Road Scholar Travel Program
For several years, Road Scholar has been the travel company of choice for many life long learners. People who are curious about people and want to see the world for its cultural riches through one-on-one experiences with these cultures find Road Scholar to be a smart and steady answer for this yearning.
Road Scholar Cruise to Cuba
Road Scholar has been a sought-out solution for curious wanderers, especially for its travels to Cuba and its programs that allow guests to meet Cuban citizens and learn firsthand about their history and culture. Now, the non-profit educational travel company is offering a variety of small ship and ocean cruise options to the Caribbean island that take in several remote locations in Cuba that are rarely seen by foreigners.
Among Road Scholar’s small ship experiences, the People and Culture of Cuba by Yacht itinerary is proving to be a popular one. On this eight-night sailing, guests explore the art and architecture of Old Havana and then head to Vinales Valley, which you might call Cuba’s Tobacco Road. The valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the landscape is a rolling composite of agricultural fields dotted with dramatic karst formations or rocky outcroppings that rise suddenly from the verdant earth. It is this region’s exceptionally fertile soil that produces the tobacco for those world-famous cigars. The tour visits a tobacco farm where guests get to meet farmers and have the chance to learn about the production of those legendary smokes, from the drying and fermentation of the tobacco and to the traditional, small-scale farming techniques used, to the expert rolling that provides just the right amount of aeration.
After a farm to table meal, the group is ready to roll on to the remote area of Maria La Gorda located in a Cuba national park. We would like to note here that some guest accommodations along this route are located in small, local hotels and not on the yacht. Cuba is still developing as a tourist destination and lacks some of the resort luxury and abundance of room inventory that many tourists are accustomed to finding in other locations. But it is exactly this undeveloped quality that makes a trip to Cuba so significant and inviting.
The group explores the national park with naturalists and locals to learn about how important this peninsula was as one of the last refuges for aboriginals who were fleeing the Spanish conquistadors and avoiding forced religious enslavement and slaughter. It holds some 140 archaeological sites linked to the life of these tribes.
During another evening at sea, the yacht sails to Casilda and in the morning, guests get to walk its old cobbled streets and explore this remote town before heading to Trinidad, where they will find a meticulously preserved Spanish colonial city. Here, with its rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces and plazas, the city of Trinidad earns its name as the “museum city of Cuba.”
As the group walks through the town with a local historian, they can interact with artisans and visit with locals. A stop at the Romantic Museum brings to life the quotidian moments of 18th century Cuba through its furniture and decorative arts.
Finally, the yacht sails to Cienfuegos, also called the Pearl of the South. Oddly, this town was founded by French settlers, and in 2005, the historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guests will get to wander through the government halls, former palaces and schools and take in Cienfuegos for its outstanding ensemble of architectural feats where preserved antiquity combines with new ideas of modernity, hygiene and the order in urban planning – all illustrating development in Latin America from the 19th century onward.
In the main square, are sundry graphic arts workshops where guests can meet and discuss ideas with local artists. There will be visits to a Cuban peso store, a ration shop and a CUC supermarket to better understand the workings of a two-currency country.
No visit to Cuba is complete without music, and the afternoon holds a performance and exchange with local musicians. After lunch in Cienfuegos and dinner onboard, the group prepares to head back to Havana for their return flight to Miami.
For those who want a true cruise experience of Cuba, but also want the intimate people to people experiences Road Scholar provides, try the seven-night Caribbean Voyage to Cuba that sails to the island on a roundtrip course from Jamaica’s Montego Bay. All accommodations are onboard the MV Celestyal Crystal with stops Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos.
In Santiago de Cuba, the city’s colorful, and sometimes turbulent, history is in focus. Spanish conquistadors founded Santiago de Cuba in 1514. Guests meet members of community projects, walk through a preserved and historic cemetery, and examine impressive monuments of such famous Cubans as poet and national hero José Martí. They can spend leisure time strolling through Santiago’s historic center square.
Then there is a visit to the Diego Velázquez House and Museum, said to be the oldest standing house in Cuba. Back on the ship, guests participate in lectures with Cuba history scholars and head to Havana for visits to such iconic spots as Old Havana, Hemingway’s home and People to People connections in Cojimar, a legendary fishing village made famous by Hemingway. A lunch with local fisherman brings out plenty of colorful stories.
Unlike Road Scholar’s small ship tour of Cuba, which has only one departure on November 2, this ocean cruise option offers multiple departures per month for the upcoming months of December, January and February, with hopes to expand routes and choices as U.S. policy on travel to Cuba becomes more clarified.
Check the website for departure dates and prices. Guests are responsible for their own air transportation.
You can easily contact Road Scholar at (800) 454-5768 or check out the possibilities at roadscholar.org.
Cuba Calling? Cruise There Before You Can’t – Tours.com
Cuba travel policy may favor the well-heeled tourist – SFChronicle.com