All Inclusive Cuba Vacations Package | Cuba Travel Trips
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CHICAGO/CUBA EXCHANGE TOUR

DAY 1 “Hello Havana”

  • Depart Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for Charlotte Douglas International or Miami International Airport.
  • Depart Charlotte or Miami for flight to Havana, Cuba.
  • Meet & greet with guide and driver at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.
  • Guide and driver will accompany you for the duration of your stay.
  • 4:00pm Driving City Tour of Havana, including a drive along the famous Havana “malecon” seawall, Vedado neighborhood, 5th Avenue in the suburb of Miramar, and stops at the Plaza of the Revolution, and Almendares Park. (2-3 hours)
  • Transfer to B&B.
  • Dinner at private restaurant.
  • Live music at El Gato Tuerto.

DAY 2 “Old Havana, Jazz, & Art”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 9:00am Old Havana Encounter, our walking tour through Old Havana, “la Habana Vieja,” and its five main plazas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco, and Plaza del Cristo, with stops at the residence of the colonial era Captain General of the island, the Havana Cathedral, Obispo Street, and the Cuba’s capitol building. You will stop at the L’Antigua Habana book store, right across the street from Sloppy Joe’s, where you just may find a first edition of “The Old Man and the Sea,” or just a simple postcard. Old Havana gives you a taste of the island and will make you feel as if you had travelled back in time. Old Havana has some of the oldest buildings and streets in the Americas, with buildings and structures dating to the 16th century. These ancient buildings still house a significant number of Havana’s inhabitants. Old Havana features the first church built on the island, a street paved with wooden bricks, palatial residences, the hotel where Ernest Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the beautiful Bacardi building, and the Cuba’s former presidential palace. Some of the notable buildings you will see during this tour include the house built by Ponce de Leon’s grandson, a section of Havana’s original colonial era sewer system, and the beautiful Palacio Viena Hotel, which like many structures in Old Havana has been undergoing a never-ending renovation. Our tour of Old Havana includes stops at Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars, El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, Old Havana is the largest, oldest, and most authentic colonial area in the western hemisphere. This event is directed by your professional, English speaking guide. (4 hours)
  • Lunch at private restaurant.
  • 2:30pm Jazz Workshop, our Jazz workshop and cultural exchange is presented by a group of world class, contemporary, Cuban musicians led by Jorge Luis Chicoy, and includes Juan Carlos Marin Elosegui, Adel Gonzalez, Omar Gonzalez, Jorge Reyes, Oliver Valdes Rey, Julito Padron, Javier Salva, and more. This music workshop is an incredible experience in which you will be interacting on a one to one basis with some of the best musicians in Cuba today. We only hold this workshop in small group settings of less than ten guests. This workshop covers several topics of music theory, the fusion of American Jazz and Cuban music, and the influence of traditional Cuban music on Cuban Jazz. Typical Cuban instruments are discussed, including the “clave,” the “tres” guitar and bongos. The musicians will usually begin this event with improvised playing, and are open to discuss any topics with our guests. Any visitor to the island who appreciates quality music should definitely not miss this opportunity! This workshop is usually accompanied with a live performance by the participating musicians at a Havana club. The jazz workshop is a 3-hour event.
  • *The musicians that participate in this workshop are among the best in Cuba, Jorge Chicoy, Adel Gonzalez, and Julito Padron were all members of Irakera, the legendary Cuban band led by Chucho Valdes. Chicoy has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, John Fadis, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Ferrin, Roberto Fonseca, and Omara Portuondo. Julito Padron was the youngest lead trumpet player in the eighty plus year history of El Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Pineiro, and is one of Cuba’s best trumpet players. Oliver Valdes has shared the stage with many famous international artists, and is the principle drummer for Silvio Rodriguez. Julito Padron, Juan Carlos Marin, and Oliver Valdes are all members of the Cuban Jazz-fusion band Interactivo, and music critics consider Juan Carlos Marin, known as “el Trombon de Santa Amalia,” to be the best trombone player in Cuba!
  • LINKS
    • en/Wikipedia.org/wiki/Irakere
    • valdeschucho.com
    • timba.com/reviews/el-tromb-n-de-santa-amalia-cinquillo-colibri-2013
    • ecured.cu/Jorge_Luis_Chicoy
    • Havana-cultura.com/en/music/interactivo
    • En.wikipedia.org/wiki/interactivo
    • musician@allaboutjazz.com/julitopadron
    • reverbnation.com/olivervaldes
    • reverbnation.com/adelgonzalezgomez
  • 5:00pm Visit to “La Lavanderia,” the studio and workshop of Cuban painter and sculptor Rafael Perez Alonso. (2 hours)
  • Dinner at private restaurant.
  • 9:00pm Visit to “La Fabrica de Arte Cubana,” for live music and art exposition. Yes, the same place the first family visited during their trip to Cuba.

DAY 3 “Cigars, Rum, & Revolution”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 9:00am Cigar and Rum experience, this is a walking tour that traverses Old Havana, with visits to the Rum Museum, and the Cigar Museum, and stops at a cigar factory and warehouse. The Rum Museum illustrates the history of the sugar industry in Cuba, and includes a replica of a colonial era rum distillery, and a presentation of the culture and tradition of Cuban rum production. The Rum Museum displays contemporary Cuban painter’s works, so you just may see the early works of Cuba’s next Wilfredo Lam. The “Habano” Museum illustrates the history of tobacco cultivation, and cigar making on in Cuba. Guests will have an opportunity to sample both fine Cuban rums and cigars during this event. Depending on schedule you may see a demonstration by a master cigar roller. (3 hours)
  • Lunch at private restaurant.
  • 2:00pm Museum of the Cuban Revolution Tour, the Museum of the Revolution is housed in the former Presidential Palace of Cuba. It is located in Old Havana across from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which exhibits works by Cuban artists. Civilian and military artifacts are on display in the Museum, as are brief written descriptions of the events that led to the overthrow of the Batista regime in 1959. Artifacts from the armed struggle are amongst items on display, and they range from bloody shirts and pistols, to the motor yacht “Granma,” which ferried Fidel Castro and the members of the 26 of July Movement to Cuba from Mexico in 1956. Military vehicles that were used during the fighting in the late 1950’s are on display outside of the Museum, and they range from tank and jeeps, to airplanes and tractors that were turned into armored fighting vehicles. (3 hours)
  • 7:00pm Dinner at private restaurant, with staff and management on hand to answer questions about Cuba’s recently established cooperative businesses.
  • 9:15pm Cabaret show at the world famous Tropicana Cabaret.

DAY 4 “Art & Reality in Havana”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 9:00am Museum experience, visit to the Havana “Museo de Bellas Artes,” this includes a visit the national Cuban Museum of Art, and the International Museum of Art, both located in old Havana, 4 hours. The national and international branches of the Cuban “Museo de Bellas Artes” features the highest quality artwork on the island, in strikingly different settings. The international branch is housed in the ornate former “Centro Asturiano,” which house a society of Spaniards from the province of Asturias who resided on the island, and is located steps away from the capitol building. The national branch is housed in a strikingly looking modern building, considering that it was built before the revolution in the 1950s.
  • Lunch at private restaurant in Old Havana.
  • 2:00pm “RESOLVIENDO” workshop, through this workshop we attempt to give our guests a peek into the life of a regular Cuban citizen. You will see an actual “tarjeta de abastecimiento,” which roughly translates to provisions card. These are the small notebooks that every Cuban citizen is given at birth, and which entitles them to five chicken eggs, a quarter chicken, coffee, cooking oil, and other items every month. The provision card also entitles its’ bearer to purchase select items that are deemed to be necessities at discounted prices. You will visit what is known in Cuba as an agricultural market, “agro,” and is basically the produce section of a supermarket, where most people buy their fresh produce. You will visit a bread distribution point, where bread is distributed through the provision card at discounted prices. Depending on schedule and other factors you may also visit a grocery store, meat market, and other markets where meats are sold. This workshop will show visitors some of the daily rituals most Cubans deal with, it will be presented by your guide, and sometimes we have invited guests who are experts in certain areas of the food distribution chain in Cuba. The history of the provisions card will also be covered. (4 hours)
  • Dinner at private restaurant.
  • 8:45pm Cannon Blast Ceremony, witness one of the oldest traditions of colonial era Cuba that still takes place, the nine o’clock cannon blast at the San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress. The cannon shot signaled the closing of the city walls during the colonial era.

DAY 5 “Valley of Vinales”

  • 8:00am Transfer to Pinar del Rio’s Valley of Vinales, the tour of the Valley of Vinales is one of the most unique experiences on the island of Cuba. The rock formations that the valley is famous for are only found here, and in southern China. The UNESCO World Heritage site is best seen on horseback, and you will have the choice of either taking a walking tour, a cycling tour, or on horseback. During your day at Vinales you will visit the Mirador de los Jazmines, la Cueva del Indio (Indian’s cave), you will tour a working tobacco farm. You will have time to explore the quaint town of Vinales, and enjoy a personalized tour of the valley that is oriented towards your individual groups wishes. The views along the various routes that traverse the valley are spectacular, and everyone enjoys it in their own way. Lunch at a local restaurant included in this tour. The tour usually ends with a stop at the Sierra de los Organos mural which illustrates the evolution of life in the valley. (8-12 hour)
  • Return to Havana, and dinner at B&B.

DAY 6 “Bay of Pigs and Sandy Beaches”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 9:00am Transfer to Zapata Peninsula, and the Bay of Pigs. Approximately a three-hour drive from Havana.
  • Bay of Pigs Experience, this includes a short discussion of the events leading up to the invasion of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, and a visit to the invasion museum. This event will allow guests to visit the area where the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred in 1961, and the surrounding area. A visit to the invasion museum is also included, and depending upon the schedule a short presentation by an actual witness to or combatant in the event will be given. A must for any American visiting the island! (3 hours)
  • Lunch at private restaurant.
  • Settle into B&B in Playa Larga or Playa Giron.
  • 3:00pm Driving Tour of the Zapata Swamp. This tour allows guests to see one of Cuba’s most pristine natural habitats, and its largest swamp which is home to the Cuban Crocodile. Depending on schedule the Tour will include a visit to a crocodile farm, a major flamingo breeding area, and some of Cuba’s most pristine coastal habitat. (3 hours)
  • Dinner at private restaurant.
  • Free time! Explore the areas beautiful beaches!

DAY 7 “Hello Trinidad”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 9:00am Transfer to Trinidad, and walking tour of this well preserved jewel of the Caribbean’s colonial era. Founded in 1514, Trinidad has Cuba’s best preserved colonial era quarter, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will enjoy a ride in a horse drawn carriage, and visits to the Church of the Holy Trinity, the San Francisco Bell Tower, and the town’s main plazas.Trinidad is over five-hundred years old, and is considered Cuba’s best preserved colonial town. Trinidad feels like a living museum. UNESCO declared the town of Trinidad a World Heritage Site in 1988, and its wonderful people set it apart from any other destination in the Caribbean. Many of its narrow streets are paved with the original bricks that are hundreds of years old. Stops include the cities Cathedral, the Palacio Cantero, which houses the City Museum, with stops at the artisanal quarter, the Plaza Mayor, and more. A special experience to a very unique town that visitors to Cuba should not miss! Yes, you should not miss visiting Trinidad and the Bay of Pigs!
  • Settle into B&B in Trinidad.
  • Lunch at private restaurant.
  • 1:30pm Topes de Collantes Tour, this tour offers a mountaintop view of Trinidad and incredible views of the Caribbean Sea, and includes visits to the Coffee Museum, a walk through some of the areas’ coffee plantations, and if the schedule allows a stop at the Museum of the Fight Against Bandits. This activity also includes a fairly rigorous two-mile hike. Groups may choose to bathe in the natural springs located in the area, so please bring a bathing suit! Lunch will take place during this activity. (5 hours)
  • Dinner at private restaurant.

DAY 8 “Return to Havana”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 8:00am Transfer to Havana, and along the way enjoy our Cuban History Workshop, covering Cuba’s colonial history from the early 19th Century through the 1959 revolution. Workshop with lecture that covers Cuban history broadly from colonial times to the 1959 revolution, and emphasis on U.S./Cuba relations. (3 hours)
  • Lunch at private restaurant.
  • Settle into B&B in Havana, again!
  • Free time! With car & driver at your disposition.
  • Dinner at private restaurant.
  • Live world class Jazz at La Zorra y el Cuervo or La Flauta Magica.”

DAY 9 “Hemingway encounter”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • 9:00am Hemingway encounter, visitthe places Ernest Hemingway regularly frequented, including “La Finca Vigia,” and“La Terraza de Cojimar” Restaurant. Includes a visit to the town of Cojimar, which was the setting for the novel “The Old Man and the Sea.” This event also includes visits to room 511 at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where Hemingway stayed and wrote, and a stop at “La Bodeguita del Medio” and the Floridita bars. This encounter is a must for any Hemingway fan, and covers some of the most productive and interesting years of the famous writer’s life. The tour is wide ranging, going from Old Havana, to the suburb of Miramar, and the southern end of Havana. (4 hours)
  • Lunch at private restaurant.
  • 2:00pm Visit to the Callejon de Hamel, and Afro-Cuban Religion workshop, gives a brief over view of the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria, covering the syncretism of Catholicism and African religions, and the role and significance of drums in the religion. Santeria has been present on the island of Cuba since colonial times, and is currently practiced by more Cuban’s than at any time in history. This workshop covers the main deities of religion, their origin myths, the colors and vestments associated with them, and their roles in human life. Guests are usually amazed after attending this workshop that the colorful decorations worn many by Cubans are associated with the religion. Be sure to ask for Yordanka! Includes a visit to the studio of painter Salvador Gonzalez. (2 hours)
  • Dinner at private restaurant.
  • Live music at el Diablo Tun Tun.

DAY 10 “Bye, Cuba”

  • Breakfast at B&B.
  • FREE TIME! Car & driver at your disposition.
  • Transfer to Jose Marti International Airport for return flight to Charlotte or Miami.
*Price includes all listed activities, full time professional guide, all transportation, and all meals.
*You will be staying at a Bed & Breakfast, and will be accompanied by a driver and guide during your stay, or when possible an English speaking driver/guide. Transportation will be provided by late model, air conditioned cars, or classic American cars with air conditioning, for groups, transportation will be in late model Peugeot, Citroen, or Ford E250s vans.