Expert's Corner

Hello! My name is Jacqui Birchall. I am a retired Surrey (BC) high school teacher. My students and I travelled to Cuba with this wonderful people. It was an amazing experience for my students, students who cried as we left Cuba. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about how to organize your trip and any other questions you may have about Cuba. I have been lucky enough to have spent time teaching in Cuba and I have travelled extensively throughout the island. I invite you to take your classroom to Cuba with us!
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Contact Authentic Cuba Travel at authenticubatours.com

USA Cuba Travel

U.S. Cuba Legal Travel It is possible for American citizens to go to Cuba legally. However, before embarking on your Cuba trip planning, be aware of all updates, revised restrictions and the intricacies of the

Cuba Travel Regulations
"The International Jazz Festival was amazing and we got to listen and see artist that we would never have encountered. We had heard about the music in Cuba from friends that have attended the Jazz festival in the past. Your organization of this tour made it so easy for us as we did not have to worry about planning our day. The trip was first class and our thanks again for putting together an amazing package." George & June Kawaguchi
"I want to thank you for organizing the perfect trip to Cuba! Dana and I had a wonderful time and we will definitely go back there with your company-hopefully sooner than later. Merilyis (I apologize for the botched spelling!!) was perfect.-warm, very informative, organized, timely--everything you would want a guide to be. We were very happy with the way everything went." Diane Nothnagel
"Thank you, I had an amazing trip with Authentic Cuba Travel. I am getting ready for a show in a few weeks, so I will send more feedback and images once that has passed. The trip itself, the studio visits and the range and quality of the art and artists we met exceeded my expectations. David, our guide, was patient, helpful, and knowledgeable. He was a good bridge between having a "tourist" view of Cuba and a facilitated, "real" view." Lynn Tomaszewski
"I just wanted to say thank you for arranging our trip to Cuba. I just got back yesterday and the trip was incredible. I LOVE Cuba and can't wait to go back. The trip was very organized, informative, and I learned so much. Alexis, our local guide, was the best-- so much knowledge!! And our driver, Ramon was so much fun. I also loved the music we had with the new group Autotiempo...it was a private show! So good!!! We had a lovely, memorable experience." Nahyon Lee
"We found Authentic Cuba Travel to be wonderfully helpful, not only with the arrangements for the Film Festival tour, but for extra add-on arrangements. As for the tour itself, a week in the Hotel Nacional and a pass to the film festival add up to pure happiness. Everything else was icing on the cake. Can’t wait until next year’s film festival!" Kathy Kahn
"The trip went absolutely wonderful. Tatiana, our tour guide, was superb and dealt with the different situations in the most professional and kind way. None of the students were in sociology, politics, economics etc. so many concepts might have been irrelevant or over their head to them or over emphasized, but this is the reason I wanted to take them to Cuba. In that perspective it was great and Tatiana was great, the many people we met were great, and the driver was outstanding." Jessica D. Cassleman, Washington State University, USA
"We were welcomed by Deacon Juan Rios in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We distributed rosaries, holy cards, medicine and financial aid to the Deacon. During our second day, we visited the "Santovenia Senior Center," a Catholic nursing home for the elderly run by Sister Consuelo Pena..." Rev. Thaddeus Dzieszko
"We all had a really good trip to Cuba. It's a fascinating country with a lot of potential for the future. The people were warm and welcoming. Mirelys was as good a guide. She couldn't have been more cooperative. Efrin, our driver was also very capable. We appreciated all that you and Authentic Cuba Travel did to make our trip so rewarding." Arthur Selkowitz
"Thanks you for providing a lovely and educational experience. The guide service was superb. We had Ileana and she was very open, knowledgeable, efficient, and just a lovely lady. You have a gem. The hotels were pleasantly comfortable. The itinerary with visits to several legal entities mixed with local history, architecture and culture was perfect." Marianne Kanning
"I think it was very well planned as a birding trip- I just wish it could have been bigger in scope, but that would have meant more time. I would have liked more music, more art, more theatre, and a chance to sit and watch and take more pictures of real people. But you can't have it all. Thanks so much for all the planning and help in getting us to this wonderful place! " Ralph Van Dusseldorp
"I must say that Mario was an excellent guide as well as Joaquin, the driver. My presentation and Al's went very well at the Jose Marti Nacional Library. I was very moved by ASCUBI (Cuban Association of Librarians) who honored me and Al for our work with Cuban librarians." Herbert Rogers, Librarian and Author
"This trip met all expectations plus so much more. Wonderful opportunity, architecture, sights and experiences. Thank you! Alex is the best –intelligent and knowledgeable. He opened Cuba for us." Linda and Jim Tonn

Cuba Education Tours Reviews


Read Reviews and Testimonials about Cuba Education Tours by Authentic Cuba Travel. Please do contact Authentic Cuba Travel if you would like to hear directly from those who have so generously traveled and published their experiences in our websites


Erik was a fabulous guide and we were all so very impressed by the tour agendas each day. I felt that we started our week with the performance at the Children's Theater with singing and dancing and we had music and dancing in the background throughout the week. So much information and so many big ideas to think about. We couldn't have asked for a better group of people to travel with and we're all staying in touch.

I came away with such an appreciation of Cuban culture-- we have many more similarities than differences. I hope the situation between Cuba and the US continues to open up. We are putting together a Picasa album for the group so we can all add pictures and I'll be sure to add you to the email link.

Thanks so much for all your help with facilitating the trip. I hope to return some day- and hope to learn some more Spanish in the meantime.

Best regards,

Sylvia Pabreza


Authentic Cuba Travel tour participants Anita and Jim Hadley put together the above slideshow on Cuba travel! Video courtesy of Hadleys.
We thank Authentic Cuba Travel for making our trip to Cuba work so smoothly. We appreciated your professional assistance, but also your continual availability to answer any and all questions before we left. We would certainly look to you again for future Cuba travel.

We were most pleased with our guide, Alexis. He was extremely knowledgeable and took care of us and all details in a most professional manner. The bus and driver were also very appreciated.

Cuba is an intriguing place and we would consider a return trip. I will be sending you some photos to forward to Alexis and some that you may wish to use. Hopefully, I will have some of these shortly- busy at home right now with a home improvement project and a photo show I am exhibiting in the month of Aug.

Thank you!

Anita and Jim Hadley

Where do I begin?!?

From start to finish our trip to Cuba was spectacular.

First of all, I must confess that I was nervous about traveling with your company and the legality of it all. Your patient attention to details and reassurance that all was in order was greatly appreciated. You walked us through each and every step and provided us with all the tools necessary for a successful trip. There wasn't a single question that you didn't answer and the trip proceeded without a glitch or misstep.

Then there was the itinerary for this cultural/educational tour. I can't imagine a more comprehensive and well scheduled tour. The schools, the local experts, the museums....all extraordinary. I especially loved the stops at the literacy museum and the fine arts museum. It was really special to meet with Luisa Campos. Her personal involvement with the literacy campaign made our visit that much more meaningful and relevant. I also loved our stop at the Museum of Fine Arts. Our guide (Omar, I believe), was wonderful and the museum's collection completely overwhelmed me. It was quite a pleasant surprise, indeed!

Without a doubt, the single best part of this trip was having Alexis Hernandez as our guide. I can't believe how lucky we were to have someone so knowledgable and articulate. He was flexible, had a great sense of humor, and went the extra mile to make sure we were all comfortable.

I have to tell you, I am a pretty seasoned traveller. I have visited about 60 countries all over the world. This trip to Cuba now ranks as one of my favorite, and Alex is one of the best guides I have ever had. I think it's quite a testimony that one of our group participants this year had taken your tour last year and came back because he found out it was Alex leading the tour again! He is that good, and I hope your company will continue to use him as much as possible. Alex was truly passionate about sharing his Cuba with us, and for that I am forever grateful.

All in all, my Authentic Cuba trip will be one I will always remember. Cuba is a magical, mysterious, magnificent country, and I feel so fortunate that I was able to experience with you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Mary Jones

The Authentic Cuba team is amazing. You may publish anything I send you!!

The only thing I believe needs improvement is the instructions for the gate and check in at Miami International airport before the charter flight to Havana. The instructions should indicate the gate letter where CTS has a counter (within American Airlines terminal at the airport - I think it was 'D') and travelers should be told to go to the counter that says 'travel documents' so they don't wait on line with the other passengers (non participants of the tour) who are checking in for the flight.

On the other hand...every other detail was taken care of. It was so helpful to have the 'orientation letter' with all the details, even how much to tip people. I was not nervous about any aspect of the trip.

I would also like to commend Alexis, our guide, on being the absolute best tour I have ever taken. He is kind, funny, thorough and has the patience of a saint!! He was on time every day, answered every question we had (and there were hundreds of questions from our group!!), gave us good advice and was as knowledgeable as an encyclopedia. He obviously enjoys his job, loves his country and should be recognized for such a great job!!!

Thank you for helping with all the arrangements, paperwork and details. My trip to Cuba was a beautiful experience that I hope I can repeat in the near future.

Eileen Berkowitz

I just wanted to say thank you for arranging our trip to Cuba. I just got back yesterday and the trip was incredible. I LOVE Cuba and can't wait to go back. The trip was very organized, informative, and I learned so much.

Alexis, our local guide, was the best-- so much knowledge!! And our driver, Ramon was so much fun. I also loved the music we had with the new group Autotiempo...it was a private show! So good!!! We had a lovely, memorable experience.

Nahyon Lee

Phenomenal! Our Cuban escort, Alexis did an outstanding job in guiding us through Cuba. Manuel, an excellent driver with a special talent for poetry. Upon prodding him he recited some poems that he wrote. Very touching . The opportunity to see how people lived in their homes was an unexpected and insightful bonus bonus. The tour was well and fully planned with knowledgeable speakers. Vinales valley, a paradise! I would like to go on a tour where we see more parts of Cuba in the future with more free time to explore like some time at a beach where we can swim in the sea. Suggestion to tell people to keep a lot of small change with them and kleenex on them.

We have already been ambassadors in recommending your tours. We have spoken highly of your group and being authentic Cubans as opposed to American organized tours to Cuba. Raul sang at the hotel nacional, the hotel Presidente, on the malecon, and a variety of other places. The exchange with the Cuban singers and Mexican songs was inspirational. Alexis a walking encyclopedia made it all happen. We look forward to another opportunity to travel with you.

Raul and Theresa Bruno

Good morning! Our school year ended here yesterday so I though I'd take a few minutes to write you and thank you for facilitating our group's tour to Cuba!!! There are really no words to describe the impact that the trip had on each member of our group!

Our tour guide and driver, Myrelis and Juan, were simply incredible. We were cared for as if family and indeed we became such a family.

Of course I shared photos and video of my trip with friends upon my return. Some have indeed been inspired to want to travel to Cuba. In particular a friend and dance teacher Margaret Plaza, may have already written you! She was so moved by a video of a performance we witnessed, of the Ballet Lizt Alfonso, that she immediately contacted a renowned Cuban dance troupe with the intent of studying with them in a summer intensive workshop!

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your time and attention that went in to making our trip a success. It has truly changed my life and worldview!

Gordon Hatchett, Brooklyn Academy, USA

I had a wonderful time in Cuba. Our tour guide was excellent and very knowledgeable. Raul showed great professionalism at all times. He is a credit to your organization.

I did appreciate the old charm of the hotel decor and the fact that it was not a standard hotel. The narrow staircase and smallness gave it a special charm and quality. The plane mishap could not be avoided as you mentioned and the diversion to the wonderful restaurant was a treat and a surprise to all. I loved the entire meal!!

Santiago's visit was also wonderful. The hotel and food were acceptable and I had no complaints with this portion of our trip.

I would return to Cuba and have already begun to organize a group of co-workers and friends to anticipate a trip in the near future.

On another positive note, I gave my itinerary to a man who was sitting next to me on my journey back home and he said that he will review it and possibly make the trip too! He is a retired school teacher and said he always wanted to journey to Cuba! I think that groups can become ambassadors and positive links between the two countries. "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness" per Mark Twain.

Again, thank you Yane and blessing to all at Authentic Cuba Tours. Happy New Year!

Yvonne Mcclinton

It was a wonderful trip and I would recommend it to anyone! I certainly hope to go back!

Many thanks to Authentic Cuba Travel for all your team's efforts. I really enjoyed the trip very much and appreciate all the preparation that went into it. It was a shame to lose the time in Santiago, but I have had far worse delays and travel experiences, and we were able to do most of the planned activities anyway; these things can't be helped. On my return, I had my documents in order but had no questions at all in Houston and breezed through customs and immigration. Thanks to your preparation I wasn't worried at all.

I've just returned home so won't comment much now, but I wanted to tell you I especially enjoyed the visit to the Fuster home and lunch there, I loved the art museum, really liked meeting your professor friends in Santiago, and was very interested in the contrast between Havana and Santiago.

Raul did an excellent job under some hard circumstances, and I thought the hotels were fine. Not great service at the Park View but a great location, so I was much more positive about it than some members of the group. I would certainly stay there again. Las Americas was also fine and the people there were very nice. Since all our activities were planned out, the location didn't matter.

I always like an active schedule and liked going in a group because I don't speak Spanish, but my only suggestion would be to include one free afternoon in Havana, or a couple of shorter opportunities to pursue individual interests. I would have visited galleries or done some shopping at the handicraft market and other stores to supplement the organized activities.

Thanks,

Alison Conner

Our tour guide (Alexis) was one of the best tour guides I have ever had. I have a PhD in Latin American literature and I had read extensively about Cuban history before joining this tour, and yet I learned so much from Alexis on this trip. He was incredibly knowledgeable about so many aspects of Cuban life: politics, history, art, music, sports, relationships- Alexis was also entertaining, comical; he had us all on the edge of our seats when he spoke.

It was obvious to me that he had done his homework because he was prepared for every possible question, which he answered enthusiastically and creatively. Alexis maintained a balanced view; for example, was able to point out the benefits of the Cuban schools and health care system while explaining the problems inherent in Cuban's economy. At the end of just 7 days, I felt like all of my questions about Cuba had been answered by an intelligent, informed professional with whom I also had shared drinks and personal stories.

Alexis was even interested in me, personally. He never took a break from didn't mind being "on call" 24 hours a day for the group. But his lessons on Cuba didn't end with the tour; Alexis was constantly suggesting books and documentaries to learn more about Cuba when we returned to the U.S. What an intellectual. I am so grateful to Alexis!

Daniel Gilden, PhD

The trip was wonderful, and I am very happy I went. Most of the planned activities/visits were great, and every day was interesting and meaningful. I especially want you to know how grateful I am for our tour guide, Alexis Hernandez- he must be one of the best in Cuba. His expertise in so many fields was delightful, and his passion for sharing Cuba was much appreciated. Our driver, Danilo, was also a gem- courteous, pleasant, and extremely good at his job.

I particularly enjoyed the dance lesson, the visit to the Literacy Museum, the walk around Habana Vieja, Bellas Artes, the drive south, and the Habana visits to a center of Afro-Cuban religions/Salvatore art gallery and to Fuster's house, garden, and art. Alex was terrific at responding to particular interests of our small group and improvising beautifully if unexpected changes in the schedule were required. The resort near Trinidad was great, and I liked my 5th floor corner room at Park View, as well as its staff. The restaurants chosen for lunch were good and also attractive.

A visit to the Literacy Museum doesn't sound like a show-stopper, but turned out to be one of the most illuminating activities of my 2011 trip to Cuba. Photographs documented the campaign; 40's style murals romanticized it. In 1961, over 100,000 young students poured from their family homes following Fidel's call for youth to join the Revolution's second great campaign: to end illiteracy in the country. This appeal to youthful idealism proved to be brilliant.

Museum Director Luisa Campos, the tiny bespectacled lady who had welcomed us, told how a number of students died in the one year campaign, some because of sickness or accidents, but others killed by actions of the counter-revolutionaries who were still fighting in the south.

Cuba has a special education system, as we learned at a different meeting with Education Trade Union heads. The children designated as "special ed" are a small percentage, and much smaller than in many regions of the U.S, according to a U.S. teacher present.

Additionally, we visited a trade school Workshop School in Old Havana where young people up to age 25 learn building restoration skills applicable to the deteriorating colonial buildings in Havana Vieja. Within the first year, students begin projects for existing buildings with wood, glass, and iron.

At the National Ballet School, dancers from Cuba and many other countries practice their art in a lavish colonial building, beginning the day on a sunlit Carrara marble staircase which leads to their studios and classrooms. Dancers are admitted by audition, and they study academic courses, often related to dance, as well as ballet, contemporary dance, character acting, and makeup. Dance students from outside Havana are housed in an attractive modern dormitory.

A beautiful new campus of rounded, musically flowing structures was nearly finished in the north-western part of town, but Prima Ballerina, choreographer, and school head Alicia Alonso opted to remain centrally located. "Alicia has a strong personality," smiled our guide. The new, empty campus of brick domes with curved glass walls-to-come, which neighbors the other National Art School buildings, remains uncompleted, though current plans have been made to finish them.

The turbulent history of the National Art School, its young and original architects, and its striking architecture are discussed by Gary Marx in a fascinating article cited below. The buildings, originally a dream of Fidel's, forsaken by shifts in ideology or economic constraints, overtaken by jungle and since reclaimed, have been the subject of international interest and concern.

Susan Ward


Authentic Cuba Travel tour participant Mel Rosas (left) poses with Eduardo Roca "Choco" (right), one of Cuba's most important painters today during a private visit to the sudio of the artist that was part of the Cuba Education Tour III, March 2012. Photo courtesy of Melvin Rosas. More photos on Authentic Cuba Travel's Cuba Educational Tour by Mel Rosas at Facebook.
This was my second trip planned through Authentic Cuba Travel. I had such a positive experience with the first trip; I decided to book a second. Initially, I learned of A.C.T through the internet or having received an email.

Our visits to educational institutions were informative. My favorite visit was to La Universidad de Bellas Artes. As a university professor of painting and drawing in the US, this visit was clearly within my realm of interests. I would have liked to have spent more time meeting and talking to some of the professors and students.

In fact, I would have enjoyed staying in Cuba longer to talk to more people and visit more places. Though I'm not familiar with, if any, educational institutions visited by tourists; I probably would not have visited these places on my own.

I love the culture and the passion that the Cuban people have for their culture. There are bands on every corner comprised of quality musicians playing traditional son, while the smells are a mixture of Cuban cigars, rum, and ropa vieja. The Cuban people may not have everything they want, but they seem to have what they need, and nevertheless, possess a greater zest for life than what I see here in the US.

Our coach was in very good condition and our driver, Antonio was always smiling.

Throughout my stay, I found the accommodations to be very good and the service and staff were excellent. I would often strike up conversations with the room service staff at Hotel National.

I enjoyed traveling to Cuba's UNESCO Historical Cities: Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Both towns were colorful, lovely and I very much enjoyed the museums. Museo romantico sticks out in my mind with some outstanding interiors.

I will recommend Authentic Cuba Travel to others.

My only complaint is that the trip is too short. Not that I would be able to travel throughout the country for a month or two- a week is a long time to be away from one's family. However, I feel like I leave Cuba before I'm fully saturated from the experience. Perhaps another trip?

Mel Rosas

A quick note to thank you for making the Education Tour to Cuba exceed my expectations. Visits to the carefully selected itinerary of professionally guided trips to a variety of schools, art academies, community theaters, galleries, museums, colonial buildings, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Havana and Trinidad were better than advertised. Fellow members of the tour were an exceptional group of considerate, intelligent and interesting folks from throughout the U.S. The on-the-ground tour leader was knowledgeable, professional and flexible.

In preparing for the trip the staff at Authentic Cuba Travel promptly and accurately answered every question asked. The staff even assisted by conducting research on the names and addresses of academic and professional contacts I needed to make in Havana. The documentation required for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba to assure legal compliance was forwarded well in advance of the trip relieving any anxiety for anxious travelers.

Overall the trip was outstanding. Thank you!

Professor Michael E. Jones

I'm sorry for the bit of a delay in getting back to you after our trip. I want to let you know how wonderful everything was! Everyone enjoyed the trip very much and will be eager to return! Everything went very smoothly, and the guide, Eric Garcia, was wonderful! Thanks for putting together a great trip for us :)

I should be able to put together another group for our fall break in October 2016. I will be in touch about it as plans materialize. Additionally, three friends and I may be interested in one of the summer 2016 tours.

Did I receive Educator Loyalty Points for this trip?

Thanks,

Professor William Clayton Quilliam, Ph.D., CPA, CIA

Cuba, Island of music and art

On Jan 16th (A great way to start the new year) 26 intrepid Olli Santa Clara travelers met at an airport hotel in Miami in preparation to take our charter flight to Havana the Following day.

We were aware of a lifting of restrictions for American travelers, which was going to start on the day of our arrival in Havana. When we arrived in Havana, there was press all over the place and some of us were interviewed.

This was the start of our 7 night Cuban trip filled with many interesting excursions and lectures interspersed with music and art. We were lucky to have an excellent guide, Erik, (a former English teacher) who was very articulate and knowledgeable about his country, and terrific communicator. We learned many things, not only about the geography and history of Cuba, but the daily life of Cubans today.

An interesting note about eating as a tourist in Cuba: Since 1995 there have been Paladares, privately owned small restaurants in Cuba, but only recently have they had the freedom to serve a broad range of food choices. We ate very well at the Paladares. There was excellent lobster and other seafood, and very well prepared vegetables, but the portions were large and often one dish was large enough to share between 2 people.

Music was everywhere, on the street, in restaurants and even snack areas of famous sights like the Hemmingway Home had its stand for Mojitos and tourist goods, and of course there was music.

In all we stayed five nights in Havana at the Hotel Nacional , an elegant1930s building and now a World Heritage site, which hosted many glamorous film stars in the 30s and 40s, and also was the scene of Mafia meetings in the 40s. The buildings and grounds are lovely, and the large gracious terrace on the Malecon is a great place to relax in the evening after a day of sightseeing.

Havana is large city, where 2 million of the 11 million residents of Cuba live. Havana has some picturesque areas, and a very eclectic Old square, Plaza Vieja filled with wonderful architecture from the 17th century that fits very well with more recent Art Nouveau buildings. We had a very interesting walking tour with Erik, and enjoyed a colorful temporary exhibit called "Buddy Bears"; fiberglass bears with individual designs created by different artists on behalf of their own countries.

Here are some of the things we did in Havana during our busy 4 days there: a visit to the excellent National Art Museum, a chance to tour the National Art school and talk with students there, visits to several artist studios, and a talk given by a very interesting architect and civic planner. One of our lunches was at Jose Fuster's home and studio. Jose Fuster is often called the Picasso of Cuba, and the neighborhood which he has transformed with his colorful and free spirited mosaics has been named Fusterlandia, One of the high points, was the visit to the Hemmingway home Finca La Vigia, about 10 miles outside of Havana. It is a gracious old restored farmhouse where he wrote several of his books. Everyone knows the old American cars in Havana now used as taxis, and as a special treat we were able to ride around some of the residential areas in Havana in these marvelous antiques.

Jose Fuster's work

The 2 nights we did not spend in Havana, we stayed in the very comfortable and attractive hotel Jagua, in the lovely colonial town of Cienfuegos about a four-hour drive from Havana, and located on the southern coast. From there we were able to visit the sugar growing area around Trinidad, and understand the importance of sugar in Cuban history and enjoy the outstanding colonial town of Trinidad and its beautiful municipal museum.

When I look at all the things we did during our week in Cuba, I am astonished. We visited 4 Unesco World Heritage sights, had many interesting lectures and had several opportunities to enjoy excellent music, but what stands out in my mind above all, is the beautiful and resilient spirit of the people I met. It was a memorable trip.

Anne Rutherdale, Travel Coordinator for Santa Clara University.

Thank you so much for everything. The trip surpassed my expectations and was one of the best I've ever had. Your patience answering all my questions and concerns was so appreciated. Please tell rest of your team how much we enjoyed the trip. I've already recommended you to several friends who expressed interest in traveling to Cuba.

As you've probably heard from others, our group got along amazingly well. We seemed to become instant friends. And everything went so smoothly....loved every minute of it.

Our Cuban guide was terrific; knowledgeable, easygoing and most of all, fun. And we felt we were in such good hands with our driver who expertly maneuvered through those narrow roads!

I think I won the dubious prize for most photos taken...and it has been quite a job going through them. As soon as I find a way to post them I'll let you know. I've attached a few that I showed in my photgraphy class last night. More to come!

Thanks again for everything,

Patricia Sherman

My husband and I just came back from Authentic Cuba Travel's Educational/Cultural tour, which took place March 23-March 30th, 2013.

We were so excited about the trip beforehand. We read the itinerary with such anticipation about the places we'd go to and the people whom we would meet..

Well, the tour did not match our expectations.

But wait---hold the phone! Fooled you! It actually exceeded our expectations!

You see, on paper, most anything could sound good. What differentiates a good tour from a great one, is the guide who leads it. In our case, we were blessed by having the marvelous Mirelys! As far as we are concerned, there could be no better tour guide. She was the perfect combination of wit, knowledge,, diplomacy and candor---what you really need if you want to know the inside scoop on Cuba... Moreover, she had relentless energy to keep our group moving in an engaged and amazed fashion. I'm convinced that she imparted so much information to us in those 7 days that we feel that we now have a PHD in Cuban Studies. Regarding her interpreting skills, she is top notch. Nothing went by me unnoticed, as I am bilingual.

Our chauffeur, Juanito, was a lovely gentleman, un caballero, in every sense of the word. My husband commented that he was one of the best drivers ever. Oh, and he is a great Salsa dancer too! So smooth---just like his driving! Thanks for the dances, Juanito! (wink)

As I said, we just got back. We are still savoring every bit that we can. What is certain now is that we will be back. We thank Mirelys, in large part, for that. So, we will not say adios to Cuba, but hasta luego!

Joanie Marcus

The educational experience was very rewarding and authentically educative. Travel arrangements were very well handled before tour departure.

Meeting the Cuban people at the various stops was great. The roof-top music and dancing, the lunch at Fuster's studio, the schools (teachers and students) were great. I enjoyed the most the architecture and scenery. I would have enjoyed a guided bus tour of the city. The architect/city planner was excellent.

We stayed at the Hotel Nacional. The accommodations were very good and the service was fine. The hotel in Trinidad was simpler, but fine. The staff was responsive and nice to interact with.

Traveling to Cuba's UNESCO Historical Cities: Old Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad was all wonderful to experience. The trip was well planned. Good choice of restaurants. The first day or two were a little too busy.

Thanks for the excellent experience. I most certainly recommend Authentic Cuba Travel to others.

Helen Marks

First off, we love Raul right back!!! He was amazing. Informative, tons of patience and resourceful. I can't say enough about how great he was managing a group so large with so many personalities. And always with a smile and warmth.

We know Authentic Cuba Travel did everything possible to deal with the flight delay and I really appreciate the email/apology. But let me say. Even with the delay hassle it was SOOOOO worth it. Santiago de Cuba was amazing and I'm so glad we spent New Years there. You're right. Most tours don't include it and that's a shame. It has such wonderful warmth.

The hotel in Santiago was ok. Staff were nice. Food was good. Location was great, and I wish I remembered there was a pool and brought my swimsuit....only small issue there was that some of the safes didn't work. But by this point in the trip, I felt comfortable without it.

Again, I loved that the tour went to Santiago and would definitely keep that aspect of the tour. Maybe an afternoon or two free would have been good for some folks who want to do their own thing.

Glad to see how the tour benefits Cubans. I hope to return soon....maybe even at the end of 2012. I'd be happy to have future tour participants contact me regarding my experience.

As the trip sinks in a bit more I may have more comments/questions.

Thanks again to Authentic Cuba Travel for an amazing trip.

Best,

Laura Jack

Aida and I are finally home via Canada. We had the most wonderful time in Cuba and the last couple of days of excursion were fantastic!

As you had said Alexis (not a girl) was a wonderful guide and very informative. Jorge our driver was great and we sure missed him the last night driving home at 4 am!!

We had a good group of friends and unforgettable memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. We hope to be able to repeat this trip soon again. There are so many other places we want to go in Cuba!

As you may have been aware, we had a difficult time at the beginning with the Cuban immigration but the rest of the trip was very smooth! The food, music and Mojitos were fantastic and Aida and I really really enjoyed them.

My favorites were: tour of the scale mode of old Havana, Fuster Studio, Literacy Museum, National Institute of Fine Arts, Cojimar's lunch, visit to Las Terazzas and Vinales (the view was breath taking!) they were all fantastic! There was not a single place that I did not like and was not impressed by!

The only thing was that I stopped taking notes after the first day as I was bombarded with new information! I wish I had a recorder to get all the information Alexis was giving us!

I am working on the pictures and I will send you some.

Thank you all for the most memorable trip!

Love and Peace,

Roya Curtis

It feels good to be home, but I'm still on a "Havana high" and am trying to process all that I learned. It was an unforgettable trip and I'm delighted to give you some feedback.

To begin with, Raul should be declared a Cuban national treasure! He is what made the trip truly memorable. I felt I was able to understand Cuba on a much deeper level than I would have as just a tourist on my own. Besides being so knowledgeable (about so many things - not just Cuba), he was also open and frank. He was warm & personable while always being professional, he answered all our questions without ever showing signs of weariness or impatience, he showed an amazing grace under pressure and handled every situation with cool & calm, and he watched over us like a mother hen. We were a great and interesting group, but not always easy! As with any group, there were different personalities, and Raul handled us all with respect and tolerance.

I'll briefly outline the highlights and disappointments. I understand that the disappointments were unavoidable, and that in Cuba flexibility is required. It was a great disappointment to not be able to see the National Ballet performance. We arranged a tremendously fun evening at the Hotel Nacional, but I had my heart set on seeing the ballet. And I was absolutely heartbroken to have such a short time at the Museo de Bellas Artes (I'm sure Raul told you how they had decided to close early and we were assertively escorted out after only 45 minutes there). It is clearly a world-class museum where I could have easily spent the better part of a day.

I treasured all the activities Authentic Cuba Travel arranged for us and each was fascinating, but it would have been nice to have a little more free time for just shopping or strolling. I understand it's impossible to do it all in such a short stay, so I guess the only solution is a return visit!

Forgive me for starting with the disappointments, but the highlights were too numerous to count! Lunch at Jose Fuster's home was magical! The visit to the Literacy Museum was fascinating and I loved seeing the Cintio Vintier project. I wished I had brought donations of art supplies.

We all loved Santiago de Cuba. It had more of a "town" feel than Havana and we found the people to be friendly and welcoming. The visit to the Basilica was wonderful, and we loved visitng Cayo Granma. I really enjoyed the Museo de Ambiente Historico Colonial - it was a wonderful window into all the influences that have created the Cuban identity. I loved "dancing to our bones" in Parque Cespedes on New Year's Eve, and I also loved Casa de la Trova! It was also special to have our dancing lessons on a rooftop with our own little band.

I took so many wonderful photos that it's hard to select just a few, but here are a few favorites. I can't thank you and your whole staff enough for all the hard work you did in organizing this trip and I would recommend this trip to anyone. My only hope is that the doors will open a bit wider and that someday I'll be able to return with my husband.

I send my thanks and best regards,

Yael Zakon-Bourke

My daughter was studying in Cuba and I searched the internet for tour options. Authentic Cuba Travel seemed to have the best opportunities for me during the time frame I had available and was reasonably priced. Then travel arrangements were handled very prompt, very efficient prior to travel.

Our Cuban tour guide was very helpful for my interests! I'm interested in art and architecture, history and socio-cultural perspectives. Mario was very knowledgeable about a wide range of subject and willing to answer questions and engage in discussions. He provided depth of information and then coordinated a general time frame in various locations around which we could do our own exploration. That is exactly what I want from a tour.

The visit to the schools was very helpful in providing some perspective on the educational focus of Cuba a well as highlighting challenges around technology.

I found it inspiring to see such motivated students in spite of the lack of up-to-date equipment and tools, especially at the Workshop School in Old Havana where students developed fine crafting skills for, in example, window restoration. Using the most basic tools (pencil, paper, shaped and straight blades- no routers or motorized shapers) students created complex joints to repair fan shaped wood window frames.

One fellow traveler and I explored the coral beaches near the Costa Sur and watched a fellow bring a fish on to the beach and scaling it for a barbeque on the other side of the dune. He talked about his fishing and showed us his spear gun, then he and his friend invited us for a "breakfast" of fish accompanied by a bottle of rum. Though we didn't take him up on it, it was a highlight of the trip to meet this group.

I really enjoyed Mario's ability to talk about a wide variety of topics including Cuban history, Art and Culture, and gently address the implications of US/Cuban and global politics on Cuban society, especially his ability to link economic impact to policy (might be just me that was interested in this).

Hotel Nacional was good to excellent. The breakfast buffet was so good with a wide variety of choices.

I would have liked more time in Old Havana, and in Cienfuegos but I realize that day we had some time restrictions getting to the resort that night. I'm hoping to make another visit to Cuba and visit some of these places again.

I hope this was just the beginning of several visits to Cuba. I will be working on my Spanish so I can be more conversational next time. I'm interested in art, dance, history, etc, and Cuba is the most interesting place I've ever been!

Rochelle Harper

The trip was amazing! Cuba is a great country to visit and tour!

Of all the trips that I have taken with students and guides, I've never encountered a guide as good as Alexis Hernandez. He went above and beyond to please everyone on the trip and his knowledge of Cuba is so vast, it was just amazing!

The bus driver, Jorge, was great, too, very courteous and puntual. The bus was also very comfortable. All aspects of the trip were perfectly planned, before, during, and after the trip. I would love to return next summer, if it fits into my schedule!

After I have a chance to go through the 800+ photos I took, I'll forward a few to you. I normally don't take many pictures at all, so that should tell you how much I enjoyed the trip! I will also print out the ones that I took at schools and send them to you so that they can be forwarded to the children in Cuba.

The trip was fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about Cuba. The only problem I had was coming back into Philadelphia with the immigration officer, who wasn't familiar with the regulations, but I made it back, so that is all that matters.

Thank you for everything...you and the whole team! It was a trip that I will never forget!

Kristel Riegel-Martinez

Our trip with Erik Garcia was the best! He is an outstanding guide. We enjoyed his information, the daily schedule, and the Cuban people.

Customs in Milwaukee was easy. We followed your advice and put Cuba on our form even though we had come through Cancun.

We do have two suggestions that you might want to share with future travelers:

(1) Retain your boarding pass from your flight to Cancun. Cubana Airlines asks for it to determine your time spent in Cancun. If you spend more than 24 hrs., you have to pay a tax of $25. per person. (I had disposed our boarding passes; I was fortunate that the Cubana agent accepted the itinerary I had in my folder.)

(2) Wear insect repellent at the Trinidad resort. Those of us who went to the beach are paying with numerous bites. (I am still itching!)

Thank you for all of your help, Yane! We are spreading the word that Authentic Cuba Travel is the company to travel with to this wonderful country!

Marcia James

My trip to Cuba with Authentic Cuba Travel was more than I had hoped or expected. First, our guide, Alex, was invaluable. He was knowledgeable, conscientious, relaxed, and friendly. I was particularly impressed that he took our questions seriously. When people asked him things that he thought everyone should hear the answer to, he made it a point to tell the whole group. I was particularly impressed that he actually made written note of questions and took the time to respond to those questions. He worked well with the bus driver and clearly went beyond expectations in making alternative arrangements when a venue was closed or otherwise would not work out. He even called an artist friend of his in Trinidad (or was it Cienfuegos?), who allowed us to visit his home with about 15 minutes' notice. Not many people would allow 20+ strangers into their home with 15minutes notice! Alex really helped make the trip very special.

I have been in several countries in Central America, so I was making comparisons between Cuban and these countries. One impression I have from Cuba is that there seemed to be music everywhere. Walking the streets of Havana, we encountered street musicans. Many restaurants for lunch or dinner had live music. We experienced a series of wonderful performers in the living rooom of a house--arranged as part of the tour--almost a private club. One of the men in the senior center we visited asked if he could sing for us--a rich, clear voice from one his late 80s. We even encountered a couple of Cuban men serenading a woman sitting on a park bench!

Since returning, people have asked me if I felt safe. I never felt any sense of fear and, in fact, have seen more military presence in countries in Central America. Among the other reflections I have: This was basically a week without advertising. While there are billboards, they are dedicated to the Revolution. It was interesting to experience a different lifestyle that is not tied to consumerism. Cubans on the streets--the Prado, etc.--were friendly, approachable, willing to help. When one of our group fell, there were people right there to help her up. Accomodations were fine; there were no glitches with rooms, check ins, etc. The briefings, information, and documents Authentic Travel sent before the trip were complete and helpful--very professionally done!

While there are many other memories, I think this is enough. Once again, thanks for all you all did for us. I really appreciate it. Peace,

Daniel Jares

I am pre-k through 8th grade Art Teacher and Librarian in a Catholic School. I travelled to Cuba with these wonderful people in August for 7 days. It was an amazing experience for me. I lost my husband 19 mos. ago and this trip rejuvenated me for another school year. Yane Marquez; Alexis Hernandez, our Cuban guide; and Pedro Sanfiel of CTS, took great care of me and my travel arrangements. I have travelled on other educational tours to Costa Rica and Europe, and this program can hold its own with them.

The hotel arrangements, restaurants/food, and tour bus were great. The itinerary was intense and informative. It kept us on the go! I loved the road trip from Havana, Cienfuegos to Trinidad-such a beautiful, green landscape. I took a leap of faith when I decided to apply for the Cuba Educator IV tour. I don’t regret it for a moment and would go again in a heartbeat. It was wonderful! Thanks to Yane and all the other members of the Authenticubatours.com team for all they do to present Cuba to us, Americans, and the world.

Theresa Sena

Thanks Yane! I've been talking to friends and colleagues about my time in Cuba and feel I can't fully express what a wonderful educational and personal experience this was for me. I have never gone on an organized tour like this before. I was pleased to find good people to share my time and experiences with. It was a nice size group...twelve of us, which made it possible to ask questions of our guide and allowed for easy discussions etc. in such a small group.

The week was full of well chosen cultural visits focusing on the arts but also allowed us time to choose some activities on our own. I felt our tour was well organized and our guide was helpful with paperwork or personal requests. One of the standout highlights for me was the salsa lessons we received one evening from a dance instructor at her home. There was an amazing musical group to play for us on a rooftop overlooking a square in Old Havana. This was just an amazing experience and something I would recommend to friends and coworkers.

Susan Sander

Upon returning from our recent Cuba Educational Travel Tour sponsored by Authentic Cuba Travel, I am so pleased to report that the entire trip was extremely well organized and provided our entire group with a very real and enlightened understanding of contemporary Cuba. Our tour guide, Alexis, as well as our bus driver and the various museum/school/community center guides we encountered, presented our group with genuine experiences related to culture, history, economics, and schooling in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, Cuba.

Individuals associated with the tour went ‘above and beyond’ to answer any and all of our questions and to incorporate personal requests for additional information and experiences into our itinerary! As a teacher and a teacher educator, the tour afforded me the opportunity to further understand elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education from a global, international perspective.

Rebecca Swanson Gehrke, PhD

We had an excellent time. Thanks so much for all the preparation and work that went into preparing our trip.

To begin with Alexis was fantastic and left no stone unturned. He was so knowledgable about Cuban history and politics as well as other wonderful trivia about the country. Danilo the driver was the best I've had ever on a tour. He was cautious and resilient and we appreciated all the care he took in getting us places.

I agree that the Hotel Presidente was very nice, comfortable, and well located. The Hotel Costa del Sur was just fine.

The director of the arts school in Trinidad made us feel at home and really allowed us to explore his school. He showed us all around, although they were also on vacation and encouraged us to stay. I loved that.

Your list of paladares was great and we tried many of them. I think it is so important to get out and try those restaurants, so as not to leave Cuba thinking the food is like the hotel food.

I would really like to recommend your tour company to teachers in MA and especially to the teachers in Arlington. I may send out an email soon and cc you on it so that they know to contact you. I am hellbent on making it more accessible to US citizens, but I believe by having more people see it they will become more passionate about it.

Yes, I am happy for travelers to contact me as a reference.

Thanks for everything. I think I will be going again....

Laura Goldstein

good morning Yane.. i had a fantastic time in Cuba.. your country is extremely fascinating.. i posted highlights of the trip from my website.. i will have another one for my blog describing some of cultural sites we visited (schools, maternity ward, etc.) Can you forward this link to Alexis? I cannot seem to send the link to Cuba from the US.

http://alcarlayblog.com/acarlayphoto/portfolio/cuba/

Al Carlay

I just wanted to thank you and ACT again for providing such an incomparable experience in Cuba. It gave me such equal parts inspiration and introspection about many issues.

The beauty of the places we visited, the generosity and kindness of the Cubans we met, and the thought-provoking commentary that Alexis provided the entire time, were beyond my expectations. I feel very lucky to have seen Cuba at an unusual time and place in history and hope that in the years to come, it can maintain many of its successes for the people and all of its national dignity and pride. My sincere gratitude,

Dave Tatro

Cuba exceeded my expectations and I thank you for all that you did for us. These are the things that helped me; each email and call that I sent was answered promptly. This did a lot to establish my confidence in traveling with your company.

The directions were easy to follow and, although I felt nervous up until departure, I felt confident that all would be ok. One suggestion that I would make is to encourage people to do there paper work several weeks in advance. We were getting the travel affidavit notarized the Saturday before departure and we ran into some trouble as the bank notary would not do it. Luckily we have a friend that helped us out. I was glad that I had not waited until closer to the departure date. Also, we had a small hitch ordering our money from the bank, they would not process it on a Saturday. We had a week to work everything out but I wish I had not cut it so close because it became stressful on top of everything else.

The $50 a day is more than ample. I had been thinking that it would not be enough but it was a comfortable margin.

I was very impressed by each of the professionals that gave us our tours. Meeting with the architect first really helped me to understand the city, I am glad that it was first.

I was happy at each of the institutions that we visited.

I loved Alex, he is smart and personable and energetic. On the last day of the tour most of our group went out together with Alex and our driver Jorge. Everyone was dancing and happy and wanted to stay past the time when we would be told that the bus would return to the hotel.

Alex was flexible with the timing of events. The day we planned to go to Hemingway's House the weather was bad. He rescheduled it to another day that worked out perfectly. He made sure that we were all set at the airport before he left us and that was a very comforting feeling.

You were right about the flight schedule of Cubana air. It is right to tell people to not fly out of Cancun the day they fly out of Cuba. We were more than 6 hours late leaving Havana and you could tell that that is the routine not an exception.

We did have to show our travel affidavit when we entered the US but they really did not know what they were looking at. We were allowed to bring in our cigars.

I loved the music and dancing lessons the first night at Benny's house. I really tried all week to learn the salsa dancing, it added a fun dimension to my trip.

Some people in our group had wished that we had been given each others contact information before going to Cuba so we could have informally introduced ourselves before meeting. It was also suggested that it might have been nice if we had spent just a few minutes the first day as a group introducing ourselves and where we were from.

Several people in our group were traveling alone and it took a few days for people to get to know that about each other so it was awkward for them the first night or so when people were making plans.

The itinerary did not clearly show how many meals are included in the tour. Breakfast was included every day and on most days we were given two meals which is more than the travel itinerary shows. The tour is a better cost value than it appears on paper.

I was very happy with my experience and I have already begun to recommend your agency to friends.

My heart goes out to the people of Cuba. I did feel badly when we were there. I realize that we consumed more energy and food than the typical Cuban citizen and that felt very decadent. It help to know that our tourist experience helps many individuals within the country.

When I get my pictures uploaded I would be honored to send some on. Personally I think I have some very good ones.

You can use me as a reference.

Thank you again.

Nancy Ahrabi-Nejad

My experience in Cuba was wonderful and amazing - so thank you, also, to all who participated in the planning and implementation of the trip!

Certainly, I'd be happy to share some written thoughts on my experiences, and to send some photos from the trip. Both are still in progress, but I can send them to you when they're done (which would be in the next couple of weeks).

And if there are individuals or groups who have questions about your company's services, please feel free to list me as a reference and provide my contact information to them. I would greatly enjoy the opportunity to share my experiences with potential travelers.

Thank you again, and I will be in touch soon with feedback and photos.

Colleen Donathan

The trip was fantastic and Alexis Hernandez was a wonderful guide. I have been traveling with students and adults since my first trip in 1978 and I must say that he was one of the best I've ever encountered. He went above and beyond to make sure that each of us had the trip we expected. The hotels were fine and well located. Our driver went out of his way to make sure we got to all the sites on time. That bus was the nicest and most comfortable I've ever had on a trip.

Lisa Hvizda

If you only want a 5-star, lobster every day, water sports on the beach kind of tour, go elsewhere. If you want to be exposed to the role that culture plays in the lives of the typical layperson and student, to learn from professionals about the priorities and the realities of healthcare, housing, nutrition, the arts and education, and to walk through and admire the various squares and museums, you have come to the right place.

It was not a seamless experience. Several times we had to be patient and flexible and as Esias said, "Cuba, enjoy our country, don't try to understand it." I enjoyed my interaction with the students of various dance companies who let us watch them rehearse, performed for us, pulled us onstage to dance with them and invited us to attend their future performances. We were able to dine in various historic-and several UNESCO world heritage- settings surrounded by the works of the artists.

We were serenaded by musicians and singers and watched the performances of dancers-the flamenco dancers were my favorite-at most of our meals and given the opportunity to show our appreciation for the artists and to support the local economy through tipping and/or purchasing their CDs and their handiwork. We dined at excellent private restaurants within local residents and purchased pottery items, and crocheted and embroidered handicrafts in the homes of their creators and at a craft market.

We were also exposed to various styles of architecture when our itinerary was modified to accommodate participants of an under subscribed architect tour who were folded into our group. We were able to have questions honestly answered by our knowledgeable and personable tour guide, unexpected tour guide trainee, bus driver and the changing cast of experts who boarded our bus throughout the trip or traveled with us during our adventures and a memorable 12 hour round trip from Havana to other locations further into the country.

My inner ‘beachasaurus’ was also satisfied through being able to spend 3 hours in the relatively warm ocean and beach. I enjoyed the fresh and sweet fruits such as guava, pineapple, papaya and bananas available at the breakfast buffets. Our group of couples, educators, architects, single adults and a family also bonded, had fun and showed our solidarity wearing white as we engaged in a private dance class with live music on the rooftop of a private residence in Havana one night and danced in the New Year in sophisticated basic black with the entertainers at an all-inclusive resort.

This experience has only whetted my desire to eventually come back to experience more of the beautiful and evolving country which is Cuba.

Andrea Smith

I can't believe it is almost a week since I returned from Cuba! The trip was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I want to sincerely thank Authentic Cuba Travel for giving me the opportunity to visit this unique and beautiful island. I especially enjoyed interacting with the people of Cuba.

Usually when I travel I see places, but never have I had so much contact with the local people and culture as I did on this trip. Alex is amazing. Definitely the best guide I have ever had - and I have traveled a lot. I hope he has the chance to visit the U.S. some time.

The hotels were fine- quite different from the reviews I read! I'm glad I stayed with the economy package group. We were a great group with quite a few solo travelers. I was never left on my own and we all had a lot in common which made for very congenial companionship.

Again, I want to thank Authentic Cuba Travel and all your staff and a very special thank you to Alex for giving me such a memorable experience.

Frances Lambrecht

Llegue recien a Seattle para continuar mi viaje y ver unos amigos....solo te queria contar que lo habia pasado muy bien. No podian hacer nada con el atraso de avion, y yo estaba perfectamente tranquilo tomando mi Bucanero y fumando puros.

Raul fue un guia absolutamente espectacular. Nos dio un muy buen tour y siempre fue muy atento a las necesidades del grupo.

I'll write you more soon....just getting up and have a lot to do. In short..the trip was absolutely spectacular.

Gracias a Authentic Cuba Travel por todo que hicieron para hacerlo un buen viaje,

Patrick G. Blaine, Ph.D.

I compared the site on the internet and chose Authentic Cuba because of its accent on the educational aspect of tour Cuba. All my travel arrangements were handled in the best possible way.

Our Cuban guide was knowledgeable, shared a great deal of information and answered all of our many questions in the best possible way. His English was clear with an amazing vocabulary.

I do not know what regular tourists do, but the trip was educational. In the University I would have liked to visit other departments as well; dance and drama...but all the presentations in every place was excellent...in depth and with clarity.

I enjoyed the most the visits to the museums, schools, universities, walking the streets on my own getting an understanding of Cuban life and art and education. I would have liked to see more Dance, Music, and Theater!

The hotels were good, the service and staff were always helpful and courteous. I recommend that the hotels be situated in the center of the city, even if it means a lower quality!

The coach was fine and the driver excellent in every way.

Rena Gluck

I cannot tell you how thrilled and impressed I was with the Cuba tour that Sandra and I just took! Everything was simply fantastic. I have taken many tours with students in the past and I thought I had worked with some good tour guides in the past, but (I'm sure you hear this often) Alexis is beyond incredible!

The man is BY FAR, the best tour guide I have ever had. No matter how many questions we had, he had answers. His answers were very well thought out and very specific. He often used his own life to give us concrete examples of how things work in Cuba. We kept throwing questions at him and he would tell us to wait until we got to the bus so that we would all hear his answer in order to avoid repeating the same information over and over. When the questions were complicated, he would wait a day or two so that he had time to think of how to best answer us in a way that would be clear to us. As he said many times, "You will learn, but you will not always understand!"

We could have paid twice the price to another company, but we could have never had a better experience that we did with Authentic Cuba Travel!

Gracias!!!

Sheila Friedman

Me encanta Cuba! Gracias por una maravillosa aventura. Todo era perfecto. So much that I saw and experienced has inspired me (including learning more Spanish.) All parts of the itinerary unfolded seamlessly due to your great team and the incomparable knowledge and passion of our guide and now our friend, Alexis. The pre-trip information you provided about practical matters had me fully prepared to deal with the currency, tips, gifts, etc. I am wholeheartedly recommending your tour to everyone who is fascinated by Cuba and expresses interest in traveling there.

Muchissimas gracias,

Deborah Brenner

Our trip to Cuba with Authentic Cuba Travel was the most memorable in my recent lifetime. Most importantly, our Cuba guide was personable, knowledgeable, and professional. He is the reason the trip was such a success. I have done nothing but talk about the trip with friends and family since our return.

Ed Holloway


Dr. Dave Donathan from St. Catharine College poses in front of a mural during a visit to the headquarters of the National Teachers Union in Havana, Cuba last month. Read Dr. Donathan Reviews published at St Catharine College News.
6 Hints To Get the Most Out of Your Trip by David Donathan

Even experienced travelers forget that each trip is different and may require specific preparations to keep Murphy's Law at bay. During our trip with Authentic Cuba Travel, we encountered some minor bumps in the road that could have been avoided with a little foresight. I hope these observations will make your trip a bit smoother and less stressful.

1. Read the information packet! The information sheets contain information that will not only make the preparation easier, but will also make sure you have everything you need for the trip- and keep you from over-packing with unnecessary items. Several key points include:

A. US currency and bank cards can be left at home. Most US banks can readily exchange your US dollars into Canadian dollars, which are easily changed into the convertible Cuban peso (CUC) at currency exchange sites in Cuba. This makes it easy to carry enough convertible cash to get CUCs as you need them. I found the recommended $50 per day very accurate, although I did carry extra cash a safety net- or for a shopping splurge.

B. Your US cell phone won't work and there is very limited internet access in Cuba and it is slow. In our hotels, there was generally one computer available and internet time cost 6 CUC per hour. The service is not reliable, cards may be sold out and other issues such as the computer download locking up while your minutes countdown may prevent you from checking emails, etc. Take an internet holiday and let everyone know beforehand that you're off line for the week.

2. A little Spanish goes a long way. Most of the travelers to Cuba over the past 20 years have been European, so English is not as prevalent as you might expect. Fortunately our tour guide had an excellent command of English and handled the translating for those of us who are unilingual. A small dictionary (bring a Latin American Spanish one- there is a difference!) and learning some basic phrases (hello, thank you, I don't speak Spanish) will make a world of difference in your travel.

3. Pay attention to your tour guide. He/she is an invaluable source of useful and interesting information and is a buffer between you and trouble. They are used to facilitating smooth travel and making sure you know the local customs (do's and dont's). While they are very patient with us, it helps if we listen and remember what they tell us throughout the trip.

4. Be considerate of the group. Your fellow travelers have the same itinerary you were given and they are looking forward to seeing and doing everything as you are. If a time limit is given for wandering, return promptly, so the group doesn't have to wait on an individual who gets sidetracked. By the same token, if an unexpected change to the schedule is necessary, remember that compromise is much more conducive to everyone's enjoyment. Most of all, be aware that your fellow travelers may not share your preferences and that the group's itinerary is intended to appeal to a broad range individual interests.

5. Be situationally aware. Many of the locations are crowded and time spent there may be limited, so a little courtesy goes a very long way. If you want a picture of a mural, a building, a street scene, others (in your group as well as passersby) probably do too. Don't step in front of someone trying to take a picture and, after you have your picture, step out of the way so others will have their opportunity. Use your indoor voice where appropriate. Loud comments and continuous chatter are not conducive to enjoying a band, walking through a church or trying to quietly stroll down a street.

6. Travel is an adventure. Regardless of the reason: educational, recreational, photographic safari, etc. Travel is not the same old routine and, therefore, calls for some mental re-alignment. If you approach your trip without expecting everything to be the same as home, your not-as-hot shower, the strange food, "nobody spoke English," all the unique aspects of your trip become travel tales and not travel stressors.

Keep reminding yourself you're not in Kansas anymore and you will go home with a sense that your trip was something most people never get a chance to experience!


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