When I think about my bucket list, I think about all the places that I crave to experience. One of those places, happen to be Cuba: the largest Caribbean island, yet the most unchanged. So alluring, as the one thing we all want but have been forbidden to have. I guess, for me – a native Caribbean girl – it’s the call of the warm sea breeze and fresh, salty air. It’s the calm crystal blue ocean, set to a tropical backdrop…how could anyone not be attracted?
As a Caribbean born, New York native – who loves all things travel – Cuba is a country that I definitely desire to knock off my bucket list for 2018. I am seriously considering hosting a Virtuous Journey (luxury girls trip.) For half a century, Americans have been banned from exploring Cuba. Today, it’s a little bit easier, however, there are still certain criteria and restrictions in place. Our trip will be a culturally educational excursion, conducted by a government licensed tour operator. I’ve collected some facts about Cuba, to help you get an understanding of not just the country, but how to experience it’s splendor – as Americans. ***Canadians, Europeans and everyone else can travel freely to and from Cuba***
People-to-People (Legal) Tours to Cuba
Americans can travel, (legalities click here), to Cuba by chartering any of two types of “people-to-people” tours:
- Private Custom Tours – once hosted by a US tour operator, two or more people can independently witness the exotic side of Cuba. This is great for companions, family, friends – ideal for those seeking privacy and freedom (FIT) to explore and choose your own activities.
- Public Tours – offers a wide range of music, art, history, dance, nature, and adventure. These are all-inclusive packages: meals, hotels, air-conditioned buses with a professional chauffeur, English-speaking tour guides, airport transfers and amazingly fun activities.
The Culture: Music, Dance, Food
Cuba’s culture is one of the very few that is currently stuck in time. Cuba blends an eclectic mix of diversity, including African, Asian, French and Spanish influences. Music and dance remain the island’s most important cultural pride. Music is also an enormous part of the Afro-Cuban religion – Santeria…with it’s enchanting beats of the African drums known as toques. Cuban music is considered one of the richest, and most influential in the world. The native Taino, Arawak & Ciboney are known for areito, a style of music. Folk music and European dances include the zapateo, zampado, fandango, canción and retambico. The foundation of Cuban musical forms is rooted in the cabildos – a form of social club – popular among the African slaves who were brought over to the Caribbean island. Other Caribbean islands also have a deep influence on Cuban music, such as Jamaica and Haiti – like the charangas which hail from Haitian refugees during the Haitian Revolution. This created it’s own style of danzón (dance), like the tumba francesa, which became known for comparsa, mambo, chachachá and just to name a few. With such lively sounds and rhythms, it only makes sense that the flavors were just as vibrant. Cuban cuisine blends the aboriginal Native American Taino dishes, Spanish, African, & Caribbean. Many recipes call for spices and cooking techniques – of the Spanish and African – with a strong Caribbean spice/flavor influence. You can expect rice and peas/beans (together: Moros y Cristianos or apart: Arroz con frijoles), with either black or red kidney beans, white rice and sofrito. Meats are marinated in a sauce called mojo, which is a blend of oil, garlic, onion, spices such as oregano and bitter orange or lime juice. The national dish is called Arroz con Pollo.
There is so much to Cuba. From eclectic Afrocentric beats and rhythm to a blend of tasty authentic Caribbean, Asian, Spanish and European influence. The culture is one that seems to be stuck in a time warp, but that adds to the experience. It gives it an untapped, unchanged, original appeal. I pray that the Cuba-America Relations doesn’t take a turn for the worst. In fact, travel – on a whole – is set to skyrocket in 2018. It’s time to knock locations like Cuba, off of our bucket lists! Who is interested in joining us for a Virtuous Journey, of the luxurious kind? Please fill out this form, and our team will get right back to you to help you plan your visit! If you would like to leave us a comment and show some love, please scroll all the way to the bottom of this post page :).
When she’s not traveling the world, she enjoys planting the seeds of growth and prosperity for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She’s an accredited Travel Designer, who specializes in curating unique, Caribbean and Luxury ventures. She's a travel marketing expert, who loves to make her passions her paycheck while teaching women to do the same.