LEGAL TRAVEL TO CUBA
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In 2019 the Trump Administration released new restrictions governing travel to Cuba. Among the new restrictions is the elimination of all People-to-People education programs, the license category under which our previous trips were conducted.
Our trips are now in compliance with the general license for Support of the Cuban People. Each trip will provide support to Cuba’s private entrepreneurs, running private restaurants or bed and breakfasts (casas particulares). In addition, we will engage in other special activities to support the Cuban people.
Please be assured that should we need to cancel the trip due to governmental restrictions, you will receive a full refund of your deposit.
For many years, Ocean Doctor-led trips to Cuba have allowed U.S. citizens to legally visit the island, enjoy meaningful contact with and provide support for the Cuban people and lay a foundation of friendship and trust between our countries.
Revenue from these programs has been financially critical to many hard-working Cuban people and the loss of this revenue creates an uncertain future for them, surely filled with economic hardship. These programs are also an important source of financial support for our philanthropic work in Cuba.
Please consider joining us on one of our trips. Your participation will help ordinary Cuban people survive exceedingly difficult economic times while helping us continue nearly 20 years of work on this unique and beautiful island. A portion of your travel fee may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
- June 1-12, 2020 -or-November 9-19, 2020 (11 days/10 nights)
- Led by Ocean Doctor President, Dr. David E. Guggenheim
- Limited to 10 Participants
- Locations: Havana, Isle of Youth, Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs), Trinidad
- Scuba Diving/Snorkeling on Isle of Youth and at Bay of Pigs
- Lectures by Cuban Scientists, Conservationists
- VIP Access to Art Galleries & Visits to Cuban Artists’ Homes
- Top Accommodations
- Supports Our Work! (A Portion of Your Travel Fee May Be Tax-Deductible as a Charitable Contribution)
Our journey will explore some of Cuba’s most culturally vibrant cities – Havana and Trinidad – passing among the country’s pristine natural ecosystems. We’ll also visit the Bay of Pigs and Cuba’s lesser known Isle of Youth, a place of beauty, history and mystery. We will also engage with Cuban scientists, artists and community members to explore how Cuba is changing.
This trip is limited to 10 participants to provide a more personal and intimate visit and provide flexibility during our journey. You’ll get an up-close and personal visit providing you with an authentic look at life in Cuba today, a behind-the-scenes look at Ocean Doctor’s research and conservation work, a chance to enjoy Cuba’s natural beauty, and an opportunity to experience the rich cultural diversity and beauty that Cuba has to offer, while experiencing meaningful contact with the Cuban people.
Havana is Cuba’s capital and the Caribbean’s largest and most vivacious city. Its culturally-rich, romantic atmosphere and infectious energy are legendary. Havana is the only place in the world where you’ll find vintage American Chevy’s and Fords running alongside Russian Ladas. Revolutionary slogans adorn many buildings, but you’ll also find vibrant night clubs, jazz and ballet. The architecture of the city is striking and Old Havana is under restoration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Playa Girón is a tranquil beach village on the east bank of the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the southern coast of Cuba. It is adjacent to Cuba’s Ciénaga de Zapata, an enormous and well-preserved wetland area harboring a wealth of wildlife.
In April 1961, Playa Girón was one of two landing sites for seaborne forces of about 1,500 armed Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, an American CIA-sponsored attempt to overthrow the new government of Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro. Today, the Museo Girón is a small museum dedicated to the historical conflict. The Bay of Pigs is now a no-take marine protected area with scuba diving and snorkeling available.
ISLE OF YOUTH
Cuba’s Isle of Youth is the seventh-largest island in the West Indies. Columbus named it Evangelista. Over the centuries since, it bore the names Isla de Cotorras (Isle of Parrots), Isla de Tesoros (Treasure Island), Isla de Pinos (Isle of Pines), and finally, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth).
It has a storied history as a favorite base for pirates, a U.S. settlement until the 1920s, and an island dedicated to a network of international schools since 1978 until devastated by Hurricane Gustav in 2008. The Presido Modelo prison — now a museum — held Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries in the 1950s. The 80,000 residents of the island often feel invisible and disconnected from the rest of Cuba, described as an “island within an island.” The southern half of the Isle of Youth is an enormous protected area with breathtaking natural beauty, both in the water and on the land. It’s been described by tourist guides as Cuba’s “hidden gem.” To learn more, read our article Finding Hope for the Invisible Island which also discusses Ocean Doctor’s work there.
Trinidad is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in the Caribbean and a World Heritage site, dating back to the 1500s when sugar trade was the main industry in the region. The valley has many idle historic sugar plantations that are a reminder of the importance of sugar to the Cuban economy over the centuries. Slaves from Africa were essential in the operation of sugar plantations, as well as servants in the palatial homes of the owners. Today, due to the lack of investment in the industry, Cuba imports 60 percent of the sugar it consumes. Trinidad has a strong artisans community, including an outdoor market, well known for artisan works of woodcarvings and fine handmade lace, as well as ceramics, masks, and musical instruments.
Itinerary Highlights Only – Some Events and Meals Not Listed; Subject to Change
- Arrival in Havana. Transfer to Hotel Parque Central.
- Welcome and Briefing, Dinner at Paladar El Del Frente
- Walking Tour of Old Havana
- Museum of the Revolution – Paseo del Prado
- Lunch: Paladar O’Reilly 304
- Lecture by Cuban Scientists
- Dinner: Tierra
- VIP Entry to Fabrica de Arte Cubano
- Visit Organic Farm Cooperative – El Ajiaco Restaurant, Cojimar
- Visit: Project De La Calle
- Ernest Hemingway Museum: Finca Vigía
- Almacenes San José Artisans’ Market/Artist’s Homes
- Dinner: Paladar Atelier
- Live Music Show – La Zorra y el Cuervo
- Transportation via high-speed ferry to Isle of Youth
- Tour of the Presidio Modelo Prison Museum
- Dinner at local Paladar (Nueva Gerona)
- Visit Punta Frances Marine Reserve; Scuba diving/snorkeling
- Lunch aboard dive boat
- Dinner at local Paladar (Nueva Gerona)
- Visit southern portion of Isle of Youth with visit to community of Cocodrilo; lectures by community leaders on collaborative project with Ocean Doctor
- Lunch in Cocodrilo
- Dinner at local Paladar (Nueva Gerona)
- High-speed ferry return mainland; ground transportation to Playa Girón at the Bay of Pigs
- Lunch at local Paladar (Playa Girón)
- Visit Museum of the Bay of Pigs Invasion
- Scuba/Snorkeling in Bay of Pigs
- Dinner at local Paladar (Playa Girón) with local naturalists, divers
- Transfer to Trinidad
- Lunch at Paladar San Jose
- Walking Tour of Trinidad
- Cocktail at La Canchánchara – La Canchanchara
- Visit with local craftspersons
- Dinner & Entertainment: Paladar La Redacción de Cuba
- Short hike, waterfalls
- Visit Playa Ancón – Playa Ancon
- Dinner event
- Transportation back to Havana.
- Check-in Hotel Iberostar Parque Central
- Fine Arts Museum
- Dinner Paladar Mercaderes – Walking distance, with Cuban scientist(s)
- Transportation to Airport. Departure for U.S.
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all meals are included though they may not be listed on this itinerary overview
While in Havana we’ll stay in the 5-star Hotel Parque Central in the heart of Old Havana, and while traveling to Playa Girón, Cienfuegos and Trinidad we’ll experience stays in upscale Cuban homes or casas particulares, with all the comfort and privacy of a hotel with a healthy dose of authenticity and warm hospitality. We’ll travel in comfort in a modern air-conditioned bus. Airport transfers included.
For nearly 19 years, Ocean Doctor founder and president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim has dedicated his career to research and conservation efforts in Cuba to protect coral reef ecosystems, working in close collaboration with Cuban scientists, conservationists and citizens through Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Conservancy Program. His work has been featured on 60 Minutes, PBS NewHour, the New York Times among others. Joint work on marine science and conservation has been cited as one of the best examples of Cuba-U.S. collaboration and has been credited with helping to support diplomatic efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.
Since his first visit to Cuba in 2000, Dr. Guggenheim has visited the island more than 100 times and has been enchanted with the island’s natural wonders, its rich and vibrant cultural heritage, but most of all, by the warmth and spirit of the Cuban people.
We are inviting a small group (limited to 10) to join Dr. Guggenheim on an exclusive trip to visit some of Cuba’s most popular locales as well as some of its least known, the latter being Cuba’s Isle of Youth where Ocean Doctor has focused much of its work over the past few years.
Ocean Doctor’s award-winning educational travel experiences in Cuba are unique, providing participants with a rich, in-depth experience that draws from years of leading collaborative research and conservation work in Cuba. Participating in our educational programs provides participants with exclusive access to some of Cuba’s most important scientists, conservationists and community leaders, working tirelessly to help Cuba navigate profound change while protecting its natural and cultural heritage.
On this trip, we will also be led by expert Cuban tour guide, Jesús Noguera, founder of CubaCareo Tours
BOOK EARLY: Save $400 per traveler if we receive your deposit by May 29!
Price per person:
$5,497 $4,997 (double occupancy; $750 $500 single supplement). Your travel supports our work as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. A portion of your travel fee is tax-deductible.
Included: Lodging; transportation (including airport transfer to/from Jose Martí Airport, Havana); meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner); 1 alcoholic drink per meal; Ocean Doctor guide; local guide; guest speakers; entrance fees; bottled water on bus
Not Included: Airfare to/from Cuba; Cuban visa; departure tax; Cuban visa, departure tax; Meals not on itinerary, 4 lunches and 3 dinners (B/L/D per itinerary); alcoholic drinks in excess of one per meal; bottles of wine; excursions not on the itinerary; tips for local guide(s), drivers(s) (optional, but customary and appreciated); travel insurance.
Air Transportation: Your air travel on a commercial carrier will be arranged from your home city to Havana by our Travel Service Provider, Marazul Charters. Marazul will also provide you with your Cuban visa.
Travel Insurance: Included in the price of your airline ticket is Cuban health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay. We recommend that you check with your own health insurance company regarding coverage while you are in Cuba. We recommend travel insurance for your trip, such as trip interruption, baggage delay, flight delay, etc. We recommend SquareMouth, an online comparison engine that allows you to compare more than 100 different travel insurance policies.
Legal Travel to Cuba
Travel to Cuba under Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Educational Experiences Program is legal for U.S. citizens and residents (and meets the new restrictions imposed by the Trump Administration.) Ocean Doctor is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department for educational programs to Cuba and we work to ensure that all activities are in full compliance with U.S. Treasury regulations. Despite the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba remains in place. Under the embargo, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens for tourism is prohibited. However, licensed “people-to-people” educational visits are permitted.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Travel to Cuba Legal for U.S. Citizens & Residents?
Yes it is. Although diplomatic relations have been normalized between the U.S. and Cuba, the 50-year-old economic embargo remains in place. Therefore, tourism remains illegal, so going to Cuba on your own for touristic purposes is not permitted. Our trip is specifically designed for U.S. travelers and is licensed under the “People to People” Educational Travel category which requires “meaningful interaction” with the Cuban people, a centerpiece of our trips.
As discussed earlier, on April 17 the Trump Administration announced a number of new policies directed at Cuba. Included in the announcement was the possible elimination of educational (people to people) travel. The actual regulations are likely months away from going into effect.
According to our colleague, Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, quoted in Condé Naste Traveler: “For now, travelers should stay calm and keep an eye out for more news about what the actual changes will be. Yesterday’s announcement was very general and did not include any details about what changes will be implemented and what the process and timeline will be…” He is encouraging business as usual for now and we agree. Until there are new written regulations from the U.S. Department of Treasury, no new changes are in effect.
We are moving ahead with these two trips and extend our thanks to those of you who have already registered. Should the new regulations lead to the cancellation of either trip, you will receive a full refund of your deposit.
These two trips may be among the last opportunities to legally see Cuba for quite some time so we encourage you to sign up quickly as space is limited to 10 travelers per trip.
Remember, your travel fee supports our work, which we expect to become more difficult as the Trump Administration’s new policies go into effect. A portion of your fee is tax-deductible. We need your help for the rough road ahead and hope you’ll join us!
Is Cuba Safe?
Cuba is considered one of the safest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Cuban people are warm, welcoming and generous, especially to Americans.
Do I Need a Visa to Get to Cuba?
Yes. Our travel providers will take care of that for you.
Ocean Doctor’s Award-Winning Cuba Educational Experiences
Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Educational Experiences program was recognized in Outside Magazine’s Best Of Awards for 2015!
Our trip…exceeded my expectations! The Cuban people were warm and welcoming to us all. Our educational programs totally raised my awareness of the beauty and importance of keeping our reefs healthy…I hope that David and Ocean Doctor can continue these programs to others.
Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Educational Experiences were the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine!