|Image // (c) 2011 Jose Porras|
Detroit Free Press, June 29, 2011
By Ellen Creager
It's now possible for the average traveler to travel legally to Cuba.
After months of waiting, specialty tour providers this week began getting their U.S. government licenses to offer "people-to-people" trips to the island nation that most Americans have never visited. The people-to-people trips are cultural tours that aim to help people understand one another.
Insight Cuba of New Rochelle, N.Y., is wasting no time launching the tours; it announced Tuesday it will start tours in August that last between three and eight nights, including Havana and Colonial Trinidad; Weekend in Havana; and Havana Jazz Experience (www.insightcuba.com; 800-450-2822.)
Between 2000 and 2004, a brief window opened for people-to-people travel, but it slammed shut again before most tourists could take advantage of it. Many American tourists have traveled illegally to Cuba through Canada or Mexico, but penalties were stiffened. Then last year, the Obama administration indicated it would restore the "people to people" exemption so more Americans could do cultural exchanges.
The new rules still do not allow Cuban beach resort vacations; it emphasizes cultural trips.