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The Spirit of Eastern Cuba: Experiencing “Oriente”

Program Number: 20613RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/12/2013 - 12/20/2013;
Duration: 8 nights
Location: Cuba
Price starting at: $3,795.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: ; Independent City Discoveries
Meals: 21; 7 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 7 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Explore the other side of Cuba: the “Oriente” or East, home to unspoiled countryside, soaring mountains, 500-year-old cities, distinctive culture and warm, welcoming people. Discover Santiago de Cuba, Camaguey, Bayamo and Guantánamo city; interact with Cuban cowboys at a working ranch and learn about Afro-Cuban music and dance traditions. Discuss day-to-day life in Cuba with a family that welcomes you into its home and savor authentic meals at paladares (small, privately owned restaurants). Visit an island fishing community and connect with fishermen, dancers, students and artists.


• Meet local artists in Camaguey and discover the city’s colorful old town on a bicycle rickshaw excursion.
• Take a field trip to a working ranch and talk to Cuban cowboys about their work.
• Interact with local dance instructors who introduce you to one of Cuba’s most famous exports: the Salsa.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles per day; some cobblestones and other uneven terrain. Some stairs are unavoidable. Roads can be bumpy.

Road Scholar is authorized to travel to Cuba under OFAC License #CT-2014-308137-1. Round-trip charter flight from Miami to Cuba is included.

Cuban-born people who emigrated to the U.S. before 1971 are allowed to travel to Cuba with only their US passport, and Cuban Visa PE11. At this time, due to constraints upon international banking, Cuba is not processing the PE11 visa for People to People visits, only emergency Humanitarian reasons. Regretfully, there is no indication of when this might change and at this time, Road Scholar cannot ensure the ability to obtain the PE11 visa, therefore cannot take the enrollment. (All regular Tourist Card Visas for Cuba are already obtained on behalf of participants.)

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Miami, Fla., 1 night; flight to Camaguey (Cuba), 3 nights; coach to Santiago de Cuba, 3 nights; flight to Miami for departure.

Arrival Miami, Fla.
1 night
Flight to Camaguey (Cuba)
3 nights

Your program begins with orientation in Miami. The next morning, make the short flight to Camaguey on a chartered airplane. Due to near-constant pirate raids, the people of Camaguey moved inland in 1528 and constructed a mazelike city of blind alleys and forking roads that would be easier to defend from outsiders. Discover the historic center of Camaguey — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — on foot and during a bicycle rickshaw excursion. Learn about Cuban agriculture on a field trip to a working ranch where you meet some Cuban cowboys. Interact with members of a top-notch dance troupe, a renowned artist who operates a community sculpture program, and the teacher and students of a one-classroom school in the countryside.

Coach to Santiago de Cuba
3 nights
Flight to Miami for departure

Journey further east to Santiago de Cuba, the original capital of Cuba. Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, the conquistador who claimed and governed Cuba for Spain, founded this city before founding Havana. An expert-led city excursion brings you to the elegant city cemetery where the revolutionary and poet José Martí rests in a guarded mausoleum. Take a field trip to Guantanamo, where you interact with a historic Haitian society of dancers who teach you about La Tumba Francesa (“French Drum”), a historic drumming and dance style brought here by their enslaved ancestors. Meet with members of the Changui Society and learn about traditional Cuban music, which was born in Guantanamo (the song “Guantanamera” means “woman from Guantanamo”). A boat excursion takes you to Gran Ma Island to meet fishermen and learn about their equipment and way of life. Meet and talk to a fisherman on Granma Island, students at a local school and a family that welcomes you into its home.


It's a time of rapid change on the island of Cuba. After decades of restrictions, dynamic Cubans seize new opportunities created by pro-free-enterprise reforms. Havana’s “yank tanks” (classic American cars) are increasingly joined by late model imports. Literacy and health care statistics outpace many developed countries. At the same time, some Cubans still lack access to goods as basic as toothpaste. It’s a fascinating moment to discover Cuba and meet with its people as they look to the future.

Miami: Comfortable hotel near the airport. Camaguey: Historic three-star hotel. Santiago de Cuba: Resort-style four-star hotel. .
Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel
  Miami, USA 1 night
   Gran Hotel
  Camaguey, Cuba 3 nights
   Melia Santiago
  Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 4 nights
 Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Explore a full range of attractions within minutes of Miami Airport hotel's front door- including Downtown Miami, South Beach, University of Miami, the Miami Beach Convention Center, Coral Gables and countless golf courses. The airport is 10 minutes from the hotel and offers a free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel which runs every half hour. Look for a red colored Marriott shuttle curbside at the "Arrivals" level.
  Contact info: 1201 N.W. Lejeune Rd.
Miami, FL 33126 USA
phone: 305-649-5000
  Room amenities: AC, hair dryer, cable TV, telephone, free in room high-speed internet
  Facility amenities: Business center, pool, fitness center, restaurant on-site, room service
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Contact Road Scholar Travel Contact Road Scholar Travel Services for details.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Gran Hotel
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: PLEASE NOTE: Rural hotels in Cuba are very basic by American standards, while this hotel is the best available, clean and safe, it may not meet our higher expectations.
  Contact info: Maceo 64 e/ General Gomez e Ignacio Agramonte
Camaguey,   Cuba
phone: +3229209332292094
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, baby's cot (on request), balcony (subject to availability), bathroom, double beds, hot & cold water, safe box, radio, satellite TV, telephone and twin beds.
  Facility amenities: Bar, café, restaurant, grill, international cuisine, snacks and drinks 24 hours a day, no internet, money exchange, reception staff speak Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, medical service, safety - uniformed security personnel 24hrs, shop(s) with basic supplies, souvenirs & gifts, taxis desk, telephone - national & international calls
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Melia Santiago
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: PLEASE NOTE: Hotels in Cuba are basic by American standards, while this hotel is the best available, clean and safe, it may not meet our higher expectations.
  Contact info: Avd. de las Américas y Calle M, 90400
Santiago de Cuba,   Cuba
phone: +88895MELIA
  Room amenities: Tea and coffee making facilities, LCD TV in all rooms with 24 multi-language channels, telephone internal channel, CD player, safe (additional charge), telephone with outside line (additional charge), mini-bar (additional charge), air conditioning, writing desk, table for breakfast, bathtub – shower, hair dryer, make up mirror, weighing scales, coffee maker, radio / alarm clock.
  Facility amenities: Business center with secretarial services, foreign exchange service, car rental, tourism bureau, boutique and shop with local art, 24-hour medical attention, parking, exclusive reception area with Concierge service (9th floor), exclusive lounge bar (9th floor) named "Sierra Cristal" with LCD TV, continental breakfast service from 7 am. to 11 am. in the lounge bar (9th floor), 3 swimming-pools set in spacious gardens and terraces, daytime and evening entertainment program with dancing lessons, shows, etc., domino, gym with new equipment including sauna and massage services.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins with orientation in Miami followed by dinner on day one of the program. Please arrive at the hotel by 4 PM. You will be staying at Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends upon arrival of the charter flight in Miami on day nine. Avoid scheduling connecting flights that depart within 3 hours of the scheduled arrival time. You will be staying at Melia Santiago the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Elderhostel is licensed under the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the U.S. Department of Treasury for participants to travel to Cuba on a Road Scholar program. Participants will receive a copy of this license prior to travel to Cuba in Miami, during orientation. In addition to the Personal Information Forms, each participant is required to submit an Affidavit of Participation, Travel Affidavit, Cuba Travel Service Reservation Form, and a clear copy of the passport picture information page prior to departure (check-list provided). These forms are sent in the first mailing and they must be completed, signed, and submitted to Road Scholar eight weeks before the program start date. Please refer to the end of the information packet for these forms and please note that Road Scholar must receive the original documents. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any participant born in Cuba, regardless of current nationality, must advise Road Scholar immediately as additional forms and costs may be required.
  Parking availability:
Parking at the Marriott is $15/day (subject to change). It is also possible to park at the airport and take the hotel shuttle.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Miami
  Transportation to site: The Marriott Courtyard Miami Airport South Hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to/from the Miami airport, which departs the airport every 15 minutes. Upon arrival in Miami, there is no need to call the hotel, as the shuttle circles every 15 minutes on the departure level (2nd level) 5am to 1am daily. Look for the red and white shuttle with the Marriott logo, marked with the Miami Airport Marriott, Courtyard and Residence Inn logos on the side. Please check the hotel web site for the most up to date instructions for the shuttle.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Santiago de Cuba
  Nearest highway: Alto Cedro Highway
  Nearest airport:  Antonio Maceo Airport
  Transportation from site: A group transfer from the hotel in Havana to the airport for our return charter flight is scheduled for all participants. The flight is currently scheduled to arrive in Miami around 4:00 PM. For those looking to make early flight arrangements, please do not schedule connecting flights within 4 hours of arrival in Miami due to possible delays and airport security. We recommend that you not make flight arrangements from Miami until 40 days prior to departure due to possible schedule changes with the charter flight times. The Final Information Packet will have the confirmed charter flight times. PLEASE NOTE: Charter flight times are subject to change at any time, Road Scholar has no control over these changes.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Flight to Miami / Orientation / Overnight in Miami
(Thursday, December 12)

Note: Please note: Most staircases in Cuba do not have railings, so if you use a walking aid, please bring it on the program.

 Afternoon: PLEASE NOTE: This day-by-day schedule should only be used as a guide only. Program elements are subject to change as availability is controlled by the Cuban government. Individuals will arrive at the Miami International Airport with an independent transfer to the hotel using their free shuttle service. Upon arrival at the hotel, check in and relax until orientation. Please arrive no later than 4 PM. The Road Scholar Group Leader will be in the hotel lobby at 4:45 PM to accompany the group to the orientation room. Welcome and orientation begins at 5:00 PM .
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Arrive in Camaguey from MIA / Dance rehearsal
(Friday, December 13)
 Breakfast: Boxed breakfast from the hotel
 Morning: Morning departure from the hotel to the terminal (final flight times will be confirmed during orientation). The Road Scholar Group Leader will meet the group in the hotel lobby to transfer to the airport. Please be in the hotel lobby with your luggage and be ready to depart the hotel 15 minutes before departure schedule. Transfer to the airport and check in to the charter flight to Havana. PLEASE NOTE: Flight times are subject to change and will be confirmed in the Final Information Packet.
 Lunch: Lunch in Camaguey.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Camaguey has been blessed by some of the best dancers in Cuba and the city is home to 3 of the best dance companies in Cuba. Today we attend a rehearsal of one of these companies (which is dependent on their touring schedule and we cannot confirm which group until just a few days prior) and we meet the dancers and enjoy an opportunity to talk about their careers and their art. Afterwards check into your hotel and enjoy a welcome cocktail, followed by a visit to San Juan Square.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local Paladar (Private restaurant).
Accommodations: Gran Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Discovering the Spirit of Camaguey, its Squares and its Artists
(Saturday, December 14)

Note: Extensive use of bicycle rickshaws this afternoon. You must be able to share the seat with another participant and get on and off the rickshaw with no assistance (step up is 1 - 1.5 Feet)

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: One of the first seven villages founded by the Spaniards in Cuba, Camagüey played a prominent role as the urban centre of an inland territory dedicated to cattle breeding and the sugar industry. It is the 3rd largest city in Cuba and the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We start at Agro Market, the farmer's market, to see some of the agricultural products available in this area. We end the morning with a People to People Connection: Meet the creator of a very unique public art program that has received UNESCO awards for cultural heritage. Martha Jimenez is a world renowned sculptor and painter, she created the Plaza Carmen Sculpture project and will share with us her motivation and her community around Carmen Square.
 Lunch: Lunch in the Carmen Plaza.
 Afternoon: Later on bicycle rickshaws we explore the city. We start at the workers square, La Iglesia Nuestra Senor de la Merced, Principe theater, Agromonte park, the farmer's market and end at Carmen square. Enjoy an expert presentation about the city layout of Camaguey at the scale model of the city.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel at your own pace.
Accommodations: Gran Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Camaguey and Rural Ranching Traditions
(Sunday, December 15)

Note: While on the ranch some steep steps (10 steps) are unavoidable to get onto the seating observation area and climbing into a horse drawn wagon is required (1 - 1.5 foot climb up)

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning we leave the city center and explore the region outside of Camaguey. People to People Connection: We meet with real Cuban cowboys. Camaguey is the center of livestock in Cuba and outside of the city are a number of ranches. We explore a working ranch and witness the work and the games before engaging the ranchers in a conversation about rural life in Cuba. Later we enjoy another People to People Connection: Next to the ranch is a small rural village were the workers and their family live, meet the local teacher and see and speak with students in the one classroom school. Later visit a humble home and meet the family to hear about life in this very isolated and poor community.
 Lunch: Lunch at the King Ranch.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: We will visit a unique Artist studio and meet with 3 artists each using a different medium. This presents the unique opportunity to discuss the role of the Artist in Cuban society and to better understand the level of freedom they are given in their pursuit of creativity. After our meeting we enjoy the performance of a string quartet.
 Dinner: Dinner in San Juan Square.
Accommodations: Gran Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Transfer from Camaguey to Santiago and Explore Bayamo and El Cobre
(Monday, December 16)

Note: Today we cover 300 KM as we make our way from Camaguey to Santiago de Cuba. Roads can be bumpy at times.

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning we transfer from Camaguey to Santiago de Cuba via Bayamo. The road takes us into the heart of Cuba and you witness some of the most beautiful scenery. This will take about 3 hours with a rest stop along the road. Bayamo was the second city founded by the Spanish in Cuba in 1513. Explore the city's main square before lunch. People to People Connection: Explore a traditional horse-drawn carriage factory unique only to Bayamo. Meet the craftspeople and learn about this disappearing art.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant in Bayamo.
 Afternoon: Later, we stop to discover the El Cobre Sanctuary, dedicated to the Patron Saint of Cuba. Here pilgrims from all over Cuba come to pray and ask for favors of the most cherished saint. Upon arrival in Santiago de Cuba, check in to your rooms.
 Dinner: Leisure dinner buffet at the hotel.
Accommodations: Melia Santiago
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Exploring Santiago de Cuba and Afro Cuban Influences
(Tuesday, December 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Explore Santiago de Cuba. We start with a stop at the Plaza de la Revolution and the Mencado barracks for photo stops and learn a bit about Santiago during the revolution. Later in the morning we make our way to the cemetery to see some of the most beautiful burial crypts built in Cuba and to learn about Jose Marti, the Cuban National Hero ending our discovery witnessing the changing of the guard at the tomb of Jose Marti. We end the morning at the Diego Velázquez House and Museum, said to be the oldest standing house in Cuba, the Spanish colonial structure is an excellent example of how Spaniards built and lived in Cuba.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: This afternoon we walk over to the Casa de la Trova where you meet with your dance instructor and spend the hour learning the Salsa while you engage in a truly cultural connection. Later this afternoon a presentation and meet with an expert on Afro Cuban culture and learn about their unique customs.
 Dinner: Dinner at a paladar. People to People Connection: Talk with the family and learn about what it's like to run a private enterprise in Cuba.
Accommodations: Melia Santiago
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Guantanamo's Musical Cultural Heritage: Chengui and the Tumba Francesa
(Wednesday, December 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: People to People Connection: Interact with dancers at the Tumba Francesa Pompadour, a Franco-Haitian dance. La Tumba Francesa is a traditional cultural dance and style that emerged in the 18th century in Oriente, Cuba. It combines music from West Africa and traditional French music. It is on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Speak with the members of this group and learn about their cultural heritage. Later enjoy another People to People Connection: Interact with musicians from Casa del Chengui. Chengui, is the original Cuban musical style and rhythm made famous all over the world and originating in the country side around Guantanamo. During this activity, interact with the musicians and learn how each instrument is played.
 Lunch: Lunch at the Hotel Marti.
 Afternoon: Explore the main square of Guantanamo - Plaza Marti, which features the smallest Cathedral in all of Cuba and which was once a busy commercial city center. People to People Conection: Visit the Ludoteca Infantile and participant in an activity with the local children. Afterwards, return to Santiago. Upon arival enjoy a People to People Connection: Visit with the Vincente Family in La Maya.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to discover one of the local paladars (private Cuban restaurants run out of people's homes).
Accommodations: Melia Santiago
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Art in Santiago de Cuba, El Morro Fortress, and the History of the Spanish American War and San Juan Hill
(Thursday, December 19)

Note: Many uneven steps at the fortress and in the Artist Collaborative uneven paths

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: People to People Connection: Explore a Performing Arts school and meet with students and faculty. Learn and discuss education in Cuba and especially artistic education in Cuba. Later, enjoy the historic El Morro Fortress that guards the entrance to the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. The views from El Morro are spectacular.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: This afternoon we drive outside of Santiago to an artist colony where we meet and have a chance to talk with the artists about their work and the role and freedom of artists in Cuba. Later we explore the Museum of the Spanish, Cuban, American war (Spanish American War) and learn about what the Cubans call the war of independence. Later wander San Juan Hill and learn about the battle fought here and made famous by Teddy Roosevelt and the rough riders.
 Dinner: Farewell Dinner at the Melia Santiago.
Accommodations: Melia Santiago
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


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