International Expeditions, which specializes in nature travel, has been licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide authorized People-to-People Cuba travel for U.S. citizens beginning with three inaugural programs departing June 7, 14 and 21.
Not only does this license allow participants to travel to Cuba legally, but it provides the opportunity to experience Cuba in the most authentic way possible — through the eyes of its people.
“We are excited to have been selected to hold a people-to-people license for Cuba,” said IE President Van Perry in a written release. “This will allow IE guests to experience the same level of service and immense expertise in Cuba that they have experienced when traveling with us worldwide. I am also pleased that our Co-Founder and Executive Director Steve Cox will lead our inaugural journeys in June.”
International Expeditions is now the latest operator to gain a license to sell the forbidden island of Cuba with Insight Cuba getting the ball rolling in 2011. After Insight Cuba became the first licensed operator to sell Cuba through the People-to-People initiative, other operators joined suit, including Collette Vacations and National Geographic Expeditions.
The People-to-People initiative requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country. It was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before President Obama resurrected the program this January.
Guests who take part in IE’s Cuba itinerary will spend their days in immersive discussions with Cubans from all walks of life, including the botanists and staff of Soledad Botanical Garden, once known as the Harvard Biological Laboratory, and the private Vinales Botanical Garden. Nature enthusiasts will join Cuban birders in the Zapata Wetlands searching for bee hummingbirds, the world’s smallest bird. Other highlights include an excursion to a tobacco farm to hear from family farmers about the challenges and rewards of their lifestyle.
During the 10-day program, clients survey all of Cuba’s cultural “must sees” including Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Bay of Pigs, Las Terrazas, Vinales and, of course, Havana. Throughout their journey, travelers interact with local artists, a youth choir and even a chef specializing in locally grown, vegetarian cuisine.
International Expeditions’ 10-day Cuba program starts at $3,898 per person for June 2012 departures, and includes virtually everything except domestic airfare, charter flights from Miami to Cuba and items of a personal nature. Additional 2012 and 2013 departures will also be announced soon.