After many years of sending our clients on Tauck tours, somewhere in the world, I decided it was time for me to personally experience what made Tauck so special. Cuba was on my bucket list and it was one country we could not travel to on our own, due to the travel restrictions imposed on Americans. On October 31 we joined a Tauck tour of only 17 people with 4 of my clients. It was a 12-day trip with 10 nights spent in Cuba traveling throughout the country. We went to Havana, Varadero, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad and Holguin. Our Tauck Tour Conductor, Siggy, and our local Cuban guide, Alicia, made this trip very special. Siggy could not do enough for us and Alicia shared her stories of life in Cuba to personalize our experience.
Our first stop was Havana. Our hotel was modern, comfortable and excellent in every way. We spent 3 days in Havana, including a tour with an architect showing us around the old city explaining the incredible refurbishment effort that is going on to revitalize the old buildings.
The cars from the 1950’s are in incredible condition. The Cubans keep them running without the benefit of original replacement parts.
Music is the life of Cuba. We visited several music schools that taught opera or dance. One school provided 1 teacher per student! We also attended concerts exclusively put on for our small Tauck group. The troupe below merges Spanish dance with Afro-Cuban rhythms.
About 9 miles outside of Havana is the home of the writer Hemingway. The Director of the museum took us throughout the property and house detailing what life was like for Hemingway and his family. He purchased the house in 1940. They stayed on after the revolution in 1959 but the Cuban government took over the house in 1961 after Hemingway's death. The house has been maintained with the original furnishings from the time Hemingway lived in the home.
Varadero is a tourist beach location. To infuse money into the economy back in the 1990’s, this area was developed to draw visitors from Canada and Europe. We stayed at a 5 star resort on a beautiful beach. One afternoon was spent enjoying the sunset on a catamaran. Our local guide was not allowed on the boat for fear she would sail away from Cuba and escape to another country. This was the first time we experienced first-hand the restrictions that are still imposed on the Cuban people. We had a great time on the boat as did my clients.
We visited two 500-year old towns: Sancti Spiritus (my favorite) and Trinidad. We stayed 2 nights in Sancti Spiritus and enjoyed spending time with the locals in their colorful city, sitting on the park benches in the main square to get the only internet signal available in the town.
Trinidad’s stone streets made it challenging to walk around but the horses were quite comfortable.
Overall we had a fantastic trip. Tauck planned so many special events and took care of the smallest details. We were well taken care of in a country that still struggles with poverty and poor infrastructure. I am glad we visited now before the influx of Americans and the challenges this will bring to their people and country.