One of my resolutions this year is to travel and make a difference and I have chosen Cuba to begin my journey.
Living in South Florida and so close to the Caribbean I have had the opportunity to visit many of the islands from Grand Bahama to Trinidad and everything in between. From the most popular to the most remote and now finally we are getting the opportunity to travel to Cuba just 90 miles off the coast of the US. But travel to Cuba for those of us coming from the United States still has its restrictions. Americans are unable to travel for the purpose of tourism.
When clients ask about Cuba most are surprised by my answers. You won’t be lounging at the beach, soaking up the sun, sipping on mojitos, leisurely touring and or dancing the mambo at a once famous dance club. What you can do however is to make a difference – Social Imact Travel, people to people interaction for educational purpose.
Cuba has it all: cigars, music, beaches, beautiful coral reefs and tropical rainforests.
Throughout the years, time and time again, we have all heard about how beautiful Cuba was. Ask any native Cuban and they will undeniably tell you that it was the most beautiful tropical paradise that ever existed, famous for cigars, beautiful girls, and music. Cuba has very beautiful beaches with white sand and emerald waters, beautiful coral reefs and tropical rain forests. According to many travelers who have had the opportunity to travel to the country, Cuba is still considered to be the most beautiful island in the world.
During the Cuban Exile many fled the island and settled in Miami in search of political asylum and widespread reprisals from the communist dictator Fidel Castro. Since I’ve lived in South Florida for almost 26 years I have had the opportunity to meet, talk and become friends with these happy and vivacious people. The pre-Mariel group, 1950-1970, consisted of the mostly middle and upper classes of the island. They fled with next to nothing. Anything they acquired was taken away prior to their departure.
The second group of people emigrated during and after the period of the Mariel boat lift in the 1980’s. Those people were and still are in search of better economic conditions.
Should I wait or is now the time to go?
Now it has finally happened and the US Embassy has reopened the 54-year trade embargo enabling US citizens to travel to Cuba with restrictions. There are multiple daily flights from Miami and more flights are being added on a daily basis from destinations such as Tampa, New York and Orlando. Two of the major airline carriers who have jumped on the bandwagon are American and JetBlue. Keep in mind that issues still exist and as a travel concierge I recommend that my clients check in four hours before departure time to be on the safe side. Lines are extremely long and filled with people bringing items to their relatives still living on the island.
And once you arrive things do not get any better. Cuba is not ready for the influx of visitors. With very few good hotels, forget 5 star, and an infrastructure that is in terrible shape, you can forget about overseas roaming on your cell. If you need to work on your computer or cell phone I highly suggest you choose another island! So while traveling to Cuba is still a hassle and legally murk, the time has come! The possibility exists that the next US president can make changes that would restrict travel from the US once again and how long ‘before it becomes “Americanized?”
Can we make a difference?
We’re on our way! In May a few of my friends and family will be participating in an ongoing cultural exchange program with the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people, one on one. It is a chance to build a new bridge to a vibrant culture that has been closed to US travelers for over 50 years. We will board the first cruise ship to be granted approval for round-trip travel between the US and Cuba. It is a once-in-a lifetime experience and a chance to immerse into the Cuban culture, to learn more about the lives and aspirations of the Cuban people, to interact one-on-one with the likes of artists, musicians, students, small-business owners and others.
This is our chance to learn from them and it is our chance to make a difference!
Want to come along? I guarantee that you will come home days later knowing that the lives you have touched may be a little bit brighter because of YOU!
Call us now for more information and our exclusive group rates on our maiden journey to Cuba on May 15,2016.
Lisa Crawford is the founder and CEO of SitInMySeats VIP Tickets, Travel & Concierge Services and can be reached at (954) 456-0419 or email Lisa@sitinmyseats.com