Tour introduction and overview of activities

For Americans in the 1950’s Havana was the place to be for New Year’s Eve. Big stage shows, pulsating music and wonderful food. The Revolution and subsequent U.S. embargo stopped that. After 60 years things are different.

The casinos are long gone, but the high energy Cuban passion for music, food, fun and appreciation of Americans is stronger than ever.

The Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) Team know Cuba and have legally taken hundreds of travelers to the island. Following all U.S. government requirements for travel to Cuba, GRTC has structured this exceptional trip to Havana for an extended New Years’ experience.

You will stay at the iconic Ambos Mundos Hotel in Old Havana and you will have an expert, fun, English speaking Cuban guide with you. You will visit and lunch at the sea side village from where Hemingway would take out his boat Pilar to marlin fish and hunt German submarines.

Lots of great food, including a restaurant where Danny Glover, Jack Nicholson and Jimmy Carter have enjoyed. Then an evening with the current Buena Vista Social Club band.

All of this is BEFORE New Year’s Eve!!

On Eve you will go to one of the best restaurants in Havana, river-side, for an outstanding dinner. The venerable Tropicana has been reserved for your New Year’s Eve entertainment, a show with energy and pageantry reminiscent of days past. Happy New Year!

Not to rush the glow from an outstanding, memorable, Eve your New Year’s Day schedule does not have you leaving the island, but taking time to see what is still on your bucket list and caravan in a vintage American car. You might ride in the same car Madonna, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Bon Jovi, or John Kerry used on their recent visits to Cuba..

You are on the door step of 2018 and time to leave the elusive island. Memories forever!

PS: Email DanRutherford@GlobalRelations.US directly with questions you may have on the trip.

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 – Friday :: Arrival Cuba, hello Havana and Cannon

  • Depart to Havana via your own arranged flights
  • Arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Proceed through Immigration, collect your bags and go through Customs. You will be welcomed at the airport Arrival Lobby by our Cuba Education Tours guide. (Included) Participant’s arrival times may vary throughout the day. Arrangements will be made for each flight
  • Private transfer to the iconic Hotel Ambos Mundos located in heart of Havana’s Old City. This historic hotel, seasoned with elegance, was home to Ernest Hemingway when he stayed in the city. (Included)
  • You will need to wheel your bags a few blocks to the hotel since vehicles are not allowed in the Old City. Enjoy a welcome cocktail (Included) after your private check-in with assistance from your Guide
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with your historic hotel and the streets of Old Havana where you are ideally located
  • This evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner at the bustling paladar (private restaurant) Los Naranjos. (Included)
  • View a Havana tradition which first started hundreds of years ago. At 9 o’clock, a cannon was fired from the ancient Fortress of San Carlos de Cabana to indicate the gates of the Old City were about to close. A large chain was then raised from the water and put across the entrance to the Harbor to keep pirates from sailing in. You will go to the fort for the ceremony where the tradition continues, other than the chain which is no longer used. (Included)

Day 2 – Saturday :: Hemingway, Old Havana and Buena Vista Social Club

  • Breakfast in Hotel. (Included)
  • Visit Finca La Vigía, home and farm of Ernest Hemingway. This unique National Museum includes his boat Pilar (in part, made famous from his book Old Man and the Sea), the graves of some of his dogs and inside the fully furnished home you will be able to see his library, manuscripts and personal effects. (Included)
  • Visit Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José, a giant craft market offering 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 and gadgets bearing the image of Che Guevara. The souvenirs are high quality, which is why you'll see as many locals, as tourists, among the shoppers. The metal-framed structure itself, an old renovated maritime warehouse, is very retro and Art Deco and is worth the trip in itself. (Included)
  • Lunch at El Templete, along the Bay of Havana, is on an active street of vintage cars, horse drawn carriages and ships in the harbor. (Included)
  • Enjoy a coctel lesson at Sloppy's Bar
  • 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. This is a private tour led by our Cuba Education Tours guide. (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
  • Square of Arms, an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings such as:
  • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City
  • Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770. Today it houses the Centro para la Interpretacion de las Relaciones Culturales Cuba - Europa [Center for the Interpretation of Cultural Relations Cuba-Europe]
  • You will continue on to 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 Cuba baroque architecture
  • Then on to 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 Casa del Habano in Hotel Conda del Villanueva for a large selection of the best Habano brands which may be purchased and enjoyed in the smoking lounge
  • Return to Hotel to freshen up
  • Dinner at El Aljibe, a popular, casual, open air restaurant famous for their roast chicken. (Included) Visited by Danny Glover, Jack Nicholson and Jimmy Carter
  • Attend the fabulous Buena Vista Social Club, the next generation of the original performers. (Included) Men must wear shoes and long pants

Day 3 – Sunday :: New year’s eve 2017 old man and the sea, top restaurant and Cabaret Tropicana

  • Breakfast in hotel, included
  • Travel to Cojímar, a small fishing Village outside of Havana and Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fishing port in Cuba. See the harbor where his boat Pilar was moored and where Papa and Gregorio (the bases for Old Man and the Sea) would depart to marlin fish or hunt German Submarines. Tour the small town, see Hemmingway’s bust made from metal donated by the local fishermen and get photos in front of the 17th century Spanish Lookout Fort. (Included)
  • Lunch in Cojímar at a paladar El Ajiaco which is known for its robust servings of typical Cuban county-style fare. Humble, but visited by a number of celebrities and food networks. (Included)
  • Return to the Hotel to freshen up
  • New Year’s Eve Dinner at Rio Mar, one of the finest restaurants in Havana and acclaimed as a top seafood restaurant on the island. (Included) Located where the Rio Almendares flows into the sea, off a small bay where Miramar meets the Malecon and where the Almendares River ends
  • New Year’s Eve you will celebrate with a show at the Cabaret Tropicana, internationally acclaimed and ranked the number one attraction in Havana by Tripadvisor. (Included) The Tropicana was built in 1939 in the Havana neighborhood of Marianao. Once considered a risk taken by an entrepreneur who decided to open a restaurant with night club entertainment and a capacity for 300. At the time many considered his idea unfeasible. Today Cabaret Tropicana is known around the world and is one of Cuba’s most popular venues. One should plan for a late evening!
  • Happy New Year!

Day 4 – Monday :: New year’s day & Liberation Day Holiday in Cuba and vintage american cars

  • Breakfast in Hotel. (Included)
  • Discussion with Cuban Education Guide on the reason Cuba celebrates Liberation Day and a dialog on its history. (Included)
  • Lunch on your own
  • Time to visit some of the places in Old Havana that Ernest Hemingway helped make famous by frequenting: the Floridita (daiquiris) and the Bodeguita del medio (mojitos)
  • Late afternoon you will caravan in Vintage American cars along the Malecon, and stop for photos. (Included)
  • Dinner not included. With all the great food you have experienced the past week, this is your last chance to re-visit one of your favorite restaurants or check out a paladar, of which, you have heard mentioned. Your Cuban Guide will be glad to help. Plan ahead, even earlier in the week if you need reservations
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of Havana. It’s your last night in the Republic of Cuba so Enjoy!

Day 5 – Tuesday :: Havana return and Goodbye Cuba

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Check-out of hotel
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport for flight home. (Included)
  • Memories of a wonderful visit to the Pearl of the Antilles: Cuba (Included)!
Cuba travel is a challenge. Our staff and Cuban partners work super hard to make your tour unfold seamlessly despite Third World conditions on the island. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Flexible travelers understand this is part of their Cuban adventure.
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
  • Teleconference with your tour group and Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) leadership to go through the itinerary, answer questions and offer suggestions on opportunities not on the schedule
  • A series of briefing e mails, starting weeks before departure, to assist you in preparing for the trip
  • All taxes, amounts are quoted in US dollars
  • Airport departure tax from Cuba and the mandatory Cuban Medical insurance coverage during your island stay will be included in the cost of your airfare. GRTC Team will be of assistance if you have questions
  • Hotels in Cuba as listed in tour itinerary, or similar
  • Welcome cocktail upon arrival
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners as per itinerary
  • All activities, services, speakers, meetings and meals as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “optional” or “not included”
  • Luxury air-conditioned van transportation and a full-time Cuban professional driver, dedicated to your group. Cold bottled water on board
  • An expert Cuban English-speaking guide whose background matches tour content
  • Ongoing support from Cuba Explorer staff and the GRTC Team before, during and after your stay
  • Emergency collect call access to North America while in Cuba
  • Emergency cash advances for tour participants who face complications accessing funds, from abroad, while in Cuba
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b)
  • Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) membership: $29 Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GRTC tours.
  • Airfare is not included, you select your flights. Flight reservations are the responsibility of the participant. GRTC Team will be of assistance.
  • Cuban Visitor Visa is not included, but may be arranged by GRTC.
  • Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. for group activities.
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See