Every since President Obama announced late last year that travel restrictions to Cuba were going to be lifted, adventure-seekers have been clamoring to visit this vibrant, tropical country so that they can add another pushpin to their map of travel conquests. However, almost one year later, it’s still not possible to travel to Cuba simply as an eager tourist ready to sip mojitos on the beach.
To visit this lost land, travelers have to prove they’re visiting Cuba for educational reasons or to help the Cuban people. That’s where tour companies like Group IST (International Specialty Travel) come in. The 34-year old travel provider specializes in content-rich, original, thematic, educational and interactive travel programs, so an excursion to Cuba fits like skirt steak in ropa vieja.
Group IST has been licensed to take Americans to Cuba since 2014 and is one of the few travel providers offering Americans small ship cruises today. It’s no surprise that GIST is adding more sailing dates to their People-to-People cruise of Cuba, totaling 19 cruises in the 2015-2016 season.
The “Havana to Cienfuegos” cruise gives Americans a chance to have an enriching cultural experience while enjoying all the creature comforts—fine food, good accommodations, excellent personal service—of traveling by small ship. On shore, you’ll take part in activities ranging from people-to-people exchanges with local artisans, musicians, and conservationists; authentic lunches at area restaurants; and visits to a variety of landmarks, including the archaeological sites at Guanahacabibes National Park, the Spanish colonial city of Trinidad, and old Havana.
The cost of a cruise ranges from $4,899 to $5,999. This price includes mandatory Cuban medical insurance as well as all the necessary paperwork. Charter airfare is not included —so if you’re trolling the Internet for rates, CheapAir offers nonstop flights from Miami, Tampa, and New York. And as of this past July, JetBlue also offers nonstop service from JFK. For more information, visit the Group IST website.