|Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike|
Since November commenced, a trio of tour operators joined the Cuba party with Cuba Travel Services (via CheapCaribbean.com), Island Destinations and Cox & Kings all announcing new tours to the once-forbidden island.
Here's a breakdown of the latest tours to Cuba.
CheapCaribbean.com Expands Into Cuba Market With New Tours
CheapCaribbean.com will begin offering eight-day tours to Cuba in early 2016.
Led by Cuba Travel Services, a U.S.-based operator that charters flights from Miami to Cuba, the nine tours will highlight the history and culture of the island.
The trips, which start at $5,500 per person, include all accommodations, meals and air/ground transportation for departures starting February through October 2016. The journey will kick off with one night in Miami, followed by four days in Havana, where travelers will tour the country's historic capital city – both on foot and in a 1950s classic antique car – and its famed sites, such as the Revolution Square; "Fusterlandia," a community project in Jaimanitas created by Jose Fuster, who is known as the "Picasso of the Caribbean;" and Las Tres Monedas, a local lounge owned by the famous artist, Kadir Lopez Nieves.
The trip will culminate in the resort town of Varadero, where travelers will meet with local artist Manuel A. Alvarez Suazo ("Lolo"), who expresses his sublime vision of Havana on large canvases; interact with local musicians and dancers at the Casa de la Cultura; stroll through Finca La Coincidencia, a farm founded by artist Hector Correa; and tour the Casa Dupont, also known as Xanadu, the former estate of American millionaire Irene Dupont.
Cuba is the most recent example of CheapCaribbean.com's expanding footprint in newer, more off-the-beaten-path destinations. In January, the brand began offering trips to Haiti through partnerships with the Haiti Tourism Board and Moulin Sur Mer, its first hotel partner in the region. Due to high demand, the brand has added additional trips to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Belize.
|Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike|
Island Destinations Launches New Cuba Itineraries, Agent Loyalty Program
Island Destinations (ID) recently hosted its 2016 Luxury Travel Forum at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel, unveiling its 2016 Travelers Collection brochure, a new travel agent loyalty program titled 2016 ULTIMATE Reward Program, and exciting new travel experiences through ID’s new ULTIMATE Itineraries – Cuba.
The gala evening was the first of a 13-city tour for agents and professionals presented by ID Travel Group throughout key cities in the U.S. and Canada, including stops in Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Boston.
The company welcomed 15 new properties to the luxury brochure, including the Gansevoort Dominican Republic Playa Imbert, Albany Bahamas, Baoase Luxury Resort in Curacao and Port Ferdinand Luxury Resort & Residences in Barbados, to name a few. The brochure comprises more than 100 resorts, hotels and villas, with the following destinations represented: Asia, Middle East, Maldives, Seychelles, Hawaii, Fiji, French Polynesia, Central America, Mexico, Bermuda, The Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations, including the new addition of Cuba.
Announced at the event was the addition of Cuba to the ID ULTIMATE Itineraries division. ID Travel Group has invested substantially in designing full-time people-to-people exchanges for travelers to experience the charm of Cubans and their proud culture. The program features exclusively planned visits to private homes and businesses in Havana and Trinidad de Cuba for a unique and rich experience on the unspoiled island.
“I’m very proud to present the luxury of travel to Cuba in 2016. I choose my words very carefully. The luxury of travel to Cuba,” said Maurice Bonham-Carter, president and CEO, in a written release. “At Island Destinations, we have thought long and hard about this and we believe that today Cuba represents an exciting destination which we believe as travel professionals we have a duty to present this fabulous new destination which has opened up to us due to the changing political situation.”
Bonham-Carter also alluded to the chatter in the travel community of what this means for industry professionals and other hotels in the Caribbean.
“We hear endless discussion. Is Cuba a competitor to those of us in this room? Quite frankly, I don’t think it is," said Bonham-Carter. "I view it as a very good adjunct to our business. I think Cuba is a competitor to Europe because the travelers which we will be sending there won’t be going there to sit on the beach. If you want culture, if you want a new experience – an ultimate experience – and you want to visit something in which people can talk about around the table at home, that is Cuba.”
Island Destinations COO Laurie Palumbo also introduced a new rewards program in addition to the longstanding Celebrating You program. The 2016 ULTIMATE Reward Program will launch next year, but any trips booked in 2015 will count towards the program. Tiered into four levels, luxury travel professionals have the opportunity to earn rewards ranging from complimentary FAM trips, extra two percent commission during agents’ birthday month, up to $2,500 gift cards, air credits and more.
Palumbo also introduced and hosted the annual awards ceremony honoring the company’s selection of top properties and travel professionals.
Cox & Kings Launches New Tours to Cuba
On Cox & Kings' newly launched trips to Cuba, clients can visit schools, artists' studios and cigar factories in Havana and then delve into the countryside, meeting with organic farmers, and exploring the underground wonderland of Pinar del Rio.
Travelers can choose from either a Cox & Kings Luxury Escorted Group Journey or a Select Private Journey.
Guests on the inaugural Cox & Kings Luxury Escorted Journey can enjoy complimentary airfare between Miami and Havana when booking by January 31.
History & Culture: People to People (Luxury Escorted Group Journey) - From $5,560 per person
In an exclusive small group, guests explore the culture and history of this nearby island long closed to American visitors. Based in Havana, the trip visits universities, artists' workshops, organic farms, a daycare for underprivileged children, limestone caves, cigar factories and community sustainability projects and includes cultural experiences and one-on-one meetings with the locals.
History & Culture: People to People (Select Private Journey) - From $7,995 per person
On this trip guests travel in the company of friends or family.