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Cuba Opens For (Travel) Business

Aug 26, 2015 02:45PM ● Published by Dia

More than one million American tourists are expected to descend on Cuba this year, according to sources at the recent CUBA Tourism International Fair. Travel Agent Lily Pousa of Southlake-based Horizonte Caribe was in attendance and can’t wait to share all Cuba has to offer. 

Travel Arrangements 

Don’t look for that amazing Cuban airfare and hotel deal online. According to Pousa, Americans wishing to visit Cuba need to obtain a general or specific license for travel. As a travel agent certified by the Cuban government, Pousa is able to apply for the appropriate license for her clients and plan trips to the Caribbean island that have—up until last December—been out of reach for Americans. Traveling around the country can be a confusing venture. But a good place to start is with an itinerary chosen for you by the professionals. Horizonte Caribe offers unique tours to immerse clients into the culture of Cuba and its people.

Pousa is a native of Cuba, and the memories she and her business partner have of growing up there are the foundation of what Horizonte Caribe hopes to bring to its clients. Their exceptional local knowledge and long-time personal contacts allow them to create a variety of bespoke vacations.

All Havana Has to Offer

As you plan your Cuban vacation with Pousa and her team, you’ll want to keep in mind that all 

 roads lead to Rome—or in this case, Havana. All flights to Cuba originate in Miami and land in the capitol city. Known as a “mini New York,” Havana is an exotic city with Cuban culture radiating from the streets. According to Pousa, there is always a celebration going on in Havana.

The hotels booked by Horizonte Caribe are luxurious and offer many amenities. A favorite of Pousa’s, Hotel Saratoga in Havana, is home to a variety of accommodations, restaurants, bars and a spa. The hotel is decorated in both modern and traditional Cuban styles, making your stay an authentic experience. Other hotels on her must- stay list include Hotel Parque Central and any of the Melia chain of hotels and resorts.

Countless museums and historical markers speckle the Cuban capitol. If you choose the Scenes & Celebrity tour, you’ll enjoy walking tours and jaunts through the city in classic cars, reminiscent of Cuba during the 1950s.

While in Havana you’ll have the opportunity to sip a mojito at La Bodeguita, the drink’s birthplace, or to take a seat in the very bar—El Floridita at the hotel Ambos Mundos—where Ernest Hemingway spent his afternoons sipping his favorite drink, the daiquiri. But famous cocktails aren’t all you can enjoy in Havana.

When grabbing lunch or dinner, visiting authentic Cuban-owned restaurants called paladars is the only way to go. Pousa recommends her clients try Paladar Rio Mar, which offers Cuban food “with a twist.” It has a unique view of the Bahia de la Habana (Havana Bay) and Vedado, which was an affluent part of Havana during the 1950s. Although Havana may be the perfect starting point to your Cuban getaway, keep in mind that Havana serves as a gateway to many other cities full of tradition.

Off the Beaten Path

Lily and her team can set up catered tours of Cuba touching on specific locations and activities chosen by clients, but remember, Horizonte Caribe has a number of already put-together agendas. Another point to note is that not all locations on the tour may be named specifically. For example, one tour may lead a group of clients to a certain art studio, but on another trip to the same city, clients will be taken to an entirely different one. There’s always something different to do, see or explore.

 On the City & Country tour, clients will not only explore Havana, but the country towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad as well. You’ll explore the countryside towns not only by visiting locations within them, but through interaction with the people of the region. For example, in Cienfuegos you’ll visit a cigar factory and learn about the importance of tobacco to Cuba’s economy. 

Trinidad, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered the “crown jewel” of Cuba’s colonial cities. On this leg of the tour, you’ll be once again immersed in the culture by speaking with locals— not just the tour guide.

The most popular package offered by Horizonte Caribe is the Salsa Workshop. Clients travel to Cuba to take Afro-Cuban dance lessons by day and practice their moves at various salsa clubs by night.

What to Expect

Horizonte Caribe is not your typical travel agency. Pousa and her team recognize that it is much easier to immerse clients in the culture of the country in small groups of five to six rather than larger groups. In addition, the contacts the travel agents have in Cuba allow for a truly customized agenda. Your trip will be fitted to you and your fellow travelers. Once in Cuba, you will be matched with English-speaking guides to take care of the necessary translations.

And one final note Pousa wants potential tourists to know: “Don’t expect to stay at any beachside resort and spend your days basking in the sun.” Americans are still not allowed to rent or stay at beach houses and resorts. While it is possible to visit the seawall and the beaches, it’s best to make it just one of the many stops on your Cuban vacation. Besides, according to Pousa, you can visit Cuba five times and still not see all this beautiful country has to offer. 

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