Tour introduction and overview of activities

Your private Professional Awareness visit to Havana, Cuba is structured specifically for The Federation of Women Contractors. You engage in an open discussion of Cuban society and women in business, experience the wonderful people of the island, cigars, vintage American cars, rum and rumba. You will see Hemingway’s home and be hands on with a private cooking and mojito making lesson. All of this while staying at the iconic Hotel Nacional and meeting the requirements for legal travel to Cuba.

Cuba’s big! Its land mass is 42,426 square miles – about 80 percent the size of Alabama. Cuba is nearly as large as Louisiana, and larger than Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio or Indiana. Altogether it’s bigger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 – Sunday :: Arrival Cuba, vintage American cars and Welcome Dinner

  • Depart to Havana via your own arranged flights.
    You should plan arriving Havana by mid-afternoon. It will take you some time to clear Cuban Immigration, get your bag and go through Customs. You will be met in the arrival hall, after clearing Customs, by your Cuban representative holding a ‘Cuba Explorer’ sign to take you to your hotel. They will have your name and will be monitoring your flight arrival in case there is a delay. Your first tour activity will be the welcome dinner and your guide will finalize details with you on arrival to your hotel. On departure from Cuba you will be asked to be at the airport 3 hours in advance.
  • Havana’s International Airport arrival hall does have bathrooms. They may not have seats or tissue. This is normal in Cuba, so you may wish to bring packets of tissues. It is suggested to use the restroom on the flight before landing.
  • On arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport proceed through Immigration. Your carry-on will once again be sanned.
  • Give your ‘Health’ forms to the nurses in white uniforms after you go through Immigration & screening. The important question they may ask is if you have been exposed to Ebola.
  • Collect your bags and go through Customs, giving them your blue customs form.
  • You will be welcomed at the airport exterior lobby after you exit Cuban Customs. Look for the person holding signage of ‘Cuba Explorer.’
    Tour participant’s arrival times may vary throughout the day. Airport transfers will be arranged for each flight.
  • You can change your money into CUC (the convertible currency used on the island) at the airport on arrival, at a Cuban bank, an official exchange bureau or at your hotel. Your guide will be of assistance. Your passport is necessary to exchange currency. Do not exchange money on the street or with an individual Cuban.
    Quote from Lonely Planet: “No one could have invented Havana. It’s too audacious, too contradictory and – despite 50 years of withering neglect – too damned beautiful. How it does it is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the swashbuckling history still almost perceptible in atmospheric colonial streets; the survivalist spirit of a populace scarred by two independence wars, a revolution and a US trade embargo; or the indefatigable salsa energy that ricochets off walls and emanates most emphatically from the people. Don’t come here with a long list of questions. Just arrive with an open mind and prepare for a long, slow seduction.”
  • Hotel Nacional check-in; relaxing time to visit the garden, walk the site depicted in the Godfather Part II movie, enjoy a cigar, a mojito or just have a rest on the veranda where some of the world’s most interesting personalities’ have taken a break while the winds from the Straits of Florida breeze by.
  • Enjoy a welcome cocktail (Included) after your check-in with assistance from your guide.
    At the Hotel Nacional and at your leisure, stroll by cannons of battles from the 1800’s and visit the bunkers used during the Cuban Missile Crisis, built overlooking the Malecon and the Straits of Florida to Key West. For 13 days in October 1962 the world hinged on the brink of a nuclear war. The epicenter of the conflict was on the island you will be standing. Diplomatic understandings were formulated, treaties were contemplated, blockades occurred, embargoes were strengthened and international legal precedent was challenged. You can go through the bunkers and trenches and be briefed on the happenings of that complex time. (Included)
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with your hotel.
  • You will have the opportunity to caravan in iconic 1950’s Vintage American cars, a fascinating experience of nostalgia. You will cruise the Malecon (a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall) and stop for photos. (Included)
  • Enjoy a welcome dinner at the paladar La Casa, private restaurant, one of the earliest established in Cuba and still in the original home. (Included)
  • After dinner your guide will let you know some evening entertainment options for your personal exploring where you can engage with the local Cubans.

Day 2 – Monday :: Women in business, Cigar Factory, Old Havana tour, Museum of Rum, Marine Warehouse and shopping

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Presentation and open discussion on “Cuban Society Today: Women in Business” at Hotel Saratoga led by a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. (Included)
  • Visit the Romeo y Julieta / H. Uppman Factory which makes internationally famous Cuban cigars. Rollers receive their carefully portioned leaves for their blends from the storeroom. A small quality-control area sits off to the side where draw machines test the finished product for the day. As in all Cuban cigar factories, a podium is set up for a lector who reads the news to workers. Two half-hour-long periods later in the day are devoted to novels, or fiction books which the workers select. (Included)
  • Lunch at Mojito Mojito, great Cuban food and just off of Plaza Vieja in Old Havana. You will enjoy a wonderful meal and friendly staff. (Included)
  • Walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will visit the historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. It contains the largest collection of remaining colonial-era architecture. Meet the private street vendors selling souvenirs out of their homes. This is a private tour led by your Cuba Tours’ guide. (Included)
  • San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuban baroque architecture.
  • Visit the Museum of Chocolate, a small shop with intriguing artifacts relating to the history of chocolate production in Cuba. You can watch chocolates being made at the back of the premises while you sip a warming cup of hot chocolate or a soothing glass of cold chocolate. The Museo del Chocolate also sells artisanal chocolates singly or boxed. (Optional, Included)
  • Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Absent are churches and government buildings and is in contrast surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences.
  • Visit the cigar shop La Casa del Habano which may be the best cigar shop in Old Havana. It is hidden on the mezzanine which was once slave quarters. Cigar aficionados can enjoy the patio with its vegetation, mahogany rocking chairs and peacocks. The building was the colonial mansion of the Count of Villanueva, leader of the creole Havana society in the 19th century. (Optional, Included)
  • Square of Arms, a military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings.
  • Visit La Casa de los Artistas, Estudio La Mina the studio-workshop and exhibition space for five of the significant figures of Cuban art: Zaida Del Rio, Angel Ramirez, Carlos Guzmán, Ernesto Rancaño, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Roberto Fabelo. The colonial mansion that houses the art studio was built in the sixteenth century and was the residence of the bishops of Havana. (Optional, Included)
  • Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana, was built by the Jesuit order.
  • As you stroll through the historic cobblestone streets of Old Havana you will experience the sensations Ernest Hemingway felt and those of the colonialists’ centuries earlier.
  • Visit the Museum of Rum. An important cultural site where historians affirmed it was built in the 17th century (1772-1780). Your guide will show you all the steps in the manufacture of the original Cuban rum. The explanation goes from the raw material in the sugar cane field, history, slavery and up to today’s distribution. In conclusion you will enjoy a toast with Havana Club Rum in the tasting bar. (Included) The shop has all the options of Havana Club available for purchase.
  • Time to shop for souvenirs at Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José, a giant craft market offering some of the most iconic objects of Havana: garish-colored paintings by local artists, guayaberas (short-sleeve, open-neck Cuban shirts), sculptures, leather, jewelry, and various trinkets & gadgets bearing the image of Che Guevara. The souvenirs are high quality, which is why you will see as many locals as tourists among the shoppers. The metal-framed structure itself, an old, fully renovated maritime warehouse, very retro and Art Deco, is worth the visit alone. (Included)
  • Return to hotel.
  • Dinner at the small and intimate Decameron Paladar, known by some as one of the best paladares in Havana. (Included) Eclectic arrangements of antique clocks and musical instruments on the walls. A boutique location treat.
  • Your guide will let you know some evening entertainment options for your personal exploring.

Day 3 – Tuesday :: Hemingway by the sea, organic gardening, private cooking lesson, Hemingway’s home and a community project

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Travel to Cojimar, a small fishing village east of Havana. It was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fishing port in Cuba and the basis for Old Man and the Sea. This is the harbor where Hemingway’s boat Pilar was moored and where Papa and Gregorio would depart to marlin fish or hunt German Submarines. On water’s edge see Hemingway’s bust made from metal, donated by the local fishermen, and get photos in front of the 17th century Spanish Lookout Fort. (Included)
  • Much of the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea came from Hemingway's time in Cojimar. La Terraza, is a fisherman’s bar on the Bay of Cojimar where Hemingway docked his boat, Pilar. The bar is where he spent many an afternoon drinking with the fishermen, one being Gregorio Fuentes, the Captain of Pilar. Many believe him to be the model for the character Santiago—the old man of the sea. Some say the young boy in the story, Manolo, was based on the young son of the owner of La Terraza, Manolito.
  • Visit the small organic garden of Jesus and Julio where they show you how herbs, vegetables and fruits are raised for the private restaurant where you will be cooking later. Up close see mangos, bananas, plantains, squash, avocado, coffee and maybe even the Cuban Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world, endemic to Cuba. See how organic gardening in a residential neighborhood produces private income and supplies a local business. (Included)
  • TOUR HIGHLIGHT: Cooking & mojito making lesson at paladar (private restaurant) El Ajiaco followed by lunch, which you helped prepare. This is a unique experience; in the kitchen, with the chef and staff preparing multiple dishes (seafood, ropa vieja & el ajiaco soup) and then at the bar learning how to properly prepare a Cuban mojito. Humble paladar, but visited by food networks from around the world and a number of notable celebrities such as Kevin Bacon and Sigourney Weaver. (Included)
  • * Visit Finca Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway, west of Havana in the small town of San Francisco de Paula. He lived longer in his Cuba residence than any of his other homes. It was here he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and wrote portions of A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Islands in the Stream and much of The Old Man and the Sea. Now a museum, you will meet the docents and curators who affectionately maintain his library, manuscripts and personal belongings. His boat Pilar (made famous, in part, from Papa’s Marlin fishing and hunting German submarines off the northern coast of the island) and the graves of some of his dogs are all on the grounds. (Included)
  • Return to hotel.
  • Dinner (Not included). Evening is free to visit the vibrant plazas of Old Havana. Visit one of the many cafes within easy walking distance of your hotel for a snack or dinner. Enjoy street music, dancing and the island experience. Your guide will assist you in selecting a good private paladar.
    Your guide can help arrange tickets to the Tropicana or Buena Vista Social Club if you like. We suggest informing your guide soon on arrival to ensure tickets. (Optional)

Day 4 – Wednesday :: Club Havana-private club and last night in Habana

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Visit Club Havana, a private membership club on the Straits of Florida for dignitaries, foreign diplomats, correspondents and affluent locals. The 1928 mansion once housed the Havana Biltmore Yacht & Country Club.
    The club attained further notoriety when it denied entry to Dictator Cuban President Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s because he was ‘black.’ Fidel Castro had dinner there 30 years later; it is one of the few places where Castro dined in public.
  • You will have an enlightening discussion on the history of the coast of Havana and the Bay. The powdery white sand beach, the swimming pool, tennis court, cigar shop and club house will all be accessible. (Included)
  • Lunch at Club Havana. (Included)
  • Return to Hotel Nacional.
  • Dinner (Not Included). This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladares to enjoy delicious food and support a Cuban family business, or visit one of the many cafes within easy walking distance of your hotel.
  • It is your last night in the Republic of Cuba, so enjoy!

Day 5 – Thursday :: Havana and Home

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Depending on the time of your airline departure you may enjoy a relaxing early morning swim in one of the two pools or walk the Malecon with the Straits of Florida next to you.
  • Hotel check-out.
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport in Havana for flight home. (Included)
  • Airlines recommend you be at your departure airport 3 hours before takeoff. Please prepare accordingly. Your guide or driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel.
  • It is prohibited to take Cuban currency (CUC) out of the country. After your airline check-in there is a currency exchange available for you to change your CUCs into US dollars (or another currency). Be sure to do so before entering Immigration.
  • After you clear Cuban Immigration, you will be screened and your carry on will be scanned. In the departure hall there is a duty free shop, places to buy snacks and drinks, as well as souvenirs. They will accept U.S dollars.
  • When arriving to your U.S. entry airport you will need to clear U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs. If asked by an Immigration Officer about your trip to Cuba, note that you were on a sanctioned Tour. If asked what you did, tell the truth and explain it was an opportunity to directly engage with Cuban people, learn about their life and country. To be clear: You were not on a vacation.
  • Memories of a wonderful visit to the Pearl of the Antilles: Cuba! (Included)
While in Cuba, our attentive island team ensures your trip is magical and memorable.
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
  • As a Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) member, leadership will make available a teleconference to go through the itinerary, answer questions and offer suggestions.
  • As a GRTC member you will receive a series of briefing e mails before departure to assist you in preparing for the trip.
  • All taxes; amounts are quoted in US dollars.
  • Fly to Cuba and you will be met at the airport for transfer to your hotel. On your last day of the tour the transfer to the Cuban airport is included.
  • Airport departure tax from Cuba and the Cuban mandatory Emergency Insurance coverage during your island stay is usually covered in the cost of your U.S. airfare. GRTC Team will be of assistance if you have questions.
  • Hotel in Cuba as listed in your itinerary, or similar.
  • Welcome cocktail.
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners as per itinerary.
  • All activities and services, as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “Optional” or “Not included.”
  • Air-conditioned transportation and a Cuban professional driver dedicated to you.
  • Cold bottled water on board.
  • An expert Cuban English-speaking guide and serve as interpreter.
  • As a GRTC member you will receive ongoing travel support from the Global Relations team before and after your stay.
  • Emergency collect call access to the United States while in Cuba.
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in accordance with the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) section 31 C.F.R. § 515.572(a)(1)
  • Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) $29 one time membership is not included. Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GRTC tours.
  • As a GRTC member you will have expedited processing of the needed Cuban Visitor Visa at the standard Visa price of $85 and no fee for shipping and handling. Information will be sent to you.
  • Gratuities for your Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. are not included. You are highly encouraged to participate in the Gratuity Collective of $154.89 to cover gratuity for all group activities. It will be converted into Cuban currency and distributed by a GRTC Team member on your behalf.
    Please write check to Global Relations in the amount of: $29 + $85 + $154.89 = $268.89 per person and mail it to: GRTC, 320 North Plum Street, Pontiac, IL 61764.
  • Airfare is not included; you select your commercial flights and book them to and from Havana. Flight reservations are your responsibility. GRTC Team will be of assistance.
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See