|Tim Mullen, president of Apple Vacations|
Travel Agent was among the select media who sat in on a conference call Tuesday afternoon hosted by Apple Vacations President Tim Mullen, who announced that the company will be offering People-to-People tours to Cuba beginning in September. The tours are expected to go on sale as early as July 9, Mullen told Travel Agent.
"We are responding to the demand of our travelers," Mullen says, noting that this will not be a typical Apple Vacations FIT trip as groups are expected to be as large as 30 people per tour. "This is not your typical Apple beach vacation. This will be operated more like a tour, where travelers will not just fly and flop on a beach. This is a traditional tour as opposed to an FIT beach vacation."
These pre-arranged itineraries are designed to give vacationers the opportunity to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, and to interact and engage with its people. In the initial launch, the first departures are in September and October.
Apple is working with U.S.-based Cuba Travel Services, a Cuba-licensed operator that charters flights from Miami to Cuba with Sun Country Airlines and American Airlines. Connections to Miami can be arranged from all major U.S. gateways, says Mullen.
The five-night Havana Getaway provides a cultural overview of Cuba’s historic and rhythm-infused capital, ideal for U.S. visitors who cannot allot the 10+ days required by other Cuba travel programs available to Americans. Highlights include comprehensive sightseeing tours, musical performances, antique American cars, a cigar rolling demonstration and plenty of authentic Cuban cuisine. The Havana Getaway is priced from $2,233 per person, based on double occupancy, with departure dates on Sept. 5 and Oct. 17.
Mullen says Apple's tours to Cuba will be unlike other People-to-People tours offered to Cuba in that they will be much shorter trips, making them "more conducive to the typical American traveler."
Apple Vacations is also launching a seven-night Colors of Cuba program. In addition to the features of the Havana Getaway, this itinerary includes two nights in the well-preserved colonial town of Trinidad – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central Cuban province of Sancti Spiritus, known for its pastel-colored buildings and cobblestone streets. The Colors of Cuba itinerary is priced from $2,733 per person, based on double occupancy, with departure dates on Sept. 11, Sept. 25 and Oct. 8.
Prices include Cuban health insurance, charter flights departing from Miami (connecting flights from other U.S. cities available), Cuban tourist visa processing, U.S. taxes and fees. A Cuban departure tax of $25 per passenger will be collected upon check in at Miami International Airport.
Travel to Cuba must be booked a minimum of 40 days in advance of departure date to allow ample time for the processing of required documentation.
Clients will receive an orientation in Miami to ensure familiarity with Cuban laws, policies and traditions prior to arrival in Cuba.