Cuba Tours on an Upswing for 2016

by Jessica Montevago

Cuba’s re-emergence into the market has sparked travelers’ curiosity and fascination – causing an upswing in tours and packages adding Cuba as an option.

We can expect to see more of the same for 2016; Cuba was ranked as the top destination and travel trend for this year in the USTOA’s annual survey of members.

Here’s a roundup of some new offerings:

CheapCaribbean.com is offering nine eight-day tours to Cuba in 2016, visiting the historic capital city of Havana and the resort town of Varadero. Led by Cuba Travel Services, a U.S.-based operator that charters flights from Miami to Cuba, the tours include accommodations, meals, and air/ground transportation. The trips start at $5,550 a person and depart on March 12, April 16, May 14, June 11, July 16, Aug. 13, Sept. 10, and Oct. 15.

Beginning in March, Cox & Kings will launch its “History and Culture: People to People” tour, offering escorted groups or escorted private journeys. The eight-day, seven-night group tour starts at $5,560 per person. The private tours start at $7,995 for two guests or $6,445 per person for four people traveling together. Guests can save $595 per person, a credit equal to the airfare between Miami and Havana, by booking before Jan. 31.

After selling out of tours to Cuba last year, Apple Vacations is adding a new Cuba tour to its portfolio. The eight-night Seascape Discovery tour features a pre-night in Miami, four nights in Havana at the IBEROSTAR Parque Central, and three nights in Varadero at the IBEROSTAR Varadero. Tours depart on Feb. 13, March 26, April 30, May 28, June 25, July 30, Aug. 27, Sept. 24, and Oct. 29. At $5,550 per person, prices include Cuban health insurance, charter flights (from US-based Cuba Travel Services, a Cuba-licensed operator that charters flights with XTRA Airways and American Airlines) from Miami, Cuban tourist visa processing, and U.S. taxes and fees.

Central Holidays offers two niche religious-based programs. L’Chaim Cuba, an eight-night Jewish heritage program focused on Jewish life in Cuba, includes meetings with leaders of the Jewish community, visits to synagogues, and Friday-night Sabbath services and dinner with members of the community. The other program is a nine-night Afro Cubanismo program, focused on the history of the Cuban and African cultures in Cuba.

Central Holidays is also offering travel agents discounted educational trips to Cuba on any of its people-to-people to programs.  The discount is valid for an agent traveling and sharing a room with a companion; the companion will receive a $750 discount. The trip has to be booked before Jan. 31 to get the discount.

Friendly Planet Travel has four tours to Cuba, all of which include roundtrip airfare, tours, accommodations, and most meals. The tours range from $2,699 to $3,999 per person double occupancy. The newest program, Captivating Cuba, includes highlights from the company’s three original Cuba tours, including the Spanish Colonial towns of Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara, and Trinidad; beach town Varadero; and Havana, Cuba's political and cultural center. Highlights range from joining Cubans for a neighborhood block party at Casa de la Trova to touring the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery to stopping at a community center in Matanzas to learn about Afro-Cuban culture. The tour is already sold out for the first half of the year, but departure dates are still available on May 21, June 4, June 18, July 2, July 16, Aug, 13, Sept. 3, and Oct. 15.

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