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Cuba

Cuba Today: People and Society: Havana & Cienfuegos

Program No. 22461RJ
Discover the unique social and cultural changes taking place in Cuba today as you enjoy a musical performance, converse with locals and embark on a walking adventure of historic Havana.
Length
8 days
Rating (4.93)
Activity Level
Starts at
3,399

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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 21 - Jan 28, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Jan 28 - Feb 4, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Feb 4 - Feb 11, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Feb 11 - Feb 18, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Feb 25 - Mar 4, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Mar 11 - Mar 18, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Mar 18 - Mar 25, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Mar 25 - Apr 1, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Apr 1 - Apr 8, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Apr 22 - Apr 29, 2023
Starting at
3,399
May 6 - May 13, 2023
Starting at
3,399
May 13 - May 20, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Oct 14 - Oct 21, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Oct 28 - Nov 4, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Nov 11 - Nov 18, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Dec 2 - Dec 9, 2023
Starting at
3,399
Dec 9 - Dec 16, 2023
Starting at
3,399
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 21 - Jan 28, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Jan 28 - Feb 4, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Feb 4 - Feb 11, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Feb 11 - Feb 18, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Feb 25 - Mar 4, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Mar 11 - Mar 18, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Mar 18 - Mar 25, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Mar 25 - Apr 1, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Apr 1 - Apr 8, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Apr 22 - Apr 29, 2023
Starting at
3,649
May 6 - May 13, 2023
Starting at
3,649
May 13 - May 20, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Oct 14 - Oct 21, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Oct 28 - Nov 4, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Nov 11 - Nov 18, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Dec 2 - Dec 9, 2023
Starting at
3,649
Dec 9 - Dec 16, 2023
Starting at
3,649

At a Glance

Welcome to Cuba: A mosaic of colorful buildings and diverse locals that comes together to form a country rich in history, culture and art. On a special journey that begins and ends in Havana, support entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, religious institutions and business leaders while learning about their lives. Alongside Cuban hosts, learn about U.S.- Cuba relations as you explore the vibrant cities that make this country so unique. Immerse yourself in colonial architecture, Art Deco buildings, classic cars and lively music while learning how a country shaped by so many outside influences could create such a strong sense of community.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles a day on a combination of cobblestone streets and dirt paths. Getting on and off of a motorcoach. Navigating high curbs, uneven steps and stairs without railings. Travel in a tropical climate.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Listen to a performance by a local music group in Cienfuegos and speak with the artists.
  • Enjoy a performance from a private Cuban dance company and meet with the dancers.
  • Learn about a community project which, under the leadership of local artists, is transforming a neighborhood through artistic expression.

General Notes

Road Scholar offers opportunities to travel legally to Cuba under the new OFAC Regulations published June 5, 2019. Following the General License category “Support for the Cuban People,” Road Scholar programs include activities intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Each day's program promotes independence for the Cuban people and results in meaningful interactions with the Cuban people. Questions about traveling to Cuba? Road Scholar has your answers. Learn more: https://www.roadscholar.org/travel-tips/cuba/.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Maritza Corrales
Maritza Corrales is a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life's work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba. Born in 1948, she is a graduate of the University of Havana and lives in Havana. She has been a consulting scholar to various research and academic institutions in Cuba and has published numerous articles on the history of Cuban Jews. She has lectured at universities in Israel, Spain, Mexico, and Cuba.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Maritza Corrales
Maritza Corrales View biography
Maritza Corrales is a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life's work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba. Born in 1948, she is a graduate of the University of Havana and lives in Havana. She has been a consulting scholar to various research and academic institutions in Cuba and has published numerous articles on the history of Cuban Jews. She has lectured at universities in Israel, Spain, Mexico, and Cuba.
Profile Image of Lian Villanueva
Lian Villanueva View biography
Lian Villanueva is one of the many amazing bi-lingual Cuban leaders who works with and has been trained by Road Scholar in addition to being trained and scheduled by Havanatur, the government-run operator in Cuba. She is a Cuban expert, responsible for relaying local knowledge as well as both cultural and historical information for the sites we visit throughout the program. Karina will answer questions pertaining to Cuba and the Cuban people.
Profile Image of Karina Sanchez
Karina Sanchez View biography
Karina Sanchez is one of the many amazing bi-lingual Cuban leaders who works with and has been trained by Road Scholar in addition to being trained and scheduled by Havanatur, the government-run operator in Cuba. She is a Cuban expert, responsible for relaying local knowledge as well as both cultural and historical information for the sites we visit throughout the program. Karina will answer questions pertaining to Cuba and the Cuban people.
Profile Image of Ilen Chou
Ilen Rodriguez is one of the many amazing Cuban leaders who works with and has been trained by Road Scholar in addition to being trained and scheduled by Havanatur, the government-run operator in Cuba. She is the Cuban expert and is responsible for relaying local knowledge, and both cultural and historical information for the places we visit throughout the program. She will answer questions pertaining to Cuba and the Cuban people.
Profile Image of Guillermo Mena
Guillermo Mena View biography
Guillermo Mena is one of the many amazing Cuban leaders who works with and has been trained by Road Scholar in addition to being trained and scheduled by Havanatur, the government-run operator in Cuba. She is the Cuban expert and is responsible for relaying local knowledge, and both cultural and historical information for the places we visit throughout the program. She will answer questions pertaining to Cuba and the Cuban people.
Profile Image of Marta Núñez Sarmiento
Marta Núñez Sarmiento View biography
Marta Núñez Sarmiento is a retired professor at the University of Havana where she taught methodology and gender studies. Her research has concentrated on women and employment in Cuba, gender studies in Cuba, images of women in Cuban mass media, and transition projects for Cuba proposed by Cuban American and U.S. scholars. She holds a master’s in sociology and a PhD in economics. She has been a visiting professor at universities around the world and a consultant on gender for the UN and other NGOs.
Profile Image of Camilo Garcia Lopez Trigo
Camilo Garcia Lopez Trigo View biography
Camilo García Lopez Trigo has represented Cuba at its Embassy in Canada, the United Nations in the Netherlands, and in Washington DC. He also is involved in the National Center for Sex Education (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual, or CENESEX. He shares his experiences representing Cuba in both friendly and adversarial nations, and his views on the current and future state of US-Cuba relations. Dr. García is a professor at the University of Havana International Relations School and an expert in US political studies.
Profile Image of Viviana Rives
Viviana Rives View biography
Viviana Rives is one of the many amazing bi-lingual Cuban leaders who work with and has been trained by Road Scholar in addition to being trained and scheduled by Havanatur, the government-run operator in Cuba. She is a Cuban expert, responsible for relaying local knowledge as well as cultural and historical information for the study sites we visit throughout the program. Viviana will answer questions pertaining to Cuba and the Cuban people.
Profile Image of Dariem Zamora
Dariem Zamora View biography
Dariem Zamora was born in Cuba. He has lived in Miami, Florida, since 1995 and has been involved in Cuba travel since 2002. He has visited Cuba more than 50 times, leading groups all over the Island. He has a deep understanding of Cuba and is eager to discuss Cuban culture, politics, economics, and history. Every program is a new adventure for Dariem and an opportunity for him to introduce his country’s beautiful cities, landscapes, and the vibrant spirit of the Cuban people.
Profile Image of Betty Vander Kaaij
Betty Vander Kaaij View biography
Betty Vander Kaaij graduated with a BA in hotel and tourism and jump-started her career in hospitality with Westin Hotels. After stints in Miami, Seattle, and abroad, she moved back to Mexico City and married a Dutch hotelier. In 1997, they were invited to Havana for Cohiba Cigars’ 30th anniversary. Betty fell in love with Cuba and its people and promised herself that one day she would return. Her dream came true in 2011, when she started leading groups to the island.
Profile Image of Carole Cloonan
Carole Cloonan View biography
Carole Cloonan once traveled the world working as a chef, sometimes on private yachts, a job that naturally flowed out of her move to the Caribbean to live in the Virgin Islands. As a chef abroad, she developed a curiosity for understanding other cultures. Now Carole is eager to combine her love of travel — especially in the islands of the Caribbean — with her passion to help Road Scholars be educated in the culture, culinary traditions, artists and their art, and literary legacy of Cuba.
Profile Image of James Fitch
James Warner Fitch View biography
James “Jim” Fitch is a Vermont native and graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in international business. After several years in the corporate world, he traded in his loafers for trekking shoes, leading educational travel programs for teenagers to Spain and Costa Rica. Jim joined the Peace Corps for three years, teaching entrepreneurship and business skills to underserved communities in the Dominican Republic. He began working with Road Scholar in 2015.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Hemingway's Boat
by Paul Hendrickson
Focusing on the years 1934 to 1961, from Hemingway's pinnacle as the reigning monarch of American letters until his suicide, Paul Hendrickson traces the writer's life through the story of his beloved boat, Pilar. On display at Hemingway's Finca La Vigia in San Francisco de Paula, east of Havana, it is easy to see how this sleek craft attracted Hemingway, the setting for so much of what the writer loved and the leitmotif of Hendrickson's supple elegy.
Moon Cuba
by Christopher P. Baker
A practical guide in the Moon series, packed not only with travel necessities (hotels, restaurants, sights), but also with a good overview of history and destinations throughout Cuba.
Dreaming in Cuban
by Cristina Garcia
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.
Cuba Map
by Borch Maps
A detailed, double-sided laminated map at a scale of 1:1,000,000.
Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know
by Julia Sweig
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.
The Distant Marvels
by Chantel Acevedo
A life-affirming tale of love set during a hurricane in 1960s, post-revolutionary Cuba. To keep hope alive amongst the evacuees, Maria Sirena tells the incredible story of her childhood during Cuba's Third War of Independence.
Cuba, A History in Art
by Gary R. Libby
This slim, yet comprehensive survey of Cuban art between 1725 and 1959 explains the development of artists’ styles and how developments in Cuba (and especially Havana) changed their work.
Our Man in Havana
by Graham Greene
The classic story of a British vacuum cleaner salesman who gets accidentally drawn into Cold War espionage with disastrous results.
Cuba
by Pierre Hausherr (Photographer), Francois Missen
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.
The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo
by Juan Reinaldo Sanchez with Axel Gyldén
In The Double Life of Fidel Castro, one of Castro's soldiers of 17 years breaks his silence and shares his memoir of years of service, and eventual imprisonment and torture for displeasing the notorious dictator, and his dramatic escape from Cuba.
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8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 5 L 6 D
DAY
1
In Transit, Arrive Havana, Check-in, Welcome Dinner
Havana
D
Hotel Grand Aston La Habana

Activity note: This daily schedule is a representative guide. Program elements in Cuba are controlled by the Cuban government and are subject to change on short notice, as are flight times. Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: After checking in at the hotel, take some time to freshen up.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Orientation, U.S. & Cuba
Havana
B,L
Hotel Grand Aston La Habana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 15 miles total, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking and standing for approximately 3 hours, pedestrian streets, cobblestones, high curbs.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant.

Morning: Orientation: 8:30 a.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Our accommodations in Cuba feature clean, comfortable rooms with private baths and standard amenities. Cuban hotel standards may not equal their American or European counterparts. Improvements are ongoing, and we hope that any potential glitch in service or amenities is a minor trade-off for the authentic connections and enrichment we will experience. Meals will be in paladars: privately owned and operated family restaurants. Periods in the schedule designated as “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Next, we’ll have a presentation on the new Cuban Constitution. We’ll gain an understanding of the political changes currently taking place in Cuba. We’ll then board our private motorcoach and set out on a field trip to Art Brut, a community project that helps self-taught Cuban artists.

Lunch: At a paladar (privately-owned restaurant).

Afternoon: In the afternoon, we will have an introductory walking tour of old Havana with our Cuban host. Afterwards, we will learn about dominoes with members of a private domino club. Dominoes is, in many ways, Cuba’s national game. It 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’ll meet members of a local dominoes league, learn the Cuban rules, then play with club members. Teams will rotate and each American will play with one Cuban and an opportunity to openly exchange ideas about events in both of our countries. You will admire the hand-made Domino sets and perhaps even decide to bring one home.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in Havana. The Group Leader will be glad to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Visit Cienfuegos, Musical Performance, Transfer to Trinidad
Trinidad
B,L,D
Hotel La Ronda

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 124 miles, approximately 2.5 hours riding time. Walking up to 2.5 miles; uneven cobblestone streets in Cienfuegos, few places to sit. Driving about 108 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time along coastal road to Trinidad.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, board our motorcoach, and begin the journey to Cienfuegos on the southern part of the island. The drive through the countryside will be a fascinating experience as we observe the forms of transportation available to Cubans, including an abundance of horse-drawn carriages.

Lunch: At a paladar in Cienfuegos.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will attend a rehearsal of a local music group – with an opportunity to interact with the musicians – and also enjoy a performance by a chamber orchestra. We’ll then reboard the motorcoach and continue our drive to Trinidad.

Dinner: At a paladar.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Trinidad Overview, Artisan Workshops, Sugar Mill Valley
Trinidad
B,L,D
Hotel La Ronda

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 108 miles total, approximately 3 hours. Strenuous walking up to 2.5 miles and standing outdoors; very uneven cobblestone streets; sunny conditions, limited shade. The historic center of Trinidad is not accessible to motorcoaches and can only be reached on foot.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Trinidad is one of the original Spanish settlements and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1514, this time capsule of a city is a mix of historic landmarks and majestic natural beauty. We’ll set out walking with our Cuban host to Plaza Mayor where we will see historically and architecturally significant landmarks of this colonial town. We will visit the workshops of several local artisans including basket makers, embroiderers, and toymakers. We’ll also have a visit with a local artisan who uses abandoned wood from houses to create one-of-a-kind sculptured portraits.

Lunch: At Hotel Ronda.

Afternoon: We will drive into the UNESCO World Heritage Sugar Mill Valley and visit artisans at the San Isidro de los Destiladeros archaeological site returning to Trinidad in time for dinner.

Dinner: At a paladar.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Transfer to Havana, Havana Overview
Havana
B,L,D
Hotel Grand Aston La Habana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 253 miles, approximately 4-5 hours riding time including stops. Walking up to 2 miles, uneven ground.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board our motorcoach for the return trip to Havana. En route we will stop at a local organic farm. We will take a walk around the farm with the owner to learn about what is grown and produced there and to appreciate the spectacular views.

Lunch: At the farm Finca Vista Hermosa.

Afternoon: We’ll arrive in central Havana for a motorcoach overview of some of the city’s key sights including Havana University, Paseo del Prado, Revolution Square, and the Malecon. We’ll check in at the hotel later in the afternoon and have some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At a paladar.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Church Visit, Old Havana, Art Studios, Dance Group
Havana
B,L,D
Hotel Grand Aston La Habana

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles, standing indoors and out up to 2 hours; pedestrian streets, cobblestones, high curbs; sunny conditions, limited shade. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 20 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a community leader who will discuss the diversity of the religions practiced in Cuba, including Catholicism, Judaism, and the Afro-Cuban Santeria. We’ll visit projects at the Milagrosa Church. Next, we’ll set out on a walking field trip to explore the historic plazas of Old Havana, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. From the UNESCO inscription: “Havana was founded in 1519 by the Spanish. By the 17th century, it had become one of the Caribbean’s main centers for shipbuilding. Although it is today a sprawling metropolis of 2 million inhabitants, its old center retains an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards.” We’ll meet with members of the arts community and learn about Cuba’s rich artistic heritage and developments in contemporary Cuban art, then we’ll enjoy a ride in a private classic car from the 1950s.

Lunch: At a paladar.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll ride to a practice space to meet with members of a modern dance group. We’ll observe a rehearsal and have conversation and interactions with some of the group’s members.

Dinner: At a paladar.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Women in Cuba, Chorale Concert, Sephardic Synagogue
Havana
B,D
Hotel Grand Aston La Habana

Activity note: Walking up to 1/2 mile and standing indoors and out; pavement, cobblestones, stairs without railings, uneven curbs and sidewalk surfaces. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 10 miles, approximately 45 minutes riding time.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll be joined by an expert in gender studies and sociology for a presentation on women in Cuba that will provide perspectives on women in today’s Cuban society. Next, we will visit the Sephardic Synagogue of Havana and explore the Holocaust museum there.

Afternoon: Next, we will visit a local market of independent artists. We will regroup at the hotel to attend a performance by a women’s a capella chorale. This is an opportunity to hear beautiful voices and to discuss what life is like for women today in Cuba.

Dinner: We will ride to a paladar. Share favorite experiences and enjoy camaraderie with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes, In Transit From Program
Depart Cuba
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. See your program’s “Transportation Information” regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel or boxed breakfast depending on flight times. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.