Road Scholar : Home
Cuba by Land and Sea: A Grand Voyage Around the Island

Program Number: 21305RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/3/2014 - 3/15/2014; 2/29/2016 - 3/13/2016; 3/7/2016 - 3/20/2016; 3/14/2016 - 3/27/2016;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: Cuba/United States
Price starting at: $5,295.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Ocean Voyages; Independent City Discoveries
Meals: 33; 12 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 10 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Cuba may be best known for the faded colonial splendor of Havana, but the island’s real story is told in its small villages and varied landscapes. On this remarkable voyage, explore Cuba by land and sea, discovering coastal towns, remote beaches and the lush, tropical interior. Gain a special perspective of the Cuban people, their culture, history and daily life. And learn why Christopher Columbus, upon first laying eyes on the northern coast of Cuba in 1492, said this is “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.”

Activity Particulars

Moderate walking activities in a tropical climate. Streets in colonial districts are made of uneven cobblestone. Participants must be able to walk unassisted or opt out of the activities that involve a lot of walking. Many stairs at sites do not have railings.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Miami, Fla., 1 night; Holguín (Cuba), 2 nights; coach to Santiago de Cuba, 2 nights; aboard MV Celestyal Crystal, 5 nights; coach to Santa Clara, 1 night; coach to Havana, 2 nights; departure.

Days 1-2: Arrival Miami, Fla. / charter flight to Holguín(Cuba):

Meet your Road Scholar Group Leader and fellow participants for program orientation and dinner. The next morning, board your charter flight to Holguín. Lodging: Airport hotel.

Day 3: Holguín province.

Explore “Oriente” – Eastern Cuba - and Holguín Province. Drive through the picturesque north coast and countryside to meet with nurses at a small family clinic and discuss healthcare in Cuba. Meet artisans at a very unique printing workshop. Attend a rehearsal of the Holguin lyric opera theater school. Lodging: Boutique Hotel in Gibara.

Days 4-5: Santiago de Cuba and embark MV Celestyal Crystal.

Continue through the mountains to the eastern coast of Cuba and the former capital, Santiago de Cuba. Take in the views from El Morro, the fortress that guards the entrance to the port. In the city of Guantanamo, meet members of an ancient Cuban-Haitian society called la Tumba Frances, to learn about their unique blend of Haitian and classical French music and dance.

Days 6-9: At Sea/Havana/Maria La Gorda

Get to know Cubans working on board the ship in one on one conversation exchanges and delve further into understanding Cuba during exclusive Road Scholar lectures by your Study Leader. During two full days in port in Havana, walk the cobblestone streets in Old Havana to discover its historic squares. Attend a rehearsal of a Cuban dance group and spend an afternoon playing dominos with members of a local club. Learn about private enterprise from the first American company in Cuba. Learn about Santeria and witness an interactive music and dance performance by Santeria deities. Continue People to People interactions on board the ship during a private salsa lesson and one-on-one conversation. Tender ashore to one of the most pristine spots in the Caribbean, Maria La Gorda.

Days 10-11: Disembark MV Celestyal Crystal in Cienfuegos and Explore Trinidad.

Disembark in Cienfuegos, the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” explore Trinidad de Cuba’s cobblestone streets and brightly painted houses. Coach to Santa Clara. Lodging: Comfortable resort-style hotel in Santa Clara.

Day 12-14: Return to Havana/Departure from Havana to Miami.

Return to Havana. Examine the history of Cuban art at the Havana Museum of Fine Arts. Explore Hemingway’s Farm, Finca La Vigia. Interact with residents at a neighborhood community arts center constructed in a converted water tower and enjoy a choral performance. Lodging: Modern hotel in Havana. Depart from Havana to return to Miami on day 14.

MV Louis Cristal

This 521-foot ship offers a yacht-like experience for up to 1,200 passengers. Its elegant public spaces include three restaurants, several lounges, a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, gym and spa. Passengers will enjoy Caribbean breezes on the sun deck and open promenades. All cabins have private baths, air conditioning, TV and radio.

Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel
  Miami, USA 1 night
   Hotel Habana Libre
  Havana, Cuba 3 nights
   Hotel Los Caneyes
  Santa Clara, Cuba 1 night
   MV Louis Cristal
  At Sea, At Sea 5 nights
   Melia Santiago de Cuba
  Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 2 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 "Departure" level.
  Contact info: 1201 N.W. Lejeune Rd.
Miami, FL 33126 USA
phone: 305-642-8200
  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

 Hotel Habana Libre
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Tryp Habana Libre hotel is located in Havana downtown, right on the famous corner of 23rd and L, where the "La Rampa" district begins. The district is home to the most important ministries and the University of La Habana, and well-known for the animated nightlife. The city mole is just 500 m away, and the historical city center, declared a world cultural heritage site in 1982, is close by. The hotel's strategic location permits easy access to the most important points of interest, such as the Cathedral (4 km), the port (4 km), the Congress & Conventions' Center (10 km), the International Airport (17 km), the beautiful Playas del Este beaches (20 km), Varadero (140 km) and Pinar del Río (147 km).
  Ship Information: n/a
  Contact info: 23 Calle L E 23 Y 25
Habana,   Cuba
phone: +5378346100
  Room amenities: Road Scholar has secured renovated rooms on the upper floors of Habana Libre for our groups. All rooms offer ocean views and private balconies. Fabulous views of the city and great amenities characterise the 282 Standard Rooms at the Tryp Habana Libre, specially designed to ensure guests enjoy the most pleasant stay and equipped with all the necessary details. Their warm and functional decoration creates a pleasant atmosphere where luxury and comfort reign. They are air conditioned and they all have a balcony with glass doors providing abundant natural light. They measure 60 m² and consist of: hall, bedroom with balcony, and bathroom with bath. Accommodation for a maximum of 2 adults + 2 children. 1 extra bed or 1 cot can be requested per room. Bathroom with hair-dryer, bath, daily replaced amenities and 110V socket for small appliances Air-conditioning Satellite TV Direct dial telephone Fridge 24-hours room service Voltage: 110 V/ 60 Hz King size bed or twin beds Electronic safe Minibar with water, soft drinks, beers and other drinks (on request)
  Facility amenities: Modern Business Center Hairdresser Boutique Souvenir & press shop Minimarket Shopping gallery Baby-sitter Laundry service & dry cleaning Tourism office and travel agency with currency exchange Parking and private garage for up to 200 cars (with supplementory charge) Huge outdoor swimming pool with sweet water for adults & children; sunbeds, sunshades and towels can be rented Cabaret Turquino, open every night from 11.30pm until 4am, offering a variety of spectacles and live Salsa music. Fantastic view over the city and the ocean
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Los Caneyes
Type: Hotel
  Ship Information: N/A
  Contact info: Avenida Eucaliptos y Circunvalacion
Santa Clara, NA  Cuba
phone: +5342218140
  Facility amenities: Swimming Pool Restaurant
  Smoking allowed: No

 MV Louis Cristal
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: Road Scholar has secured an unlimited beverage package for our participants for the duration of time on the Cristal. This includes unlimited water, soda, coffee and tea while on board.
  Ship Information: •9 passenger decks, 1200 passengers in 480 staterooms (10 with balcony) - shower, WC, wash basin, telephone, hairdryer & TV •3 Restaurants - 4 Bars/Lounges and Disco •Casino, Internet Corner, conference rooms, photo shop, Metropolitan Show Room, Emporium Duty Free & Travel Value Shop, swimming pool, Jaccuzzi, fitness centre, beauty salon, spa & massage. •Fully air-conditioned, stabilizers, telephone, fax, satellite telephone, physician on board.
  Contact info: 300, 840 - 6 Avenue S.W.
Calgary, AB  Canada
phone: 403-770-1083
  Room amenities: All 480 staterooms are equipped with air conditioning, shower, wash closet, wash basin, telephone, hairdryer, and TV and can accommodate max. 1,200 passengers on board. Road Scholar has secured cabin category XF, Deluxe Outside Cabins on Deck 7. Rooms are 15 sqm, measuring 5.6m x 2.7m.
  Facility amenities: On board Louis Cristal you will enjoy our delicious variety at buffet Traviata or dine more formally in the elegant La Scala and Alberta Prime Steakhouse Restaurants. Enjoy the sun and sea breeze at Riviera pool bar, enjoy the excitement at the Metropolitan Show Lounge and Stars Lounge & Disco, and take in the fantastic view of the starlit night and endless ocean. Other facilities feature the Casino, Internet Corner, conference rooms, photo gallery, Emporium Duty Free & Travel Value Shop, swimming pool, Jaccuzzi, fitness centre, beauty salon, spa & massage. The vessel is fully air-conditioned, has stabilizers, telephone, fax, satellite telephone and physician on board.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Melia Santiago de Cuba
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Right on the busy Avenida de las Americas, 1 km from the International Hospital and the Convention Center, 1.5 km from the shopping mall, 2 km the historical city center, 11 km distance from the Internation Airport Antonio Maceo, and 25 km distance from the beach.
  Contact info: Avd. de las Américas y Calle M
Santiago de Cuba,  90400 Cuba
phone: +(53) 226 87070
  Room amenities: Satellite LCD TV with 24 international channels; Wi-Fi Internet access; Telephone; Mini-bar (additional charge); Air conditioning; Hair dryer; Make up mirror.
  Facility amenities: Business Center with secretarial services Car rental Tourism bureau Boutique and shop with local art 24-hours medical attention 3 Swimming-pools set in spacious gardens and terraces, one of them for children Daytime and evening entertainment program with dancing lessons, shows, etc. Gym 4 restaurants 2 bars Cafe Laundry service (additional charge) Foreign exchange services 24-Hour room service
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins officially on Day 1 at 6:00pm with Orientation followed by dinner at the hotel. Please be sure you book flights that arrive no later than 4:00pm. You will be staying at Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends on Day 13 upon arrival of the charter flight in Miami. You will be staying at Melia Santiago de Cuba the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information 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, Charter Reservation Form, ETA Visa Application Form and a clear copy of the passport picture information page prior to departure (check-list provided). These forms are at the end of the First Information Packet and must be completed, signed, and submitted to Road Scholar eight weeks before the program start date. IMPORTANT NOTE: At this time Cuban authorities will not permit any person born in Cuba, regardless of dual nationality or country of residence, to embark or disembark at any Cuban port.
  Parking availability:
Driving to program is not permitted.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Miami
  Transportation to site: The Courtyard Miami Airport South Marriott 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 (this information is taken from the hotel website and is subject to change without prior notice).
  From End of Program
  Location:  Santiago de Cuba
  Transportation from site: A group transfer from the hotel in Holguin to the airport for our return charter flight is scheduled for all participants. The charter flight from Holguin to Miami is currently scheduled to land in Miami at 1:00 pm. Charter flight times are subject to change, and will be confirmed in the final mailing, which is sent approximately 5 weeks prior to the start of your program. We do not recommend booking connecting flights out of Miami before 5:30 pm.
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: Flights to Miami, Introductions and Program Orientation, Welcome Dinner
(Monday, March 3)
 Arrive To: Flights arrive in Miami. There is a free shuttle to the program hotel (details provided in preparatory materials) where you will stay for one night.
 Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 3:00pm. Orientation: The Group Leader and will greet you with a warm welcome and introduce everyone. We will review the up-to-date departure schedule and any changes, responsibilities, safety, and emergency procedures, currency, language, and amenities during the program. We will discuss Road Scholar program guidelines, Cuba travel guidelines, OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) rules, and answer any questions you may have. We will also confirm the time of our early morning departure to the airport for the charter flight to Cuba. Please note: The day-by-day schedule in Cuba is a representative guide only as program elements are subject to change on short notice.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel provides an opportunity to enjoy the company of your fellow participants as we begin this exciting journey of discovery and people to people connections.
 Evening: Get a good night's sleep for our early morning departure to the airport.
Accommodations: Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Transfer to Airport, Charter Flight from Miami to Havana, Lunch in Old Havana, People to People Activities at Plaza de Armas Book Market and Havana Museum of Fine Arts
(Tuesday, March 4)

Note: Charter flight times to Cuba are subject to change and will be confirmed in the Final Information Packet. The day-by-day schedule in Cuba is a representative guide only as program elements are subject to change on short notice.

 Breakfast: Breakfast bags will be provided for early departure.
 Morning: We leave the hotel early in the morning for our transfer to the airport terminal (flight time confirmed during orientation). Please be in the hotel lobby with your luggage 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time in case of any last-minute notices. The Group Leader will meet everyone in the lobby for the airport transfer. Upon arrival at the airport terminal, we will check in as a group for our charter flight to Havana. We will be joined by our Cuban Study Leader after arrival at José Martí International Airport.
 Lunch: Our first experience in Cuba is lunch in Old Havana.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Plaza de Armas Book Market. For several days each week, Havana’s oldest square -- dating back to the 16th Century -- is the site of a famous second-hand book market. Here book sellers who are licensed and lease their spaces offer an extraordinary variety of books for sale. We will meet and talk with one or more of the sellers for a first-hand, one-on-one glimpse into this fascinating aspect of life in Cuba. Learn how books have a huge cultural influence as you hear about tastes, thoughts, and desires in literature. The market is a cross-cultural treasure trove providing insights into the country and its people. The square itself is surrounded by historic buildings in keeping with the Old Town’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Field Trip: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana (National Museum of Fine Arts). Led by a local art historian, examine the history and evolution of art in Cuba, and the style that has made Cuban art popular around the world. After many years without a permanent home, the collections were brought together in 1953. The museum’s two buildings house masterpieces of Cuban art from the 17th Century to contemporary art of today.

Hotel Check-in: We check into the hotel for three nights.

 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: It has been a long day of travel with new sights and sounds. Take the evening to rest and prepare for a full day tomorrow.
Accommodations: Hotel Habana Libre
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: La Cabaña, Hemingway Farm, People to People Activities with the Alamar Agricultural Cooperative, Guanabacoa Museum, and Family Visit, Free Evening
(Wednesday, March 5)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Field Trip: Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña. Construction of this fortress, known simply as La Cabaña, took 11 years, from 1763-1774. It is the largest defensive structure in the Americas. Thanks to its massive size and armaments, La Cabaña was never attacked in war, though it figured in more recent Cuban history. The interior consists of barracks, bunkers, cannons, and fortifications. Today, it offers ideal views to gain an understanding and appreciation of the city's layout.

Field Trip: Hemingway Farm, Finca La Vigía (Lookout House). Ten miles east of Havana is the small, working-class town of San Francisco de Paula where Ernest Hemingway bought a modest house in 1940 and lived for 30 years with his wife Mary. Here he wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Old Man and the Sea,” and “A Movable Feast” while enjoying his passion for fishing with local people. After the writer’s death in 1961, the Cuban government took ownership of the property where restoration and preservation work has now begun.

People to People Connection: Organoponico Vivero Alamar. Meet with farmers and members of an agricultural cooperative in the heart of Alamar, a residential district in the eastern part of Havana. Learn about urban agriculture, organic and cooperative farming, and living in a small urban suburb and learn about what it is like living here at one of Havana's largest and most successful urban gardens. Less than 30 acres, it is highly productive, yielding fresh vegetables, fruits, ornamental plants, seedlings, timber, medicinal plants, and more. The farm shop sells products directly to members of the community as well as local restaurants.

 Lunch: We continue our People to People connection with lunch in the gardens featuring produce grown here at the cooperative, joined by members of the community.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Museo Municipal de Guanabacoa. The municipality of Guanabacoa is one of the oldest in what eventually became Havana and was later a focal point of the slave trade. In addition to history and culture, five of the Guanabacoa Museum’s seven galleries are dedicated to religious syncretism -- the fusion of diverse beliefs and practices -- with the most complete ethnographic collection of Afro-Cuban religious cults, the best known of which is Santería. Forbidden to practice their native African religion, imported slaves embraced the outward forms of Christianity without any meaningful change in their beliefs. Learn directly from contemporary practitioners of Santería and witness an interactive performance of music and dance representing Santeria deities.

People to People Connections: Family Visit. Meet and talk freely with a local family about life in Havana and Cuba over afternoon coffee.

 Dinner: Dinner this evening is on your own to enjoy the cuisine of your choice. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
 Evening: Free Evening. Take time to relax and review the high points of the day with new Road Scholar friends.
Accommodations: Hotel Habana Libre
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: People to People Activities with MalPaso Dance Company, Café Bohemio, Dominoes League, Free Evening
(Thursday, March 6)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: People to People Connection: Attend a rehearsal of a new independent Cuban dance group, MalPaso, and meet its members to discuss their training, hopes, aspirations, and careers. Then meet two renowned artists and who that have set up their own private restaurant business, Café Bohemio. Learn about their artistic successes and talk about challenges they face as private entrepreneurs.
 Lunch: Café Bohemio. We are joined by members of MalPaso and continue our conversations over lunch. Find out why they have chosen to work as independent artists instead of with a state-operated company.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Dominoes. Cuba’s national game has its own set of rules, played enthusiastically in private and public. More than competition and skill, it is a greatly enjoyed social activity. We will meet with members of a local dominoes league, spend the afternoon learning the Cuban rules, then playing with club members. Teams will rotate and each American will play with one Cuban, talking and getting to know one another during the camaraderie of the game.
 Dinner: Dinner this evening is on your own to enjoy the cuisine of your choice. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
 Evening: Free Evening. It has been another full day of learning, activities, and interaction. Rest, relax, or continue building friendships with your fellow Road Scholar participants.
Accommodations: Hotel Habana Libre
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Transfer to Santa Clara, History of Cuba, People to People Activities with a Senior Center and Troubadours
(Friday, March 7)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We board the motorcoach and transfer to Santa Clara, approximately 80 miles. En route, learn more about the history of Cuba.
 Lunch: Upon arrival in Santa Clara, we will have lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Senior Center. Meet residents of a local senior center with an opportunity to chat, talk about life, and learn about what retirement is like in Cuba. We will also be able to participate in interactive activities of dance and games.

People to People Connection: Trovadores (Troubadours). In the medieval era, troubadours were itinerant musicians who wrote and performed their own music on chivalric and romantic themes. Cuba’s trovadores carried on this tradition in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, performing traditional ballads called “trova” that owe their vibrance to Cuba’s combination of Spanish and African heritage. We will meet some of the best known local trovadores, have an informal discussion about their lives, and enjoy a performance.

After this session, we will transfer to the hotel and check in with some time to freshen up before dinner.

 Dinner: Dinner this evening is out at a local restaurant, an opportunity to savor more of the flavor of Cuba.
 Evening: Take the evening at your leisure to partake of what the hotel has to offer, enjoy a walk to see the ocean views, or just find a cozy spot to observe the passing parade.
Accommodations: Hotel Los Caneyes
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Explore Cienfuegos, People to People Activities with a Choral Group, Print Cooperative, Children's Community Art Project, Transfer to Port and Board Ship
(Saturday, March 8)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We board the motorcoach and transfer to Cienfuegos, approximately 45 miles.

Field Trip: Cienguegos Commercial District. Stroll through the main shopping street of Cienfuegos and learn about the differences between Ration, Cuban Pesos, and CUC stores. Explore the complexity of the two-currency system with opportunities to talk with Cubans who shop at these stores as we enter and speak with the workers and hear what they do.

People to People Connection: Meet with members of a noted local choral group, many of whom have learned English in the last few years, for interaction and conversation. Learn about their involvement with the choir and enjoy a rehearsal.

 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People-to-People Connection: Meet artists who operate a print collaborative, learn their livers, their work and working conditions, and what it means to be an artist in a smaller Cuban town.

People-to-People Connection: We conclude our day in Cienfuegos with a special opportunity to interact with children involved in a community performance art project. We will meet kids, volunteers, and parents, learn about the project, and participate with kids as they teach us some of their songs.

From here, we travel to the port and board the ship.

 Dinner: On board the ship.
 Evening: Free Evening: Settle in and begin exploring the ship that will be our floating hotel for the next several nights. Please note that Road Scholar has secured an unlimited beverage package for our participants for the duration of time on the Cristal. This includes unlimited water, soda, coffee and tea while on board.
Accommodations: MV Louis Cristal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Overnight Transit by Sea to Punta Frances, People to People Activities with the Punta Frances National Marine Park, Understanding More About Cuba, Free Evening Aboard Ship
(Sunday, March 9)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: People to People Connection: Parque Nacional Marino de Punta Francés. Meet workers from the Punta Francés National Marine Park who are involved in enviromental protection on Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth). This is a unique opportunity to discuss life in the most remote part of Cuba and to learn about work being done to help preserve local reefs. Punta Francés was one of the first marine areas to be protected in Cuba.
 Lunch: Over lunch, continue the conversation with members of the park service to learn more about their lives.

We return to port after this session.

 Afternoon: Presentation: Understanding Cuba. With your Study Leader, deepen your understanding of Cuba with further information and discussion.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
 Evening: Free Evening: Enjoy the rhythm of life aboard ship as you stroll the decks, take in a performance, and fall asleep rocked by the gentle motion of the sea.
Accommodations: MV Louis Cristal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Overnight Transit by Sea to Havana, People to People Activities with a Senior Center, Opera de la Calle, Project Muraleando, Dinner with the Project Community
(Monday, March 10)
 Breakfast: On board the ship
 Morning: People to People Connection: Back in Havana for a day, meet with residents of a Senior center to learn about life in Cuba from their perspective. As a way to stay mentally active and alert, many of the seniors have started learning English. Sit and talk and share pictures or news from home.

People to People Connection: Our next interaction is with members of Opera de la Calle (Opera in the Street), a dynamic enterprise that mixes traditional opera with Cuban song, dance, and pop music from abroad. In 2006, its founder took advantage of changes in government policy to encourage more private enterprise. Learn how the company became adept at working with the Cuban system, attend a rehearsal, and talk with the artists about their motivation, inspiration, lives, and careers.

 Lunch: Share a box lunch with Opera de la Calle artists and continue your exchanges. Having a meal together is an excellent way to build bonds of friendship.

After lunch, we return to port with some time to freshen up aboard the ship.

 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Proyecto Muraleando. After beginning neighborhood art workshops in 2001, a small group of artists set out to transform their barrio through a “muraling” project. Murals began appearing, and eventually a community centered event brought together artists, musicians, dancers, singers, actors, poets, and food for a cultural celebration. Meet project members to learn how they transformed a 100-year-old water tank into a multi-use art gallery and classroom space for adults and children in ceramics, bookmaking, papier mache, dance, and theater.
 Dinner: Dinner with Proyecto Muraleando. Enjoy the last night in Havana as a guest of the community and meet some of the children and parents.
 Evening: We return to the ship after dinner.
Accommodations: MV Louis Cristal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: At Sea En Route to Holguin, People to People Activities with Cuban Crew Members and Cuban Dance Instruction
(Tuesday, March 11)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Enjoy a day at sea as we head towards Holguín.

Presentation: Meet with the Study Leader for another presentation on aspects of Cuba's history and culture to deepen your knowledge and understanding.

People to People Connection: Meet with Cuban members of the crew to learn about their lives, their work, and what attracted them to working on board a ship. Engage in candid, small group conversations.

 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Cuban Dance Instruction. Meet and interact with talented instructors to learn national dances including Salsa. As you practice the steps during a one-on-one lesson, take this opportunity for personal conversations about life and work.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
 Evening: Enjoy more of the shipboard experience.
Accommodations: MV Louis Cristal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Overnight Transit by Sea to Holguín, People to People Activities at a Health Care Center, Rural School, Paper and Print Factory Meeting Workers and Artists
(Wednesday, March 12)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: People to People Connection: We have moved along the north coast to reach Holguín. When Christopher Columbus first laid eyes on it in 1492, he called this “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.” Now it is the third most populous province in Cuba. We will drive to a village in the countryside and meet with doctors, nurses, and other staff at a small family clinic, discuss healthcare in Cuba, learn about their training, and gain insights into the care they provide in this rural area.

People to People Connection: In the same village, we will visit a small elementary school, meet with faculty and administrators, and learn more about education in eastern Cuba as you compare and contrast this experience with the earlier school visit. Talk and exchange ideas during our small group exchange.

 Lunch: We will have lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Meet with workers and artists at a unique paper and print factory that uses equipment from the early 20th Century. Learn about this specialized industry with opportunities to talk with a group of workers, share in conversations about their lives, work, and wages. The workers will proudly show you their restored equipment and how it works.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
 Evening: Share highlights of today's experiences with your fellow participants as you reflect on differences between our two countries.
Accommodations: MV Louis Cristal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Overnight Transit at Sea to Santiago de Cuba, People to People Activities with a Performing Arts School and Community Arts Project, Visit José Martí Memorial and El Morro, Check in to Hotel
(Thursday, March 13)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Please Note: We will disembark the ship after breakfast.

People to People Connection: At a Performing Arts school, meet faculty and students to learn about and discussion education and the arts in Cuba.

Field Trip: Santiago de Cuba. The city’s colorful, sometimes turbulent history dates back to 1514 when it was founded by Spanish conquistadors. We will call at the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, last resting place of patriot, freedom fighter, poet and Cuban national hero José Martí. We will also see Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, better known as El Morro, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture, based on Italian and Renaissance design principles.”

 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Ballet Folklórico Cutumba. This vibrant folkloric dance company performs Afro-Cuban-Franco-Haitian dance, music, and song. In addition to local performances, Cutumba has toured extensively to venues and festivals in Europe, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South America, Canada, and the U.S. We will meet with some of the dancers then observe a practice and talk about their experiences.

People to People Connection: Meet members of a community project that helps share the arts with kids in a needy neighborhood. Learn about their work, the great need in this mostly Afro-Cuban part of the city, meet some of the kids, and sit in in a class.

We will check in to our local hotel late afternoon with some time to freshen up before dinner.

 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: It has been another full day. Take the evening to talk about what has been most meaningful and recharge your batteries.
Accommodations: Melia Santiago de Cuba
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: People to People Activities in Guantanamo with Tumba Francesca, Casa del Changüí, and a Family Visit
(Friday, March 14)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We board our bus and head out to Guantanamo, a relatively young city by Cuban standards, dating from 1820. It was founded by Catalan (Spanish) and French colonists who eventually intermingled with native people and slaves. The area’s deep-rooted musical and dance traditions were also influenced by Franco-Haitian immigrants.

People to People Connection: La Tumba Francesca. Meet and interact with dancers and perfomers who carry on this Franco-Haitian tradition. The dance, song, and drumming style known as “tumba Francesa” (French drum) was brought to Cuba by Haitian slaves who were resettled in the island’s eastern regions during the 1790s. It embodies one of the oldest and strongest links to the Afro-Haitian heritage -- a fusion of music from Dahomey in West Africa and traditional French dances. La Tumba Francesca is inscribed on the UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

People to People Connection: Casa del Changüí. Meet and interact with musicians who play this style of popular Cuban music and see how each instrument is played. Changüí originated in the early 19th Century, combining elements of Spanish canción with African rhythms and percussion instruments.

 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: People to People Connection: Family Visit. Meet and interact with a local family. Their home, located behind the small town fire station, actually houses three families. Over coffee and conversation, learn what life is like for typical Cubans in this area.
 Dinner: Enjoy good food and good company during our farewell dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Share one last evening with your fellow participants and new Road Scholar friends, then prepare for our early morning departure back to America.
Accommodations: Melia Santiago de Cuba
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Program Concludes, Hotel Check-out, Transfer to Holguin, Charter Flight to Miami
(Saturday, March 15)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We check out of the hotel, board our bus, and transfer to the airport in Holguin for the return flight to Miami, a drive of approximately two hours.

Charter flight times are still to be confirmed, so we recommend that you not make any onward travel arrangements departing before 3:00pm due to possible delays with the flight and wait time at U.S. Customs and Immigration.

Upon arrival in Miami, if you have connecting flights, clear U.S. Immigration and Custom then make your way to the transfer desks to recheck your luggage and secure boarding passes.

We hope you have enjoyed this in-depth experience of Cuba, learning about its history, culture, and people face to face. Please join us again for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Meals Included: Breakfast
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


Author: Pierre Hausherr (Photographer), Francois Missen

Description: With full-page photographs, introductory essays on history, architecture, music, food and more, this oversized, illustrated paperback by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Francois Missen and photographer Pierre Hausherr captures the spirit of Cuba, its people, nature and culture.

Cuba Classics, A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles

Author: Christopher P. Baker

Description: Himself a fan of the open road, Baker celebrates the extraordinary cars, the remarkable people who love them and the Cuban love affair with the U.S. automobile in dozens of dazzling color photographs.

Cuba Map

Author: Borch Maps

Description: A detailed, double-sided laminated map at a scale of 1:1,000,000.

Cuba and Its Music, From the First Drums to the Mambo

Author: Ned Sublette

Description: A thorough and entertaining history of Cuba and its music by the popular radio producer, music historian and cofounder of Cuban record label QbaDisc.

Cuba, A Traveler's Literary Companion

Author: Ann Louise Bardach

Description: Bardach (Without Fidel) samples terrific contemporary writers for this anthology, organized geographically.

Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know

Author: Julia Sweig

Description: Director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Julia Sweig traces the geography, history and identity of Cuba in this admirably succinct portrait of the island nation and its role in world affairs. This just-released second edition includes Sweig's 2010 interview with Fidel Castro and key events of the last few years: Raul Castro's assumption of power from his brother Fidel, economic and political reforms since Raul came to power, and the changes in US-Cuba relations following the election of Barack Obama. One in a series of balanced, concise guides by Oxford, which also includes China, Turkey and Burma.

Culture Smart! Cuba

Author: Mandy Macdonald

Description: A concise, well-illustrated and practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.

Dreaming in Cuban

Author: Cristina Garcia

Description: A short, poetic novel of three generations of Cuban women, their reaction to the revolution and the complex relation between those who remained in Cuba and those who settled in the United States. Excellent reading.

Moon Handbook Cuba

Author: Christopher P. Baker

Description: Baker's comprehensive, indispensable guide leaves no stone unturned, covering the natural, cultural and political life of the island with style.

Our Man in Havana

Author: Graham Greene

Description: The classic story of a British vacuum cleaner salesman who gets accidentally drawn into cold war espionage with disastrous results.

Telex from Cuba

Author: Rachel Kushner

Description: Kushner re-imagines the world of her mother in this astonishingly wise first novel set in the American enclave in 1950s Cuba. Riveting.

The History of Cuba

Author: Clifford L. Staten

Description: Staten covers the sweep of Cuba's history from its earliest days as a Spanish colony, through its wars for independence and the U.S. occupation to Batista, the Cold War, and the Special Period, when Cuba fell into crisis after the breakup of the Soviet Union -- all in under 200 pages. A Palgrave Essential History.

The Sugar King of Havana

Author: John Paul Rathbone

Description: John Paul Rathbone recounts ""elegant, decadent and whirligig years" of pre-revolutionary Havana and the dramatic life of Julio Lobo, the richest man in Cuba (until Castro’s revolution did away with such men). Surviving assassin's bullets and making and losing two fortunes, Cuba's last tycoon went from glittering man about town in pre-Revolutionary Havana -- and one of the world's richest men -- to solitary exile in Spain. With a mother that traveled in those same circles in Havana, Rathbone brings depth and the prespective of an insider to this fantastic story.

Trading with the Enemy

Author: Tom Miller

Description: Miller captures the openness, sensuality and pride of Cuba and the Cubans in this eloquent account of entertaining travels in Fidel's Cuba.

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