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CUBA

The Cuban Evolution in the Arts and Free Enterprise

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Road Scholar
Program #20610RJ
9 Days | 8 Nights
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate
Road Scholar has thousands of educational adventures to choose from. A good way to narrow down our list is to browse our collection of "Most Popular" programs.
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EasyFor people looking to exercise their minds more than their bodies. There’s minimal walking and not too many stairs.
ModerateThese programs get you on your feet and include activities such as walking up to a mile in a day through a city and standing in a museum for a few hours.
ActiveFor people who enjoy walking as much as two miles a day, perhaps to explore historic neighborhoods or a nature trail.
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Discussion Board

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Thomas Bruno Jan 31, 2015 at 03:54 PM

I have upload a 12min 45sec YouTube video slideshow of our Road Scholar trip this past week:
http://youtu.be/NbZFNvxoO_I
Winn Kalmon Feb 01, 2015 at 10:22 AM

Loved your slideshow--thanks so much. And your fulsome reply on what to expect regarding Wi-Fi, money exchange, etc was extremely welcome.


Pamela Hazard Jan 31, 2015 at 03:14 PM

I went last May. I loved everything about it but three experiences that stood were seeing Fusto's crazy mosaic neighborhood, visiting with the 88 year old activist/artist called Bebo, and sipping honey from the hive at an organic farm. I loved the people and the variety of art and dance we saw. I brought postcards from where I live, to the Senior Center and they were great discussion breakers. The most popular items I brought to give away were Icy Hot patches for the dancers, small soaps, hand sanitizers and reuse able bags. I had brought several nylon fold up bags for my own use. They were so admired I ended up giving them all away. I would have liked to stay longer and seen more of the rural areas.
Wind Vogel Feb 01, 2015 at 08:11 AM

Thanks for your post, Pamela. You gave me some great suggestions for give-away items, also.


Martial Knieser Jan 31, 2015 at 10:22 AM

what did you enjoy most and what would you have liked to do but did not?


Thomas Bruno Jan 29, 2015 at 11:34 PM

We just returned from The Cuban Evolution in the Arts and Free Enterprise program. Ask me anything about money, hotels, food, etc.
Out trip was 5 nights at Hotel Nacional followed by 2 nights at Melia Varadero.
Ellen D Jan 30, 2015 at 02:57 PM

Thanks for posting on this and offering to answer questions. I am leaving on the Feb 11 trip with 2 other people and we have been searching for answers to lots of questions. So hear goes: Was there any opportunity to go off on your own and if so did you need a local guide? Did you have an opportunity to buy cigars and if so where? We would like to buy art and are interested in cost and how to transport it home. In particular did you visit Jose Fuster’s studio? How much money do we need to bring and is it important that the bills be undamaged? Where did you exchange money? What are the conventions for bargaining when buying things? Can we hook up i-pad at hotel and was there wifi in the hotels? If so what was the cost and was it slow? What is most needed to bring to give away and did the group leader collect stuff to give away or did each person give away what they brought. Finally, what should we try not to miss? Thanks again.
Thomas Bruno Jan 30, 2015 at 03:26 PM

There were a couple of opportunities to go off on our own and my wife and I hopped in a taxi and went to old Havana for about 10 CUC, about $10 USD. I would not see the need for a local guide. Cigars are available for sale and even though I am a cigar smoker at home, I was turned off by the price and the apparent quality. I never imagined that I would come home from Cuba not having smoked a cigar there and or purchased a cigar there. You can buy them individually or by the box at a Cuban government cigar, rum, coffee store to which you will probably be taken.
Thomas Bruno Jan 30, 2015 at 03:35 PM

We did go to Forster's art project. We went to several artists workshops. You will have opportunities to buy art and they will be expert is figuring out a way to package it for you to get it safely home. The are you will be able to but I will range from $10-$8000. For the more expensive stuff there is an artist who will allow you to pay his sister in Florida. Upon arrival at the hotel you can exchange United States dollars for Cuban convertible pesos easily and at the exact same rate that you will be offered at the airport and any other hotel. They did not care about the quality of my United States currency. Bargaining is certainly acceptable at the handicraft Marka but the merchants do not have the same degree of bargaining flexibility as I have seen in other parts of the world although they are not offended and they will modify their original price if you politely pushed back a little bit. We brought our laptop computers to dump our photographs into and everyone on her trip had either a smart phone or an iPad although we might have been the only people bringing a laptop. There is Wi-Fi in the room at Hotel Nacional and at the Malia Varadero. But it is so painfully slow and intermittent that it is usable but no fun to use. Pricing scheme at the Hotel Nacional was 7 CUC for 60 minutes, 10 CUC for 12 hours, 20 CUC for 24 hours. Internet speed was 256 Kb/sec, about 4% of modest USA household speeds, so it is like going back to 1994. Surly Internet attendants. Many of us brought pens, crayons, markers, hotel type toiletries, etc, which were collected by the guide and given as a group at one visit to a community youth project.
Thomas Bruno Jan 30, 2015 at 03:45 PM

Edited version: We did go to Fuster's art project. We went to several artist's workshops. You will have opportunities to buy art and they will be expert in figuring out a way to package it for you to get it safely home. There you will be able to buy art, it will range from $10-$8000. For the more expensive stuff there is an artist who will allow you to pay his sister in Florida. Upon arrival at the hotel you can exchange United States dollars for Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) easily and at the exact same rate that you will be offered at the airport and any other hotel. They did not care about the quality of my United States currency. Bargaining is certainly acceptable at the handicraft market but the merchants do not have the same degree of bargaining flexibility as I have seen in other parts of the world although they are not offended and they will modify their original price if you politely pushed back a little bit. We brought our laptop computers to dump our photographs into and everyone on our trip had either a smart phone or an iPad although we might have been the only people bringing a laptop. There is Wi-Fi in the room at Hotel Nacional and at the Malia Varadero. But it is so painfully slow and intermittent that it is usable but no fun to use. Pricing scheme at the Hotel Nacional was 7 CUC for 60 minutes, 10 CUC for 12 hours, 20 CUC for 24 hours. Internet speed was 256 Kb/sec, about 4% of current modest USA household speeds, so it is like going back to 1994. Surly Internet attendants will collect your payment in cash and give you a password. You can make sure by email that all is well at home and say that you are OK, but don't expect to email photos or surf the web. Many of us brought pens, crayons, markers, hotel type toiletries, etc, which were collected by the guide and given as a group at one visit to a community youth project.
Ellen D Jan 30, 2015 at 03:47 PM

Thanks so much for your quick response. I will share it with my friends. I think we are planning to bring over the counter medicines, soap and some art supplies. How would you pay the artist's sister in Florida?
Ellen D Jan 30, 2015 at 03:52 PM

So, more questions. What is the minimum amount of cash we should bring? Did you have to pay the hotel in cash for internet? Did you have to pay for any meals?
Martial Knieser Jan 30, 2015 at 09:22 PM

how did you get money for buying things? did any shops take VISA?
Thomas Bruno Jan 31, 2015 at 07:12 AM

No one was accepting any United States credit cards during our trip from January 22 through January 29. It is my understanding that MasterCard has announced that their card will become useable on March 1, 2015. However, good luck at that time finding a Cuban merchant who will accept a credit card. So travelers on our trip all brought with them United States currency and exchanged it upon arrival at the Hotel Nacional. It was easy, quick and many did it while gathering in the lobby before we had our first evening meal. We received 87 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos) for every $100. On leaving the country we easily did the reverse transaction at the airport. It could be done both before or after you cleared immigration and security at Havana Jose Marti airport. However, you then only got $87 USD for every 100 CUC, so the 13% is more like a fee than an "exchange rate", because it is skimmed whichever direction you change between the two currencies. Bring US currency. There is no apparently more efficient or economical alternative. We did not witness any Cubans or tourists from other nations using plastic cards for any transactions.


Stephen Abrams Jan 29, 2015 at 09:23 PM

Is anyone aware of the timing of the return to Miami on March 26. I am trying to arrange travel that afternoon back to Madison, WI.
Thomas Bruno Jan 29, 2015 at 11:29 PM

Our group just returned this morning. Got up in Varadero at 4 am for a 5 am bus ride to Havana. Arrived Havana airport for a 10 am charter to Miami. Landed in Miami at 11:10 am. Your mileage may differ, but it seems the charter flights are mostly in the morning. We had a 4:50 flight out of MIA so we had to kill 5 hours at the airport, but a flight after 3 pm should be high probability of being an OK connection.


Premium Email Subscriber Jan 29, 2015 at 11:38 AM

So looking forward to my trip beginning March 4th....my mother visited Cuba, as a single woman, with friends in 1939!!! Her scrapbook has some wonderful photos.
Pamela Hazard Jan 31, 2015 at 03:23 PM

We visited a newly restored and re-opened bar/restaurant. One of the ladies in our group brought a photo of her mother sitting on a bar stool in that restaurant in the 40''s . We took a photo of her on the same stool in the same pose.


Carol Johnson Jan 24, 2015 at 09:31 AM

MasterCard to Lift Transaction Block on US Cards in Cuba
Friday, 23 Jan 2015 01:34 PM

MasterCard Inc. said it will lift a block on U.S. bank-card transactions in Cuba after receiving guidance from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The change takes effect March 1, according to a bulletin the Purchase, New York-based company sent to banks and other customers and obtained by Bloomberg News. Seth Eisen, a MasterCard spokesman, confirmed the bulletin’s contents.


Wind Vogel Jan 18, 2015 at 03:01 PM

Will there be any possibility of seeing work done by the artist, Jose Fuster? He has decorated many homes (including his own) with murals and tiles. His home (on the outskirts of Havana) has an outdoor workshop gallery open daily from 9 am - 5 pm.
Premium Email Subscriber Jan 18, 2015 at 03:32 PM

We were in Cuba 2 months ago and the tour spent 2 hours at Fuster's studio. Had plenty of time to look and purchase art
Winn Kalmon Jan 18, 2015 at 10:47 PM

I'll be with the March 4 group, and hope we can put Fusterlandia on our schedule.
Ellen D Jan 25, 2015 at 11:23 PM

We are going Feb 11 and I am going to call RS to see if we will see the studio. How much cash do you recommend we bring if we wan to buy art?


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Our Value Promise To You

You won't find a better value.

Included
at no additional cost on this date ...
8 nights of accommodations
22 meals: 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
5 Expert-led lectures
9 Field trips
12 Hands-on experiences
Visas: 1(out of 1 required)

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4.9
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