would suggest to future travelers from the United States to bring enough money to convert into CUC, because you cannot use a credit or debit card tied to a U.S. bank in Cuba.
Our delicious lunch at Organopónico Vivero Alamar. Photo Phillip Sanchez
Our delicious lunch at Organopónico Vivero Alamar. Photo Phillip Sanchez
Music always there to greet you with a smile
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Phillip and Judy in Havana.
Phillip and Judy in Havana.
Phillip Sanchez, Associate Real Estate Broker, Keller Williams Realty
Moreno Valley, California
Judy Catanzaro, Volunteer Coordinator, Social Sampling Albertsons
Covina, California

Hello Graciella, Our impressions of Cuba was positive. It is a beautiful island nation with plush green forests and beautiful beach areas. The people are friendly and outgoing. It was like going back in time where you see colonial architecture with peeling paint and the classic old cars of the 1950s that are still running! We found the trip to be interesting, educational and enjoyable. If you like to dance, the rhythm sounds of salsa, rumba and cha cha chá will be there to greet you, with a smile.
Jazz festival was the frosting on the cake
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Linda Gerber, Retired
Tucson, Arizona

The people of Cuba were polite and helpful as well as very entertaining. They were people doing everyday jobs and services. We were surprised how clean the streets were. The City of Havana is an ongoing project, showing signs of old and new progress. This was our first tour and we thought conducted professionally. Our guide showed patience and knowledge of the city, people and culture along with a great personality. Our bus driver was fantastic, always on time, very polite and helpful to people when entering and exiting the bus. He always greeted you with a smile and warm welcome and on top of it all was a safe driver. And the Jazz Festival was the frosting on the cake. All and all an enjoyable experience and we would recommend your company to our friends.
Will remember this holiday as a wonderful experience
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Dorothy Dare, Technology Programmer, Columbia College Chicago
Evanston, Illinois

Dear Graciella, I am just back from our trip. Thanks to your help we had a marvelous time. I really appreciate all you did to make our trip a success. We certainly will remember this holiday in Cuba as a wonderful experience. Our trip was wonderful! Of course, there are always surprises, especially when one visits a country that has such variety and such a fascinating history. I am eager to see what Cuba will be like a few years from now. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and I was sorry that there weren't more Americans enjoying the cities we visited.
Chucho Valdés. Photo Trudi Unger
Chucho Valdés. Photo Trudi Unger
The jazz festival was over the top
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Susan Palmer, Musician
San Diego, California

Hello Graciella, We had a fantastic time and really enjoyed our time in Cuba. I did post pictures on Facebook and got a lot of people interested. Most people think its illegal for U.S. citizens to go to Cuba, so that was an eye opener. I loved all the music, art, and most of the excursions. The best were the Fúster neighborhood, Las Terrazas, Regla and Santería dancing, and the organic farm. Of course, the jazz festival, which is why I went then, was over the top. I thought the cannon shooting was a little disappointing, but enjoyed the company anyway. Had lots of options to go off on our own. Teaching us to dance like Cubans was pretty hysterical. I would recommend your tour to anyone and really liked our guide Linnet Brown. She was informative and positive and competent. I am enjoying all the CDs I bought. Good luck to you and thank you very much.
Havana is sadly beautiful
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Doris Wallace, Teacher
New York, New York

It is with great pleasure that I write. My sister, our friends and I had a terrific trip. As I just wrote to someone living in Havana, the people were warm and friendly. Havana is sadly beautiful. I heard expressions of joy and resignation. Our tour guide, Lynette was wonderful. She has a terrific sense of humor and enormous energy. The jazz festival was, of course, terrific. Since our group shared this mutual enthusiasm, we got along great. Especially loved our visits to Regal, to Las Terrazas and to the organic farm. The artists we met were very gifted. My sister and I stayed longer and loved Trinidad. And when we went back to Havana we spesnt some interesting time in the cemetery (worth an inclusion in the tour). Thank you so much for your efforts. I am happy to recommend you.
We had a good time
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Ronald Strouse, Chef
Doylestown, Pennsylvania

First and foremost, we had a good time. Havana was intriguing, the people and architecture and history. We feel fortunate to have stayed at the Hotel Nacional. Staying there is worth a little more money, if necessary. The jazz festival did not disappoint! The bus was comfortable, our driver was capable and polite and Linnet, our tour guide was everything we could have hoped for. She was friendly, informative and kept things going. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Of course, we share our experiences with people we know and we will recommend you as well.
I love to dance and didn't get enough of it
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Judith Timmel, Science Museum Store Manager, University of California
Emeryville, California

I loved my stay in Cuba. I'm sure I will be back some day. The people express themselves through music and dance so eloquently. One must listen to the music to know the Cuban soul. The Hotel Nacional was fine and it was fun to stay at such an historic place. However, if I go again, I would stay somewhere such as Old Havana from where one could walk to places of interest. The activities were for the most part excellent. Our tour guide, Linnet, was very cheerful and upbeat, knowledgeable and a pleasure. She was always willing to help us with reservations and tickets to other venues. Free time: I always like a lot of it, and was pleased to find a good amount of it compared to the only other tour I have been on. I love to dance and didn't get enough of it.
Enjoyable, but would not return to Cuba
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Sally Welker, Beauty Barber
Roanoke, Indiana

We enjoyed our Cuba tour. We especially liked our guide Liliana. She was intelligent and informative and so very patient and kind. We have invited her to the U.S. and would love for her to be our guest. The Hotel Nacional, would not be considered a five-star by American standards, however it was real nice, but not great. We enjoyed our trip however, I would not consider returning to Cuba. Thank you for your concern, and good luck to you in the future.
Gillian Quian and Bret Holmes in Havana.
Gillian Quian and Bret Holmes in Havana.
Even more spectacular than imagined
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Bret samples popular Cuban beer Bucanero.
Bret inspects popular Cuban beer Bucanero.
Brett P. Holmes, Finance
Chicago, Illinois

We both loved our trip to Cuba and found the country to be even more spectacular than imagined. The cigars, rum, food, and music were all very unique and special and I hope that Cuba never loses its authentic culture and personality. Most striking to me was the architecture and overall charm of Havana. It's just so natural and unplanned, and that's what makes it so spectacular in my opinion. I can't think of too many improvements at the moment because we found the experience to be fluid and well organized. Hopefully, we can return someday soon. Thanks again for checking on us!

I took too many pictures and provide a link to my Facebook album. Enjoy.
Outstanding experience
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Gwenda Blanks, Nurse, Contemporary Nursing Agency
Alexandria, Virginia

Dear Graciella, There is nothing NOT to like about Havana. The people are warm, friendly and SO TALENTED. Great music everywhere! The itinerary was leisurely (no waking at 6 or 8AM) and our guide Liliana was knowledgeable and patient. The hotel was a bit of a disappointment, but the only one in an otherwise outstanding experience. I plan to return some day and see more of the island. You have been efficient and professional. Thank you.
Dream was to perform with Cuban musicians
December 2012 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Richard Summa, Criminal Defense Attorney
Tallahassee, Florida

Dear Graciella, WOW! Thanks so much. I had an AWESOME time in Cuba. Special thanks are also due to my guide Grency, who was a perfect host – personal and informative and just very nice. The people were very nice in Cuba. I made friends with many musicians and accomplished the number one thing that I wanted to do – perform with some of the local musicians that I met. In fact, I returned home with a video of me playing guitar with the band in Hotel Nacional! PRICELESS! I am now trying to figure out whether I can email the video – or maybe I can post it on YouTube. I guess you can believe I had a great time.
Possibly my best trip yet
December 2012 Robert McElvaine Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Robert McElvaine, Professor of History, Millsap College
Clinton, Mississippi

Hola, Leo y Graciella, My trip the week before last was wonderful – possibly my best one yet. I believe everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks so much.
Children at the Angela Landa school in Old Havana.
Children at the Angela Landa school in Old Havana.
Despite some hiccups, the tour was a huge success
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Erica Serlin, Psychologist
Madison, Wisconsin

My sisters and I (Triple Trouble) enjoyed the tour tremendously, and we all felt we got "a lot of bang for the buck" without scrimping on comfort and amenities. The tour was very well planned and geared to a wide variety of interests. I really felt I got a good introduction to Cuba, especially Havana, of course. The people on our particular trip were lovely and relatively seasoned travelers, and Danilo was simply spectacular! He was warm, engaged, flexible, knowledgeable, genuine, and funny. His English was also fantastic. He was a pleasure to listen to and clearly grasped the nuances of our questions, never became defensive, and provided service that was above and beyond the call of duty. I adored the city – its architecture, old cars, fabulous music everywhere, terrific art, incredibly gracious people, and some delicious food, and the tour was paced well to provide a mix of structured activities and meals and time on our own. Also, the information provided in advance was generally very helpful. (I continued to feel a little baffled about the tipping and gift expectations however.) Highlights of the trip for me included the House for the Boy and Girl, Callejón Hamel (although we were there too briefly to catch much of the dancing), the walking tour of Old Havana, Organopónico Vivero Alamar, the Museum of Regla, the studio and lunch at José Fúster's, the Plaza del la Revolución and the José Marti memorial and museum, Viñales and the tobacco farm, the tour of Museo Belles Artes, and the recording studio. Despite some hiccups, the tour was a huge success. I would definitely return to Cuba on another Cuba Education and Culture Tour and would highly recommend it to others.
Completely exceeded my expectations
December 2012 Cuban Culture and Jazz Tour
Olivia Maria Baratta, Attorney, Kilpatrick Townsend LLP
Atlanta, Georgia

The trip was fantastic. I can't say enough good things about it. It completely exceeded my expectations. Frank, our guide, was great. The only "negative" about the trip was the long delay in securing air tickets so we could fly via Miami. And I realize we chose this route because we did not want to take the Cubana flight. I've told all my friends to contact you for any Cuba travel. Thank you for an amazing trip!
Overall the trip was nice
December 2012 Robert McElvaine Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Analiese Taylor, Teacher
New York, New York

Cuba was great. I wish I had know more where to buy Cuban art. American's are told we can only bring back art, books, and music. Several of us wanted to buy nice, original artwork. Our bus driver Enildo was great. He drove well, was always there on time, greeted me every morning, and assisted me in getting on and off the bus. He was polite and professional. Excellent. Overall the trip was nice. Thank you for your assistance.
I enjoyed everything and I loved our guide Danilo
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mary McAuliffe, Attorney, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

I was very impressed with the Cuban people and their culture, particularly the education and medical systems. My favorite activity was the workshop with Dr. Marta Núñez who spoke about Cuba today. She was very informative. But I enjoyed everything. And I loved our guide, Danilo!
Most musical place I have ever visited
December 2012 Cuba Culture and Nature Tour
Dennis Houlihan, Music Producer, California State University Fresno
Long Beach, California

Hi Graciella, Cuba was terrific! Thank you for all your help with the preparation for my recent first-time trip to Cuba with Michael Sanders. Cuba was terrific! The people were so warm, friendly and welcoming. The music was amazing! It's the most musical place I have ever visited! There was music everywhere! Our guide, Meylin, was wonderful. She explained so much and was willing to answer all of our crazy questions (and you know my penchant for asking questions!). The weather was about as perfect as you could imagine. We never encountered a rainy day. The hotel's location was ideal. We were "dead center" in the middle of Old Havana – the perfect base for all of our explorations. Thanks for everything you did "behind the scenes" to make it all come together! I appreciate all you did!
Only addition: half-day trip to a lovely beach
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mary Adams, Public Sector Administration, Regis College
Hellertown, Pennsylvania

Dear Rene, I was thrilled with my trip. The service provided by your organization in sticking with us despite the problems securing air tickets was exemplary. You, personally, provided us with many kindnesses. I thought that our guide, Danilo, was very knowledgeable and professional. I was very pleased with his patience, engagement, etc. Please pass this information along to San Cristóbal. I loved Havana. It is so beautiful. I loved our visit to the literacy center. What a wonderful accomplishment. I thought Viñales was beautiful. The only addition I would make to the trip would be a half-day trip to a lovely beach. I certainly miss the lovely weather, which is much better than the humidity in Florida. I plan to return to Cuba. Be well.
Exposed to a lot of different aspects to how the people of Cuba live
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Yael Hellman, Professor, Woodbury University
Beverly Hills, California

The tour was great. I think the people of Cuba are friendly and the culture is very interesting. I was exposed to a lot of different aspects to how the people of Cuba live and I look forward to going back, especially to see different parts of Cuba and aspects of life there. The driver Felipe was helpful and drove safely. The tour guide Danilo was well informed answered questions, knowledgeable and fun. The bellmen at the hotel were very helpful in finding and making reservations for places to eat.
Kudos to your staff or making Cuba an awesome experience
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Lisa D. Smith, Correctional Counselor, State of California
Rancho Cucamonga, California

In one word "AWESOME!" Cuba was a great place to visit. The history and culture was a great educational experience. The people were friendly every we went. Would return to Cuba for a visit. Also thought it was great that Rene our tour organizer got to go with us. He was amazing and stayed with us every step of the way. He is definitely our new adopted family member. Danny our Tour guide was very knowledgeable. Kudos to both of them for all of their help with making our travel to Cuba an awesome experience.

Katie Bun, second from left, and tourmates in a private taxi. They are off to enjoy some of Havana's nightlife.
Everywhere the scene was full of life
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mural for Peace on side of building in Central Havana. Photo Katie Bun.
Mural for Peace on side of building in Central Havana. Photo Katie Bun
Katie Bun, Senior Data Analyst, Areas Management LLC
Los Angeles, California

Breathtaking and stimulating to all five senses: hear, touch, smell, sight and taste. You need to be in the present to get the authentic experience of the culture, landscape, food, and everything else Cuba has to offer. It's not only about the cigars, mojitos and Cuba Libres. There are beaches, caves, and endless fields of green and mountainous views – making up this beautiful country, which few people know about. Everywhere, the scene was full of life. The music was enthralling, the colors were vibrant, and the people were welcoming and friendly. I look forward to visiting again soon! Thank you for all the memories!
Disagree with Cuban government and U.S. embargo and travel restrictions
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mary George, Teacher, Bibb County Public School
Macon, Georgia
Richard George, Public Affairs
Macon, Georgia

First, let Rusty and me thank you for all you assistance in arranging our recent trip to Cuba, particularly the arduous and bureaucratically encumbered research and preparation of our "licenses" to visit Cuba as U.S. citizens. We thoroughly enjoyed our experiences with Cuban people and as you know stayed an additional five days in a casa particular, extending our awareness of and appreciation for Cuban culture and its citizens. While we don't agree with the policies of the current Cuban government in many areas, we don't agree with the U.S. State Department embargo and restrictions on travel to Cuba and hope that under the Obama administration these will be eliminated.
Thanks so much
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Vince Callahan, Teacher, Detroit Public Schools
Beverly Hills, Michigan

Hi Lilian, Everything was great. Thanks so much!
Guide receptive to diverse needs and very diplomatic
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Barbara Serlin, Sales Director, Apropo Studio
New York, New York

Cuba was wonderful! Even though I usually don't enjoy travelling in a group, it was a lovely mixture of interesting people and the tour addressed a terrific variety of interests. I particularly enjoyed: The Casa de Niños, the organic farm, Fúster's home, the recording studio and the Bellas Artes museum. I appreciated that touring started most days at a very civilized time (9-10AM) and usually there was free time in the afternoon and evening to relax or explore on our own. Daniel was a great guide-receptive to diverse needs and very diplomatic! The Presidente was comfortable and well situated. Enjoyed the ambience of all the meals: the settings and music. Fústerlandia, the organic farm, and Santo Ángel were my favorites for food. For the most part it was a beautifully planned trip. Wishing you all the best in the New Year.
Havana boys. Photo Mariam Baker
Havana boys. Photo Mariam Baker
All aspects of tour were enlightening and informative
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Gail Chabran, English Professor, Rio Hondo College
Whittier, California
Rafael Chabran, Spanish Professor, Whittier College
Whittier, California

Rafael and I were thrilled with the tour. We found all aspects of it to be enlightening and informative. The activities were well planned and everyone was welcoming, pleasant and very proud of their accomplishments. We cannot say enough about our guide, Danilo. He is patient, well informed and friendly. In spite of his youth, he is very professional and has a great future in some aspect of public relations and/or government. He fielded all the questions without laughing or getting fed up. The Boys and Girls Center, the organic farm, the Museum of Literacy, Fúster's studio, Pinar del Río – all were wonderful. Our driver, Felipe, was kind and patient as well. We realized that some of the activities had to be rescheduled or rearranged due to the holidays. The rum was plentiful and delicious. Our favorite meal was the lunch at the organic farm. The hotel was fine, a great location and comfortable rooms and lobby. Having CNN and BBC on the television was a plus. The hotel personnel were helpful and pleasant. All in all, we are very pleased that we chose Cuba Explorer Tours. One more suggestion: it might be a good idea to suggest some reading to participants so they would have a grasp of the history and present situation in Cuba. We came away with renewed appreciation for a country that has struggled against many adversities in the last 55 years and still maintained integrity and optimism. Thank you for making this possible.
A particularly congenial group
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Carla Horwitz, Teacher, Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
Robert Horwitz, Psychologist
New Haven, Connecticut

We had a wonderful and inspiring trip to Cuba. We felt the arrangements were vey well made, the accommodations were comfortable, food was good, and the venues we visited were interesting and very educational. We want to particularly applaud our guide, Laura Norat. She was personable, professional, very attentive, bright, kind, knowledgeable, capable and her English was superb. She spoke with hardly any accent, had all the nuances and idioms and expressions of a native speaker and made our trip even more enjoyable and easy. We were particularly moved by the Museum of Literacy and the compelling initiative it documents. Having the opportunity to talk at length with Professor Marta Núñez Sarmiento was certainly a highlight for us, and the rest of our group. We spent quite a few hours in conversation with her. We appreciated the José Fúster village and studio. We also enjoyed the organic farm, UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, and the lunch there was extraordinary. The other six tour participants were wonderful to travel with, thoughtful, friendly and collaborative. We know you probably didn't hand pick our traveling companions, but this was a particularly congenial group and we appreciated their observations, insights, flexibility, thoughts and company. All in all we felt we learned a great deal, were well taken care of, and were inspired by the spirit and accomplishments of Cuba. We have and will certainly continue to tell our friends and colleagues. Best wishes for the new year, and many thanks.
Surprised at our freedom to go anywhere and talk to anyone
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Barbara Francis, Spanish Teacher, Montessori School Young Children
Lincoln, Nebraska
Charles Francis, Agronomist, University of Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska

We very much enjoyed our visit to Cuba and our opportunity to learn about the country and culture. We were pleasantly surprised at our freedom to go anywhere and talk to anyone. Our stereotypes in that area were proven wrong. Our facility in Spanish served us well. We did do some research before the trip and found that to be very helpful. Having a good current guidebook is also helpful. Thanks for a good tour.
Kathleen learns to role a cigar – Cuban-style – in Viñales.
Kathleen learns to role a cigar – Cuban-style – in Viñales.
Wonderful from airport arrival to our farewell dinner
December 2012 Cuban Arts and Architecture Tour
Kathleen Grandonico, Realtor, Lincoln Real Estate
Hatfield, Massachusetts

Just want you to know that we had a wonderful trip from the airport arrival to our farewell dinner. Each day when we thought we might get board by spending so many days just in Havana, we got a new surprise. Our guide was the best, and she made the tour! We were so impressed with the Viñales Valley, the arts, music, culture and the people. We hope that some day the Cuban people will have more opportunities! Thank you, for being helpful and patient.
Miriam Baker with new Cuban friends at Callejón de Hamel in Central Havana.
Miriam Baker with new Cuban friends at Callejón de Hamel in Central Havana.
Fun to see all the great 1950s American cars all bright and shinny
December 2012 Cuba Religion, Culture and Jazz Tour
Dance students in Havana. Photo Miriam Baker.
Dance students in Havana. Photo Miriam Baker
Miriam Baker, Artist, Sculptor
Newport Beach, California

We are glad that we were able to visit Cuba and we were surprised that the people were not as poor as we had been led to believe. Most of the people that we saw had enough to eat and clothes to wear and were enjoying life. They were friendly and kind (finding chairs for my husband with his bad knee) and colorful. Their artwork was vibrant and the country is rich in excellent sculptures and it was a lot of fun to see all the great 1950s American cars all bright and shinny.
I learned a great deal more about Cuba's history
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Ilene Serlin, Psychologist, Union Street Health Associates
San Francisco, California

Hello Lilian, I am on the plane returning from Ft. Lauderdale and thought I would take this opportunity to share some thoughts on the tour. It was a fantastic trip! Our guide, Danilo, was superb – intelligent, good with people, and very professional. The accommodations at Hotel President were just fine, except that the heater did not work in the room. I very much enjoyed all the site visits, and was delighted with the warmth and helpfulness of everyone we met. On a personal level, I learned a great deal more about Cuba's history, and was especially interested in and troubled by the United States' role in that history. I think that many more of us should know about this, and I am bringing back some more information for continued learning and sharing with colleagues. Thank you for a very memorable visit. With best wishes for a Happy New Year!
We were happy to finally experience Cuba and its people
December 2012 Cuba Religion, Culture and Jazz Tour
Susan Madenburg, Scupturist
Santa Ana, California

Dear Graciella, I wanted to let you know that we very much enjoyed our trip to Cuba, the smiling faces and kind people. My husband and I are generally independent travelers who have toured the world over for years and we were happy to finally experience Cuba and its people. When we travel we like to bring ourselves into the culture and lives of the people of the Country we travel to. We travel with few expectations and for the most part are always surprised and delighted. We knew going into Cuba, the five-star Hotel Nacional would certainly not be the same five-star expected in the U.S., Paris, or Dubai. I do think the carpet could be replaced and the buffets could be stepped up a bit, but certainly not anyone's fault and again it is Cuba, Not America! I believe we all were aware before going to Cuba that we were not going to find great culinary cuisines due to shortages, etc. Our bus driver Fernando was very kind and a very safe driver. Our tour guide José Ramon was very nice and tried hard to please all, which I'm sure was not an easy task.
The weather was perfect, Cuba fascinating
December 2012 Cuba Religion, Culture and Jazz Tour
Richard Madenburg, Engineer, Retired
Santa Ana, California

Found visit to Cuba to be fascinating; people-to people interaction was great; had no problems whatsoever in returning to USA. Immigrations and customs were non-events. Cuba Explorer Tours met all our expectations and would use you again. All had an enjoyable experience. The weather was perfect – virtually no rain and clear blue skies every day. Temperatures were comfortable, mostly in to mid 70s. Needed a light jacket on some evenings. No mosquitoes. Hotel Nacional was an interesting venue from an historical perspective, however not geographically friendly to the Old Havana. The many small boutique hotels within the old city would have been more accommodating, I think. Guide José and Driver Fernando were both professional and courteous.
Ready to start planning our next tour
December 2012 Cuba Religion, Culture and Jazz Tour
Laki Halper, Travel Agent, USA International travel
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Our trip went without a hitch. Once we got through the airport madhouse, our guide Alden met us and from then on it was great every day. It was an excellent trip well run and informative. Leonardo did a great job with trip organization. I am ready to start planning the next one! We had no problem with customs and immigrations. Meanwhile, a happy healthy New Year to all of you.
I wish we had stayed in Havana for holidays
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Keith Skinner, Freelance Writer
Berkeley, California

We had a wonderful time and had great tour companions. I'm ready to go back for a long drive around the island. We just got home last night from Miami. We have four days to finish shipping gifts and get ready to host Christmas dinner. I wish we had stayed in Havana.
Advance planning was excellent
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Donald Kenyon, Teacher
Palo Alto, California
Carol Kenyon, Teacher
Palo Alto, California

We are home and enjoying our memories of Cuba. Everything went well, the group was perfect and our guide Laura did a wonderful job of sharing Cuba with us. Thanks for all your work in getting us ready to go. Your advance planning was excellent. We have put the idea of travel to Cuba in the minds of our friends. Feliz navidad, and best wishes for a great 2013!
Tour was marvelous and so much fun
December 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Suvira Heyn, Chief Technical Advisor, United Nations Development Programme
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Michael Heyn, Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Dear Friends, The visit you organized for us was marvelous and so much fun. Meantime, our many thanks to all of you along with our warmest wishes for the holidays.
There were no glitches
November 2012 Myerson Cuba Culture Tour
Mary Myerson, Teaching, PR, Executive Search Consulting
Sarasota, Florida

Dear Leonardo, Everything went smoothly in the organization of the program. While it was more work than I had expected there were no glitches. The Hotel Terral's location on the Malecón was terrific. The rooms were large; mattresses were comfortable; plumbing and fixtures were excellent. The staff was very nice and helpful. Our guide Geldrys Vilches was excellent. She was pleasant, well educated, friendly, and had a good sense of humor. The food at the restaurants was mixed. No trip should occur without a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, with exhibits from 18th to 20th century! It is a must. Also, include the Museum of Decorative Arts on trips because it is so much a part of pre-Castro history, and has decorative arts superior to any in the whole world of museums, including French and Asian antiques (furnishings and porcelains, for example), and is in a gorgeous building.
Tour good. What can be brought back to the States confusing.
November 2012 Museum of Western Colorado Cuba Tour
Romaine Webb, Retired
Grand Junction, Colorado

The Cuba tour was quite educational. Tour guide Alden was very knowledgeable about his country and eager to have more information about the United States. The variety of places visited was good. The information about what is legal to be brought into the States should be more updated and specific so the list is complete and not confusing. I asked in Cuba if coffee could be brought and was told okay. I asked the pilot of our airplane and he brings it in all the time. The U.S. customs agent did not make me surrender the one package I had. I really had a good experience altogether.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Items that brought back from Cuba are: informational materials including publications, books, films, posters, phonograph records, photographs, tapes, compact discs, and artwork. Everything else is prohibited. Click here for actual OFAC regulations.

Our guide Jorge Frank and bus driver Nelson. Photo Bruce Sowalski.
Our guide Jorge Frank and bus driver Nelson. Photo Bruce Sowalski
Entire group was engaged
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Bruce Sowalski, Business Consultant
Sand Lake, New York

We really enjoyed our tour. Our guide, Frank, was an excellent host. He provided information and knowledge about the country, the culture and the Cuban people. He was friendly, efficient, and kept the tour on track. Our driver, Nelson, was excellent, providing safe transportation and support for all. We are really pleased with the tour itinerary. It was an excellent introduction to Cuba, providing insight and interaction with the country that we could not have received traveling on our own. We enjoyed the visits to the organic farm, the home for boy and girl, the recording studio, the senior center, the vocational school and Viñales Valley. The days were well planned, providing activities, meals and private time to explore and enjoy. I want to commend the tour company for keeping the size of the group to ten people – it enabled the entire group to be engaged at all points of the tour. It was a great group of people, and a great way to see the country. We also appreciated the online tour orientation, the tips were very helpful, and prepared us for the tour. Overall, an excellent experience that we would highly recommend to all first time travelers to Cuba.
Wanted to hear more about education, health care and social systems
November 2012 Museum of Western Colorado Cuba Tour
Dorothy M. Miller, Educator, Bullock Creek Schools
Grand Junction, Colorado

I thought the trip was well organized and loved our guide Alden. I would have liked to hear a lot more about the health care, education, and social systems. Because we didn't spend a lot of time on the bus, the discussion and lecture time was very limited. Thanks for all your help.
Buena Vista Social Club was best party ever
November 2012 Museum of Western Colorado Cuba Tour
Janice Chamberlin, Retired
Mystic, Connecticut

I have been playing my Cuban music since I got home! I enjoyed the music in every restaurant, on the street, and especially the Buena Vista Social Club. That was one of the best parties I have been to in a long time. The people of Cuba are very fun and interesting in spite of the hardships they endure. Everyone was so friendly and Helpful. I thought the itinerary was good in the fact that we saw a little bit of a lot of history. Havana and the old Cars, the fortresses, the beautiful architecture in ruins, the coffee plantation, the old towns, the resorts and the beautiful sunsets and the ocean. We saw the country, birds, and the bee-size hummingbird, so we were fortunate in that as well. Hemingway's home was interesting and I finally read the "Old Man and the Sea" after we visited – it was much more meaningful. I really enjoyed Cuba and hope I can go back again sometime.
Our tour guide Jorge Alberto.
Our tour guide Jorge Alberto.
I am so pleased I went
November 2012 Cuban Law Tour
Ann McGinley, Law Professor, William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV
Henderson, Nevada

Cuba was very interesting. The people were open and friendly and the old city of Havana is beautiful. The music is great, and I generally had a wonderful time. Everything was planned and executed very well. Jorge, our tour guide, was great. His English is wonderful and I could not believe how well he translated the Spanish into English even though he had no legal experience (I speak Spanish, so I could vouch for how well he did). He worked very hard for us and answered our questions well. Going to José Fúster's house was perhaps the best thing we did – I loved it. All in all, I am so pleased I went and we were treated well by those working for the travel agency. Thanks for all!
Best tourist experience of my life
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Rev. Dr. Robert Loesch, Pastor, Zion's United Church of Christ
Sand Lake, New York

I had a wonderful tour and enjoyed meeting and learning so much about Cuba. It is a beautiful country. All the people we encountered were very friendly and positive towards us and about your country. Upon my return I have been speaking positively about all aspects of Cuba and encouraging my friends to visit themselves through your agency. The food was always excellent. The educational and cultural sites were impressive. The weather was perfect in November for a visit. Our guide Frank and driver Nelson were excellent and helpful in every experience. They worked very well together even though it was their first time working together. I have travelled in forty nations over a forty-five year period. This was one of the best tourist experiences of my life. I especially valued the opportunity to visit throughout Old Havana and learn about the renovation and reconstruction work of recent years. The visits to the House for Boy and Girl, Convento Belen and Escuela Taller workshop were major parts of that urban experience. I also valued the free time, which allowed learning about some of the non-public opportunities. The variety of places to tour and have presentations was great, including many different areas of Cuban life. Despite spending a week with strangers our group was very compatible and we enjoyed each other's company and new friendships. Again, thanks for all the work you do in planning these tours.
Guide outstanding, could not have hope for better
November 2012 Cuban Law Tour
Janice Goodman, Lawyer
New York, New York

I had a wonderful experience, and I think that is true for the entire group. Loved Havana; met nothing but friendly courteous helpful locals. Old Havana is magnificent. The Vedado section of Havana is lively and exciting. The Malecón was beautiful. Loved the visit to the home and artwork of artist José Fúster, and if there were more artists who opened their studios I think that would be worth adding to any trip. Our guide Jorge was outstanding – knowledgeable, helpful, enthusiastic. He went out of his way to answer all of our many questions about Cuba today and yesterday. He was consistently cheerful and good-natured, helped us make dinner reservations, etc. Could not have asked for more. The organized presentations were informative; particularly Dr. Marta Núñez Sarmiento who spoke on a wide range of social issues and gave a great overview of history and the present.
Everyone very helpful
November 2012 Cuban Law Tour
Paul H. Tobias, Lawyer, tktlaw.com
Cincinnati, Ohio

Graciella, We want to thank your agency for arranging a wonderful trip. Our entire group thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Havana Cuba. All the people we met were gracious and helpful. You, Leonardo, and Marcel were very patient with all our many questions and gave good advice. Also, Jorge our tour guide was excellent and outstanding in every way. He maintained a cheerful manner, was extremely knowledgeable, personable and answered all our questions and handled himself in a manner respectful to Cuba and to the questioner. We all particularly enjoyed the talks of Dr. Yepe, and Dr. Núñez. Emily Jalilo was also very helpful particularly at the Miami Airport. The programs on labor law were hampered somewhat by the language barrier, by the complex nature of the labor law subject matter. However, we appreciated the kindness of Dr. Dorys Cruz in making arrangements in Havana. We enjoyed "El Cañonazo," Viñales Village, the Mural de la Prehistoria, boat tour, and meeting the tobacco farmer. Favorites were Cabaret Tropicana, Palace of Fine Arts, Hemingway House, and visits to the local markets, and the artist Fúster's home.
Frank with Cuban cigar. He didn't inhale.
Frank with Cuban cigar. He didn't inhale.
Superlatives are not sufficient
November 2012 Museum of Western Colorado Cuba Tour
Frank Nemanich, Environmental Scientist, West Slope Environmental
Grand Junction, Colorado

I want to thank you and your crew for my trip to Cuba. What an incredible experience! The vibrant Cuban spirit set against an apocalyptic background was… still can't find the right words. The superlatives in my thesaurus are not sufficient. I'm still processing what I saw. When trying to explain the trip to friends all I can say is that you gotta go! If you could furnish a good map, it could help figure out where we were. As a biologist, a naturalist would have been great to have travel with us during bus rides in the country. Perhaps more important, the availability of more coins for tips and restrooms. I took 600 photos, but I missed so much. Hope I can go again.
I will be going back again!
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Karen Kircher, Adjunct Faculty, Baldwin Wallace University
Strongsville, Ohio

The tour exceeded our expectations! The high light was our guide, Frank, who never tired of answering probing questions with candor and intelligence. He also spoke so highly of Cuba Educational Tours, saying that some of the experiences we had were very rare for tourists and were a result of the tour company seeking the very best cultural opportunities for us. The Alba recording studio was among these special visits as well as the people to people visits to the school for boys and girls, and the old age center. The Cuban people were so welcoming and friendly to us despite our troubled history. It encouraged me to learn more about the economic relationship that we have and to work to end the blockade. The small size of our group made the trip personal and easy to get around the city. Everyone was interesting and fun to be with for the week.
Letter to tour guide from traveler
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Andrea Harchar, Art Teacher, The Parma City School District
Parma, Ohio

Letter to tour guide Frank from Andrea. I wanted to thank you so much for the wonderful introduction you gave us to your country. Your knowledge and love of Cuba was clearly communicated to us throughout the trip. I appreciated you patience and honesty and always, your kindness. I feel that I got to know Cuba and Cubans on a personal level because of your guidance. Since I returned home, people have asked me what I thought of Cuba. I tell them that Havana is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and that the Cuban people are kind, happy, fun loving, and talented and that they want us to tell everyone in the U.S. how much they desire friendship and peace. I would also tell them of Cuba's accomplishments during the past fifty years; universal health care, free education up through graduate school, 98% literacy, and no one is hungry or homeless. As an artist, I would tell them about Cuba's lively and healthy arts scene and that I felt no repression. I have immense admiration for the spirit of community that Cubans demonstrate and their willingness to make life better for all Cubans. I would love to return to Cuba if only it were easier for us. Perhaps one day the blockade will be lifted and our two countries can heal this rift between us. I think most Americans would agree with me. It is only a small minority who believe otherwise. Frank, I wish you the very best and am deeply grateful for what you shared with us. Your company should be very proud of the work you do! Cariñosos saludos, Andrea

My thanks to Cuba Explorer Tours for an outstanding travel experience. The tour was well organized and provided us with exceptional opportunities to meet with Cubans from all walks of life. When we met our guide for the first time, I knew that we were in the hands of a company that understood Cuban society and culture and how to share that understanding with us. I would recommend Cuba Explorer Tours to anyone who wanted to really "see" Cuba. It was an amazing adventure that left me longing to return. The last sentence on the itinerary is "missing Cuba already." This is true. I do miss it, and my only regret is that I couldn't spend more time there!
Like being caught in a time warp
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
David Binder, Lawyer, Gold, Silverman, Goldenberg & Binder
Wayne, Pennsylvania

Pedro: Cuba is a great country to visit. The people are friendly, the food is good, and the climate can't be beat. Seeing all the old cars was fascinating, like being caught in a time warp. My family enjoyed the tour that your company chartered for us. Our guide Rosita was very helpful and knowledgeable. Your pre-trip advice was also helpful and much appreciated.
Old building in Central Havana. Photo Dorothy Espe.
Old building in Central Havana. Photo Dorothy Espe
Things are changing it seems November
2012 Museum of Western Colorado Cuba Tour
Dorothy Espe, Artist and Sculpture
Whitewater, Colorado

Hi Graciella, Trip was great and completely fascinating. Alden was a good guide and really gave us some insight into the country and it's dilemmas. I enjoyed the Cuban experts we met in the itinerary. Trip was well planned to give us free time and activities. It's a beautiful country and everyone very nice, and merchants not too pushy when selling. Cubans seemed to appreciate small tips as well as larger ones. Getting a chance to wander Havana and Trinidad was good. Easy to imagine both cities in their better days and feel sad about condition they are in now. Although, things are changing, it seems. I would have appreciated more time in the art museum – there was too little time to look at the stunning exhibits. My partner Lyle felt it was an excellent trip. He thinks the Cuban people are very resilient, and that we can learn a lot from them. We were glad to have had Michael Sanders from Environmental Adventure Company on the trip.
School kids in Havana. Photo Robert Mathe.
School kids in Havana. Photo Robert Mathe
Guide lent insight into the Cuban life
November 2012 Myerson Cuba Culture Tour

Statues at Cementerio Cristóbal Colón in Vedado. Photo Robert Mathe.
Statues at Cementerio Cristóbal Colón in Vedado. Photo Robert Mathe
Robert Mathe, Telematics Systems, Evogi.com
Sarasota, Florida

Graciella, The trip, it was great. In our visit to Cuba we discovered warm, engaging people economically adrift with little incentive to change things for the better. The vibrant art scene and the local private eateries called paladares supported by tourist money are great examples of Cuban energy and creativity waiting to be tapped. The vast tracts of decsaying buildings in Havana and the few building that have been restored by government projects provide a glimpse of what once existed and what could be again. We really enjoyed our visit. The hotel was a bit noisy because it was right on the Malecón and service could be better, but the staff was very warm and accommodating. Meals there were always interesting – different every time. Geldrys was great. She had good command of English and knew her history well. She gave us a lot of insight into the Cuban life.
Guide had plenty of knowledge on the history of Cuba
November 2012 Santa Barbara City College Cuba Tour
Irma Esquivel-Kromis, Spanish Instructor, Santa Barbara Community College Continuing Education
Santa Barbara, California

Hola Leonardo! Bueno quisiera hacerte algunos comentarios sobre el viaje. En general lo pasamos muy bien. Algunos de mis estudiantes conocieron la Habana mucho mejor que yo porque no perdieron ningun momento libre que tenian. Estaban fascinados. Lo bueno de llevar a un grupo de adultos es que ellos son muy independientes. Nuestra guia, Meylin fue excelente. Ella es muy simpatica y se ve que tiene bastantes conocimientos en cuanto a la historia de Cuba. A todos nos cayo muy bien al igual que el chofer Oscar. El hotel Los Frailes nos encanto y los empleados son super simpatiquísimos y muy amables. Me alegra mucho haber seguido el consejo de mi amiga y escoger ese hotel. El grupo que lleve fue excelente y nadie me causo ningun problema en la Habana. De cualquier manera, te agradezco por todas tus atenciones.

Hello Leonardo! Overall we had a great time. Some of my students got to know Havana much better than me because they did good use of all the free time they had. They were fascinated. The good thing about taking a group of adults is that they are very independent. Our guide, Meylin was excellent. She is very nice and seems to have plenty of knowledge of the history of Cuba. We all liked her as well as the driver Oscar. We loved the Los Frailes Hotel, and its employees are super friendly and very kind. I am very glad I followed my friend's advice and chose that hotel. The group as a whole was excellent and no one caused me any problems in Havana. Anyway, thank you for all your attentions.
Arrived in a very special world
November 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Marjorie Levin, Designer, Marge Levin Design
New York, New York

Dear Pedro, The trip was so far beyond my expectations that I haven't yet found the words to describe it. I felt like I had arrived in a very special world. The island is lush and beautiful and Havana – even with its obvious needs – is a majestic city. Our guide Rosa was exceptional, knowledgeable, energetic and very forthcoming with answers to any and all questions. We had the chance to see the country outside of Havana, which added to the experience. I've traveled quite a bit but never with a group before. This one was small, compatible, interesting and fun. The only activities that I could have done without were the rum museum and the cabaret at the Hotel Nacional -both too over staged for me. For a first glimpse of Cuba the tour was excellent and I do hope to return to explore and see more of the country.
Hotel had no hot water for several days
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Sandra Rutchik, Real Estate Broker, ReMax Excellence
Elkhart, Indiana

Great Cuba trip. The guide was great. However the hotel had no hot water for several days. We really enjoyed the itinerary. You all did a fine job, thank you.
Return to Cuba after an absence of 52 years
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Allan Anderson, Pilot, Retired, United Airlines
Anderson, South Carolina

Hola Rene, Our tour was very educational and enlightening and our guide, Alejandro Berroa Alvarez was very friendly, knowledgeable and professional. For me, it was a return to Cuba after an absence of 52 years. We were encouraged by the work and progress the Cuban people are making to restore a once beautiful city that is in terrible decay. We can only hope that they will be successful and that they will soon have the external help that is crucial to progress. All the people we encountered were very knowledgeable and friendly. The trip to the organic farm and the Hemingway house were most enjoyable. The trip to Viñales was a three-hour bus ride over terribly rough roads and, was for me a disappointment. Overall it was a good tour and worth the cost. Muchas gracias por todo su ayudo.
Wonderful balance of fun stuff and educational activities
November 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Sarah Haque, Researcher, Studio Gang Architects
Chicago, Illinois

Rene, the tour was great! We had a wonderful balance of fun activities and educational activities. I felt very fortunate to be able to learn about different aspects of Cuba more intimately. Also, our guide Alejandro Berroa Alvarez was incredibly informative, patient and friendly. We felt very lucky to have him as our tour guide.
Our guide Alejandro Infante.
Our guide Alejandro Infante.
Cubans show peace and respect for each other
October 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Michael Malachowski, Traffic Safety Educator, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles
Delmar, New York

Lilian, I wanted to let you know my trip to Cuba went very well. I'll start by saying the two bus drivers Emilio and Julio were both competent drivers who were also outgoing, fun guys. We shared many laughs and smiles. I like both of them very much. Alejandro, our translator, was also highly competent. He knew the history of Havana and Cuba both and was able to answer the dozens of questions I asked him. If you should speak to him, just say Mike of the thousand questions says hello. And I don't want to forget the Cuban people themselves. I found them to be civil, helpful and of good spirits. They seemed to go about their day in peace and respect for each other. I don't think I heard a single harsh word coming from anyone the entire trip. It's easy to see why your literature speaks of making Cuban friends when you visit. I'm glad I went. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot too. Thanks for the assistance.
I never felt like I was in any danger
October 2012 Cuba for Beginners Week of Dreams Tour
Elizabeth Weathers, Attorney, State of Wisconsin
Waukesha, Wisconsin

I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Cuba. I learned so much and finally understand what the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis was about. Our guide could not have been more informative or helpful. His name was Martin and worked with San Cristóbal Agency and he was very well educated, spoke English very well and was so very patient with our innumerable questions. I do not envy the communism under which the people suffer. The poverty is overwhelming, but the Cubans are managing to subsist. Until the infrastructure gets an influx of cash, Cuba could not withstand an influx of a large amount of tourism from the U.S. Thank you SO MUCH for helping with the trip. The Cubans were warm, welcoming and I never felt like I was in any danger. It was a wonderful, very informing trip. I learned a lot about the criminal justice system.
I had a blast
October 2012 Cuba for Beginners Week of Dreams Tour
Everett White, Project Manager, SED International
Stone Mountain, Georgia

The trip was great! I am glad I went. First, I must express praise for our guide Martin. He was extremely helpful, knowledgeable, patient, friendly, flexible and professional. I don't think the trip would have been the same without his guidance and company. I enjoyed the tour itself, and we managed to at least touch on every area of interest yet I still walked away feeling as if I hadn't seen the real Cuba. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast, but the I know the average Cuban will never see the inside of the hotel, restaurants, and museums I enjoyed. I still wonder what daily life is like for them. There were a couple of problems with the hotel, like leaky ceilings and cold showers, but other than that it did very much look like the website photos.
Thanks for a good experience
October 2012 Cuba for Beginners Week of Dreams Tour
Judith and Alan (first names only by request)
San Francisco, California

Because we are Americans, we do not want any postings on your website that could be attributed to us. However, we do want to tell you that we were extremely pleased with our trip. Our guide and driver were wonderful people and the guide was extremely knowledgeable and fun to be with. There was just the right mix of guided travel and time to explore on our own. We felt that we gained a good understanding of Cuba and, in particular, of Havana. Our only suggestion would be to see if there is an alternative to the hotel where we stayed. There were some minor inconveniences such as a lack of hot water, leaks in the ceiling of our room, a toilet that didn't always work. I don't know if these same conditions would exist in comparably priced hotels or not but it may be worth checking out. On the upside, however, the breakfasts were good and the staff was very nice. Also, the location of the hotel was convenient.
Tour was more than we expected
October 2012 Cuba for Beginners Week of Dreams Tour
Roberta Spoon, Accountant
San Diego, California

Yvonne Campbell and I just returned from our trip to Havana. The tour was more than we expected. The tour guide Martin Rosello Perez from San Cristóbal Agency made every day a spectacular experience. He was informative, personable, accommodating to our diverse wishes, and exceptionally flexible. He made us feel safe and welcome in Havana. He was very bright and could answer our questions articulately and clearly. We had two birthdays and an anniversary within our group and he personally bought small birthday gifts and birthday cakes for the group members. He walked with me personally all over the market place looking for something special for my grandsons related to baseball. When we couldn't find it he had his wife walk around their home neighborhood to try to find it for me. This wasn't unusual. He did this type of extra effort for all members of our group. I wanted to let you know that Martin Rosello Perez is a wonderful representative for Cuba Explorer Tours, San Cristóbal Agency and Havana. Thank you for supplying the last three days with the bus and guide. We didn't expect to have that service and it made for a wonderful expanded trip. Martin filled our days and made our seven days in Cuba exceptionally educational and interesting. It was a trip that we will never forget.
Went on this tour to marry my wonderful Cuban husband
September 2012 Cuba for Beginners Week of Dreams Tour
Kae Kermicle, Teacher, Valley View School District
Chicago, Illinois

I had already been to Cuba several times. So I can tell you from a lot of first hand experience the Cuban people are wonderful, warm hearted, and friendly. The island is beautiful. I went on this tour to marry my wonderful Cuban husband and the tour helped me to accomplish that goal. I'm now working with my lawyer to bring him back to the United States. The tour was fun and very interesting and the trip to Viñales was especially interesting since I had never been outside of Havana. I am very electronically challenged, but if I can find someone to help, I'll send pictures of my wonderful trip and my strange Cuban wedding.
I hope the travel restrictions open up
September 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Erin Daniels, Attorney
Washington, DC

My impressions of Cuba were that it was one of the most fascinating and complex places I've ever been. Everyone in the United States is so eager to hear about the trip and what it's really like there. I hope the travel restrictions open up even more in the coming years, so that Americans and Cubans can benefit from more access to cultural exchange. The people are very friendly and helpful and FUN above all.
I'll be brief
August 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mary Fennell, Art and Photography Teacher, White Plains Public School
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

I had a wonderful experience. Thank you.
Ballet students I met in Havana. Photo Julie Marie Horvath
Ballet students I met in Havana. Photo Julie Marie Horvath
I have never felt safer
August 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Julie Marie Horvath, Spanish Teacher, School District of Beloit
Beloit, Wisconsin

I read two guidebooks before going but I still was not prepared for the thought-provoking experiences during this trip. The guide Ariannet Arias was great; she was warm, helpful, energetic, and spoke English very well. She was happy to help organize activities during free evenings and she went out of her way to answer our questions and help us get to know the country. She helped us get tickets to see the Buena Vista Social Club! I enjoyed all the guided tours and was glad to have the free time to explore on my own. I am a Spanish teacher and I have been to nine Spanish-speaking countries; I have never felt safer walking around at any time of the day or night than in Cuba. I really loved the diversity of the itinerary: art museum, convent, elderly facility, House for the Boy and Girl, historical walking tour, and caves in Viñales.
So much to learn
August 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Susan Lacy, Principal, Village Elementary School
Burlington, New Jersey

Thank you for your part in helping to plan my trip to Cuba last week. Despite an extremely delayed arrival, it was a wonderful experience. Our guide and driver were fantastic and I couldn't have asked for a better group of travel mates. We bonded in a special way. I will never forget the experience. There was so much to learn, appreciate and share!
Cubans took good care of us
July 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Donna Buckley and family
Chicago, Illinois

I thought it would be a great adventure to take a trip to Cuba with my family. After much research, contacting people who actually traveled with Cuba Explorer Tours, and reading everything and anything I could about American travel to Cuba, we jumped in and booked our trip. And what a great decision it was! From the minute our plane touched down in Havana, this they took care of us in a first class manner. Our tour guide, Linnet, met us at the airport with our bus and driver even though it was late in the evening and we were the only ones in our group coming in that evening. She took us to exchange our money and our fabulous tour began. All our hotels, restaurants and activities were beyond our expectations. Linnet was always surprising us with great activities, welcome cocktails, and insider information. The Cuban people were very warm and welcoming. We were often stopped on the street by strangers and thanked for visiting. I took over a 1,000 photos and my daughter took another 1,200! Go to Cuba and go with this tour company. Your tour was considerably cheaper than other tour companies and was still a first class operation.
Christopher Watkins and new friend.
Christopher Watkins and new friend.
Was like returning to a warm home
July 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Christopher Watkins visits a school in Havana.
Christopher Watkins visits a school in Havana.
Christopher Watkins, Teacher, Baylor School
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Visiting Cuba was like going home again, although I'd never been there before. Virtually every interaction I had with the people was friendly, respectful, and educational. It is hard to measure how much my understanding of Cuba grew in a just a week, but my love for the culture and people swelled.
Want travel restrictions ended so more U.S. people can experience Cuba
July 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Judith Baker, Educator, South of Market Child Care
San Francisco, California

I wanted to say thank you for the wonderful trip to Cuba. Everything was perfect. Our guide Yuli was an amazing person – always cheerful no matter what and how long the day and almost always had the answers to our many questions. I hope to travel again with you again, or better yet hope the restrictions will be eliminated so more people from the U.S. can experience this beautiful country.
We could learn so many lessons from Cuba
July 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Sondra Cuban, Senior Lecturer, Lancaster University
Seattle, Washington

We all had an amazing time on this tour. And I would definitely recommend it to friends and family and colleagues. I think the biggest take-away for me was the understanding about the effects that the economic blockade has had on Cuban people over so many years and the resiliency and creativity with which they handled it. The music and art that surrounded us on the tour (and was evident everywhere) offset the economic difficulties that Cubanos face and was part of everyday life. The lack of so many material goods was in sharp contrast to the excessive materialistic and wasteful U.S. 90 miles away from it, which could learn so many lessons from Cuba. Despite so few resources, Cuba has managed to educate its population well across the lifespan and provide good health care and there are so many other points of social services that people can access.

We learned that every pregnant woman get free prenatal and after care support and pre-school teachers have college degrees. This is unheard of in the U.S. Moreover no child goes to bed hungry. The community centers and senior centers in Cuba are evidence of the value the very young and old have in this country. Our tour guide, Ariannet brought everything and everyone together. She was knowledgeable, funny, sensitive and responsive to everyone's needs and authentic in all of her interactions. This was hugely appreciated since we didn't speak Spanish and she was the only Cuban we really got to know during the trip. She also handled having our two year old on the trip well and integrated her into the group. It was hugely successful! We would like to come back next summer and stay for a month or so. Areas of improvement: Tour restaurants were not as good as the paladares [small private restaurants].
Primary students take a mid-day nap at the Angela Landa School in Old Havana. Photo Sarah Straub
Primary students take a mid-day nap at the Angela Landa School in Old Havana. Photo Sarah Straub
The culture is alive
July 2012 University of Houston Cuba Tour
Sarah Straub, Student, University of Houston
Houston, Texas

Cuba is an amazing country that definitely did not match what I had learned in school. I maintain that if Cuba were placed on a scale from white to black that it is the epitome of grey. The people live in a society where all of their basic needs are met. They seem content while at the same time making offhand comments about wanting material things. They commend the positive aspects of socialism while at the same time commenting on their desire for more freedom. The people are incredibly friendly and the scenery is breathtaking. The culture is alive – we got to step back in time and enjoy the same parts of Cuba as our historical idols. It was amazing! The services were fantastic. It would be nice to be told the night before what we should wear because there times when we went to farms or other rural locations and I was dressed inappropriately. Thank you so much! Our guide Frank was incredible
Saw what makes Cuba unique and insights beyond
July 2012 University of Houston Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Dylan Domel-White, Student, University of Houston
Houston, Texas

Overall, the Cuba experience proved to be incredibly interesting. From the visibly apparent difference in architecture to the more subtle ideological differences, I got to see what makes Cuba unique and get some insight into their culture beyond what is taught in high school history class. I learned that Cubans enjoy their lifestyle, that Cubans still support socialism despite their issues, that much of Cuban suffering is the result of our continued trade embargo, and much more. My expectations could not have been more wrong. Read more of this fascinating report…
University of Houston students and faculty at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana in July 2012.
University of Houston students and faculty at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana in July 2012.
Eclectic mix of music, art, people and religion
July 2012 University of Houston Cuba Tour
Michael Geronimo, Social Studies Teacher, University of Houston
Pearland, Texas

My first impression of Cuba is that it is a beautiful island with an eclectic mix of music, art, and personal and religious values. Every encounter I had with local people was a pleasant one. Our tour guide, Frank, was extremely helpful and patient with our large, diverse group the entire time. Every place we visited had a story to tell and I am so lucky to have seen first hand, how the city of Havana and the surrounding areas operate on a day-to-day basis. The only problematic aspect of the tour was the power outage, this caused some museums to be closed, but that was out of any ones hands. I had to see a doctor in Havana. The staff at Cira Garcia Central Clinic was very helpful. I would have loved to stay a few days more in Havana. Hopefully, one day, I will go back!
Havana was extraordinary
July 2012 University of Houston Cuba Tour
Susan Kellogg, Professor, University of Houston
Houston, Texas

The trip went very well and we thank you for your help with all the arrangements. The experience of seeing Havana, meeting and hearing from Cubans, seeing the cultural richness of the city was extraordinary. I highly urge Americans who are interested in Cuba to go and learn more about the country by being there. Our tour guide, Jorge Frank, was truly excellent. We learned a lot from him and enjoyed all the time we spent in his company. I came away from the trip deeply impressed by the resilience of Cubans in their everyday lives. The hotel was fine (the repetitive breakfast, not so much to U.S. breakfast taste got old, but that's pretty minor), and the biggest problem we had was a blackout in about half of Havana, which is not anyone's fault. I think the other real problem is the difficulty if not impossibility of email and cellphone communication. For me, ten days without communication really was hard to deal with.
More Americans need to see what Cubans have accomplished
July 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Margaret Ann Becker, Social Worker, Monroe County Department of Social Services
Rochester, New York

The trip couldn't have been more enjoyable! The hotels were excellent, transportation comfortable, and the schedule of activities was a perfect mix. The local guide was incredibly bright and equally helpful. I have already advised a number of my friends that a trip to Cuba is a must. I can't say enough about the country and its people – what resilience, what pride in their culture! More Americans need to see what they have accomplished with shortages of materials. It is a culture rich in the arts. People were so welcoming and gracious. I have done a great deal of traveling and this will stand out as one of my most memorable trips.
Dahlma Llanos, center, and her two new friends in Vi–ales.
Dahlma Llanos, center, and her two new friends in Viñales.
Wonderful to see changes over the last decade
July 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Dahlma Llanos and tourmate.
Dahlma Llanos and tourmate.
Dahlma Llanos, Writer
Bronx, New York

My trip to Cuba was fantastic. This was my second trip and it was wonderful to see the changes that have taken place in the last ten years. The selection of sites that were chosen was great, giving the group a taste of the variety of interesting projects and organizations that contribute to the cultural and education life of the country. Our guides were excellent, with enormous knowledge and infinite patience. They were open to interests not included in the package and went out of their way to provide us with information to suit our individual needs. But most of all, the people of Cuba were very welcoming and extremely generous of their time and energy. José Fúster is an amazing artist, the Gaudi of Cuba, who has transformed his neighborhood, Jaimanitas into a beautiful environment. Thanks you for a wonderful trip.
Americans should have the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people
June-July 2012 Latin American Solidarity School Tour
Lawrence James Estrada, Professor, Western Washington University, Fairhaven Colllege
Bellingham, Washington

It was a great trip. Dr. Yepe and Dr. Marta Núñez are an incredible voice for Cuba. I would like to get them up to our University to lecture. Julienne was one of the best guides I have ever had any where. She is an excellent translator but moreover she was an excellent teacher and representative of Cuban culture and the younger generation. I would want her for a our student group. Cuba to me represents a resilient and beautiful culture and people who genuinely care about the well-being and social justice of every one. I think that all North Americans should have the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people. We are often blinded by myths and never get to know the real people, their dreams and aspirations. Cubans are very open in sharing their culture and their friendship. In general the entire group felt the trip and experience was fantastic. I am glad I chose to go and worked with you. I think all people appreciated your feedback and prompt responses to questions and the provision of travel tips and guidance.

Anthony Rossodivito, history student specializing in revolutions within the developing world with a focus on the Cuban Revolution and the Puerto Rican Independence struggle. Here at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.

Every time I go, I am reminded of the warmth and hospitality of the Cubans. Their kindness, their sense of passion, history, resistance to aggression and pride in themselves is amazing and inspiring. I can't wait to return and will do so soon!
Cuban's capacity for kindness is unfathomable
June-July 2012 Latin American Solidarity School Tour
Anthony Rossodivito, Graduate Student, Teaching Assistant, University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida

I have been a student of history for a number of years now, and for a long time as a United States citizen, it has been difficult to travel to Cuba in order to see it for myself. Cuba Explorer Tours has been my greatest ally in getting to Cuba and being able to explore. Their staff is not only helpful and friendly, but they have a true desire to help people travel to and learn about their nation. The most important aspect of what this organization does is to foster travel for both enjoyment and learning. Cuba Explorer Tours will not bring you to Cuba simply as a tourist, but in many ways as a student. This form of travel is to help you not only have fun, but also to gain an understanding of Cuban society, culture, and politics. This is travel with ideals.

Cuba is an amazing place, and Havana is a magical city. I find myself missing Cuba right after stepping on the plane to come home. Cuba has a long and proud history and one can witness its age-old culture around every corner. This culture and this history is coupled with a set of firm and passionate principles that guide Cuban society. Music is omnipresent in Cuba, and the first thing one will note upon arrival is the abundance of color at all angles. Like its music, Cuba's architecture is representative of Cuban society. It is colorful and blended. It is part Latin and part African. When walking down the streets of Havana one gets a sensation of nostalgia even if it is their first time being there. At any given time, a visitor will feel a part of his or her surroundings, because Havana is so alive. At one moment you could be seeing and reflecting on the Spanish period of a bygone era while walking through Habana Vieja, or being transported into the heart of Cuba's struggle when exploring the Museum of the Revolution.

What is most striking about Cuba is its people. The Cuban capacity for kindness is unfathomable.
So much attention from our guide made Cuba unforgettable
June-July 2012 Latin American Solidarity School Tour
Jane Constance Moore, World Studies Teacher, Cobb County Schools
Atlanta, Georgia

The tour was amazing! I loved the music, the easy smiles and warmth of the people and the great information provided by the speakers. It was also wonderful to only have twelve people on the tour. We got so much attention from the tour guide who was incredible, very knowledgeable, caring and fun. Really special recognition and praise goes out to our tour guide Julienne Barrera! If I had to say one thing that could be improved upon, it would be the hotel, Hotel Riviera. I would highly recommend the trip to other people. You all were wonderful help before the trip, too. Thanks!
Abraham Minto on bench with bronze statue former Beatles member John Lennon.
Abraham Minto on bench with bronze statue former Beatles member John Lennon, sculpted by Cuban artist José Villa Soberón. Located in the Vedado neighborhood of modern Havana, the square block area is named "Parque John Lennon."
Economic discrepancies and changes apparent
June 2012 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Abraham Minto, Accountant, Global Perspectives
New York, New York

Norberto, our guide on the ground, was fantastic and hugely knowledgeable about all matters Cuban. Bob McElvaine complemented the tour with an American perspective on certain matters. The tour size was great and allowed for lots of interaction and new friendships to be built. Overall, I believe that Cuba is in the midst of an immense cultural change, and "New Money" has been created, which is evidenced by many late-model luxury vehicles with yellow license plates. In recent years, private citizens can transact (without government involvement) in certain sectors. For example, a job in the tourism sector of the Cuban economy (mostly privatized) pays substantially higher wages in 1 month than a medical doctor (totally government administered) is paid all year. Similarly, some private restaurants called Paladares have such a loyal following; there is often a wait of one to two hours to get a table for dinner. For example, I waited one hour for a table for two at Los Nardos on a Monday night. The food is good, but clearly the demand for more private restaurants seems to exist. Likewise, many privately owned and operated Casas Particulares (Bed & Breakfasts) are springing up everywhere and my stay at the Casa Estella was fantastic as it afforded me the opportunity to converse with their lovely family – and their food was delicious too!
Sarah Brown with a member of the Buena Vista Social Club!
Sarah Brown with a member of the Buena Vista Social Club!
Think travel to Cuba is off-limits for American teachers? Not! Just go for it.
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Sarah Brown, Teacher, Secondary English, Plymouth Public School
Providence, Rhode Island

Excepted from an interview in TeachingTraveling.com

Recently, I traveled to Cuba on a group educational study tour to investigate the boasted high literacy rates and education system. I was there for a little over a week with Cuba Explorer Tours, and had a pretty grueling schedule during this time visiting schools, community centers, the literacy museum, Hemingway's home, as well as speaking with professionals in various fields. Read more of this fascinating report…
Enjoyed our small group of twelve
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Scott D. Hall, ESL Teacher, St. Paul Public Schools
St. Paul, Minnesota
Jane Hall, Teacher, St. Paul Public Schools
St. Paul, Minnesota

We really enjoyed the week in Cuba. Alden Daniel was a caring and conscientious guide. He also was more than happy to coordinate special requests for the tour participants. For example, he arranged reservations for our group to see the Buena Vista Social Club show in Havana. We enjoyed the small group of twelve as opposed to a big bus tour. Highlights for us included touring Old Havana, and especially our visit to Las Terrazas and the Viñales Valley. They were spectacular. We were a little concerned with returning to the United States, but it turned out to be no problem. We showed our license documents to the customs officer along with our customs declaration for. We were then directed to a supervisor who quickly reviewed the documents, asked us about our purchases (we had no rum or cigars) and we were welcomed back. We will recommend this tour to our other teacher colleagues and look forward to another visit.
Rumba musicians perform at the Callej—n de Hamel in Central Havana. Photo Caitlin Day-Lewis.
Rumba musicians perform at the Callejón de Hamel in Central Havana. Click photo to enlarge. Photo Caitlin Day-Lewis
Vibrant, warm, and incredibly resourceful people
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Vi–ales Valley. Photo Caitlin Day-Lewis
Viñales Valley. Photo Caitlin Day-Lewis
Caitlin Day-Lewis, Developer for Education-Focused Nonprofits, Friends of the Children-Boston
Cambridge, Massachusetts

We had a wonderful time on our trip, and we really loved Cuba and the specific tour we were on. I found Cuban people and culture to be vibrant, warm, and incredibly resourceful. We learned so much, and had a lot of fun along the way enjoying Cuban culture and music! Our tour guide Linnet Brown Castellanos was really fantastic, knowledgeable and created a great experience for us. I felt like we had a good balance of scheduled activities and free time. And I enjoyed being mostly in Havana, with a couple of days to explore Viñales. I really loved almost everything we did, and also appreciated that the cost of the tour was more reasonable than other companies. The frequently asked questions and packing lists on the website were also helpful ahead of time, and the support to get all of our paperwork together in case we needed it coming back into the U.S.
Our guide's translations captured all the nuances
June-July 2012 Latin American Solidarity School Tour
John Alexander Fedyk, Component Six, BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I want to say that I thought our tour guide Julie was excellent; she had a lot of relevant knowledge and was able to translate from Spanish to English and back again with all the nuances that not even the official interpreter at one of the sessions was able to do. Thank you.
Cubans genuinely care about well-being and social justice for all
June-July 2012 Latin American Solidarity School Tour
Lawrence Estrada, Ph.D., Director of American Cultural Studies, Associate Professor of Social Theory and Comparative Cultures, Western Washington University
Bellingham, Washington

It was a great trip. Algunas molestias pequeñas pero no muchas. [Some small annoyances but not many.] Our presenters, Dr. Manuel Yepe and Dr. Marta Núñez were incredible. I would like to get them up to our University to speak. Julienne was one of the best guides I have had anywhere. She is an excellent translator but moreover she was an excellent teacher and representative of Cuban culture and the younger generation. I would want her for our student group.

Cuba to me represents a resilient and beautiful culture and people who genuinely care about the well being and social justice of every one. I think that all North Americans should have the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people. We are often blinded by myths and never get to know the real people, their dreams and aspirations. Cubans are very open in sharing their culture and their friendship. I loved the Museum of the Revolution, Alfabetización and the Art Museum. Viñales and Pinar del Rio was also a very nice trip. In general the entire group felt the trip and experience was fantastic. Gracias por todo.
Loved the trip and our outstanding guide
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Thomas Mohan, Teacher, Wayne Board of Education
Newark, New Jersey

I wanted to let you know how tremendous the trip was and how outstanding our guide Linnet Brown Castellanos was. Thank you.
Above and beyond the call of duty on my second trip with you
June 2012 Cuba for Beginners Tour Week of Dreams Tour
Carol Ross Stacy, Teacher, Newman Smith High School
Carrollton, Texas

So hard to limit myself to one or two sentences about your country and the tour. I have taken student groups to Mexico and I have some idea of what it entails to plan a tour. You do it by remote control. I liked this trip because of the flexibility and the free time. The Afrocuban community of Regla was great. I spent a long time talking a Regla resident and learned a lot. We also spent time at the Regla museum. Three members of our group were African American, and they really enjoyed Regla with its rich heritage. Our guide Jorge was very knowledgeable, and Pupo our driver was also fab. The staff at Hotel Presidente was wonderful. The air conditioning was out for a couple of days because of lack of parts, but they worked to get it going.

Visiting Cuba is a double treat: in one sense, Cuba has not changed in the past 53 years – a trip back in time in many ways. At the same time, you see the tremendous resilience of the people, who cope and thrive in spite of economic difficulties. They're so warm and friendly, the culture is unique, and the architecture, museums and natural beauty world class. Tour activities were well chosen. Our guide Jorge told us we could have use of the bus every day for four hours and 50 km. I thought that was above and beyond the call of duty. So we went to the Partagás factory, then to Coppelia Ice Cream Park. I can't think of anything that was problematic, and I had rather high expectations. I really felt we got our money's worth through your agency. All in all, the trip was a total success.
Importance of being on time
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Catherine MacIntyre Rosenberg, Executive Director, International Institute on Inhalant Abuse
Littleton, Colorado

We're back from our trip. Jaylen and I had a wonderful time. Our guide Hoji and bus driver Oscar were amazing and always on time. This was unusual for me. I have a home in a South American country and the only people who take time seriously are airline staff. They have to or you miss your flight. Our Cuba tour group had five participants from Colorado, which in itself is amazing. Poor guide Hoji had to work hard to get some of the participants to be on time. I want to thank you for making this trip such an easy process. Answering each of my questions put my mind at ease and made the tour very enjoyable. You are great at what you do.
Wonderful – will happily recommend your company
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
David Arnold, Teacher, Nevada Union High School
Smartsville, California

Our guide was wonderful and we bonded well with him and with our entire group that made the trip very special. As a first trip, the activities when very well and I very much enjoyed getting inside of agencies and programs and seeing Cubans in their jobs and homes. I would have personally enjoyed seeing a secondary school, as this is my focus as well as getting on to see Havana University. This maybe for another trip. Returning home to San Francisco Airport was a breeze. Thank you for a wonderful trip. I really appreciate all of your efforts. I will happily recommend your company to friends and family. I hope to travel with you again.
Judy Henry, second from left, with tourmates at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
Judy Henry, second from left, with tourmates at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
Nothing can beat the Hotel Presidente
June 2012 Cuba for Beginners Tour Week of Dreams Tour
Judy Henry, World Languages, Spanish Club/SNHS Sponsor, Blue Valley North High School
Overland Park, Kansas

We loved Cuba! And we love the people! I say 'we' because my travel companion was a colleague, another high school Spanish teacher, and we enjoyed our stay and want to return. I'm sure we got far more out of the tour because we speak Spanish fluently. The Cubans were fabulous, from the taxi drivers to the artisans, waiters, musicians, our guides at the various sites we visited, and the people on the street. Marta Núñez was definitely a highlight of our activities, as were the Literacy Museum, the Alamar organic farm, Las Terrazas and Viñales valley and town. Cuba was fabulous! We didn't want to come home, we wish we could have stayed much longer but all good things come to an end. On our last night we stayed at a casa particular. That was fun.

Our guide Jorge Alberto was excellent. He was the consummate professional and we thought the world of our bus driver Pupo. Nothing can beat the Hotel Presidente for us, even when the air conditioning went out for two or three days. The people there are great, they treat us so well and take care of us, it's very centrally located for us to get around and for our friends to visit us at the hotel, and its computer area is very good.

Jorge and our driver helped us for four hours and 50 km a day during our free time. We got to see the Plaza de la Revolución, Regla and the Partagás cigar factory. We liked Viñales as a day trip, and we always benefit from a walking tour to reorient ourselves. The artisan market was appreciated by all of us, and we all used the extra time for our individual pursuits. Jorge Alberto was great at pointing out possible places of interest and how far away they were. We also appreciate your help in the off-tour arrival and departure dates with Cancún-La Habana flight and hotel arrangements. We had a wonderful time driving to Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Varadero the week before the tour commenced. Muchísimas gracias por todas las gestiones suyas para que realizáramos un viaje tan inolvidable [Thank you for all his efforts for us to make a trip so unforgettable].
The negatives small, Cuba grade
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Evelyn Jennings, History Professor, St. Lawrence University,
Canton, New York

I had a wonderful time in Cuba. The tour was well organized and informative. Hoji was a terrific guide, knowledgeable and very helpful. The negatives were small. At a few restaurants it was not clear what was included in our meals. The restaurant bill occasionally surprised us! Especially when some places included a "welcome" drink and other offered one and then charged for it. I also thought the Museum of Rum was a bit expensive and cheesy. Thanks for all your help with my particular requirement for travel. My work in the archives went smoothly and was productive. I've been recommending your tours to other colleagues who are interested in making a trip to Cuba in the near future. Cheers!
People from Minnesota like Cuba
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Joyce Carey, Communication Instructor, Normandale Community College
Bloomington, Minnesota

Great trip! We have just returned from our wonderful tour of Cuba. It exceeded all of our expectations. Loved our bus driver Fernando and our guide Alejandro. We want to have them for our future trips if that's possible. The Hotel Telégrafo was the best – excellent food and great location. The three of us from Minnesota didn't have any trouble getting through immigration in Dallas with our letters but one couple in our group who came through immigration in Detroit didn't fare as well. They face extended questioning. The weather was hot when we were there but at least we avoided the hurricane that brought lots of rain there the week after.

We loved the combination of having several days in Havana and the trip to Viñales Valley to see the countryside. Also thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon lecture we received from Dr. Marta Núñez. The tour schedule was good – including opportunities to do individual things with our free time. We went to the Buena Vista Social club night and Revolution Museum, etc. The trip was a good value for the dollar and overall a very moving experience! So we'd like to begin planning another trip.
Helping out Cubans was the best aspect of tour
June 2012 Lifetree Adventure Volunteerism Cuba Tour
Robin Clark, Coordinator, Lifetree Adventures
Fort Collins, Colorado

We were so in love with the music and the dancing and the graciousness of all of the Cubans that we met. We really loved the day we spent at the community project in Convento Belen. Our guide Alden was excellent, very patient and knowledgeable about so many things. Cuba is a very vibrant and beautiful country with very special people. We were so happy to be there and hope to return someday soon!

When we do this trip again, I would do the following differently: Convento Belén was terrific and meaningful. But we just brought blankets yet it seemed like there were other items that they needed more. Let's ask them what's most needed before our next visit. Volunteering at Parque Metropolitano was the best day of all for us. We really loved helping out at the park in the morning and then visiting the church again in the afternoon. The director at the park said she had never had a group of volunteers come before and she had a lot more work she could have given us to do. Maybe we would have gone there twice instead of just once? We had a great time every evening exploring Havana – we went to the Buena Vista Social Club, Café Paris, and many other small cafes and enjoyed the music and the rum and the cigars! It really was wonderful. Thank you again for all of your help to make it such a special trip!
I would do it again
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Lana Rae Schlecht, Dentist
Ellendale, North Dakota

I had dreamed of going for so long. The Cuban people we met were so very nice. Our tour guide, Alejandro, and bus driver, Fernando, could not have been nicer or more patient. They were informative, humorous and warm. I want to say that the trip was wonderful in most ways. I would do it again and fell in love with Cuba!
Happy I had the opportunity to visit Cuba
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Warren Schlecht, Associate Professor, Trinity Bible College
Ellendale, North Dakota

I enjoyed the trip to Cuba. With few exceptions, the people were friendly and kind. Our bus driver, Fernando, was accommodating and seemed to genuinely like us. Alejandro, our guide, was very patient and was willing to answer all kinds of questions – even the silly ones some people asked! Alejandro and Fernando were always punctual, which I truly appreciated. The hotels we stayed in were very nice, and the meals were good. I felt safe walking around downtown Havana, even after dark. Nevertheless, I would advise tourists to exercise caution, as I would advise anyone anywhere. Viñales was beautiful and a most enjoyable excursion. Travelers to Cuba should be sure to obtain one and three CUC bills for tips and small change for restrooms. When I exchanged my money at the airport, I was given 10s and 20s. The hotels never seemed to have small change, and breaking larger bills was a constant problem. CUCs should be spent in Cuba because changing them back into Canadian dollars may be either troublesome or impossible. All in all, I'm very happy I had the opportunity to visit Cuba.
Tour was very well priced
June 2012 Cuba for Beginners Tour Week of Dreams Tour
Rhoda Leshowitz, College Administrator
Red Bank, New Jersey

Cuba was absolutely amazing, far beyond my expectations. The tour was very well priced and the lectures and visits were excellent. My room at the Hotel Telégrafo room was the best! Tips: 1) The extent of insects both in Havana and Viñales should be stressed – take citronella – mosquitos hate it. 2) If flying to Cuba via Cancún, best to arrive a day early and stay a day after so as to not miss connecting flights.
Happy with the quality of the tour
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Karen Elizabeth Lovaas, Professor, San Francisco State University
Oakland, California

My tour was a fantastic experience and we were very happy with the quality of the tour. Going through customs turned out to be a breeze but it was great to be well prepared in case more questions had been asked. Thanks for all your help!
People wonderful despite the incredible hardships
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Anastasia Fontenot, Teacher, Punahou Independent College Preparatory School
Mililani, Hawaii

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Cuba with Cuba Explorer Tours! The experiences I had and the people I met have given me insight into Cuban society today that will allow me to share with my students a first-hand impression of the country. The people are truly wonderful despite the incredible hardships they face. The political situation between our two countries is very unfortunate; the people we met were so happy to see American tourists there to learn about their country and were eager to share their culture and ideas with us. I feel like I have met friends that I will stay in contact with for years to come and look forward to my next trip. I was very pleased with our guide, Alden Daniel, who was very knowledgeable about Cuban history and architecture and who spoke excellent English. Our driver, Mario Sánchez, was very helpful and humorous and made our tour very enjoyable. The people in our group were wonderful too. No one complained and all seemed to be hardy travelers who know how to shrug off discomfort to enjoy the experience. We all got along very well and will stay in contact after this exceptional trip. Thank you, Cuba Explorer Tours, and thank you President Obama, for making this trip possible for U.S. educators to legally visit Cuba.
Fond memories of our trip
June 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Barbara Ducker, Speech Therapist, Assistance League School
Ventura, California
Alan Ducker, Counselor, Conejo Mountain Memorial Park
Ventura, California

We want to tell you that we had a wonderful experience on the Tour. Alden, our guide could not have been better. Although we would never return for the cuisine, we loved the Cuban people. We do have fond memories of our trip.
Verdant beauty, gorgeous architecture, friendly people…
May 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Elizabeth Up de Graff, Singer, Comedienne, Entertainer, Stanford University Political Science Department
Los Angeles, California

I fell in love with Cuba for its verdant beauty, gorgeous architecture, friendly people, and glorious music. Also, it was very interesting to have our guide tell us that Cuba is no longer communistic; instead, it is now a country of socialism and capitalism. I think the most inspiring experience was visiting the former Convent which is now the location for senior citizens to meet as well as a day care for children on the upper level. The seniors were so thrilled that we came to see them – very moving. Many thanks again for all your wonderful, most appreciated help.
Found the Hotel Ambos Mundos to be charming and comfortable
May 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Valerie Conwright
Hercules, California

I have no complaint regarding any aspects of the tour. I found the level of service at the hotel, the quality of restaurants food, and the activities included in the itinerary to be excellent. Everything exceeded my expectation. I found our guide Linnet charming, approachable, informative and extremely patient. She had to be in order to deal with my fellow travelers. I apologize to you and Linnet for their behavior and unrealistic demands. I am very embarrassed. It appears they forgot they were traveling in a country where the culture and economy is different. They were the classic ugly Americans wanting everyone and everything to cater to their expectations, and not be open to the differences in culture. Again, I apologize. The change in hotel was unexpected, however I found the Hotel Ambos Mundos to be charming and comfortable. Again, I had a wonderful time and plan to visit Cuba again – hopefully in the near future.
A country of simplicity and beauty
May 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Susan Mosunic, Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics
San Bruno, California

The people of Cuba are welcoming and gracious. Life in Cuba appears to be one of simplicity and beauty. My trip there exceeded my expectations! I really enjoyed the tour. I thought it provided a diverse itinerary. I loved our guide Linnet Brown Castellanos and feel like she checked in with us during the tour to see if we wanted to have a little more, or less, time in a given place. I did not enjoy the group participants, all from the U.S. I was embarrassed, as they were demanding individuals. I also believe that the majority did not leave gratuities after each hosted meal. They were quick to criticize the change the Cubans made in hotel (from Telégrafo to Ambos Mundos) but ignored all the other information provided for the trip such as donations/gifts, gratuities, allowing enough time between the Cuba flight and flights home. I was hoping for a more open-minded and tolerant group. In summary, this trip provided an excellent taste of Cuba. I look forward to traveling there again in the future, minus some of my U.S. group members!
A big change from the western world
May 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Marthe Ann McGrath, Entrepreneur, Silk Road Carpet and Rugs
Great Falls, Virginia

I found the Cuban people polite, well educated and helpful. They work hard and have a hard life. Their culture is rich and lifestyle uncomplicated, a big change from the western world.
Loved Cuba, but one concern
May 2012 Official Havana Arts Biennial Dream Tour
Gary Sweeney, Artist
San Antonio, Texas
Janet Sweeney, Flight Attendant, United Airlines
San Antonio, Texas

We had an amazing trip to Havana, and thoroughly enjoyed everything. The accommodations were top-notch, and the restaurants we went to were outstanding. The transportation was excellent; the bus was always there when needed, would change destinations at a moments notice, and had first-class comfort. We loved Havana! We loved the neighborhoods, the Biennial was amazing, the food was good, the people were nice, we felt safe, and we can't wait to go back to the next Biennial. My artist friends were very excited about the possibility of going to Cuba for the next Biennial. I've been recommending you to everybody who asks, and we hope to return on your tour in two years. I can't say enough good things about our guide José Ramon. His English was perfect, and he was very knowledgeable about all of the sites we took in. He was extremely pleasant and engaged, and he handled every challenge with poise and composure.
Great trip!
May 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
John Michael Varsanyi, Town planner, Retired
Massapequa, New York

I thank you for providing me with the opportunity to visit Cuba. It was, as the saying goes, a trip of a lifetime: my overall impression of the country, its people, its culture is nothing short of praise and admiration. So much so, that I am already planning to revisit with my wife perhaps sometime next year, as I would love to introduce her to the wonders that I had experienced. My fellow travelers, without exception, were a joy to travel with. Our tour guide was a sweetheart.
Cubans don't complain, but…
May 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Guyanne Moore Herndon
Charlotte, North Carolina

I enjoyed the trip to Cuba. The Cubans were very warm and friendly. I heard from several Cubans an appreciation of how they love Americans so that made me feel really comfortable. Their economy sucks but the people make do and don't complain! But I'm very upset. So disappointing the Cubans changed our hotel accommodations at the last minute.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Learn more about the current situation with hotels in Cuba. Click here.
Thanks for putting the trip together for us
May 2012 Cuban Arts and Culture Tour
Carole Wood, Philanthropy, City Colleges of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Our trip was fantastic! Everything went really well and our tour guide was outstanding. We really appreciate all of the work that went into putting our trip together for us.

Working the Heavy Bag. Shot at a Havana Boxing Club by David Schroeder. Click photo to enlarge.


Taxis for Hire. Shot near the Capitolio by David Schroeder. Click photo to enlarge.
Cuba has followed a different path through time
May 2012 Official Havana Arts Biennial Dream Tour

Giant Flower Pot. Shot on the Malecón seawall by David Schroeder. Click photo to enlarge.
David Schroeder, Clinical Psychologist, Stanislaus County
Modesto, California

The Cuba trip was an adventure in the best sense of the word – a trip to a different world that has followed a different path through time. Here's a story for you: On the last night of our tour, a fellow traveler and I went to the Casa de la Música. When we started walking back to our hotel at 1:30 am, my companion was concerned about the safety of our walking the six blocks to the hotel. She approached a policeman on the corner and echoed her concerns. He was unable to assure her that it was completely safe but we elected to walk anyway. After we had walked a block, I became aware of someone walking behind me. I turned around and discovered that the policeman was walking with us. He followed us all the way to our hotel. Obviously, I thanked him profusely. It was a memorable end to our trip! Check out my photos on flickr.com. Enjoy.

Note on my flickr.com photo gallery: My photos were taken between May 19 and 26, 2012 in Havana, Cuba. They are a wide-ranging look at Cuban life, from the iconic '50s automobiles, crumbling buildings, and Cuban cigars, to lesser known aspects of the city, including an urban, organic farm, a visit to a Havana Boxing Club, a baseball game, some night-life, and a Santería healing ritual.

Check out David's photos on

The dates of our visit also corresponded to the dates of the Havana Biennial Art Celebration, which filled the city streets and galleries with examples of art from around the world – mostly Latin countries. I was accompanied on this adventure by friend and fellow photographer, Jon Sousa.
Amazing tour
May 2012 Cuban Arts Tour
Kurt Schenholm, Travel Consultant, Retired
Ormond Beach, Florida

Just want to say how much I enjoyed the trip. Everyone in Cuba was very nice and super professional. I want to thank our guide Hoji. He was excellent and very patient. Everyone had a great time as evidenced by my photos here. Thanks so much for your expert help.
On May Day, I marched with a million Cubans
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Anne Chaffee, Student, University of Detroit Mercy
Petoskey, Michigan

I am still catching my breath from returning home from a most wonderful, hospitable trip to Cuba. I have been interested in Cuba and its people since I was a young girl. This visit was a lifelong dream! What did I enjoy most: Getting to know the warmth, hospitality and positive resourcefulness of the Cuban people! Our hotel was changed to the Ambos Mundos in the heart of the city. We were able to explore and walk to shops, bookstores, the flea market, nearby cathedrals and the flea market in our spare time due to our great central location. This also allowed us to have more time talking with people who live in work in Old Havana. Our guide, Alejandro, was extremely knowledgeable, answered our many questions, and really "paced" the group through a variety of experiences. This is not easy as one of our group celebrated her 19th birthday and another member is in early '80s.

I really enjoyed the eclectic experiences we shared-from learning salsa lessons on a rooftop during a moon lit evening, to the inspiring visits with the directors of Centro Memorial Martin Luther King and the Literacy Museum. I was moved and proud to witness over one million ordinary workers, like myself, celebrate their work and country during the May Day parade, and tears welled as we were warmly greeted at Convento de Nuestra Senora de Belen with song and handshakes. Our visits to the National Museum of Art and studio of ceramicist Jose Fuster ignited an interest in Cuban artists that I will continue to pursue. I have travelled before but food is never as important to me as being able to meet people; but I was extremely pleased at the delicious meals (especially fish) we had and the wonderful sunrise breakfasts overlooking Old Havana each morning. Thank you so very much for providing this wonderful opportunity for acquaintance and friendship with the people of Cuba.
The fortress La Chorrera in Vedado near the mouth of the Almendares River. Photo Chelsea Smialek
The fortress La Chorrera in Vedado near the mouth of the Almendares River. Photo Chelsea Smialek
Cuba: One of a kind country
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Old car in Central Havana. Photo Chelsea Smialek
Old car in Central Havana. Photo Chelsea Smialek
Chelsea Smialek, Student, University of Detroit Mercy
Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan

There is no way to truly describe Cuba. I'd say amazing and incredible, but even that seems to miss what really makes Cuba so unique. Its people are extraordinarily welcoming and kind. They seem happy in ways that make you want to examine your own life and find a way to bottle their enthusiasm. And the culture: I will miss the sounds of music and singing that filled my days and nights, the art and stories of island history. My experience in Cuba was, for lack of a better phrase, one of a kind. There is nowhere quite like it and miss the time I spent in this wonderful place.
Embargo brings so much pain, yet Cubans friendly, gracious, and helpful
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Fred Benda, Student, University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, Michigan

I found the people very friendly, gracious, and helpful. There was an amazing contrast between much of the crumbling infrastructure and some of the stunning renovation and restoration of many colonial buildings. Perhaps my strongest feelings were those of shame for my country's government that continues an embargo, which brings so much pain and so many difficulties to the Cuban people. Our guide Alejandro was professional in a very quiet way: excellent English; knowledgeable about just about everything; willing to take on all questions; would speak for just the right amount of time; looked out for everyone; friendly, gracious, and demonstrated infinite patience. The food was plentiful and usually quite good, occasionally excellent although there seemed to be a definite lack of seasoning. The Hotel Ambos Mundos was everything I needed or wanted. Its staff was always helpful, not to mention its excellent location in Old Havana. The trip was wonderful! I'd love to do it again.
Ingrained in my heart forever
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Christa Hoen, Student, University of Detroit Mercy
West Bloomfield, Michigan

The people of Cuba were so kind and generous that it became such a wonderful experience simply because of them. Overall, it was an incredible trip that leaves Cuba ingrained in my heart forever, making me long to come back and visit the city that has the most wonderful street sounds in the world. From the glorious music bellowing from every restaurant, to the men and women calling out to sell their street delicacies, it was an incredible place that I can't wait to come back to. Our tour guide Alejandro was so awesome and did an incredible job with everything! The only thing I would change was the public garden tour – we never even got off of the bus! Other than that, everything was incredible! Thanks for the great experience.
My second trip with you, and no one wanted to go home
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Ann Eskridge, Playwright, Author and Educator.
Ann Eskridge
Ann Eskridge, Playwright, Author, Professor, Director of the African American Studies Program, University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, Michigan

I enjoyed it so much that it took me a week to recuperate. My students were prepared academically for their visit. They understood the history, and the issues surrounding Cuban-American relations. What they weren't prepared for was the warmth that was extended to them from every Cuban we visited and encountered on our trip. They marveled at the architecture and art. They danced and sang to the music. They spoke broken Spanish and haggled in the flea markets. In eight days they became immersed in the culture and frankly. No one wanted to go home. Everybody thought that Ambos Mundos was the best hotel. It was close to everything we wanted to do and see. I was glad to see that we had some break time in the afternoon in order to rest or to explore on our own, and then had an activity at night. We ate well, and the entertainment was superb. We decided to see part of the Buena Vista Social Club on our own. Dulce Maria was one of the highlights of the trip. And thank you so much for arranging that we see that May Day parade. Everyone seemed to be amazed that so many people turned out. Our guide Alejandro Infante was tireless in making sure that we were taken care of. Both he and our driver were more than gracious. This trip just confirmed how much I love being in Cuba. I want to make this an annual excursion, let me know. My bag is packed and I'm ready to go.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Check out her website, a valuable resource for educators on U.S. and African American history, and writing.
Well-orchestrated trip
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Lydia Thomas, Student, University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, Michigan

Alejandro, our tour guide and Osvaldo, our bus driver were the best. I have to admit, life in Cuba was a real eye opener. Music is everywhere. I miss that sound so much. I had the opportunity to be shown around by a Cuban friend. I realize Cuba is in the process of restoring its buildings. My friend lives in a building that appear to be about 200 years old or older. It has not been restored, the halls are dark and the apartments look like something in a Sherlock Holmes movie. She was very hospitable and I appreciated that. The funniest part of my hotel stay was when in the middle of a movie I was watching, the Cuban national anthem came on and television was cut off for the night – hilarious! Thank you for a well-orchestrated trip! I would definitely go back for a visit.
Stereotypes shattered in Castros' Cuba
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Maggie Jackson, Assistant Editor, The Varsity News, Newspaper of University of Detroit Mercy
Maggie Jackson
Maggie Jackson, Assistant Editor, The Varsity News, Newspaper of University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, Michigan

The minute we stepped off of the plane, I thought, "Maggie, we're definitely not in Detroit anymore." The gates were surrounded by bars and Cubans smoking cigars. We were ushered into customs where we were individually led into cubicles and instructed to wait quietly while cameras stared down at us and the customs official, who could have been my age, checked our documents and passports. After a long day of travel, I was ready to get to the hotel, take a shower and go to bed. But my mood changed when we got out of the airport and were escorted to Havana. This was the beginning of my experience. Read more of this fascinating report…
Still reeling (in a very positive way)
April-May 2012 University of Detroit Mercy Cuba Tour
Lara Wasner, Study Abroad Program Administrator, University of Detroit Mercy
Southfield, Michigan

First let me tell you that I am still reeling – in a very positive way – from my own (and my group's) experience in Cuba. Getting back to work was the last thing on my mind after returning, but I didn't mind so much, because I have been eager to share my experiences with my colleagues and other students, many of whom have asked, "Are you going back next year?" to which I've replied – with great enthusiasm – YES. Let me first acknowledge the work you have done to prepare us for this experience. Your selection of the hotel and site visits was on target. You listened to Ann and me regarding making the site visits relevant to the coursework. This experience would not have been as rich or rewarding without your knowledge and expertise and every attempt to accommodate our every pre-departure need, and your attention to every detail while we were there. We were all quite impressed with the tour guide from San Cristobal Tours. I cannot imagine having this experience without Alejandro Infante. His professional demeanor, knowledge of Cuba, education about all things asked, and his willingness to go the extra mile for our group made this experience truly exemplary. I do ask that you let his superiors know this. We all felt a kinship toward him. In one week's time, he has become a brother and good friend of every one of us. As for the tour, I highly recommend that everyone visit Cuba, and that they do it through your organization, for all the reasons mentioned above.
Itinerary was perfect, loved Ambos Mundos
April 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Anastasia Schulze, Lawyer, Social Security Administration
Washington, DC

I really loved the Ambos Mundos hotel. We had a problem getting hot water the last two days, but other than that, I thought the hotel was great. It was simple but clean and right in the touristy area so when we had time on our own to look around, we were exactly where we needed to be; only a short walk to cafes, shops, restaurants, and amazing live music. The itinerary was perfect – I like the way we had items on the itinerary for the morning and early afternoon but then after lunch we had free time. Read more of this fascinating report…

Left: Musicians near my hotel draw a crowd. Photo Anastasia Schulze
Got a good sense of the Cuban culture
April 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Tula Connell, Online Editor, AFL-CIO
Washington, DC

Enjoyed the trip quite a bit. Learned a lot and got a good sense of the Cuban culture. Our guide Hoji was extremely knowledgeable about the history and culture of Cuba.
Certainly hope I will be able to return
April 2012 Cuban Arts, Ballet and Culture Tour
Name withheld by request, Lawyer, Retired
Filadefia, Pennsylvania

The trip to Cuba was great, and I certainly hope that I will be able to return. Our guides, Geldrys Martinez and Alden Daniel, were superb. They were extremely knowledgeable and helpful in every way. When there was a glitch for some reason, they were able to come up with excellent alternatives and were always pleasant and cheerful, although the schedule must have been exhausting for them. Our plane arrived early and Alden helped us find a taxi to take us to the hotel. The Meliá Cohiba was a little out of the center of the Old City, but taxis are not expensive and easily available. So its location did not present any problem for me and it gave me the chance to see the Vedado neighborhood. I enjoyed walking Vedado's tree-lined streets and looking at the large elegant homes. I love coffee and fell in love with Cuban coffee during my stay. The best day for me was the day at the beach. It gave me a brief view of what is outside of Havana. I did some sightseeing on my own with my daughter, and we were easily able to walk through Havana. Everywhere the people were friendly and helpful.
Got a good sense of the Cuban culture
April 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Sandy Kozel
Arlington, Virginia

I enjoyed the trip to Cuba very much. It was fascinating to see the country and meet some of its residents.
I loved the music and dancing – the lessons were a nice touch. I appreciated the architecture and cars, and seeing how the Cuban people are making the most of their lives, despite hardships and shortages. Our guide, Hoji, was very knowledgeable and helpful.
We appreciate Cuban's culture and its diverse people
April 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Tambu Kisoki, Energy Economist, Retired, State of California
Sacramento, California
Claudette Bateau Gay, Registered Nurse, University of California Davis
Sacramento, California

Pedro, first and foremost thank you for your assistance in making our trip to Cuba possible. We had a wonderful time, enjoyed the people and Cuban's culture and music. Most of us who do travel to Cuba do so because we appreciate Cuban's culture and its diverse people. Everyone was friendly, we felt safe, and at no time did we feel uncomfortable – thanks for making this trip possible.
Trip was an adventure
April 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Tom Hicks, Education Administrator, Arkansas Department of Education
Little Rock, Arkansas

The Cuba trip was a good experience. Our guide Hoji was a really good. His English skills are perfect and he has a vast knowledge of the history and political problems of the country. He was open about his beliefs and openly shared his thoughts and concerns. Travel to Cuba is an adventure. In some ways it is a reminder of our own past with the vintage cars and pre-internet society. Cuba definitely is on the rise. I imagine it will be only a short time until the tourist trade and the economy of Cuba will be back and booming. These wonderful people, with such a genuine spirit, made for an exciting cultural experience.
Judy Wolf with a member of the Buena Vista Social Cluba in Havana.
Judy Wolf with a member of the Buena Vista Social Cluba in Havana.
Hola, I am back :)
April 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Judy Wolf with a a tourmate on her April 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour.
Judy Wolf, Online marketing
Westport, Connecticut

I wanted to let you know that the trip was amazing. Very well organized, great itinerary and guide Jorge was excellent. Thank you again for a wonderful trip. I want to share my photo album with you. I pared it down to just 317 pictures. Here's a link to my album on Shutterfly.
Cigar lady in Old Havana. Photo Cheri Brent
Cigar lady in Old Havana. Photo Cheri Brent
Loved Cuba but missed my connecting flight home
April 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Cheri Brent, Counselor and Academic Coach, Sinclair Community College
Westerville, Ohio

What I can say about the Cuba trip is Wow! It was fantastic. Very well organized. A wonderful guide Jorge. A great variety of places to visit. We were well taken care of with nice hotels and good restaurants. I don't know what else you could do to improve. The only difficulty was my return to Cancún. It took longer than I expected to get through customs so I missed my flight to the U.S. I allowed two hours for my connecting flight, but it wasn't enough. But not a problem spending another day in Cancún! As for my impressions of Cuba: The people were friendly, hotel and restaurant staff kind and helpful. I felt very welcome and safe as a guest everywhere I went – and I don't speak Spanish! Cuba is one of the most interesting places to visit from Old Havana to the beautiful countryside.
I certainly hope that I will be able to return soon
April 2012 Cuban Arts, Ballet and Culture Tour
Renee (first name only by request)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The trip to Cuba was great, and I certainly hope that I will be able to return. Our guides, Geldrys Martinez and Alden Daniel were superb. They were extremely knowledgeable and assisted in every way. I thank you for your making the tour possible. When an original plan did not work because of changes in Cuba, your guides were came up with excellent alternatives. They were always pleasant and cheerful, although our itinerary must have been exhausting for them. Since our plane arrived earlier than the second group, our guide Alden helped us find a taxi to take us to the hotel. We arrived three hours ahead of the larger group and were happily sipping drinks in the hotel lobby when the others arrived. The Meliá Cohiba was a little out of the center of the Old City, but taxis were inexpensive and easily available. So its location did not present any problem and gave us a chance to enjoy residential Vedado. Walking its tree-lined streets and marveling over its large ornate homes was a pleasure. The Meliá Cohiba was comparable to any good hotel up here. It had everything you needed: toiletries, irons, mini-bar, etc., and two wonderful swimming pools for relaxing. I paid extra for Real Service and am happy that I did so. It made everything quicker – changing money and many other services from the concierge on my floor – extremely helpful. My main criticism is that the group was simply too large. You should limit groups to 30 people. I did some sightseeing on my own with my daughter and we walked through Havana safely on our own. Everywhere the people were friendly, kind and helpful. The best day for me was at the beach!
A time machine
April 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Nathan Blair, Educator, Retired
Menlo Park, California

Pedro and Cuba Explorer Tours team, our impression of the island: Interesting country in the midst of interesting times. Cuba is in transition. While the cars and building make you feel as if you've traveled back in time, the people there are very much focused on the future. The Cuban people are incredibly proud of their country and their independence, but that independence has come at a substantial price – one that Cuba cannot afford over the long term in my opinion.
Jim O'Keefe reviews old car in Havana.
Jim O'Keefe reviews old car in Havana.
How can a country so poor be having so much fun?
April 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Jim O'Keefe, Network Controller, WERCS Software
Delmar, New York
Sonia O'Keefe
Delmar, New York

We had a fabulous trip. You staff did a fabulous job of preparing us for the journey. We felt bad our license didn't allow to bring hardly anything back from Cuba. Fortunately, we had left cigars with relatives before crossing into the U.S. Upon returned we were questioned about our CDs, books and modest jewelry, but got to keep everything. Hoji was great as a guide with excellent English. Luckily my wife and I spoke Spanish with most Cubans we met. The Hotel Ambos Mundos had periodic water pressure problems; however, we would stay there again. Room 306 was the best. Old Havana is definitely tops. We took taxis everywhere during our free time and saw the National Hotel, the University and various churches, museums and more. Viñales was terrific! Other than the similar caves outside of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, I have not experienced anything similar anywhere else in the world. Evenings in Old Havana were wonderful; somewhat reminiscent of the Latin Quarter in New Orleans or Old Montreal in Quebec, Canada with live music and dancing on every corner. How can a country that is so poor be having so much fun? We appreciate your assistance and please expect an inquiry from my friends who are investigating a trip to Cuba. Long live our guide Hoji, and the Revolution. Happy May Day!
Havana boy with vase. Photo Priscilla Hamlin Ford
Havana boy with vase. Photo Priscilla Hamlin Ford
Caught the Cuba bug, took tons of photos
April 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Priscilla Hamlin Ford
Priscilla Ford
Priscilla Hamlin Ford, Photographer, Former Travel Advisor
Jacksonville, Florida

Our stellar (and stunning) guide Jorge. Photo Priscilla Hamlin Ford
Our stellar guide Jorge. Photo Priscilla Hamlin Ford
We are back from Cuba and had an amazing time. I have created four Cuba photo albums combining the best pix for your viewing pleasure! We were warmly welcomed by the many faces of the Cuban people. Art, music, and dance play such a vital role in the Cuban people's lives. If anyone is interested traveling to Cuba, I highly recommend Cuba Explorer Tours. Here are the links.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: These are great photos. I urge readers to check them out.

People and Street Scenes, Architecture.

Cuban Art, Afrocuban Culture, José Fúster Studio, Street Art and Markets.

Cuba 2012: Cars, Cars and more Cars. One-in-ten are 1940s and '50s gems.

My fellow travelers. We were 16 people and became like family during our week on the island.
Kids in school playground across the street from our hotel. Photo Betsey Elizabeth Jay.
Handsome couple invited us to dine at their restaurant in Trinidad. Photo Ronald Smith. Click photo to enlarge.
Impressions overwhelmingly positive
April 2012 Cuban Culture and Nature Tour

Ernest Hemingway's home. Photo Ronald Smith. Click photo to enlarge.
Ronald Smith, Anesthesiologist, St. Mary Hospital
Grand Junction, Colorado
Christine Smith, Orthopedist, St. Mary Hospital
Grand Junction, Colorado

I wanted to let you know that we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cuba. We found the Cuban people to be friendly and helpful every where we traveled. I would especially like to say that Alden, our guide, was exceptional. His knowledge of Cuban history and culture was extensive, and his English was perfect. We ate the food – all of it – and had few digestive issues. The cities and countryside seemed much safer than most I have traveled in. We returned home satisfied with our experience and hope to visit Cuba again. Our impressions were overwhelmingly positive.
A special place in my heart
April 2011 Cuban Culture and Nature Tour
Shirley Sullivan, Psychologist
Falmouth, Massachusetts

As I reflect on my recent visit to your beautiful country, the lasting image that comes to mind is one of "lost beauty." It is my hope that one day soon, Cuba will be able to recapture all that magnificence and, once again, enjoy the wonder of it all. On the whole, the Cuban people were wonderful. I loved waving to them and having them wave and smile in return. I felt a great sense of camaraderie and felt most welcome. There were a few exceptions (bank clerk, waitress and front desk personnel) but I think you would find that anywhere, human nature being what it is. I found the food to be very good, I loved the music and vibrancy in your dance and enjoyed "going back in time" to experience riding in cars which brought me back to my dating days! Your beaches are beautiful and offer so much for the traveler looking to kick back and relax. Alden Daniels was a wonderful tour guide; very knowledgeable, kind and caring. I loved the musical review in Havana, the Viñales valley, the tour of the jungle and how to survive in it. The local guide was very informative and humorous The roast pork luncheon there was the best meal by far. The museum at the Palace was very interesting. This is something we did on our own, but I would offer it as part of your next tour. It was a chance of a life time and Cuba and its people will hold a special place in my heart.
Going back to Cuba once a year, trip had a big impact
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Jessica Tolbert, History and Spanish Major, The Ohio State University
Lorain, Ohio

I could not have imagined that my trip to Cuba would have such an impact on me! I have always had a fascination with Cuban history and culture, but actually being in your beautiful country reaffirmed my interest and admiration for the beautiful island. From walking around Vedado early in the morning to see older gentlemen gathering for coffee and being greeted with Buenos Dias and my personal favorite tan mango [so good looking] to absorbing Cuba's complex history in the Museo de la Revolución. I felt completely at home in this special place. I plan to travel back to Cuba once a year from now on and bring friends and family to witness Cuba's beauty for themselves. If I could add any suggestions, it would be to take in a baseball game. And place more emphasis on donations. I'm glad I brought gifts, but had I known the severity of shortages, I would have brought a ton more! I absolutely fell in love with your country.
Witnessed intelligence, grace, and hard work among Cubans
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Donna Wendt, Teacher, Wenatchee School District
East Wenatchee, Washington

Everywhere I go, I'm always impressed with the people and I'm struck by our commonalities as well as our differences. Cubans have political and economic challenges that they meet with intelligence, grace, and hard work. I wish them well! Our guide Alejandro was informative and our bus driver helped take good care of us. I enjoyed the hotels, food, and merriment. I did enjoy my tour.
Casa del Niño y la Niña [House for the Boy and Girl] in Central Havana.
Student at the Casa del Niño y la Niña [House for the Boy and Girl] in Central Havana. Photo Gina Beim.
Cubans were eager to show us their country
March 2012 Cuba Education and Cuba Tour
Gina Beim, Civil Engineer
Shaker Heights, Ohio

I learned so much during our Cuba Explorer Tour. We met wonderful people who were eager to show their country to us. And our guide, Julie, was the best! Overall we're very happy. Good job.
I understand more about how things became as they are
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Pamella J. Butler, Business Owner, Aegis Business Technologies
Tallahassee, Florida

This trip was one of fascination. Every preconception that I might have had growing up in the sixties in Florida about Cuba were put to rest. I understand more how things became as they are and I understand more why things stay as they have. Cuba has every possibility of having an amazing future.
Spring trip was spectacular
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Peter N. Pero, Teacher, National Louis University
Chicago, Illinois

I was thrilled by the Cuba tour offered to me this spring. The services were spectacular and my tour guide was inspirational. I was especially assisted by Pedro Gomez and Graciella who truly care and took my calls when I needed information. My suggestions are to gather and pass names and email addresses of tour participants from day one, and also create a picture pool so we can keep on communicating.
Good itinerary, excellent guide
March 2012 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Natalya Nicoloff, Nurse Practitioner, Kaiser Hospital
Oakland, California

I very much enjoyed visiting Cuba, it is a fascinating country and I would like to go again to see the south. I think the itinerary for the trip was good. Our guide Norberto was excellent, very knowledgeable and friendly. Our driver Oscar was also very good and the bus was comfortable. I especially enjoyed the Fúster studio tour, the Callejón de Hamel and the Art Museum. The walking tours of old Havana were fascinating. I enjoyed the visit to the Hemingway home.
Cow whisperer: farmer in Viñales with pet oxen. It behaved like a family dog – very affectionate and cuddly – and did all kinds of moves with a simple nod from its gentle protector. Click photo to enlarge.
Learned a lot even though I grew up in Cuba
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Tourmates Lloydel Roesch, Arlene Smith and me.
Pedro Gómez Vazquez, Cuba Travel Advisor, Cuba Explorer Tours
Vancouver, British Columbia

Dr Gail Thomas, Professor of Sociology, Soka University of America (SUA), Aliso Viejo, California
Pedro Gómez Vazquez
I work for Cuba Explorer Tours and help Americans go to Cuba every day. But this trip was my first ever tour and super memorable. It was so insightful and now I can do my job better because I know how our programs unfold. It was great for my personal life too – I got to see family and friends after many years. I learned and saw things I never had the chance to do growing up in Cuba. I had a wonderful time with tour participants. I was the youngest and fellow travelers treated me swell. Age barriers faded away. Tourmates all commented on my country's beauty and told me they felt they saw it from an unbiased perspective. I returned to Vancouver with terrific new friends in United States and on the island.
Adult day healthcare facility was program highlight
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Lloydel Roesch, Social Worker and Teacher
Windsor, California

Let me say I had a great time! I thought the people on our tour were fun people and we were all interested in Cuba and its people. The people of Cuba were warm and friendly, open to us and patient with us. The hotel staff was great at the Presidente. Highlights for me were the visit to the adult day healthcare facility. It was a moving experience. Also, I loved Las Terrazas. Loved the zip lining. I would consider another tour in the future perhaps one of your jazz festivals.
Had so much fun, wanted to stay longer
March 2012 University of Louisville Cuba Tour
Gwendline Chenault, Administrative Associate, University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky

I very much enjoyed the Cuba trip. It was a dream come true! I've wanted to visit Cuba since I was in my twenties. Let me first say that our tour guide Laura was a sheer joy. Very professional, very organized and very accommodating. It is not easy to make 14 people happy and she did it with ease! I applaud her and your organization for assigning her as our guide. She was impeccable and your organization is fortunate to have her in your employ. Our driver Johnnie was equally accommodating, professional, friendly and patient. We didn't want to leave some of the places that we visited… just having so much fun and wanting to stay longer. Our itinerary was packed to the hilt daily. We were never bored and constantly engaged in activities, daily. In our free time we met and talked with Cuban people enjoying food, music, art, religion and politics. On a personal level I was enlightened, and impressed with the spirit and resolve of Cubans. I hope to return soon. Viva Cuba!
Kids in school playground across the street from our hotel. Photo Betsey Elizabeth Jay.
Kids in school playground across the street from our hotel. Photo Betsey Elizabeth Jay. Click photo to enlarge.
Fantastic tour guide and trip
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Tobacco farmer we met in Pinar del Río. Photo Betsey Elizabeth Jay. Tobacco farmer we met in Pinar del Río. Photo Betsey Elizabeth Jay. Click photo to enlarge.
Betsey Elizabeth Jay, Administrator, Bridge House Homeless Day Shelter
Boulder, Colorado

Alden was a fantastic tour guide with excellent English and a wealth of information about Cuba. He was sensitive and responsive to the needs of the group and able to honor our special requests to attend a baseball game and ride the cable line at Las Terrazas. He is a kind intelligent person and a fine representative for Cuba. I enjoyed the planned activities: The organic farm, dance lessons, senior center, literacy museum, Dr. Núñez's workshop, Fúster's ceramic studio, Hemingway's house, Callejón de Hamel, the cannon firing, and the tobacco farm. I was extremely grateful for the free time to explore Old Havana, the museums, coffee shops, and restaurants. Alden thoughtfully considered our need to drink sufficient bottled water and kept some on the bus. Our one-week tour packed in so much from Old Havana to the countryside yet with time to explore on our own. It was fascinating to see Cuba at this point in its history. Overall, I was very pleased with my Cuba Explorer Tour.
Extraordinarily friendly people
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Alfred Cecil Frawley, III, Attorney
North Yarmouth, Maine
Polly Haight Frawley, Attorney
North Yarmouth, Maine

The Cubans are extraordinarily friendly people. We had multiple opportunities to interact and learn about their lives, their work, their music, their art, and their history. Cuba is a sensory sensation on so many levels.
So much fun
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Ellen Poquette, Educator
South St. Paul, Minnesota

The tour was FANTASTIC and we had so much fun. Thanks!
Saddened Cuba is denied basic things
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Sharon Bohen Riley, Attorney, Volunteer ESL Teacher
New York, New York

We very much enjoyed the tour! When we were on the way to the airport to go to Cuba, we got an email that all flights were cancelled due to a strike. Your staff was very helpful in getting us onto the next plane so we did not miss our connection. We really loved our guide Julienne. She was a terrific, very articulate, very patient and very informative. My overall impression of Cuba is that it's a lovely but struggling culture. It struggles mostly because of the U.S. blockade that has hurt it badly. The people were uniformly kind and helpful and very welcoming. The culture was fascinating, because Castro has implemented programs, such as free education, free medical care, free day care – very forward-thinking. These should have already been in existence in the U.S., which has so much. It saddened all of us that Cuba cannot get some basic medical equipment because the equipment is made in the U.S. and therefore cannot be shipped to Cuba. We wonder how one country can do that to the people of another country. I am sure Havana will once again be beautiful. My folks used to go there on a regular basis, and always loved it. That is part of the reason we wanted to go. Havana is a wonderful, vibrant city and we look forward to its reconstruction in the near future. Thank you again for a very wonderful tour. We will certainly recommend it to our friends.
Alden Daniel, Cuban Tour Guide.
Our Cuban tour guide Alden Daniel. Everyone falls in love with him. He's a consummate professional. Alden is eager to help our guests learn about his country and aid American travelers in every way.
Everything hoped for and more
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Barbara Kruger, Officer and Fundraiser, Columbia University
Rochester, New York

I had a fantastic time in Cuba. The trip was everything I'd hoped for and more. While all of the Cubans we met with during our tour were warm and friendly, I was most touched by the heartfelt welcome our group received from the senior citizens at the Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén. This was the point at which I personally experienced the most palpable and endearing people-to-people connection. Throughout the trip, our tour guide Alden was absolutely wonderful, very personable, knowledgeable, and professional. He's a truly a gem, and I feel very lucky to have toured with him! Overall, I have nothing but the highest praise for Cuba Explorer Tours. I initially had a concern that our hotels were changed at the last minute, but I know from having spoken with my friend I traveled with that this was unavoidable due to overbooking. So many Americans rushing to Cuba now. All in all, I thought our rooms in the respective hotels were comfortable. I would recommend that your list of suggested gifts emphasize over-the-counter medications, clothing, packaged food items, and other basic necessities. I would also suggest that you begin to offer tours that are at least two weeks in length. I regret that we didn't have any time to explore more of the island besides Havana and Pinar del Río. Thank you for providing this invaluable travel experience to U.S. citizens.
I visited Planet Cuba
March 2012 Cuba Culture Tour
Deborah Ryan, Instructor, Lakeshore Technical College
Cleveland, Wisconsin

What an adventure! I am telling people I went to Planet Cuba because the island is so different than any place in the world I've visited. The fact that there was no access to U.S. credit card, debit cards, ATMs, or highspeed internet. Plus there is virtually no access to phone calls back home. It was very strange, especially considering that Cuba is only 90 miles off the U.S. coast. All of the '50s-era U.S. cars were really neat to see, but also made it seem an otherworldly special place. The Spanish colonial structures are beautiful, even the ones that falling down. I was very happy to see so many were being restored. Everyone we met was super-friendly and all of the people we saw and met seemed to at least have enough to eat and weren't desperate. It was wonderful to learn more about the history of Cuba and especially the last 50 years. Norberto was an absolutely superb guide and Oscar was the best bus driver ever! The general U.S. knowledge of Cuba is distorted and most of the people that I have spoken with at home think it is Cuba that wants to keep U.S. citizens out – not the other way around. I would love to go back and see more of this beautiful country.
Positives and negatives
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Evelyn Nall, Primary School Teacher, Los Angeles School District
Gardena, California

Positives: Alejandro was a great guide. Ernesto is a good driver. Cuba is a fascinating place. Cubans are friendly. Your website is very informative. We had mostly great meals at lovely places. All of the buffet breakfasts were great. Loved the live music everywhere. We felt safe everywhere and anytime. Loved the Hotel Telégrafo and its location (although we never got our wake up call and they did not fix the problem when asked three times). Great local guide at Las Terrazas. Preparing the research license was pretty easy and straight forward with your help, but never needed to show it at the airport. Enjoyed the organic farm visit and the presenter. Negatives: Our dance lesson was cancelled and not rescheduled. Would have preferred to stay in Old Havana the last night instead of Vedado. Would have preferred the pink hotel in Viñales – Los Jazmines as pictured on your website with the beautiful pool and view. Some meals were mediocre.
A vibrant country, a welcoming people
March 2012 Education and Culture Tour
Teresa Karamanos, Officer, fundraiser, Columbia University
New York, New York

Cuba is a vibrant country with warm and welcoming people. I enjoyed the people-to-people aspect of the trip and the opportunity to experience programs first-hand. Alden, the tour guide was very helpful and knowledgeable. A reading list ahead of time on Cuba history, culture, etc., is always helpful as well. Probably need two weeks to see it best instead of one week. Americans traveling to Cuba right now are looking for a high quality experience since we know once things open up all will be commercialized and of lesser interest.

Glitch: Our bus broke down once, and we had to push it to get started.
Biggest complaint: not enough time in Cuba
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Juidi Alongi, Assistant First and Second Grade Teacher, Oregon Episcopal School
Portland, Oregon

I absolutely loved Cuba! The spirit of the people, the music, the art, the history… it was truly amazing. I returned home excited to share my experiences and what I had learned with my friends and colleagues. I would love to go back someday and spend more time there. Hotel Telégrafo was great. The location couldn't have been better, and my travel companion and I really enjoyed our balcony room. Oh, and our bus broke down once, and we had to push it to get started. Actually, that was kind of fun. On the whole, the tour was excellent, despite a few glitches. My biggest complaint is that I didn't have enough time in Cuba! I feel like I have learned so much, yet barely scratched the surface. Thanks for helping to arrange a wonderful and memorable trip.
Painless travel and splendid companions
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Jane Kinegal, Teacher, Richmond School District
Vancouver, British Columbia

Our tour was a great success, including my days at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana before I met the group. And what a group! We all got on very well together and Linnet Brown is a wonderful guide – even when she got a cold, she was peppy and insightful. So what are my impressions of Cuba? The Cuban culture is healthy and strong. And what is going on in Cuba provides an example for us all of how to live creatively and cooperatively. I can well understand why the World Wildlife Federation declares Cuba the most sustainable economy on our stressed planet. Of course there are people in Cuba who have not philosophically bought in to the ideals of the revolution – dissidence is a human phenomenon for many different reasons. But so many Cubans seem so proud of what they have achieved since the revolution. It is inspiring to see what they've accomplished on the personal, community, national and international level. I wish there were more Castro brothers. We could sure use one or two up here in Canada to straighten out our country. I was grateful for the thoughtful itinerary, informative and painless travel and splendid companions.
Some glitches, yet wonderful for sure
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Robert Lawrence Schneider, Professor, Retired, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work
Richmond, Virginia

Overall, Anita and I had a wonderful trip to Cuba with the group that was organized by your company. There were some glitches and changes, but everyone took them in stride and it was an excellent group to be with. We all got along well. We would take it again for sure. We also stayed on in Cuba for another six days, traveling to Trinidad and back to Havana on our own. It was equally remarkable and increased our pleasure in visiting Cuba, our neighbor to the south.
Guide enriched island experience
March 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Susan Horan, Executive Assistant
Los Angeles, California
Mark Fleischer, Executive
Los Angeles, California

We want to commend Jorge Frank Alpizar Castillo for his wonderful work as our guide during our visit to March tour. Frank's perfect English and his encyclopedic knowledge of Cuba and the Cuban culture gave us an experience of Cuba that had a depth and richness that I don't think we otherwise would have had. Due to Frank, we think we were able to meet people and see parts of Havana and the countryside from a very special perspective that enriched our lives in many unexpected ways. Thank you so much for your well-organized tour and for putting us together with Frank. Please forward a copy of this e-mail to Frank and the appropriate organization that employs Frank.
A wonderful sense of community and camaraderie
March 2012 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Pamela Wong Nitsos, Physician, Kaiser Permanente
Fremont, California

The Cuban people are extremely warm and gracious, some even going out of their way to take us to a favorite restaurant or to show us part of their city. There is a wonderful sense of community and camaraderie, especially in the smaller towns, where everyone seems to know each other. And, of course, their passion for music is extraordinary! Our guide Norberto did an excellent job in providing us historical and cultural information, and dealing with the logistics of the tour.
Learned a lot from educational itinerary
March 2012 Rider University Business Study Tour
Susan M. Denbo, Professor, Rider University
Moorestown, New Jersey

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for arranging a wonderful and educational Cuba itinerary for us. We had a great time and learned a lot. Our guide, Jorge, and our driver, Alberto, were excellent. The site visits and speakers were very good. We also enjoyed our meals in Havana and our time at the beach.
A great variety of activities
February 2012 Introduction to Sustainable Cuba Tour
Nancy Kelso, Educator, REIJ School District
Montrose, Colorado

Cuba was wonderful. I really like the people. I loved our guide Alejandro and bus driver Ernesto. We enjoyed a great variety of activities, all well organized. I especially liked being in Trinidad and the old parts of Havana.
Aging hotel connected me with real Cubans
February 2012 Introduction to Sustainable Cuba Tour
Doris Gallagher, Social Worker
Livingston, Montana

I found my stay at our second hotel in central Cuba quite enjoyable, considering my modest needs. I enjoyed observing Cuban families and lovers on vacation. The aging hotel was within my expectations for a country that suffers financial restraints and tourism restrictions. It helped me appreciate Hotel El Presidente in Havana. What I really liked was the openness and friendliness of our guide, bus driver, and the Cuban people. It was so refreshing to be able to explore independently without fear. I hope to get together with my Montana tourmates and friends soon.
Guide a consummate professional
February 2012 Education and Culture Tour
John Mason Morfit, Land Conservationist
South Freeport, Maine
Margaret Morfit, Interior Designer
South Freeport, Maine

Our guide Ariannet Arias was a consummate professional. She is among the best guides we've had in our travels to more than 80 countries. Thanks for all your help. Your pre-departure information is exceptionally detailed and helpful. We also appreciate your personal assistance in making airline reservations.
What I got from Cuba
February 2012 Introduction to Sustainable Cuba Tour
Marguerite Kingston, Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
Chevy Chase, Maryland

What I got from Cuba: Meeting the Cuban people and showing my solidarity with them, including hopes for better times for them, better friendship with my country, and certainly a lifting of the ridiculous embargo.
A lovely country filled with promise and hope
February 2012 Introduction to Sustainable Cuba Tour
Franny Abbott, Travel Agent, Blue Charm Expeditions
West Chester, Pennsylvania

Our guide Alejandro could not have been more outstanding. He's one of the brightest, kindest people that I've ever met… His country should be proud of him! Our bus driver Ernesto was outstanding. The hotel in Havana was ok and the staff was great! Cuba is a lovely country filled with promise and hope. Most of the people were gracious and kind. We learned a lot both about Cuba and our country. We appreciate the journey that we have taken and wish the Cubans all the best in their search for a more fruitful life.

Our group on a boat on Laguna del Tesoro [Treasure Lagoon] in the province of Cienfuegos.
Everything was really enjoyable and well thought out
February 2012 Rocky Mountain College Introduction to Natural Cuba Tour
Jan Jelinek, Librarian
Sarasota, Florida

I really did enjoy the trip and I felt that the group was very compatible. We had an excellent guide and the driver was very good and they were both very personable. I was interested to note how clean and neat all the streets and children in Havana were. Having travelled in South and Central America I found this most enjoyable. I wish we could have had a bit more free time to wander and see things on our own, but I realize it would have been hard to fit everything else in. I found everything really enjoyable and well thought out. This was my first group tour and I think if all tours are this good, I might do another one. Thanks again for all your organization.
An eye opener
February 2012 Introduction to Cuban Culture and Nature Tour
Suzanne Graham Mauze, Retired
Fort Worth, Texas

My visit to Cuba was an eye opener. I encountered friendly, courteous people in a country so close to us, but, yet, in many ways so far away. The Cuban architecture was amazing and the Cuban music never failed to entertain. Our guide and bus driver were excellent. We saw and learned much about Cuba past and present. I will long remember my week in Cuba and hope someday to return.
Would certainly use your agency again
February 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Linda Grekin, School Librarian, Teacher, Curriculum Writer, Hillel Day School
Ann Arbor, Michigan

We loved the trip to Cuba. I do think that you have to embark on a trip like that with the idea that not everything will go exactly as planned. Obviously we didn't stay at the hotel that we were supposed to. We were perfectly happy with the places we did stay. The places we visited were fascinating and the people who spoke to us were very good and answered all questions directly. We would certainly go back and would definitely use your agency again. It was a great trip. I wrote several poems while on the trip for my upcoming poetry book. Here is one.

CUBA
A country on the brink,
One leg in tomorrow,
One held in yesterday.
Like an adolescent brimming with unexpressed energy,
Held on a rope tethered by parental taboo
It struggles to define itself.
Horse driven cart in Viñales Valley. Photo Hallie Barbee Rugheimer.
Horse driven cart in Viñales Valley. Photo Hallie Barbee Rugheimer
Cuba was outstanding
February 2012 Introduction to Sustainable Cuba
Hallie Barbee Rugheimer, Ranch Manager
Wilsall, Montana

Your participation in getting us to Cuba was outstanding. Whenever we had a question on the protocol, you were right there to give us the advice and answers we needed ahead of time of the trip. Overall it was a pleasure to have toured Cuba, our Guide Alejandro was superb and Ernesto a wonderful driver and helpful assistant. I as an American need to say that, though resentment may exist because of the many years of the embargo, we were welcomed everywhere we went. Enjoyable trip.

Parking lot in Old Havana. Photo Mary Kemmer. Click photo to enlarge.
1950s time-warp
February 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour
Photo by Mary Kemmer. La Giraldilla statue atop Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Photo Mary Kemmer.
Mary Kemmer, Director
Arlington, Virginia

My impressions: Warm, friendly, beaux art's architecture, possibilities, 1950s time-warp, sensual, salsa – a unique and wonderful experience.

Ruby Laney and Gary Thill at the Plaza de La Revolución in Havana.
Ruby Laney and Gary Thill at the Plaza de La Revolución in Havana.
We were well cared for
February 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Gary Thill, Marketing, Retired
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ruby Laney, Accountant Retired
Corona, California

We had a wonderful time in Cuba; the people are friendly, alive with music, spirit, rhythm, history and a proud culture. Your activities were interesting, informative, and well organized. We were well cared for, accommodations were comfortable, tours were well organized and transportation efficient. I would recommend your agency to friends anxious to visit Cuba.
Impressed with the schools
February 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Dieter Heidrich, Executive, Retired
Boulder, Colorado
Marie Heidrich, Homemaker
Boulder, Colorado

In general, we enjoyed our trip very much. The Cuban people deserve a better system. Everybody we met works very hard yet has very little to show for it. We were impressed with the schools, the second graders are actually taught to write script with wonderful results. In general we thought everything was well planned and executed. We especially want to mention our driver Fernando and guide Osmin. Both went out of their way to accommodate everybody's wishes.
So unlike the other Caribbean islands I've visited
February 2012 Rocky Mountain College Introduction to Natural Cuba Tour
Thomas Lyman, Field Engineer
Billings, Montana

It was a wonderful experience, so unlike the other Caribbean islands that I've visited. First, it is a beautiful country; most of what we saw was really stunning. Your guide Meylin Bernal Nuñez was a very competent and knowledgeable young woman. I cannot recommend her more highly. Excellent English, highly knowledgeable, friendly, always on time (and cute, too!). Our whole group warmed up to her immediately. We found the Cuban people that we met to be extremely gracious and accommodating. Simply outstanding. The Hotel Presidente is superb. Clean, friendly, perfect location, excellent food, great patio and veranda. The National Botanical Garden was highly enjoyable and interesting and the little restaurants there were as good or better than anything we found anywhere else and, in general, the food was very good. Not fancy, but tasty and well presented. The area around Viñales in the western part of the Island was just amazingly beautiful. I could spend several weeks there. Superb. Our visit to Benito the Tobacco Farmer was a trip. He's extremely funny, generous and knowledgeable. The Parque Topes de Collantes was another highlight and we could easily have spent a week there. Amazing flora, birdlife, and coffee! This is not to be missed. There are so many other sights, activities, and locations I can't remember all of them until I've seen my photos. Hemingway's house was also well worth a few hours. There is so much to see and enjoy in Cuba. Havana is just great. I will definitely go back there.

Slipped away to the beach for a brief encounter.
Will return to Cuba in the near future
February 2012 Discover Cuban Culture Tour

Me and tourmates at Havana cafe.
Kristin Adams, Sales Associate
Baltimore, Maryland

My recent trip to Cuba absolutely exceeded my expectations and I had an unforgettable tour! I had done a fair amount of research prior to the trip so I felt like I had a good idea of what to expect of the people and the culture. I was amazed by the spirit and warmth of the people. They are beautiful and magnificent as is the city of Havana. The trip was fantastic, the itinerary was very well organized and executed, and the tour guide, Pedro, was incredible! This was a fantastic experience that I will never forget! If I want to return to Cuba in the near future, can you assist me with my accommodations again? Thanks!
Positive people-to-people interactions
February 2012 Rocky Mountain College Introduction to Natural Cuba Tour
Dr. Jennifer Lyman, Professor of Environmental Science and Studies, Rocky Mountain College
Billings, Montana

The impression of Cuba: very positive people-to-people interactions. The island is gorgeous and interesting. We loved the Botanical Gardens, Hemingway's house, walking in Old Havana, the Buena Vista Social Club etc. We enjoyed most the Buena Vista Social Club and finding the John Lennon statue in Vedado, the stop at the Revolution Plaza.
Country mirrors it's beautiful people
February 2012 Rocky Mountain College Introduction to Natural Cuba Tour
Donald Raymond, Pharmacist
Portland, Oregon

The people of Cuba were brilliant. Smart, articulate and friendly at most any opportunity of interaction. The country of Cuba mirrored the beauty of the people.
We saw and learned so much
February 2012 Rocky Mountain College Introduction to Natural Cuba Tour
Alice O'Reilly
Billings, Montana
William O'Reilly
Billings, Montana

The Cuban people are not wealthy but take pride in dressing well and being presentable. They work hard to overcome the language barrier, when a tourist speaks Spanish poorly. They are uniformly warm and welcoming. There were times when I walked in Havana by myself and never felt threatened. It was very safe. We found the people, the music and the food delightful. We saw and learned so much that it is hard to pick any one thing. The Malecón in Havana was one of my favorites. The plazas in Trinidad and Old Havana were two others. I loved Hemingway's Finca Vieja and Viñales Valley. The day at the coffee plantation and national park were most interesting and fun. We had a superior guide there. Thanks for your help with our Cuban adventure!
Trip memorable and enjoyable
February 2012 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Kathryn Ellis, Coordinator Travel Tours, Continuing Studies, Langara College
Vancouver, British Columbia

I'd like to thank you for organizing such as memorable and enjoyable tour of Cuba. We had such a great time! Everyone in the group was so appreciative of our guide Geldry's knowledge and assistance with various aspects of our travel. She is a very special person and touched all of us with her generosity and good nature. Our first coach driver, Andres was also very much appreciated, both for his skill as a driver, and kind manner in keeping a watchful eye on us.

Young street vender sales homecooked snacks from bicycle cart. Photo Vicki Tapia.
Feel so fortunate to have been a part of the group
February 2012 Rocky Mountain College Introduction to Natural Cuba Tour

Lionel and Vicki Tapia in the Vedado district of Havana.
Vicki Tapia, Lactation Consultant
Billings, Montana
Lionel Tapia, Pediatrician
Billings, Montana

We loved our visit to Cuba and feel so fortunate to have been part of the group! We found the people warm and friendly and it was great to experience the sights and sounds of this seemingly commercially untouched country (so far no Walmarts, KFC or Domino Pizza). Highlights included the Buena Vista Social Club experience, Hemingway's house, the terrific organic lunch at the Bamboo Echo Garden, everything about old Havana, the classic cars (and riding in one for an hour), cave tour and boat ride, the mountain tour in the Russian army truck with our very knowledgeable guide Andres. Our hike with him through the forest was exceptional. We also very much enjoyed our too brief time in Trinidad. The tour guides were simply wonderful! They were open, knowledgeable and completely likable. More free time to explore Old Havana on our own would have been most welcome. Thank you for your help in making our tour possible.
Always felt safe and comfortable
February 2012 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Sharron Christie, Retired
Vancouver, British Columbia
Eric Mooney, Retired
Vancouver, British Columbia

Overall I was very impressed that the people were so friendly, helpful and open and didn't mind us taking photos. With warm sunny days it is easy to see why Cuban life is relaxed – an endless summer holiday. The food was good especially if I went to a small neighborhood cafe. I always felt safe and wandered on my own often during the day. I really want to comment on our excellent tour guide Geldrys. She was always professional, very knowledgeable, warm, friendly and always willing to help us out. Also, our driver Andres was excellent driver. I always felt safe and comfortable with him. I will always remember what a great guy he is.
Fascinating and stimulating experience
February 2012 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Connie Treen, Artist
Denman Island, British Columbia
Bryan Treen, Photographer
Denman Island, British Columbia

We did enjoy our Cuba trip. Our tour guide, Ms. Geldrys Vilches Martinez was professional, attentive, flexible and thorough. We learned so much about Cuba from her. If we were to return, we would hope to have her as our guide again! Our bus drivers were very good and drove very safely. The guides at the various venues we visited were very knowledgeable and made the visits informative and enriching. A visit to Cuba is a fascinating and stimulating experience. It was a real pleasure to soak in the liveliness of Havana. There was music everywhere. The art galleries were such a treat. And the countryside was just lovely. But the best part of our trip to Cuba was meeting Cubans. They were warm and welcoming – and justly proud of their country.
Highly professional from start to finish
February 2012 Langara College Cuban Photography Tour
Paul Bailey, Instructor, North Island College
Denman Island, British Columbia

The services provided were outstanding – highly professional from start to finish. My praise for our guide Geldry Martinez and bus driver Andres. They were a pleasure to be with; fully committed to making our Cuba experiences an outstanding success.
Wonderful group of American travelers
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Karen Reynolds, Graduate Student
Hastings On Hudson, New York

I so enjoyed my trip to Cuba. What a wonderful group of Americans. Our tour guide Alejandro was outstanding. His knowledge, grace and patience made all of our excursions enjoyable. He never hesitated to consider special requests (which were numerous!). Loved the Cuban people and their music. I plan to return soon. Wishing you a prosperous year.
Change is evident on a small scale
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Steve Levenberg, Clinical Psychologist
Asheville, North Carolina

Cuba is, most of all, a learning experience for Americans. The pre and post 1959 revolution history is simply unique and unlike that of any other Western hemisphere country. The Cuban people themselves are warm and receptive; music is everywhere, even at breakfasts! Expect an education from each day's experiences. Change is evident on a small scale today; real change will come in the future, but only when leaderships on both sides let go of their current frozen time-warped Cold War mentalities.
An impressive bunch fully engaged
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Ron Carlson, Engineering manager, Retired
Lakeland, Minnesota
Joy Carlson, Engineering manager, Retired
Lakeland, Minnesota

There was a lot good about the tour. Highlights for us were the lecture by Marta Núñez, the literacy museum and its video presentation, the Convent, the community farm and Las Terrazas. Bus accommodations were perfect, as was the driver. The group size was very good, and the participants were an impressive bunch that fully engaged in the Cuban experience to our mutual advantage. So it was a good tour, and we thank you for the opportunity to become familiar with our friendly neighbor.
Feel so fortunate
January 2012 Introduction to Cuban Culture and Nature Tour
Michael Sanders, President, Tour Operator, Environmental Adventure Company
Livingston, Montana

My recent trip to Cuba was so wonderful. I really love being in the presence of the kindest, friendliest people I've ever met. I found the people to be extremely cheerful, giving and so much fun. The music, oh the music! It swept me off my feet! If you can keep your legs still while listening to the incredible sounds, you are better than me. The people of Cuba are simply beautiful! I felt so welcome. I was constantly greeted with a smile and an extended hand. Everyone was eager to help. I feel so fortunate to be able to do this.

Erik Smetzer and Dwayne Milbrand visit a neighborhood park in the Vedado community of Havana.
Cubans willing to talk, exchange smiles and ideas
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Students we met at the House of the Boy and Girl in Central Havana.
Dwayne Milbrand, Vice President, Administration and Finance, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Erik Smetzer, Facilities Manager, Amazon.com
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Now I can catch my breath after being away from work for a while. There was a pile of work waiting my return! The trip was wonderful. Our guide Linnet Brown was nothing less than gracious and willing to be as open as possible. We really enjoyed her! Cuba was so much more than we imagined! I wish we would have done a longer more extensive tour to other towns and cities in Cuba. It is such a beautiful country and the Cubans we came in contact with on tour activities and and on our own were very willing to talk and exchange smiles and ideas. There were some hiccups but Linnet handed them with grace. Feel free to let prospective clients contact me should they need a reference before booking as I requested from you prior to committing. If you have any specific questions, please ask and I will answer!
Hats off to you
January 2012 Cuban Arts, Culture and History Tour
James E. Childs, Travel Consultant, Middlesex Traveller
Killingworth, Connecticut

Buenos días. Just wanted to say, if I haven't to date, that the group really enjoyed the Cuba tour. Hats off to your fine organization!
Cubans are truly beautiful inside and out
January 2012 Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Michael McCleese, Landscape Designer
Cincinnati, Ohio

I had a wonderful time in Cuba. The Cuban people are truly beautiful inside and out. Our guide Linnet was an angel. I will really miss her most of all. I returned from Cuba just a few days ago where I toured Havana and the western province of Pinar del Río. What an amazing experience! I have lived and travelled in Africa, travelled in Europe, Canada, Mexico, and other Caribbean countries but nowhere have I met a warmer, friendlier people than Cubans. Read more of this fascinating report…
Tour was interesting and informative
January 2012 Education and Culture Tour
John Linder, Realtor
Rye, New York

Overall the tour was interesting and informative. Too much time in Havana and a bus ride to Trinidad would have been good. Loved the organic farm and the biosphere reserve. It would have been good to have some historical perspective within the limits of what can be said about the post revolutionary period before travel. The people on the tour were outstanding and we all got along super well.
Panorama of Viñales Valley. Photo Barbara
Panorama of Viñales Valley. Photo Barbara
Wonderful time, surprising scenery
January 2012 Cuban Arts, Culture and History Tour
Barbara (first name only by request)
Vernon, Connecticut

I just wanted to let you know what a wonderful time I had in Cuba. I was very impressed with this tour and learned a lot about the culture of Cuba and it's history. The people I dealt with were all very friendly and welcoming to tourists from the U.S. Also, there was some surprising scenery when we ventured out of Havana. I loved Viñales. I didn't need any of the legal travel documentation we took but at least we were prepared. Both Cuban and U.S. immigrations treated us very well. Thanks for coordinating the trip.

Judy Henry, guide Roberto Iglesias, and travel companion Carol Stacy.
All good things come to an end
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Judy Henry, Spanish Teacher, Blue Valley North High School
Overland Park, Kansas

Cuba was fabulous! We didn't want to come home, we wish we could have stayed much longer but all good things come to an end. On our last night we stayed at a casa particular – that was fun. You're welcome to view my trip photos on Facebook. Click here. Must be logged-in to Facebook to view photos.
Beyond the call of duty
January 2012 Education and Culture Tour
Paula Rosalind Sharp, Novelist, Professor, Wesleyan University
Mount Kisco, New York
Ross Donald Eatman, Media Agent and Attorney
Mount Kisco, New York

We just wanted to drop you a note to say what a fine job we thought our tour guide, Alejandro, did for our group that traveled between January 10 and January 17. He's articulate; his English is excellent; he responded quickly and efficiently to group requests. He showed great patience in addressing the needs and demands of a large group of sophisticated travelers. We also felt that Alejandro went beyond the call of duty to help specific group members. We greatly enjoyed our trip and learned much from the experience. We're still trying to digest all we saw and learned. We returned with a very positive response to Cubans – the people we met were friendly, personable and insightful about their country's history and current challenges. The land is beautiful; the reserve near Viñales was breathtaking. The botanical gardens we viewed near Viñales were also spectacular – as impressive as the Bronx Botanical Garden for sure. Seeing how tobacco is rolled was a special treat. We especially liked the periods we were able to explore on our own as well– we loved seeing the Iglesia de la Reina in Havana, for example, and being able to sneak away to eat simple and well-prepared Cuban food at paladares and casas particulares. We also benefited greatly from our conversations with Alejandro that fell outside of the usual range of the tour; we were grateful for the opportunity to listen to the reflections of such a smart and promising young man.
It was superb
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Ronald Florence, Author
Providence, Rhode Island

Heather and I returned Monday from Cuba. Our tour was well organized. We enjoyed our travel mates in the group. Our guide Alejandro Berroaq was well informed, helpful, competent, and pleasant. In sum, it was a superb tour, and I would highly recommend your company for travel to Cuba. Thanks again for your excellent service leading up to the tour.
Tourmates an intellectual fun crowd
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Michael Sobotka, Dental Instruments Supplier
Chhaya Sobotka, Pediatric Endocrinologist
Jamaica, New York

I just thought that you might be interested in our comments on the trip that you organized for us to Cuba last week: Our guide, Alejandro, was terrific. The places we went to were very interesting. Hotel Presidente was clean and comfortable. The bus driver and the bus were wonderful. The other tour participants were an intellectual fun group. Thanks for everything.
Tour was everything you promised and more
January 2012 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mark Hall, Photography Instructor, Butte Community College
Chico, California

I returned today from Cuba. Your tour was everything you promised and more. It was a fantastic educational experience. Your guide Alejandro and driver Pancho were a tremendous bonus. Both were very friendly, helpful and patient. It was a delight to share the time and culture with them. The accommodations were clean, comfortable and quiet. The service at the hotels, restaurants and attractions was very friendly and welcoming. All your travel arrangements worked flawlessly. Thank you again for all your help. I will definitely recommend your company to all my friends looking for a memorable travel experience.
How fortunate I am
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Eileen Gmerek, Consultant, Retired
St. Louis, Missouri

I feel so blessed to have taken the trip. I have some great memories and met some wonderful people. And that's due to Marvin's help in organizing the trip. I can't believe how fortunate I am to know you.
So many choices. Directional road signs at intersection in Central Havana. Photo Sebastian Lazzara.
So many choices. Directional road signs at intersection in Central Havana. Photo Sebastian Lazzara
Truly an adventure in every sense of the word
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Sebastian Lazzara, Event Project Manager, Oriental Manor Catering
Brooklyn, New York

The trip to Cuba was absolutely wonderful. We had a fabulous time. Our guide Hoji was the best. He spoke perfect English, he was funny, informative and he was a wonderful escort, making sure all of us were well taken care of. He made helpful recommendations to restaurants and venues. Hoji really made my stay in Cuba a perfect experience. The Hotel Raquel was a bit run down but the location was perfect in old town Havana and the staff was attentive and professional. We had dinner at a private family home our second night in Trinidad. The food was excellent – fresh fish and lobster followed by music and song by the husband. After dinner Hoji took us to an outdoor music and dancing show, which was so much fun. Our last hotel, Hotel Saratoga was the BEST. The accommodations were truly five-stars. Our driver Poncho was excellent; he too was professional and good humored. We had a slight problem when the bus broke down on our way to Trinidad. After several failed attempted to fix the problem they called the tour company to get us another bus. We had a new driver and bus that afternoon and part of the next day, then Poncho was back with us the rest of the trip. Your guide went beyond his normal tour guide duties; he was with us beyond what the tour schedule allowed making sure that our every request was delivered. I definitely recommend your tour company based on our excellent adventure in Cuba. Thank you so very much and God bless.
Perfect way to kick off the holidays
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Nancy Coward, Inn Manager
Key West, Florida

Our Just Jazz trip was the perfect way to kick off the holidays and I believe the entire group had a very memorable vacation. With respect to my personal experience, I was pleased with most aspects. Ludwig, our guide, was very good with the group. The visit to the Belén Convent was a highlight of the trip. It was a very fun trip that I will recommend to friends.
A taste of Cuba
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Larry Englund, Retired
Saint Paul, Minnesota

My wife and I enjoyed our trip and found it to be enough of a taste of Cuba that we would definitely go back. The people we encountered were friendly and helpful. The architecture of Havana is beautiful. Our trip to the senior center was informative. I have to say that the lack of American corporations like McDonalds is a welcome change, though the other effects of the embargo are obviously not so good. All in all, your preparations helped to make this a much easier trip than expected. Thank you for your help. My wife and I both thought the trip was too short, and are looking forward to finding another opportunity to travel to Cuba and meet its people.
New Years Eve celebration miraculous
December 2011 New Years Getaway Tour
Joanne Connell, Account Executive
Alameda, California
Ted Connell, Musician
Alameda, California

The trip was wonderful. It far surpassed our hopes or expectations. Ariannet is a great tour guide, and all of our fellow travelers were fun and interesting people. And of course, what to say about Cuba itself? Fascinating. We can't wait to go back. The New Years Eve celebration we attended was wonderful. It was miraculous that we were able to attend that superb event. Truly a New Year's Eve to remember for a lifetime! No hassles whatsoever at U.S. Customs and Immigration. Thanks again for all your help and your company's great work.
Interaction with your office was helpful and efficient
December 2011 Cuba Holiday Discovery Tour
Fred Miller, Manager, Portland General Electic
Portland, Oregon

We just got back from our trip and I wanted to give you some feedback. We enjoyed it and may go again next year. And, I thought that interaction with you and your office was very helpful and efficient. Generally, people on the tour would have enjoyed more free or walking around time. Overall, we are positive on Cuba and the experience. We learned a lot and liked the people on the bus as well as the Cubans. Thanks for your help in making it happen.
Magnificent experience
December 2011 Cuba Holiday Discovery Tour
Don Peterson, Electronics Engineer, Retired
Ridgecrest, California

Just recently returned from Cuba. It was magnificent. The highlight was the awesome, rousing New Year's Eve party with dinner at the Plaza de La Cathedral! The Cubans really know how to celebrate – a night to remember forever!
Super good trip
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Don Hamilton, Clergy, Retired
Red Lodge, Montana
Nancy Hamilton, Teacher, Retired
Red Lodge, Montana

I just want to report to you that our trip to Cuba was super good. There were no problems, and we enjoyed it all. The jazz festival was wonderful, and we took in as much of it as we could cram in. All four of the big evening concerts were exciting and enjoyable. We also enjoyed being in Cuba again walking the streets and just soaking in the environment. On Sunday we attended a worship service at one of the Methodist Churches in Havana. It was interesting as well. They had lots of music, and, yes, it had lots of rhythm and every one was enthusiastic. The service lasted for four hours. We are not used to that, but it seemed normal to the regular people. The church was packed. We had made contact through the pastor of that church, and we had some exchanges with him and other church members. We want to thank you for all of your help! You helped make the whole experience a success! Peace!
We had the greatest of times
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Norma Milne, Hotelier
Banning, California

A deeply felt compliment to you and your staff. You did a wonderful job in organizing our group and activities. Our tour guide was the best. He couldn't have been more helpful in making our trip THE BEST! We went everywhere we could in such a short time. The restaurants were breathtaking. Great food in all of them including the wonderful buffet breakfasts at the hotel. The accommodations at the Hotel National were comfortable and clean – the surroundings glamorous. We had the greatest of times and would love to return sometime. Please give our tour guide an extra special thank you. All three of us travel a lot and he ranks up there with the best guide I've ever had.
Feel so blessed
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Elaine Vargo
Saint Paul, Minnesota

I feel so blessed to have taken the trip. I have some great memories and met some wonderful people. And that's due to Marvin's help in organizing the trip. I can't believe how fortunate I am to know you.
Want to see more of the country
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
T.D., Radiologist
New Haven, Connecticut

I really enjoyed the trip. I'm not the kind of traveler that typically joins groups but for the purpose of seeing the Jazz Festival, I thought it was great. All in all I was very satisfied with the trip. Please keep my contact info as I would like to return to Cuba in the future to see more of the country outside of Havana. Thanks again for your help and happy New Year!
Even better than I expected
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Bill Fairchild, Consulting Micropaleontologist
Longmont, Colorado

My friend Greg Rodriguez and I went on the Cuba Explorer Tours Havana Jazz Festival program and it was a great experience from start to finish – even better than I expected. The jazz component of the tour was for me not nearly so interesting as touring Havana, hearing great Afrocuban music everywhere we went and even out in the countryside. Music was everywhere in the restaurants, bars, and on the streets and I heard many of my favorites from the mambo and cha cha chá days of the 1950s and '60s. Cubans I met were very friendly and outgoing and were willing to speak Spanish with me even though their English was good. Our guide Alden was very knowledgeable for someone so young and explained many things about Cuba to me. He learned his excellent English mainly from watching television. I wish my ESL students would do the same. Upon return to the U.S., immigration officials in Denver Greg Rodriguez and I to produce our licenses. They read mine carefully and were not unfriendly. I got through quickly but Greg was having a long conversation with his official and I thought there might be some problem. It turned out, though she was Hispanic and had always wanted to visit Cuba! I hope that indicates the embargo will soon be over. Thanks again for arranging this great trip.
Cuba so much more than another tourist stop
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Hilda Artesona, Medical Administrator
Union, New Jersey
Jerry Artesons, Mechanical Systems Manager, Engineering
Union, New Jersey

Merry Christmas to the wonderful people at Cuba Explorer Tours. Wanted to let you know our trip was fantastic so much more than we expected. Everything was handled so expertly. We met wonderful delightful people who we made friends with and plan to visit. We had so much fun and were so educationally stimulated. The Jazz Festival was classical jazz, which we did not realize but the music in the streets and in the restaurants made up for it. We enjoyed the music at the venues very much we just were expecting more Latin Jazz. In no way were we disappointed. I felt very proud of being a Cuban American. Alden the guide was fabulous an amazing young man, the bus driver Forster was super fun and so knowledgeable. Hopefully you can send a note of how happy we were with Alden especially. Thank you for your attention to detail in every step of the way. We hope to take our mom as soon as we can. I have recommended your agency to all of our family and friends as the perfect way to experience Cuba. For us it was also great to meet family and find the places our families have talked so much about. I have pictures of the porch my grandparents lived in and found it to be a wonder that the old tiles are still intact. The Cuban people were inquisitive, open, friendly and welcoming. While it may be deteriorating, the architecture is fascinating and beautiful. One can see in the old building the grandeur that was Cuba. I can only hope someday all Americans can experience that beautiful island and that the Cubans are smart enough not to let it become just another tourist stop. It is truly unique in every. I can go on and on, everything about the trip was wonderful. Thank you for a trip of a lifetime. PS Did you know that the Havana Jazz Festival is listed as one of the things to do before you die in a book called 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. Well its so true, as newly retired we are so glad we did this. May you enjoy a healthy happy New Year.
Well thought out week
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Jane Godfrey, Human Resources Officer, International Monetary Fund
Takoma Park, Maryland

The guides were excellent. The busses were great. Hotel Nacional is a gem. The whole week was well thought out and we got to see many sites that otherwise we wouldn't have known about. Dinners were great too. Only downer was the art college we were to visit was closed for the Christmas holidays. Sigh. We went to the beach instead and had a great time.
What a good experience!
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Steve Schlager, Engineer
Cleveland, South Carolina
Judy Schlager, Registered Dietitian
Cleveland, South Carolina

Judy and I just returned from our trip and we wanted to tell you what a good experience it was. We enjoyed seeing the beautiful architecture and meeting the Cuban people who were friendly and helpful. Our guide Frank and the bus driver Diego were excellent. Frank made sure that everyone got where they needed to be and Diego was extremely helpful getting the old people (like us) on and off the bus. The Hotel Nacional was an amazing structure. I would've liked to seen it 50 years ago. The maids were extremely helpful especially when I wasn't feeling well after the first cigar. No problem with U.S. immigrations coming back. They asked if we had any rum or cigars and when we said no. They let us through without searching our bags. I will certainly recommend visiting Cuba with you to anyone who asks.
You and your team did a wonderful job
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Tayani Suma, Community Developer, Mission Redevelopment
Atlanta, Georgia

Just a note of thanks! I really enjoyed my trip and you and your team did a wonderful job of planning excursions that seemed to be of interest and well received by the majority of the folks on our bus. I was especially impressed with the services provided by our tour guide Alden. He went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we were happy, and was also great at balancing executive decisions with group choices when needed. You've done a great job and I will recommend you to friends and family. I hope to travel again on one of your tours next year.
Cuba was enchanting
December 2011 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Marta Karell, Business Manager and Accountant, Pearson Education
Chestnut Ridge, New York

I just want to let you know, that despite a rough start to our Jazz Fest Tour, we had a wonderful time! You made every effort to make it up to us and took full responsibility. Anyway, the jazz festival was marvelous. We loved the people at the Hotel Plaza. Our tour guide, Ludwig was very nice and very knowledgeable. And Cuba was enchanting. I wish it were easier for Americans to travel there. I know I will return sometime. Thanks for your help.

René the fisher displays catch of the day. He uses a handcast net. We met him on the beach during leisure time. Photo Mark Cafley. Click photo to enlarge.
Cuba was one of our top adventures
November 2011 Education and Culture Tour

Unforgettable panorama of Viñales Valley from our hotel. Photo Mark Cafley.
Mark Cafley, Educator, Retired
Victoria, British Columbia
Nancy Brooks, Educator, Retired
Victoria, British Columbia

Many thanks for your assistance, and apologies for not responding. We were in transit. Our Varadero Hotel Los Delfines was perfect. Our guide Ariannet was an absolute treasure. Our group was fantastic and very supportive of us Canucks! The perfect holiday! The warmth, kindness and humor that characterized Cuba will remain our lasting impression of our tour. Children, tradespeople, farmers, musicians and the elderly befriended us, making this a unique travel experience. Of course the flawless support of our guide and driver, Ariannet and Fernando, made each day a positive learning experience. The actual locations chosen by your staff were appropriate, a good balance between environment, education, culture, trades and the arts. There was really nothing promised that didn't happen, except for the minor omission of the swim in the river near Las Terrazas due to time factors. Each event provided a glimpse into how Cubans managed despite the embargo, without overdoing the political message. Ariannet was as frank and concise as she could be in the circumstances. The bus met everyone's needs and Fernando did an amazing job of making it available on time and with a warm sense of humor. Ariannet is a dream tour guide. Her sense of humor and teasing worked magic on this group. After completing several cruise excursions and tours, as well as years of independent travel, we can only say that this was one of our top adventures. We will recommend it highly. As the only Canadians, we considered the equally positive views of our American friends to be a rich part of the experience.
Most wonderful visit to Cuba
November 2011 Cuban Education and Culture Tour
Bob Stack, Vice President, City Board of Education
Greeley, Colorado

I just had the most wonderful visit to Cuba with a wonderful group of Americans. Straightaway, I wanted to pass to you the three poems. The words came from bits and pieces of conversations from tourmates I collected over the week. I share them with you. P.S. Enjoyed the weather there! I am now in eight feet of snow with seven degrees F. temperatures.

Ariannet and Fernando
We gave to you two precious items – our trust and our safety.
You cared for and guarded both.
In exchange, now we give to you our friendships and the welcome
in the future into our homes.
You are your country and you make it proud!
We need to come back and explore Cuba more
November 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Yingxian Zhu, Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It was an eye-opening experience. Everywhere we went, there were interesting things to learn, beautiful sights to behold and wonderful people to meet. This trip has firmly convinced us of one thing – we need to come back and explore Cuba more. And we want to do it soon! Here are some critiques. We had to think hard to come up with suggestions for improvement. It was a great trip!
Saw so many aspects of Cuban life and culture
November 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Jenny Ifft, U.S. Government Researcher
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We're in Toronto on a long layover right now, just got back from Havana. It was no problem to get through customs at all. American immigrations didn't even ask for our paperwork or why we were in Cuba. I speak for John as well, we both had an amazing experience in Cuba and it would probably have never happened without your help. Thank you so much for everything! Ariannet was amazing guide, and we really enjoyed spending time with all the other tour participants as well. The tour was very thoughtfully put together. We were able to see many different aspects of Cuban life and appreciate Cuban culture.
Alden Daniel, Cuban Tour Guide.
Our Cuban tour guide Hoji Silva. He's highly energetic and has excellent people and English skills. He's very knowledgeable and passionate for his country, his people and their culture.
Cuban presenters highly interesting
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Eileen Brown, Professor of History, Norwalk Community College
Norwalk, Connecticut

I really enjoyed the trip to Cuba and thought that it was an excellent value dollar wise. Our guide, Hoji, is highly energetic and has excellent people skills. He was very knowledgeable, despite his very obvious bias for his nation and government. Of course, I expected that, and quite honestly, it made my experience of Cuba even more interesting. The restaurants selected and the meals we had throughout the trip were very good. Certain highlights in the itinerary were downtown Havana as well as the walking tour of Havana Vieja, Hemmingway's house, the Museum of Literacy, and Jose Fúster's art studio. I was disappointed that we never did get to tour the University of Havana or any of the art museums. I also enjoyed going to the Floridita, of course and wandering around the area near our hotel. The speakers that were chosen were highly interesting – a real highlight of my experience. I had a wonderful room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel – thanks to your staff recognizing my asthma condition. Overall, an excellent experience! Graciella and Leonardo in Canada we're very professional, and your website excellent. I will highly recommend that others travel with your agency.
A remarkably beautiful country
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
David Hallett, Executive Dean, Chemeketa Community College
McMinnville, Oregon

I absolutely loved the Cuban experience. I found Cuba to be remarkably beautiful country – both in Havana and the countryside we visited. Cuban culture was amazing. I loved the music, the mix of people and learning about the history that makes Cuba so unique. As far as the Cubans go, I found nothing but friendly people who were just as interested in me as I was interested in them. Warm, generous and eager to share their stories. They seemed completely open and honest about their struggles and challenges they face. Also, I felt very safe the entire time I was in Cuba. I never felt that I was put in a dangerous situation. Hoji, our guide, did a wonderful job at providing tips to make the trip safe and memorable. With 26 people in our group, I do think that at times there were too many people. Mostly because it was difficult to really get to know everyone on the trip. Nametags (at least for the first day) would have been useful. My hotel room at Ambos Mundos was great. The food was terrific, but one suggestion I have is it would more dining at private eateries. I know that might be difficult to arrange, but it would have been fun for us. I think it would have been helpful to have just a little more free time to explore on our own, maybe just one additional afternoon. The tours we took often took longer than anticipated, so by the time we got back to our rooms, we barely had time to relax before dinner. All, in all, however, I didn't see this as a huge problem. The last thing I want to comment on is Hoji. He was simply amazing. He helped me secure a calling card and make a phone call to my daughter (who was celebrating her 16th birthday back home in the states). I know he went out of his way to help me and I really appreciated it very much. He is so knowledgeable about Cuban culture and history and his commentary was incredible. Thanks for taking the time to listen! And thanks for helping to arrange such a wonderful tour for us!
Accommodations and restaurants were first rate
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Robert Rumbolz, Associate Professor of Music, Northwest College
Powell, Wyoming

I had a fantastic time on my Cuba Explorer Tour. Our guide, Hoji, was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. The accommodations and restaurants were first rate. I was deeply impressed by the vitality, creativity and warmth of the Cuban people. We will definitely be bringing students back in the near future. I also thought all of your travel advice was right on the money and very helpful. With regard to problems I would say that there were very few if any.

Kwesi Rollins and Ernest Hemingway (bronze statue) at El Floridita bar in Old Havana, birthplace of the Daiquirí.
Thanks for all of your preparation, check out my pix
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Kwesi Rollins, Director, Leadership Programs, Institute for Educational Leadership
Washington, DC

Cuba was incredible. Thanks for all of your preparation. Our guide, Hoji Silva has become a friend for life. He did an excellent job. The site choices and the high quality of presentations must be praised as well. Thanks again. I hope to take another tour with you guys in the future.

I invite you to view some of my pictures from Cuba, click here. I also have a couple video clips of live Cuban music – great music everywhere you go in Havana. Video one, click here. Video two, click here.
Cubans have a wonderful spirit
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Amy Overby, Fundraiser, Madison Community Foundation
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

This was a life changing experience. Thank you for all that you do to make these tours possible. I hope to be back to Cuba sometime soon. Cuba is a remarkable and unique place that honors it past and is comfortable with its identity. It is also the most racially harmonious place I've every experienced. Cubans have a wonderful spirit, a strong sense of honor and are resourceful and resilient. Pre-travel planning was thorough, friendly and detailed; you website is extremely informative and helpful; your tour guide was very good and knowledgeable with exceptional language skills; variety of activities very good; enjoyed the presentation very much; enjoyed company of such a broad array of travelers in our group. There was lots of social mixing and minimal territorialism or small groups keeping only to themselves.
Guide wonderful example of the Cuban spirit
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Michael McKale, Professor, University of Saint Francis
Duncansville, Pennsylvania

Thanks to all of you, I loved Cuba and would like to go back soon and to take others. Again thanks to all of you, you do an amazing job. In Cuba, you guide Hoji is el hombre. He did a spectacular job and is a wonderful example of the Cuban spirit. Gracias to all.
Lush and culture rich
August 2011 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
George Schimmel, Doctor, Retired
Jackson, Mississippi

We enjoyed the trip very much. Cuba is lush, the people friendly, and the culture rich.

Mary Kanter center hams it up with flower venders in Old Havana.


John Kanter right with new Cuban friend in Old Havana.
It was an amazing journey
August 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mary Kanter, Adjunct Instructor ESL, Mchenry County College
Hebron, Illinois
John Kanter, Adjunct Instructor ESL, Mchenry County College
Hebron, Illinois

I took copious notes and hundreds of pictures that I am in the process of organizing now. I am so glad that I went to Cuba. I learned not only about the physical aspects of the island, (topography, buildings, climate) but also about other aspects, (how do the people feel about the U.S., how do they treat their old, young, poor, what do they value). It was an amazing journey. In general our trip to Cuba was excellent. Our guide Ariannet was great. She answered all our questions and helped us have a wonderful time. Our driver Fernando was also topnotch. He must have nerves of steel to navigate that huge bus on the tiny roads and streets. The beauty of the countryside scenery is incredible. Havana is emotionally overwhelming. For people like John and I, who are not wealthy by any means here in the U.S., to see the poverty of the people of Havana right off is emotionally draining. By the time we had gotten to the countryside I wasn't sure that there were any people in Cuba who were not really poor. In closing I would like to thank you for arranging our trip to Cuba. It was a life changing experience. I would go back in a heartbeat. Unfortunately now I have to work for a few years so I can afford it.
Had a wonderful time
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Charlene Day, Public Health Researcher, Education For Quality Living
Las Vegas, Nevada

I had a wonderful time in Cuba. Thanks to Cuba Explorer Tours the trip was just what I expected. Hoji was our tour guide and he is exceptional!
The trip was fabulous
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Mavis Erdmann, Director, Seminars International Inc.
Phoenix, Arizona

I caught a cold the last few days of the tour and still have the bug. Want to share my most favorable impressions in detail. But for the time being, the trip was fabulous and our guide Hoji was terrific. The people in the group were really wonderful. It was an emotionally and physically challenging trip, as conditions have certainly worsened in Cuba since my last visit. Thanks again for all your help.
Diverse impressions
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Meryl K Lazar, Educator, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Because we were exposed to such a cross section of Cuban society, my impressions are diverse. In Old Havana the people were downtrodden and American tourists did not help them feel better about their situations. However, in restaurants and outside of Old Havana, people were much warmer and more open to interacting with us. The perspectives the Cuban presenters gave us an understanding of many cultural aspects we would not otherwise have been able to understand. I was left with the hope that Cuba would find a way, over time, to reclaim some of its old beauty and that more of its people would be able to thrive rather than just survive. Our tour guide, Hoji, was wonderful and his commentaries helped us better understand what life is really like for island people – so we got some awareness. Personally I would have liked more exposure to the arts. I know Cuba is rich in that arena but it's an aspect remaining hidden. Overall the tour was a wonderful learning experience and I'm glad I took the opportunity to go to Cuba.
I love Cuba
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Dr. Carlos M. Coria-Sánchez, Professor, University of North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina

I mention a couple of things. I love Cuba and its people. The architecture of all colonial buildings is beautiful. The city has lots of attractions in terms of culture, art, and music. Your program was great and there is nothing to improve. I was very satisfied with the trip. Thanks.
Keep up your wonderful work
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Quentin Brown, Administrator, Long Beach Unified School District
Fountain Valley, California

Good afternoon Marcel, Leonardo, and Graciella at Cuba Explorer Tours. Your country is a wonderful hidden treasure in the Caribbean Sea! The island is lush with green trees and plants. The people are vibrant, passionate, and extremely proud of their customs and culture. I truly enjoyed the tour and thought all aspects of what you offer were appropriate for what I wanted from my excursion. I was extremely happy to have the life experience of visiting the island I so longed to visit and explore its wealth of traditions. So thanks for the opportunity to work with your organization. Keep up your wonderful work to bring exposure to the beautiful nation of Cuba! Muchas gracias.
Missing Cuba so much
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Daisy C. Haller, Spanish Teacher, Northern Valley Regional High School
Old Tappan, New Jersey

I just wanted to let you know that we are back home in American and missing Cuba so much. It was a great trip. Everything went very smoothly. So smoothly that I am ready to go back. Thank you again for all your patience and all the questions you answered. I hope to work with you again soon.
Guide Hoji did a great job
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Mary Anne Kucserik, Assistant Director of Study Abroad, Saint Joseph's University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Thanks so much for all your kind assistance during our travels. Christina and I really appreciated it. It was a wonderful trip and our tour guide Hoji did a great job. Thanks so much.
Stilt walker in Old Havana. Photo Melissa Geist.
Stilt walker in Old Havana. Photo Melissa Geist
Want to take my students down
August 2011 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Melissa Geist, Associate Professor of Nursing
Buffalo Valley, Tennessee

Our Cuba tour was amazing. I learned so much and had a fantastic time. Our guide Hoji was great. Cubans were incredibly friendly and happy. There were several times when people found out that we were from the United States and made a deliberate effort to come talk to us and hug us. I loved being out at night when families were out on the street enjoying the evening. Men would play cards or dominoes on rickety tables in the streets. I liked eating meals with the group and visiting the Buena Vista social club. I would like to have a bit more free time. It was hot, but I loved the trip. I really want to take my students down there ASAP.
Curiosity fulfilled
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Aaron Jackson, Business Manager, Mars Incorporated
Redondo Beach, California

Never quite thanked you guys enough for a wonderful trip this summer. What an exciting time. I'll most remember the ability to interact with everyday Cubans, ask my questions, and receive their answers. Curiosity fulfilled. I've been home a week, and I'm still excited to share my view on Cuba – the culture, music, people, daily life, advantages and disadvantages. The tour expanded my mind, and gave me the ability to think for myself when discussing Cuba. I posted my thoughts, at least part of them, in a blog post. Click here to check it out.
Student we met during your tour. Photo John Gemignani
Student we met during our tour. Photo John Gemignani
Already recommended tour to a half dozen people
July 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
John Gemignani, Artist
Lincoln, Vermont

Here are some impressions from our fascinating trip to Cuba. A number of things I feel confident about: The Cubans are friendly, vibrant people who did welcome Americans without any apparent bitterness. Parts of Havana look worn out and in need of repair. The countryside that we saw was sparsely populated by our standards and farming was limited, again compared to the U.S. We met on our tour with a number of people at the different stops who seemed committed to the revolutionary nature of Cuba, that is, they saw their country as uniquely dedicated to collectivism, education, basic services for all and were proud of it. However, it was impossible for me, a non-Spanish speaker to really communicate with a wide variety of everyday Cubans, so I really can't assess their concern with what seems to be a struggling economy. I often wondered what would it be like to visit some of those apartments in Havana that from the street looked hot for one thing and often rundown, to see how the people lived and get a frank assessment from them of how they see their country. As much as I felt on the trip that everyone in our group thought the embargo by the U.S. was stupid and counterproductive, I still came away feeling that although Cuba and the Cuban people had many positives, that we were in a country where our style of free expression was not available and where I had to hold the government of Cuba accountable for this condition. Still, the trip was fascinating. I loved the people. We loved our guide Alejandro and Fernando, our bus driver. It was a trip I have already recommended to a half dozen people and will continue to do so. My wife and I often said on the trip that your tour was our best way to see Cuba, meaning that the trip opened lots of doors for us to places most visitors would not get to see and which we found very interesting.
Everyone was happy to greet us as Americans
July 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Mary Gemignani, Special Educator, Addison Northeast Supervisory Union School District
Lincoln, Vermont

Thanks for putting together a wonderful tour. Wow! What a great trip. My first impression was of the wonderful, welcoming people that we met. Everyone was happy to greet us as Americans, which was a surprise to me. My second impression was of the creativity of the people – the music and art, of course, of also the ability to figure out how to reuse, recycle, and make due. Most importantly to me as an educator is the emphasis on education and the respect for the profession of teaching. I am most impressed with a country that doesn't have much money but is willing to spend what they do have on educating their population. Their buildings may be crumbling but their people are being educated. Whatever might be the problems, a country that puts education at the top of its list of priorities, I find very impressive.
The island's creativity bleeds
July 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Aisha Niambi Rashad in Havana.
Aisha Niambi Rashad in Havana.
Aisha Niambi Rashad, Chemist
Kansas City, Missouri

I had a fantastic time. I learned a great deal. The spirit of Cuba is truly expressed through the soul of the people. I look forward to returning soon. I thought going to different sections of Havana for example to an artist home was a great idea. It allows families to participate in the tourism aspect sharing their country with the world. The island's creativity bleeds on the streets of Havana – please continue to share it with future travelers. All the artists that paint, carve wood, and handle ceramics were beautiful people and so was their art!
So happy with the tour
June 2011 Custom Group
Al Goldstein, CFA
Chicago, Illinois

Just wanted to thank everyone for a great tour. We got back yesterday and all was wonderful. I actually used your same tour company the last time I was there and the tour guide Alejandro was great. Job well done. All in my group were so happy with the trip.
We were treated as honored guests
July 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Carol Ann Pinto, Teacher, Monroe School District
Snohimish, Washington
Carlos Pinto, Administrator
USDA Forest Service, Snohomish, Washington

I want our comments to be of value. First of all, thank you for a once in a life time experience. Our tour was wonderful. We had the good fortune to have the best guide and the greatest driver possible. We cannot say enough about Hoji and Pancho. They were tremendously helpful, knowledgeable and considerate. As you probably know, the people were friendly and open. The most common statement was: We like the American people, but we don't like what your government does to us. Old Havana was beautiful in its decay and optimistic in renovation. The music was great the food was plentiful and tasty. But being used to spicy Peruvian food, I found it a bit bland. The group was cohesive and compatible. I think I will be will be friends with some of them for life. We were a little taken aback when we got to the senior citizen's center and found a huge crowd waiting for us. Carlos and I, and I think the whole group would have liked a little pre-warning about the fact we were honored guests by some hundreds of elder Cubans. We were expecting a quiet, historic convent, not a bustling senior citizens center. The only change I would make was to have the trip to Viñales at the beginning or in the middle of the tour. Thanks so much Cuba Explorer Tours.
Program could use some tweaking
June 2011 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Dorothy Low, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Glendale, California

We had a great time! I want to give you suggestions regarding future planning because your program was so good, but could use some tweaking. The hotel for our last night in Havana was not great. Construction work was going on in the stairwell adjacent to our windowless room into the evening. We found the beds somewhat uncomfortable. The hotel was in a state of renovation and several floors were closed down due to no electricity. Thanks for your help with the insurance claim for missed flights.
A greater understanding of Cuba and its people now
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Vicki Perez, Teacher
Encino, California

The tour was really great! Hoji, our guide was wonderful! He was well trained, smart, charming, and very patient! His command of English was excellent! I think everyone enjoyed the trip! The country is lovely, and the people have the most amazing spirit! They are warm and welcoming and very happy to see Americans! I loved learning about the culture: the art, the music, and the history. I especially enjoyed the music! The musicianship there is amazing and every band in every restaurant/club we entered was superb! I have a much greater understanding of the country and the people now. I am so glad I brought gifts. The people were very appreciative. I wish I could have brought more, but I was at my luggage limit! I wish there could more free time for people to rest and/or shop/explore on their own.
Guide attuned to our wants and desires
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Kaisha Irving, Assistant Principal, Long Beach Unified School District
Signal Hill, California

Havana is a city rich in culture and the people are unbelievably friendly and accommodating. I knew I'd have good time there, but the education I received and the experience exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. I enjoyed Cuba so much that I plan on telling all of my friends and booking another trip soon. Thank you to Cuba Explorer Tours for creating an excellent itinerary that gave a great overview of all aspects of Cuba life. Perhaps the best part of the tour was our guide Hoji and our driver Pancho! They were both excellent! Hoji was charismatic and patient. He was able to read the group very well and knew when it was time to speed things up or give us a break. He was always asking if there was anything else he could do for us. Even when he was off and he could have easily just told us where we could eat dinner, he would make reservations for us, catch a taxi back to the hotel, and walk us to the restaurants for dinner. He was nothing short of amazing! And Pancho, what an excellent driver! Although he does not speak English well, he was very attuned to our wants and desires and made us feel safe and secure while on the road. What a dynamic duo you have with Hoji and Pancho! Thanks for providing me with such a worthwhile and enriching experience. I can truly say that Cuba is now my favorite vacation destination. Can't wait to get back!
Cubans seem to thrive under all circumstances
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Maria Call, Psychologist
Cedaredge, Colorado

I thought our guide did a great job of answering questions and teaching us about Cuba's history and how it has come to its current situation. He was very helpful with my research also. The main thing I learned was the ability of people to learn to survive and even thrive under all circumstances. I admire the Cuban people for what they have accomplished and the friendliness with which we were treated. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. Viva Cuba y los Cubanos.
Dale Call in Havana.
Dale Call in Havana.
Was close to tears at many times
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Dale Call, Professor, Mesa State College
Cedaredge, Colorado

I enjoyed my trip to Cuba. It was an ordeal to get there, but sure worth the time and effort. As a psychologist, I enjoyed contact with locals. I wanted more of that. The trip to the literacy museum and the Belén Center were highlights for me. We were warmly received and I was close to tears. Our guide did a splendid job. Viva Cuba!
Would go back in a heartbeat
July 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Gary L. Hauck, Dean and Professor, Montcalm Community College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

I had such a fabulous time in Cuba. The tour was everything it was advertised to be, and then some! Talk about a variety of experiences! I wouldn't change a thing. We had such wonderful interactions with the very warm people of Cuba, and learned so much about their culture, religion, music, education, art, architecture, socio-political and economic structure, and history. And the food was amazing. I would go back in a heartbeat! Thanks so much to each of you for your role in getting my notebook returned to me! I thought I had lost all of that information. I feel so relieved. And it was my daughter who bought me the lovely leather cover for it. Everyone I've told about this at the college was amazed that you all went the extra mile. Such a thing would be unheard of here in the States. I am praying for all the wonderful friends we made there.
Havana moves in choreographed rhythm
June 2011 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Shannon Wasson, Teacher, Portland Public Schools
Portland, Oregon

I can't thank you enough for making my trip to Cuba so smooth. My impressions of Cuba began the minute we drove away from the airport. In the wee hours of the early morning I saw bicycle taxis waiting for fares, beautifully dilapidated, decayed, architecturally intricate buildings, cars from an era time forgot, and NO annoying billboards advertising cars or fast food. My first morning I spent nearly three hours sitting in my hotel window taking photos and writing in my journal about the comings and goings of the neighborhood folk around me. I saw a woman selling bananas that everyone who walked by, kissed her with a friendly greeting. I watched the taxis below move in a choreographed rhythm that swayed with the humidity of the city. A woman sold cold water from her balcony to workers on the street below. Boys played marbles on a nearby roof, they'd shout and whale when an opponent made a good or bad shot. The exuberance, sound, and sights of the city overwhelmed all of my senses, and I hadn't even been down on the street yet. Once I ventured out, I was greeted by smiling faces and people who wanted to know where I was from. When they discovered, through my broken Spanish, that I was American, people were so welcoming and full of interesting questions. I would say my greatest impression is how wonderfully social Cubans are. I felt immediately welcomed and safe to walk about the city. When I accidentally left my satchel (with money and my passport!) in a bag of donations to a nearby day care, a woman came running after me to return it. It was amazing and so kind. Impressions are nothing but positive and I can't wait to return. I want to explore more of the country the next time I visit.
Trip most enjoyable
June 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Sandra Jewell, Writer
Atlanta, Georgia

Hoji was knowledgeable and always willing to address the questions and needs of group members. He was flexible about making changes the group wanted. He was very good and the trip most enjoyable.
Must return for better understanding
June 2011 Education and Culture Tour

Read my full report.
Sara Marks Tabby, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Proactive Physical Medicine, LLC
Merion Station, Pennsylvania

I fell in love with Cuba. I want to return again soon to study and enrich my understanding of this warm people and their unique culture that informs their approaches to education, healing and the fine arts. Read more of this fascinating report…
Cubans have a wonderful sense of humor
June 2011 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Judith Garratt, Theatre Specialist, Los Angeles Unified School District
Glendale, California

Cuba was wonderful, and I appreciated the depth of commitment and artistry evident in all of the arts experiences we had. The Cuban people were generous with their time and energy and have a wonderful sense of humor. I really had a wonderful experience; everything was interesting, and I learned a lot. Thank you for setting this up this tour for us, and I hope you will continue to offer arts tours.
Accommodations in Havana were beautiful
June 2011 Education and Culture Tour
Sherri Tobin-Samuels, Teacher, High Plains Elementary School
Denver, Colorado

I want to thank your staff (in Canada and in Cuba) for making my trip to the island a once in a lifetime experience! I have been very fortunate in my life to have the opportunity to travel to many unique places in the world. I have to say Cuba was one of the best! The itinerary was well planned, organized and diverse. We were able to see so many different aspects of Cuba. I really feel like we got a good flavor of the country and the people in the short time we were there. Hoji, our guide, was absolutely incredible. He was so knowledgeable about so many different topics whether it is architecture, history, art, or politics. His English was exquisite and he was extremely articulate. And he was also very personable and witty. The hotel accommodations in Havana were beautiful, and the choice of restaurants was excellent. I would have enjoyed more traditional Cuban meals like the one we had at La Bodeguita on the last evening. I have to say, my life has been changed as a result of this trip. Thank you for this opportunity and for making my trip to Cuba so memorable.
Illuminating and wonderful
June 2011 Cuba Arts and Culture Tour
Yvonne Watson, Faculty Lecturer in School of Fashion, Parsons The New School for Design
New York, New York

I just returned Sunday, after a most illuminating and wonderful experience in Cuba. I would like to talk further with Cuba Explorer Tours regarding further academic arts/culture experiences for the students that I work with at Parson. At the moment though I need to digest and reflect on my experience and then come back to you with my thoughts. Best regards, and many thanks for your help!

David and Wanda Rowland test the refreshing taste of Cuba's most popular cervesa [beer] Cristal during down time on the tour.
Staff was particularly helpful
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

Wanda Rowland right and tourmates sip drinks at famed restaurant bar La Bodeguita del Medio, Ernest Hemingway's favorite watering hole.
Wanda Rowland, Librarian, Jasper City School
Jasper, Alabama
David Allan Rowland, History Professor
Bevill State Community College, Jasper, Alabama

Our trip in Cuba was fantastic. I have made many worldwide trips and I would rank this trip in my top three. Our guide was a fabulous, funny, amazing personality, and communicates well. The Hotel Telégrafo was excellent, although a bit warm. Airport pickup and delivery was perfect. The city tour and the Hemingway home were excellent. The restaurants and food were very enjoyable. The bus was excellent and comfortable. Las Jazmines was very nice and two nights there would have been appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed running and walking the Prado and Malecón area each morning with El Morro in the background. Not once did I encounter a problem with a Cuban, however I was almost bitten by a dog. Cubans are very friendly and helpful. They also have high expectation when it comes to tipping. The old city of Havana is very interesting once one gets accustomed to the ever-present poverty and disintegrating conditions of the buildings. The island is very beautiful particularly on the western side near Los Jazmines. The concept of socialism is everywhere and promoted in many environs. The adoration of Fidel, Raul, Che, and Chavez are never far. In closing, I want to thank you for all your help. You provided us with a great tour. Your staff was particularly helpful in assisting my daughter in notifying us when a family emergency arose and when the returned flight was delayed.
Good communications and advice
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Nan Caldwell, Spanish Teacher
Lake Bluff, Illinois

The trip was great! We absolutely loved our Hoji. He was so informative, personable, accommodating and just plain fun. It was hot and humid, but we got everything done! It was a once in a lifetime experience that I'll always cherish. Thank you for all your good communication and advice. It was a great trip.
Amazing architecture and beauty
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Jill Vanderveer, Teacher, Lake Forest School District
Morton Grove, Illinois

It is hard to believe that this trip is over. What an amazing experience! It is a trip that I will remember forever. I just loved the tour. I do wish that we had been given the two days in the mountains. I realize that the trip from there to the airport on Saturday would have been too long but I would have loved to have more mountain time. We also needed more free time. I do have to say that our guide was incredible. He is so intelligent and provided us with a wealth of information about Cuba and the rich history of the country. I so enjoyed learning and seeing first hand the rich history found in Cuba. It is an incredible country, rich in amazing architecture and beauty.

Students I met at the Casa del Niño y de la Niña. Photo Charlene Shelton
Students I met at the Casa del Niño y de la Niña. Photo Charlene Shelton
Music everywhere, gracious people
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Charlene Shelton, Research Student, University of Colorado
Denver, Colorado

Our tour was fabulous! Alejandro, our guide was so well educated and knowledgeable and the driver, and bus driver Wilmer was safe and attentive. I can't really think of anything that was not top notch. What we liked best about Cuba is that there is music everywhere – in the streets, in every shop and restaurant, and in homes. The people are so gracious and they are so well educated and interesting.
All dressed up and no place to go. Photo Anibal Mustelier.
All dressed up and no place to go. Photo Anibal Mustelier
People very nice in spite of economic situation
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Anibal Mustelier, Social Studies Teacher, Riviera Middle School
Miami, Florida

I thought the tour was very well run. I don't have too many complaints. Being a film enthusiast, I just wish there was more access to Cuban fictional films. What I like best about Cuba was that the people were very nice in spite of their economic situation and that it is very, very safe there as well. One could go to the poorest of neighborhoods and crime would not be a problem. There are police officers everywhere.

Me practicing some dance steps. Photo Kathleen Larson.
Cuban guide spoke flawless English
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour

A view from our hotel in Viñales. Photo Kathleen Larson.
Kathleen Larson, Teacher
Austin, Texas

I cannot find enough words to thank you and Cuba Explorer Tours for the fantastic trip you provided. Thank you so much! Everything was fine, especially the excellent hotels and all the meals, not to mention the carefully planned tours of educational, agricultural and social sites. Hoji cannot be surpassed as tour guide par excellence! His English is flawless, his patience is unending. He teaches while he learns, and he is as interested in us as we are interested in learning about his country. This makes him very personable and likeable and knowledgeable. It was a joy to see his smiling face every day! His sense of humor is refreshing. If you strayed away from the tour, he'd come looking for you, never accusingly, but with real concern. When the group insisted we go to the beach, he arranged it. He took extra care to meet special needs. All these abilities are rare to find in one tour guide. I hope he is greatly rewarded for his service! I will be happy to tell others of this successful trip. Again, I thank you for making it possible. Mil gracias!
Cuba again this year! Check out my video
June 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Milissa Zierer, Educator
Anaheim, California

I wish I could travel to Cuba again this year. Here is my video of our June/July trip. Click here to view.
We got to meet real people
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Julie Drizin, Editor
Silver Spring, Maryland

We loved Cuba! Thanks so much for all of your help in making it a terrific trip! Alejandro was a stellar tour guide; our bus driver Wilmer was also wonderful. We really enjoyed the participants on the trip and feel so great that we got to meet real people at schools, the senior center, the university of the arts, the synagogue and more. The whole tour was brilliant. On an aside: my mother sprained her ankle at the coffee plantation in Las Terrazas, falling on an uneven stone. We got to experience the Cuban medial system. She's fine. I would whole-heartedly recommend your tours. I definitely must return. I just loved Cuba and the Cuban people and feel so inspired by so much of what I saw and experienced there. Thanks again, my friends.
Second trip to Cuba, Cienfuegos or Trinidad next time
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Cody Arnold, Physician, University of Texas
Houston, Texas

I've been meaning to drop you note but have been very busy trying to catch up on work. We had a great trip and don't have much to criticize. We particularly enjoyed our tour guide, Alejandro Infante. We had a great time in Havana but since this was our second trip to Cuba we would have enjoyed visiting another Cuban city such as Cienfuegos or Trinidad.
Elizabeth Riechers, second from left, and her "Cuban sons."
Elizabeth Riechers, second from left, and her "Cuban sons."
I hope my island son can come visit me in America soon
June 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Elizabeth Riechers, Registered Nurse, Director Linn Co. Home Health and Linn Co. Aging and Disability Resource Center
Lisbon, Iowa

My son Russell and his best friend in Cuba (my Cuban son) Raiko called Sunday to wish my husband Happy Father's Day. Raiko told me he was looking forward to picking me up at the airport in Havana (our second trip to the island) in December to celebrate the New Year. He is so respectful, fun and a great example of the warmth and acceptance we felt from everyone we met while on your tour. I hope that Raiko and his family can someday come to Iowa to visit and stay in our home!
A special place in my heart
April 2011 Cuban Culture and Nature Tour
Shirley Sullivan, Psychologist
Falmouth, Massachusetts

As I reflect on my recent visit to your beautiful country, the lasting image that comes to mind is one of "lost beauty." It is my hope that one day soon, Cuba will be able to recapture all that magnificence and, once again, enjoy the wonder of it all. On the whole, the Cuban people were wonderful. I loved waving to them and having them wave and smile in return. I felt a great sense of camaraderie and felt most welcome. There were a few exceptions (bank clerk, waitress and front desk personnel) but I think you would find that anywhere, human nature being what it is. I found the food to be very good, I loved the music and vibrancy in your dance and enjoyed "going back in time" to experience riding in cars which brought me back to my dating days! Your beaches are beautiful and offer so much for the traveler looking to kick back and relax. Alden Daniels was a wonderful tour guide; very knowledgeable, kind and caring. I loved the musical review in Havana, the Viñales valley, the tour of the jungle and how to survive in it. The local guide was very informative and humorous The roast pork luncheon there was the best meal by far. The museum at the Palace was very interesting. This is something we did on our own, but I would offer it as part of your next tour. It was a chance of a life time and Cuba and its people will hold a special place in my heart.
Your island team was wonderful
April 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Kerri Schmidt, Educator and Early Childhood Literacy Program Coordinator, City of Boston
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

It was a pleasure working with your office. Everyone was helpful and professional and your tour package was well developed, thank you. Your island team was wonderful too – very friendly, informative and extremely professional. They made the experience fun and memorable.
Everywhere we went was an interesting adventure
April 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Bruce Rose, Retired
Atlanta, Georgia

My tour was absolutely wonderful. I loved Alejandro as our tour guide. He was totally great, and I look forward to seeing him again in Cuba. Everywhere we went was an interesting adventure. Many thanks also for arranging my CENESEX visit –and most especially help from Anayansi while in Havana. She was great. I hope to meet up with her again on my next trip. The absolutely best thing about Cuba for me was its people. Wherever we went, the people were genuinely helpful, friendly, courteous, and curious. Secondly was the music. Who couldn't help but become enraptured by the music? I really do want to return for the International Jazz Festival in December. I want to thank everyone who made this experience all that it was.
So we are grateful for your hard work
April 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Bridget Cooke, Teacher, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School
New York, New York

I want to emphasize how appreciative I am of the time you people gave Phyllis and me before the trip. Your advice especially was very helpful concerning the license. So we are grateful for your hard work.
I wouldn't change any aspect of the tour
April 2011 British Columbia Government Workers Union Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Connie Randrup-Wheatley, Court Clerk 2, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)
Smithers, British Columbia

I enjoyed everything we did in Cuba. I wouldn't change any aspect of the tour. It was near perfect, and to be sure, totally amazing. I learned more than I imagined possible about your beautiful country. So many aspects of the program captivated me. The city walking and bus tours of Havana stand out. The buildings and people and the cars – I am in love with the old cars, so elegant, graceful and evocative of bygone times. Read more of this fascinating report…
Everything unfolded without a hitch
April 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Robert Murray, Clinician
Cudjoe Key, Florida
Becky Allman, Anesthetist
PCN, Celebrex, Cudjoe Key, Florida

Overall the trip to Cuba was excellent. No complaints. You did an outstanding job of organizing everything for us before the trip began and made sure that the trip was a success. Your organizational skills are the best and I highly recommend Cuba Explorer Tours to anyone that wants a great trip to the island. Everything unfolded without a hitch. The guide for our trip did a fantastic job of making sure that all of us were happy and comfortable. Cuba and the Cuban people greeted us with open arms and were friendly and hospitable. I'll tell everyone looking for a stress free educational tour to Cuba to go with you.
Zoe Alameda, center, and tourmates in Havana.
Zoe Alameda, center, and tourmates in Havana.
In brief
April 2011 Custom Tour
Zoe Cowherd Alameda, Funeral Director, Alameda Family Funeral and Cremation
Saratoga, California

It was truly a fabulous trip! Thanks so much.
Group dynamic was great
April 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Myriam Victoria, Educator, NYC Board of Education
New York, New York

Cuba was very fascinating on many levels. I had a wonderful time; the group dynamic was great. Alejandro was terrific. The tour ran very smoothly. Wish I'd had more time on the island. The program was very active.
A special romantic place
March 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Janine Hopkins DuBelko, Pilates Instructor, Janine Hopkins Pilates
Santa Monica, California

Cuba is a special, romantic place and definitely worth visiting. From its 1950s cars still running strong to the unforgettable and joyous music and style of dance you can be easily charmed. Cuba deserves our support and touring the country is one way to help their economy and allow us a visit to a fabulous place!
Celina and husband Ron Riebman visit the Jewish synagogue in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.
Celina and husband Ron Riebman visit the Jewish synagogue in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.
A cultural experience without equal and a Jewish homecoming
March 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Celina Riebman with students at the House for the Boy and Girl in Havana.
Celina Riebman with students at the House for the Boy and Girl in Havana.
Celina Riebman, Office Manager
Wilmington, Delaware

As I previously informed you that our talk, at our synagogue, concerning Jews in Cuba, was very well received. I opened by explaining why we were interested in going to Cuba and how the trip was arranged. Ron gave an introduction to our slide presentation of pictures that he selected from the many he had taken on our tour. This was followed by question and answers. We have been raving about your efficiency, personality and great organization. Ron and I have been asked to speak at other groups. Ron took hundreds of pictures and many videos. Thank you again for being so kind and wonderful. Warmest wishes.
Back safely, thanks to you in Canada
March 2011 Cuba Education and Culture Tour
Adelaida V. Severson, President/Owner, Bushtex, Inc.
Gilbert, Arizona

Hello there! Got back safely and soundly – without a hitch or question from
U.S. immigrations. It was a great trip. However, you may hear from others about the hotel in Soroa and the lack of water. Many of the tours were great, but some may have run a bit long. Alejandro, our guide, was great. The best part was our trip to Varadero. What a great hotel and all-inclusive was the best thing! All in all, the tour was a great experience, the group was wonderful, and we all want to go back. Thank you for everything you did to make it happen!
Colette Fauchon, right, and tourmate push giant rock wheel used to grind coffee beans in the slave era.
Colette Fauchon, right, and tourmate push giant rock wheel used to grind coffee beans in the slave era.
One of the greatest experiences of my life
April 2011 British Columbia Government Workers Union Cuba Tour
Colette Fauchon, Officer, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)
Garibaldi Highlands, British Columbia

I really enjoyed the trip. I like Cuba, as it is a warm, interesting, non-commercialized part of the world. Life is more laid back and I felt I had the time to not rush around as some other places in the world demand. The May Day parade was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The power of people en masse is truly what drives positive change in the world. Cubans were warm and friendly, unpretentious, and very good looking! I was in Cuba in 2000 and was very pleased to see the progress made in renovating many beautiful old buildings since then. The Fine Arts Museum was wonderful. The museum guide, Omar was fantastic and should be given a raise. I have been to many art museums around the world and Omar did an amazing job, he loves his work and it shows! Our visit to Viñales Valley was wonderful, what a beautiful area of Cuba that I hadn't seen before. The tour guide Alejandro was patient, kind, informative and answered most of our questions – some of them very tough! Ernesto did a great job of driving us around the small streets in that large bus. Thanks again, we had a great trip!
Sudha Manhas in Las Terrazas eco-community to the west of Havana.
Sudha Manhas in Las Terrazas eco-community to the west of Havana.
Grateful so many extra activities were added
April 2011 British Columbia Government Workers Union Cuba Tour
Sudha Manhas, Customer Service Representative, Government Agent for Service British Columbia
Williams Lake, British Columbia

I just want to express my appreciation again to you and your staff regarding my trip to Cuba and extending my stay. It worked out very well! Thank you! My experience in Cuba was very fulfilling and exciting. I felt the itinerary was very well planned and was grateful that extra activities were added when time permitted. The City of Havana holds much history and the countryside was gorgeous with its landscape and weather. The people of Cuba were the best part of the whole trip. I had heard from others how kind, friendly and beautiful the people of Cuba are, but now I am able to confirm this for myself and share my experience with family and friends. I have many memorable pictures and stories that I have shared since I have been back. My husband and I have been invited by new friends to visit Cuba every year. Thank you again.
Boy in Havana. Photo Trudi Beth Unger
Boy in Havana. Photo Trudi Beth Unger

Boy in Havana. Photo Trudi Beth Unger
Shopkeeper in Havana. Photo Trudi Beth Unger
I extended my stay following the tour, legal Cuba travel easy
December 2010 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Christie Grace, professional jeweler and musician.
Sincere greeting from new amigo in Havana. Photo Trudi Beth Unger
Trudi Beth Unger, Photographer, Educator
Mill Valley, California

To my fellow tour participants and Cuba Explorer Tours: Happy New Year! Hope that all of your holidays were wonderful and that this New Year brings you peace, good health, love of friends/family, and most of all, that you have everything your heart desires. Favorite places were Baracoa, Camaguey, and of course, Havana. The music at the Casa de Trova in Santiago de Cuba was incredible, and the folkloric dance group, Catumba, was New York, Broadway, outstanding. Loved Baracoa. So peaceful, community oriented, and in such a beautiful, beautiful setting.

Trudi Unger, top center, and new friends in Camagüey.
Trudi Unger, top center, and new friends in Camagüey.
Trinidad is a lovely Colonial town and well known for their cobblestone streets. Returning was simple, as it turned out. I had a research license for photography, so I put together a journal outlining every day, everything I had did with Cuban photographers, educators, etc. I bring back any "knick knack" touristy items that are banned in the U.S. Arriving in Houston, I went to the immigrations window, and the officer asked, "What did you buy?" I said some etchings. Then he said, "Hope that your trip was good," and waved me on.

Cuba Explorer Tours reccommendation: Visit Trudi's photography website featuring pictures from around the world.
Back and a little fatter
December 2010 New Years Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Dawn Gordon, Lecturer and Director, Partners in Context and Community, Bowling Green State University
Cleveland, Ohio
Eric Gordon, Education Administration, Cleveland Municipal School District
Cleveland, Ohio

We are back from our Cuba experience and want to thank Cuba Explorer Tours. Our experience was outstanding. Our only complaint is that we ate far too much of great food and probably gained ten pounds! Our tour guide, Tatiana, was perfect. Happy New Year to you!
Swell tour, Feliz Año Nuevo
December 2010 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Judith Stern, Professor Emerita, Psychologist, Rutgers University
North Brunswick, New Jersey

Greetings. It was a swell tour. Happy travels and Happy New Year.
We were very happy with your tour
December 2010 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Elizabeth Sayre, Musican, Arts Administrator
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Happy New Year! I just got home yesterday as I stayed two more weeks and went to Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Camaguey, and Santiago. I wanted to let you know that we were very happy with the tour, and that our guide Arturo was excellent. My heartfelt thanks for making our tour successful.
Vera 'Mike' Michelson in Havana.
Vera 'Mike' Michelson in Havana.
I left a part of me behind in Cuba
December 2010 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Vera 'Mike' Michelson, Social Justice Activist
Albany, New York

Happy New Years to you and thank you for all of your assistance with our trip preparations. I had a wonderful, memorable time. I made many new friends. It's really amazing that when you leave Cuba you feel like you leave a piece of yourself there. Everyone was very generous with there time, very informative and helpful.
Planning our return
December 2010 Cuba Now Insight Tour
Lisa Zablocki, M.D., Pediatrician, Pediatric and Adolescent Association of Central New Jersey
Highland Park, New Jersey

Thank you for a great tour of Cuba! We loved the trip and especially our guide Rita and driver Samuel. Can't wait to go back.
Big journal, lots of photos
November 2010 Boomers Whole Cuba Tour
Steve McGuirk, Landscape Architect, Mediator
Soquel, California

I am back home trying to unravel the journey and to put nearly 100 pages of journal writing and extensive photographs into a blog to send out to you and fellow tour group members. I want to thank for your support. I wish you and your organization a memorable and prosperous New Year. Thanks again for everything.
Extensive report on my Cuba Trip
August 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Leighanne Metter-Jensen, Language Arts Teacher, Chief Sealth International High School
Seattle, Washington

Sorry this has taken me so long. Here is a copy of my research project in reflection of the August tour. Read more of this fascinating report…
Castro, cigars, and cars of the 1950s
August 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Linda Campbell, Director of College Guidance, Lancaster Country Day School
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

I had a great time – seeing the country and meeting the other participants with whom I have kept in touch. Cuba – the word conjures up a variety of associations: Castro, cigars, and cars of the 1950's, to cite just a few. Thanks to Cuba Explorer Tours, I had the opportunity to test the associations and form new impressions for myself. The tour delivered everything promised and more. From our arrival in the airport in Havana, we had our questions answered and our comfort assured by our knowledgeable guides. Tatiana offered much historical and cultural information as we drove through the city and countryside and provided opportunities that a typical tourist would never be able to experience. Visits to the University of Havana, the Museum of the Revolution, the Museum of Literacy, and the House of the Boy and the Girl among others exposed us to a wide spectrum of life in Cuba. I felt very fortunate to see the country at this particular time in its history, for it has certainly been in the news in recent weeks as change is on the horizon.
I'll be going back with colleagues in tow
August 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Richard Beatty, Lecturer and Senior Engineer, California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California

My deepest thanks to you, and your team, for facilitating the teachers' tour to Cuba in August. I can't stop telling my friends and colleagues how incredible it was – not just the country and the people, but also the organization and logistics that I know take a tremendous amount of work. I know that I'll be going back, likely with colleagues in tow. I look forward to traveling with your team again soon.

Woman delivering vegetables to market. Photo Bob Pettapiece.
Glad to be back in more developed country
August 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Bob Pettapiece, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan

The trip was very interesting and I am glad to be back in a country where the revolution is over 200 years old. I returned with 328 photos. I trimmed them down to 100 and posted them here.
My Cuba in moving pictures
July 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Brian Kukan, Teacher
Burbank, California

I spent some time putting together this little video montage of some of the highlights of the trip. You can check it out here. Thanks for putting together and amazing trip! It truly was spectacular, and the entire group was so much fun to hang with and experience the island with.
Watch my impressions of Cuba on YouTube
June-July 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Nancy Currey, Special Education Teacher, Vacaville Unified School District
Vacaville, California

My visit to the island with Cuba Explorer Tours in 2010 by Nancy Currey.
Very good
June 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Sue Bugansky, Teacher
Hartville, Ohio

I really loved the trip! Thank you so much for making it happen.
Free education, medical care, housing an inspiration
June 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Callie Rabe, Spanish Teacher
Lima, New York

It was a life-altering trip – truly unbelievable! I know that I had different impressions than others, because I am open to the possibility of other systems (political and economic) being viable options. Some folks, though they LOVED Cuba, were very ready to criticize the government and not so open to seeing the good things that are in place there. Poverty is always hard to stomach, and we often want to blame someone. But free education, medical care, housing, etc., sure speaks to me about something working better than our system. Read more of this fascinating report…
A joke from Cuba
June 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Randy Cook, Educator
Sonoma, California

I thought the group was exceptionally friendly. We bonded fast! Sorry we couldn't have stayed in Cuba longer. There is a joke in Cuba:

What are the achievements of the Revolution?
Education, healthcare, and sports!
And what are the failures of the Revolution?
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Cuba Explorer Tours enablled us to observe first-hand the reality of life in Cuba today, and to come to our own tentative conclusions about the successes and failures of its fifty-one year old Revolution. But even more important, the tour provided us with a window onto the vibrant culture that animates its people despite all hardships, and which makes Cuba one of the most unique places on earth. Read more of this fascinating report…
Island gorgeous and politically fascinating
June 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Carolyn McNulty, High School Teacher
San Francisco, California

Cuba was physically gorgeous and politically fascinating. And every time I sat down, a mojito appeared in front of me and a live band broke out in song. The monsoon type rains in the afternoon are breath taking and make a fabulous chorus whilst you are securely inside, (especially if a World Cup match is on and you are surrounded by Cubans supporting each of the two teams). Anyone considering this trip should know that you'll wonder what you're not seeing and hearing about Cuba because of the tour format, but you'll also have access to some fascinating places and speakers that you would never find on your own. Professor Coyula, a city planner in Havana was a highlight. He was interesting, his talk informative, and his deep understanding of the promise and failings of the revolution was thought provoking. I am grateful for all you packed into that week. I wouldn't have missed most of it.
I'd recommend you guys to anybody and everybody
June 2010 Cuba Now Learning and Research Tour
Rosie Kaplan Goldenberg, Educator
Oakland, California

It was a truly great trip and I'd recommend it to anybody and everybody. I personally like the few days we spent out in the countryside away from Havana. Tatiana was fantastic. She was not only knowledgeable but also very personable and enthusiastic without being over the top. Hoping that travel to Cuba gets easier for my fellow Americans.
Toby Pollock with John Lennon! A popular bronze statue in "Parque John Lennon" in Havana.
Toby Pollock with John Lennon! A popular bronze statue in "Parque John Lennon" in Havana.
My enduring impression of Cuba is color
June 2010 Cuba Now Learning and Research Tour

Read my full report.
Toby Pollock, Educator

Oakland, California

When I think of my experience in Cuba the first thing that comes to mind is color. The hues of blues, pinks, oranges and lime greens consumed my senses; especially the shades of blue… many cars, the flag, the phone booths, and of course the architecture. The Cuban people also impressed me as colorful and sensual, and have a strong sense of who they are; they know themselves well. Their smiles were sincere, not forced. Their interaction seemed based on curiosity. Read more of this fascinating report…

Tour was mind blowing, travel mates a delight
June 2010 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Wendy Barker, Professor
San Antonio, Texas

The trip was mind blowing, an incredible experience. And, you're right, settling back in, is of course taking time. Our group was an absolute delight, and Joel was an excellent guide. Thanks for all you do, and for answering all my questions.
Kids at Havana May Day Celebration. Photo Michael Potts
Kids at Havana May Day Celebration. Photo Michael Potts
You opened door to Cuba for me
2010 May Day Celebration Cuba Tour
Larry Morris, Clerk
Reading, Massachusetts

Thank you so much for opening the Cuba door. I had a great time. Everything you advertised we did: the meals, the activities, and the encounters. Tour guide Tatiana was great. I have memories for a lifetime.
Wonderful, repeat it!
May 2010 Cuba May Day Celebration Tour
Bettie Robinson Gibbs, Attorney
Washington, DC

The trip was wonderful. You should definitely repeat it!
The Havana May Day Celebration is a family affair. Photo Michael Potts
The Havana May Day Celebration is a family affair. Photo Michael Potts
Canadian enthralled by Cuba
May 2010 Cuba May Day Celebration Tour
Michael Potts at the Havana May Day Celebration. One million attended.
Michael Potts at the Havana May Day Celebration. One million attended.
Michael Potts, Maintenance Worker, Burnaby Public Schools, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Burnaby, British Columbia

I recently traveled with Cuba Explorer Tours on their May Day 2009 tour. I cannot say enough about their level of planning and coordination. For anyone interested in seeing a non-tourist side of Cuba, I highly recommend this tour. Outside of the Hajj at Mecca, the Havana May Day Parade is the largest gathering of people on Earth. For anyone of a progressive mind this is a must see event at least once in your life. This was my first May Day as well as my first trip Cuba and it certainly will not be the last. Through Cuba Explorer Tours we were able to meet with top lawyers, doctors, women's rights workers, and other activists that one is just not privy to as a tourist. These meetings gave an inside look at life in Cuba and the all-pervasive U.S. Blockade. This was an education tour not only in name but in the results as well. I was truly taken with the open friendliness and deep pride of the Cuban people. I also have to mention our tour leader. Mildred is a fine guide that provides a deeper look at the day-to-day life and struggles of Cuba and also a deep knowledge of Cuban History. And of course many thanks to Cuba Explorer Tours for their great planning and logistics for the tour. Not a hitch. I highly recommend the trip for an experience you will never forget.
Exchanges with Cubans changed my perceptions forever
March 2010 International Women's Day Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Sue Greene, Clinical Trial Research Coordinator in Rheumatology
Lompoc, CA

At Cuba Explorer Tours I discovered that, Yes, I really can travel legally to Cuba as a U.S. citizen. They expertly guided me through the process of fulfilling the U.S. Treasury Department General License requirements as a full time professional. Oh, what an amazing gift Cuba Explorer Tours has given me! My life has been turned upside down and my perceptions changed forever by this trip to Cuba for International Women's Day. I have made lifetime friends and invaluable contacts in my profession. Read more of this fascinating report…
Saw Cuba with a bunch of smart, curious, adventuresome people
February 2010 Whole Cuba Tour
Ellen M. Hunt, Director, Hunt Communications
Chicago, Illinois

What a great tour you put together! I can't tell you how much we loved this trip. We learned so much and got to see things and talk to people in a way I'm sure the average tourist doesn't get to. Our guide Raul was stupendous, knowledgeable, smart, warm, kind, and unflappable, even if things fell through or rain drenched our plans or anything. He is the best! Thanks for putting together an amazing trip. All in our group raved about it, and all in our group got along well – bunch of smart, curious, adventuresome people. Immigrations went fine with our general research licenses. The officer even said welcome home. I want to go back.
My heart is filled with love for Cuba
August 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Lynette Adrian Bickham
Lynette Adrian Bickham
Lynette Adrian Bickham, International Studies Program Manager, U.S. History Teacher, Dwight Morrow High School
Englewood, New Jersey

The tour has been an enormous blessing to my life. Tatiana Rodriquez was the best tour guide. Angelito was a very professional driver. They both did all that anyone could do to make the experience 100% fulfilling. They are now like family to me. Thank you for all of the planning that you and your organization do on behalf of educators. My heart is filled with love and a very strong sense of belonging and an inseparable connection to Cuba. I am delighted to have the opportunity to share with others the joy, love and sense of mission that have been bestowed on me.
Very comprehensive and interesting program
August 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Pat Abramson, Lecturer, Hunt County Master Gardener Association, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Celeste, Texas

I hope share what I say about this positive trip. Tatiana was amazing and was always informative and solicitous. Angel, our bus driver, was excellent. Accommodations were fine, too. The quantity and quality of the places we had the chance to visit were very comprehensive and interesting. Thank you for everything.
Happy with first organized tour ever
August 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Sherry Lee Alexander, Professor, School of Mass Communication, Loyola University
New Orleans, Louisiana

The trip – my first organized tour ever – went very well. The group was very compatible. You made all the arrangements needed. Thank you, and thanks for all your hard work.
Part of us is still on the island, joint reflections on Cuba
August 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Nora Schapira, Spanish Teacher, Moravia Central School District
Lansing, New York
Abigail Cleary, Spanish Teacher, Lansing High School
Lansing, New York

While our memories are still fresh (part of us are still on the island) we want to say the tour was fantastic. Our guide Tatiana was a true gem at the beginning and a real friend at the end of the week. She made everyone feel part of the experience. She was so knowledgeable and friendly. Thanks Cuba Explorer Tours for doing this.

Our trip to Cuba can be seen from two different views. One is that of a first time visitor to the island where everything was new and who carried many stereotypes about the country, and the second view from someone who's been there several times and came to reconnect with an old friend. For both of us, the trip offered a unique insight to Cuba's history, culture and daily life from an educator's point of view.

Even though at times it was difficult to get through the intense itinerary with such a large group, we wouldn't change it since every aspect was fantastic, interesting, and included such a variety of the Cuban life. At each stop we learned in depth about each place thanks to the wonderful Cuban hosts, who came to meet with us in spite of the fact that it took them away of their vacation or their work. We specially liked the idea of experiencing a little bit of the countryside at the end. Tt made for a good change of pace. The beauty of the Viñales area is breathtaking! Fue un auténtico "broche de oro" para nuestro viaje.

The experience was smooth from beginning to end. Cuba Explorer Tours staff was always very helpful and responsive. The orientation information was thorough and useful and it certainly made a difference once we were in Cuba. Our guide, Tatiana Rodriguez, as well as our driver, Angel, always took very good care of the group. We had such a great time in this trip and we both hope to go back to Cuba again soon.
Privileged to have visited such a rich culture
August 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Amy DeCola
Amy DeCola
Amy DeCola, Early Childhood Education Administrator, South Carolina State Department of Education
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

We saw and learned so much, where to begin? The tour was eight jam-packed days of immersion in the Cuban culture. Cubans are passionate about life and it is evident in their music, dance and art. They have overcome challenges with determination and a special resilience. Americans can learn a great deal from the urban organic gardens and sustainable communities. I will always remember the beautiful smiling children! Cuban teachers accomplish so much, with so little in the way of materials. They possess a true commitment to children.

Visiting Cuba rejuvenated my interest in world history. So many museums and not enough time to see them all! My favorite visit was to the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. We saw where Che Guevara set up his headquarters and got to witness El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at La Cabaña. This was the most incredible fort I have ever seen. Many times I felt like I was part of an old movie. A beautifully restored 1950 Chevy would zoom by our tour bus and out front there was a pair of oxen. Our tour guide Tatiana was so informative and patient with our endless list of questions.
Ann Eskridge and bronze statue in Old Havana.
Ann Eskridge and bronze statue in Old Havana.
It's the openness of the people I'll remember most
August 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Ann Eskridge, Playwright, Author, Educator. Director of the African American Studies Program, University of Detroit Mercy
Detroit, Michigan

Ann Eskridge, Playwright, Author and Educator.
Ann Eskridge
I came back from my trip to Cuba with a deeper understanding of the issues affecting that country and a newfound respect for the Cuban people. I attribute this to the hard work Cuba Educations Tours staff put into making sure that we had a well-rounded look at what Cuba is like today. Most importantly, it was the openness of the people who shared their experiences with us that I will remember. From dancing the salsa on a rooftop in the moonlight to taking a boat through the caves where indigenous Indians and slave maroons hid, to picking mint in an organic garden or singing – off key with a band in Old Havana – everything about this trip was amazing. Watch a wonderful video of Ann's trip. Also see her website, a valuable resource for educators on U.S. and African American history, and writing.
Cuba again some day soon
Spring 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Joseph Weed
Los Gatos, California

I went on one of your Cuba tours with my wife, Marty Kendall. We greatly enjoyed our tour, and thank you for making it possible. I look forward to visiting Cuba again someday.

Philip Fornaci in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución for Cuba's million-strong May Day Celebration in 2009.
Cuba and Change We Can Believe In
May 2009 Cuba Law Tour

Read my full report.
Philip Fornaci
Philip Fornaci
Philip Fornaci, Prisoners' Rights Attorney
Washington, DC

One of the most notable characteristics of 21st-century Havana is what is not there: obvious and visible destitution. The begging and aggressive peddling prevalent in so many poor Latin capitals (and in most U.S. cities) is entirely absent in Havana. There are no homeless people sleeping under bridges or hidden in doorways, no stumbling addicts crashed on park lawns, nor frantic children hawking candy and crafts. The sidewalks are crowded with workers and students and bureaucrats, rushing in every direction, often at a frenetic pace, but at no point is a visitor likely to encounter robbery or assault, or begging. Read more of this fascinating report…
Abraham Weizfeld.
Abraham Weizfeld.
Opportunities to meet many Cubans
May 2009 Cuba May Day Celebration Tour
Abraham Weizfeld, History, Author, Activist
Montreal, Quebec

Marcel, This was a very well organized tour with opportunities to meet many Cubans and learn of the actuality of island life under duress. I would like to thank you for your work in this respect. The delegation was composed of an interesting variety of people as well, which made for an enriched experience.
I've always wanted to visit Cuba
March 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour

Read my full report.
Dulce María Gray, Professor of English, writing, literature and women's studies, West Valley College
Saratoga, California

Dulce María Gray, Professor of English, writing, literature and women's studies
Dulce María Gray
Finally! We arrived in La Habana. Despite being tired from the long trip, and the stimulating 30 minute taxi ride from the José Martí international Airport, there was no way I'd go to sleep, so Vicky and I dropped our luggage at the Hotel Habana Libre in La Rampa, a central neighborhood in Vedado. Until the revolution, this was the Hilton Hotel that had been opened in March 1958 and had become a gambling casino and playground for rich Americans. But, the revolution triumphed on 1 January 1959… Read more at her incredible blog "A Week in Cuba."
March 2009 Teachers Introduction to Cuba Tour
Most touching, memorable experiences of my life
Angela Wright, Associate Professor of Developmental English and Speech, Writing Center Coordinator, Patrick Henry Community College
Martinsville, Virginia

The trip I took last March remains one of the most touching, memorable experiences of my life. Almost daily I think about the people I met there who were so kind and work so hard. I will always be grateful that I learned more about Cuba. I hope to go again sometime.
Teaching in Cuba was life changing for me
February 2009 Cuba ESL Volunteer Tour
Jennifer Pinheiro, Procurement Officer
Mississauga, Ontario

Teaching in Cuba was life changing for me and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to meet and work with my students. Our guide Idania is amazing. She has wonderful personality and heart and she really was so good to me in our talks and advice. You are lucky to have her together with everyone down there. I admire the work you do.
Lasting friendships, lasting memories
February 2009 ESL Cuba Volunteer Tour
Pat Smith, Human Resources Manager, Retired
Toronto, Ontario

Our group is back from Havana and what a lovely experience it was. This was my first ESL teaching assignment and the fact that there were other experienced ESL teachers from all over Canada, made a lot of difference. They were so generous with their ideas and materials and I could definitely learn so much from them. The professors and the students commented how interesting the lessons were. The tour was more like a high school field trip every day! The people in our group were so interesting and unique. I doubt very much whether you could ever have put such an ideal group of people together again. We made good contacts and some of them will be lasting friendships. There was a lot to see, lots to learn, lots of adults, students and children to teach and lots of good, lasting memories of ESL February 2009.
Christie Grace is a professional jeweler, and musician based in Vancouver, British Columbia. According to Paul Shaffer, Music Director of the David Letterman Show, "She has a sound that washes over you like sweet honey and fine wine. Every song is as beautiful to listen to as she is to look at… Christie Grace has it all."
Extraordinary experience: Cascading joy, passion, and tenderness
February 2009 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour

Read my full report.
Christie Grace, professional jeweler and musician.
Christie Grace, professional jeweler and musician.
Christie Grace, Professional Jeweler and Musician
Vancouver, British Columbia

On our recent debut visit to Havana over the past two weeks during Valentines, my 14-year-old daughter, husband and I had the rare opportunity to attend the 2009 Havana Jazz Festival – "Jazz Plaza 2009." There were many musicians I fell in love with including Roberto Fonseca – but that is for another blog. What I want to share now – was the unforgettable opening night concert that featured the spectacular Chucho Valdes and the premiere of his new band Akokan Ire. It was a sellout shortly after tickets went on sale – but we had been reserved tickets as part of the Havana International Jazz Festival tour ably organized by Cuba Explorer Tours so our enthusiastic jazz tour group from, Vancouver, Ottawa and Bermuda had great center stage left seats. Read more of this fascinating report…
We enjoyed every aspect of the trip
February 2009 Official Havana International Jazz Festival Tour
Gillian Steel
Vancouver, British Columbia

My husband John and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for setting up such a wonderful tour. I had no idea that we would be so immersed in the culture of Cuba. We enjoyed every aspect of it especially visiting the music school and seeing the young people with their enthusiasm for education. Our guide was fabulous. On the day we visited Viñales Valley, she scheduled a stop at a small school for us to be able to leave our gifts to the children. It was very meaningful. We were shown the work of the children and we were able to ask questions about their education. Some of the men in our group played football with a few of the kids and I couldn't help but think what a lovely scene it was that day, with people from different worlds and ages coming together surrounded by mountains and greenery. It was definitely an eye opener to be exposed all that Havana has to offer. We explored as much as we could in our spare time and we got to see The National Ballet of Cuba perform Giselle.
The book combined with dove of peace in the blue, red and white colors of the Cuban flag is the official logo of the Havana Int'l Book Fair.
Click here for upcoming tours of interest to librarians, bibliophiles and writers.
Cuba for Reading Week – A trip full of pleasant surprises
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour

Read my full report.
Anne Fullerton, University of Waterloo, Ontario.
Anne Fullerton
Anne Fullerton, Librarian, University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario

This was an experiential learning adventure to the cultural and historic centres of Havana and the 18th Havana International Book Fair – a trip for Librarians and Bibliophiles. There were 21 of us – from library directors to librarians in their first professional job and a few significant others. Tatiana, a [Cuban] former teacher of English to businessmen, was our Cuba Explorer Tours guide. Read more of this fascinating report…
Expert Cuban guide and translator Tatiana.
Our expert Cuban guide and translator Tatiana in action. She was expressive, kind and helpful.

Expert Cuban guide and translator Tatiana.
I like to learn about a people and culture while abroad
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Kathy Carter, Librarian, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta

This was my first visit to Cuba and it was a wonderful introduction to a fascinating country. Most Canadians who visit Cuba go for the warm weather and beautiful beaches, but I like to learn about a country's people and culture when I travel. During this one-week tour we visited a well-chosen variety of cultural and artistic sites and were able to meet key directors, staff, artists and writers. For those of us who didn't speak Spanish, our guide Tatiana provided excellent translation. She also gave us a glimpse into everyday Cuban life with many details about her own family, Cuban education, music and other social, political and cultural institutions. She arranged for several additional events not on the tour schedule in response to individual interests, including a concert, a ballet performance, the Tropicana nightclub, as well as visits to artists' homes, and an excursion to Ernest Hemingway's house. We couldn't have asked for a better, more knowledgeable, or more amiable tour guide. The hotel, bus and restaurants were all good. We were inspired by Cubans' enjoyment and respect for books and reading, but were saddened by their difficulty in acquiring library materials from the States. A few of us have begun to work on donating and shipping books to Cuban libraries via Canada. We hope the new U.S. president will soon make it much easier to express our support and solidarity with our Cuban colleagues. I would love to go on this tour again next year!
Official 2010 Cuban poster for the XIX Havana International Book Fair.
Official Cuban poster for the XIX Havana Int'l Book Fair. Click image to enlarge.
The ultimate question is how can we help Cuban librarians
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Herbert B. Rogers, Librarian, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Maryland
Herbert B. Rogers
Herbert B. Rogers, Librarian, Enoch Pratt Free Library, State Library System
Baltimore, Maryland

The tour was one of the best I have ever been on. I had been to Cuba on four previous occasions, and what Cuba Explorer Tours accomplished was certainly the better organized trips. I hope to participate on the next librarians program. I have nothing but praise for the group's tour guide Tatiana. She was excellent! When I learned about the February 2009 Librarians tour, I contacted an official of the Asociación Cubana de Bibliotecarios (ASCUBI) Cuban Library Association. This is an important professional organization in the country and the equivalent to the American Library Association. I was very fortunate to introduce several ASCUBI officials to one of my colleagues on the tour, and she was most pleased. The visit to the University of Havana was very good. And the ultimate question is, how can we help from afar Cuban libraries and librarians? Finally, on another note, the Havana Libre was an excellent hotel.

Click here for an excellent Cuba book list compiled by Herbert B. Rogers.

Click here for an extended interview with Herbert B. Rogers on his impressions of Cuba.
I'll remember the kindness and generosity of the people
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Michael Strom, Librarian. Records, history and rare books management, Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, Texas

I enjoyed the tour very much. I want to give a special mention to Tatiana. She was excellent. She was warm and kind while at the same time forceful enough to keep us on schedule each day. I had never taken tour like this before and was a little concerned about how it would go. With Tatiana at the helm it was a complete success. From the tour I'll remember the kindness and generosity of the people of Cuba most of all, Tatiana included.
Colonial dwellings in Old Havana. Photo Kenneth Schlesinger
Palace of the Captain Generals and the Palace of Segundo Cabo. Click photo to enlarge. Photo Kenneth Schlesinger


One memorable evening, we visited a neighborhood collective in South Havana for a block party. We brought medical supplies, which are scarce and expensive, and they served refreshments. Then there was dancing in the streets. Two hours later, it was hard to say goodbye to our new Cuban friends. — Kenneth Schlesinger
A high point was a neighborhood block party for our group
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Kenneth Schlesinger, Chief Librarian, Lehman College, City University of New York, New York City
Kenneth Schlesinger
Kenneth Schlesinger, Chief Librarian, Lehman College, City University of New York
New York City

Every year Havana hosts a major international book fair. Chile was the featured country this year. A popular event, the fair is attended by all sectors of the Havana community. It was compelling to observe stalls swarming with people of all ages, browsing and purchasing books. We assured our hosts this would never happen in the U.S.! Our group of 21 people representing libraries all over the United States and Canada kept a rigorous schedule. We met with colleagues at Cuba's National Library, and conducted a bilingual conversation about their international programs and services to the disabled. Stops also included the impressive library at Casa de las Americas, a meeting with the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), a tour of the Museum of Literacy, as well as a daytrip to Ediciones Vigía, a designer of innovative and stunning artists' books, located in the historic 19th century city of Matanzas.

The tour a cultural component as well. We spent an evening with the Buena Vista Social Club at the restored Hotel Nacional, saw an amazing flamenco version of Federico García Lorca's House of Bernarda Alba, and took mambo and rumba lessons on a rooftop in Old Havana. One of the high points (there were so many) was visiting a neighborhood collective in south Havana. They threw a block party for us, and there was dancing in the streets! Havana is a stunningly beautiful city. Habana Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has more colonial buildings than any city in the Western Hemisphere. Many are finally being restored, but entire neighborhoods are decaying due to the economic impact of the U.S. embargo. Our Cuban hosts welcomed us, and we reassured each other of hope for positive change with the new U.S. Presidential administration. The rhythms of the music and dance – and the warmth of our Cuban neighbors – will stay with me for a long time. I had an absolutely splendid time – and Tatiana was the best guide imaginable!

Click here for Kenneth Schlesinger's report in LACUNY News May 2009.

Click here for Kenneth Schlesinger's article in Lehman College March 2009 (Vol. 9, No. 4).
Colonial dwellings in Old Havana. Photo Kenneth Schlesinger
Educator Melanie Hutchinson,and Librarian Deborah Ward of Magic Valley Alternative High School in Twin Falls, Idaho, raise a toast to their time in Havana.


Expert Cuban guide and translator Tatiana.
Expert Cuban guide and translator Tatiana in action. She's expressive, kind and helpful.

Expert Cuban guide and translator Tatiana.
An Idaho teacher and an Idaho librarian share observations
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Melanie Hutchinson, Educator, Magic Valley Alternative High School
Twin Falls, Idaho
Deborah Ward, Librarian, Magic Valley Alternative High School
Twin Falls, Idaho

We returned from our trip to Cuba. Our visit coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution, a new administration there and here, and was filled with hope and optimism for a closer relationship between our two countries. The 18th Annual Havana International Book Fair we attended was held in La Cabaña Fortress, a military outpost built in the 1700's to protect Havana Harbor from pirates and the other European superpowers. We were in awe at the tens of thousands of Cubans who celebrated books along with many publishers and writers from all over the world. Our purchases may give Magic Valley Alternative High School the largest international collection of books in Idaho! Old Havana was the oldest place we have ever been. It dates back to the early 1500's when Cuba was a colony of Spain. Here we witnessed colonial architecture at plazas and cathedrals, and saw Ernest Hemingway's – a resident of Idaho, too – stomping grounds. We visited schools as well as the University of Havana. We learned about the literacy campaign of 1961, and new literacy materials (titled: Yo Sí Puedo – Yes I Can) that is being used all over Latin America, Spain, Canada, and many other countries. We also learned about important new educational reforms that are being implemented throughout Cuba. We visited several art galleries and met with members of UNEAC (Union of Cuban Writers and Artists) founded in 1959. We attended musical and dance performances and developed an enthusiastic appreciation of Cuban art, music and dance – first hand.

Libraries are where it's at in Cuba! We loved the José Martí National Library, Casa de las Américas National Library, and all of the school libraries we visited. The people of Cuba were warm and welcoming. We enjoyed a block party in a neighborhood in the suburbs of Havana that included rich conversation, great food, music and dancing. We were thrilled to carry with us so many donation from Idaho: soap, shampoo, tooth brushes, Idaho pins and other treasures from the Department of Commerce and the Idaho Potato Commission, a book written by Lori Otter [partner of Idaho governor Butch Otter], pencils, etc. All were so appreciated. Thank you again for making this trip possible for us.
Vancouver writer and blogger on Cuba coffee!
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Lori Thiessen, Journalist, Commentator, Editor-in-Chief, Caffe Culture
Vancouver, British Columbia

I am having a fantastic time. Already thinking about planning a return visit! Our guide Tatiana is a goddess of plenty – plenty of laughter, smiles, surprises and information.

Click here for Lori Thiessen's blog on attempts to work online from Cuba.

Click here for more blog observations by Lori Thiessen on coffee encounters in Cuba.
Poster detail for the 18th International Book Fair in 2009.
Wonderful videos of the Book Fair from Des Moines, Iowa
February 2009 Official Havana International Book Fair Tour
Mireille Djenno, Librarian, Cowles Library, Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa

I was privileged to be part of a group of North American librarians who visited Cuba on the occasion of the 18th Havana International Book Fair, known in Spanish as the Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana. Cowles Library and the Drake University Center generously supported my trip for the Humanities. The Book Fair attracts a huge number of visitors every year from all segments of Cuban society and all parts of the island.

Click here for many wonderful short video clips by Mireille Djenno from her 2009 Librarians tour.
Was an opportunity to meet fabulous people
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour

Read my full report.
Anna Maria Preyde
Victoria, British Columbia

Don and I had been to Cuba six times previously – each time traveling on our own, not with a tour. So this trip was quite worthy and provided the opportunity to meet fabulous people, to see great sights, hear delightful music and learn so much. Read more of this fascinating report…
Cuban Revolution is strong 50 years on
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour

Read my full report.
Judy Koch, Community Activist
Toronto, Ontario

I had the good fortune to go to Cuba for the 50th anniversary celebration of the revolution. A trip highlight was a celebration hosted for our group at a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. We also went to a school where they trained young people from Latin America to be doctors. I recommend that everyone go to Cuba to see it first hand. My report mentions many other fantastic activities. Read more of this fascinating report…
Good companionship on tour
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour
Maynard Seider, College Professor
Amherst, Massachusetts
Sheila Peltz Weinberg, Rabbi
Amherst, Massachusetts

We really enjoyed and appreciated the trip, the good companionship, the feeling of being honorary Canadians, and being in Cuba at such an auspicious anniversary. Our return home to Massachusetts went well. At the U.S. border, the guard simply asked us where we had been – we told her Canada and Cuba. She showed no reaction and asked me what we had bought. We said books and CDs and she waved us through. She did quickly look through our passports but if she noticed the Cuban stamp on mine (I had asked the Cuban passport control man at the Havana airport to stamp mine (as we had legal papers), she made no mention of it.

Dr. Manuel Yepe and Rosemary Vogt.
Dr. Manuel Yepe and Rosemary Vogt.
Learning about island life and culture directly from Cubans
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour
Rosemary Vogt, Lecturer, Red River College
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Just a note to say how much I appreciated learning about Cuban life and culture directly from Dr. Manuel Yepe and Dr. Marta Nüñez during my visit. I will do all I can to encourage more people to visit Cuba for a "non-resort" experience, so they too can learn more about the achievements of the Cuban Revolution. In the weeks since I returned to Canadad, Cuba is constantly on my mind. I would like to do more to support Cuban self-determination. If there is any way I can provide assistance please let me know.
Cuba gets its claws into you
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour
Brenda Titus
Long Beach, California

The longer away we get from Cuba in time, the more it seems to grip my mind. An odd island, it sure gets its claws into you. Our trip was without equal. Visiting Cuba on the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution was truly an experience that must be felt in the heart. From arriving at the airport and feeling the tropical night air to walking along the Malecón, listening to music, it was a beautiful thing. During our trip, we had the opportunity to experience many of the traditional tourist sights of Havana, such as the squares and plazas of Old Havana, the peace of sitting on the Malecón watching the world go by, as well as The Museum of the Revolution and the Museum of Art. Participating in the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution tour provided us with a far more rich experience of Cuba than we could have ever experienced on our own. Meeting local community members at a CDR event, visiting CENESEX, touring an Agroponico and the Medical School, along with lectures about Cuban society all helped us learn as much as we could about the impact of 50 years of revolution on the Cuban people. Having tour guides who were accessible and open to answering our questions about their lives and their culture helped all of us in our group have a truly once in a lifetime experience. Well, actually hopefully not once in a lifetime- our group developed such a bond in our experience that we hope that Cuba Explorer Tours will host a 60th Anniversary of the Revolution trip so that we can all have a reunion in 10 years! Visiting Cuba opens up whole worlds of things to think about and wrap your brain around.
A destination for the mind, body, and soul
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour
Timothy Titus, Lecturer, Department of Educational Psychology, Administration, and Counseling, California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, California

Traveling to Cuba is an intense experience that demands all of your senses. From the minute you leave the airport you can feel the lush, humid, tropical air. The unmistakable scent of the Caribbean mingles with the urban airs of Havana's electric streets while your taste buds hum with the sweetness of sugar, the fire of rum, and the hot milkiness of a perfectly made café con leche. Your ears bring you the pleasure of Cuban jazz, salsa, and rhumba. Your lucky eyes feast on the crystal blue sea, the historical wonder of Old Havana, and the rugged beauty of the Escambray Mountains. But there is so much more. Your five senses combine to give you a greater sense, a sense of awareness. With every person you hug, you feel the warmth of the people. With every bite of your meal you sense the hardships these people must endure, and. At times, your nose sometimes confirms it. Talking to the people and witnessing their daily lives helps you understand the full context of their lives. Cuba is a feast for the mind. Every hour – every minute – you become more enthralled in resilience of this amazing little island. It is a place where, despite 50 years of fighting the Goliath, David has prevailed. Despite starvation, they are full. Despite deprivation, they are happy. It is vibrant in the face of aggressive despair. It defies your preconceived notions and rebuilds them from the ground-up. Cuba is a destination for the mind, body, and soul. At the end of your experience you will leave Cuba, but Cuba will not leave you.
Traveled with a group of like-minded people
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour
Martha Tracey
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Don Mitchell
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Don and I had been to Cuba six times previously – each time traveling on our own, not with a tour. Having very little Spanish, we tried to learn as much as we could about places we went. For instance, we quizzed the manager of an organopónico near the Plaza de la Revolución a few years ago, aided only by an English-Spanish phrase book. On our first trip in 1982, we stayed at Guardalavaca. Our hosts seemed puzzled by our request to visit a hospital and a childcare center, being more accustomed to tourists looking for the beach life and shopping. As Cuba addicts, we found just what we needed with Cuba Explorer Tours. It gave us access to a number of organizations and institutions, and provided knowledgeable translators. We met Cubans of all ages, and saw them on their home turf. The very nature of the tour helped guarantee we'd be traveling with a group of like-minded people. It was a pleasure to meet the group. We hope to stay in touch with several of the new friends we made.
Check out this article on Cuban health care
December 2008 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour
Sharon Sjerven
New Westminster, British Columbia

Thought you might want to read this article (below) my friend wrote in the summer of 2007. It summarizes well what's been accomplished with Cuba's health care system. The interviews with the medical professionals are very interesting, too. When I was in Cuba four or five years ago I went to the village where they were treating the kids from Chernobyl. I'll never forget witnessing the loving, quality care they were receiving.

Yes Magazine Cuba's Cure: Why is Cuba exporting its health care miracle to the world's poor?