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Culture of Cuba: Led by Ralph Velasco (8th trip!!!) ~ 11/16-24, 2014

Culture of Cuba: Led by Ralph Velasco (8th trip!!!) ~ 11/16-24, 2014

Americans are able to travel under a new 'people-to-people' program, which includes daily activities, immersing you into the heart and soul of Cuba. Designed as a cultural and historical tour, it will also provide dramatic photographic opportunities each day.

Participants should know that Cuba is a special destination, please understand that all elements of the itinerary are subject to change and that activities listed are examples of opportunities that will present themselves. Since the program is authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department, we have to abide by any changes to regulations that may take place. Please remain flexible as there are often circumstances beyond control and changes may be necessary. Be assured that all efforts will be made to provide a comparable alternative should an item on the itinerary need to be changed.

Travel with Ralph Velasco to Cuba. You will be immersed in the rich culture, and strong willed people of Havana; as well as the spectacular landscape of Vinales. This is a perfect introduction in to the people of Cuba. Wander and explore with Ralph through Havana’s colonial architecture, while watching the antique vehicles pass you by. There will be daily educational programs built in to the itinerary, including traditional salsa music and dancing, cigar factory exploration, and visiting with local families of Havana’s diverse neighborhoods.

Highlights

  • Program cost includes Miami-Havana round-trip airfare, and Visa fee.
  • Cuba’s greatest asset ~ Its people.
  • Meet and interact with people’s lives on the streets of Havana’s distinct neighborhoods.
  • Explore the architecture of Old Havana, designated an UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Panoramic views of the harbor, Morro Cabana, and the skyline of Havana.
  • Landscape of Vinales, another UNESCO site, with village exploration.
  • Education on the arts of Cuba, and witness the art of cigar making at its finest.

Itinerary

Culture of Cuba: Led by Ralph Velasco (8th trip!!!) ~ 11/16-24, 2014

Day 1: Home - Miami

Due to the time of the group charter flight tomorrow morning it will be necessary for everyone to fly to Miami today, overnight at hotel (at your cost). We cannot be responsible for missed connections. We recommend everyone staying at the same hotel as your photo leader in order to coordinate departure time in the morning back to the airport. There are various hotels around the Miami airport so if you should decide to stay elsewhere please notify us of hotel and phone number. Suggested overnight at Marriott Miami Airport

Day 2: Miami - Havana

Depart Miami today on the charter flight from Miami to Havana (time to be announced). Currently we can pre-pay the Cuba Visa fee for you, which is currently $75, this has now been included in your tour cost.

As we make our way to the hotel our guide will orient us to the highlights of Havana. You will have some free time to explore the neighborhood around the hotel before we walk to a lovely restaurant on the Plaza Vieja in La Habana Vieja for our welcome dinner. Overnight Hotel Inglaterra or similar. (L, D)

Day 3: Old Havana

There will be a guided walking program of Old Havana (or Haban Vieja) after breakfast. This is a great opportunity to meet and interact with local Cubans going about their everyday lives on the city streets. After lunch you'll continue your guided walk.

In 1982 Old Havana was designated an UNESCO World Heritage site and it is brimming with a variety of historical landmarks and interesting things to do. Just walking the streets in this area is a favorite pastime and will surely result in an unforgettable experience with plenty of chances to meet the locals and to take advantage of a myriad of photo ops. (B, L)

Culture of Cuba: Led by Ralph Velasco (8th trip!!!) ~ 11/16-24, 2014

Day 4: Morro Cabana - Vedado

After breakfast the group will transfer by bus to Morro Cabana, a.k.a. Castillo del Morro, to explore, including access for panoramic views of the harbor and the skyline of Havana. In the late morning transfer to an area of Havana known as Vedado, located right on the Malecon. Sit down with some locals and enjoy a drink with a commanding view. (B)

Day 5: Viñales

Early morning transfer for a day trip to Viñales for landscape and village exploration. Viñales was founded in 1607 and has an economy based on agriculture, mainly tobacco farming, and its soil is considered to be some of the richest in the world. In Valley another UNESCO World Heritage site, we’ll see mountainous “mogotes,” made of hard limestone left over after millennia of erosion, as well as rural farmland vistas.
Visit “Mirador del Valle de Viñales”, where there will be commanding views of the mogotes and the valley below. Continued exploration of this gorgeous part of western Cuba. Visit a working tobacco farm where you will be able to get inside their storehouses and have a brief introduction to tobacco farming, the interesting process of tobacco production, as well as cigar rolling. The evening will be free in Havana. (B, L)

Day 6: The Arts - Hemingway

Today you will learn about the thriving art culture, supported by many famous artists. In the morning take the bus to Ernest Hemingway’s former home Finca La Vigia, near Cojimar a quaint fisherman's village. Given time we will have a program at the cigar factory or Rum Museum where we’ll have a local guide provide us with detailed commentary about the process of making rum. Rum is an icon of Cuban culture and seeing how it’s produced is a treat. Afterwards we’ll get to taste some rum.
Afternoon is free to do any of the things you may have missed in Havana. Perhaps experience an optional coco taxi ride, enjoy a horse drawn carriage tour of Havana, hire a classic American taxi for a ride up and down the Malecon, or visit a museum. (B)

Days 7 - 8: Trinidad

After an early breakfast travel to Trinidad. Founded in the early 16th century on the southern coast of the country, Trinidad de Cuba was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, and it’s the perfect example of a traditional colonial town. This jewel on the Caribbean has distinct architecture and a historic center with cobble stoned streets that lead to many landmark buildings, and it’s a joy in which to get lost. This evening you’ll have a guided walking program of this most picturesque town. Each evening there’s a huge gathering where both locals and visitors get together for drinks, some wonderful traditional music and a chance to dance away the night (don’t miss this opportunity).

The next day will be a program to the Valley of the Sugar Mills and a visit to the plantation of Manaca Iznaga where you can choose to climb Iznaga Tower (c. 1816), a 147-foot tall structure with commanding views of the area. On the way back to the hotel stop at another lookout that boasts a million dollar view of the valley. This evening will be free to explore this amazing little town. Overnight two evenings Hotel Las Cuevas (B, D; B)

Day 9: Trinidad-Havana

Travel back to Havana today, stopping for lunch in Cienfuegos. The city is nicknamed La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the South). The rest of the day will be free in Havana to return to your favorite places. There will be a farewell dinner at a local traditional restaurant. Overnight Hotel Inglaterra or similar. (B, L, D)

Day 10: Havana - Home

There will be a morning transfer to Havana airport to begin your trip home (Exact time to be announced, planning on Miami arrival at 12PM-1PM). Be sure to leave three hours between your connection times in Miami. (B)

Important Notes

A native of Chicago, Ralph Velasco is currently based in Corona del Mar, California, where he teaches a variety of travel photography classes at a number of institutions, including Santa Ana College, Saddleback College, UC Irvine Extension and others.

Ralph has a unique series of walking tours that provide hands-on experience for photographers of all levels. He guides tours locally, domestically and internationally. You can learn more about these programs at www.ralphvelasco.com. Ralph tries to differentiate his photo tours by providing an overall cultural experience, which in addition to photography might also include the food, drink, music, dance, sport and other cultural aspects of a destination. Additionally, Ralph is creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, available on iTunes. The app helps photographers of all skill levels to bring back a better-rounded portfolio of images that truly captures the essence of any destination or subject.

He’s been awarded “Open Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County two years in a row and he’s the author of “Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More.”

Ralph is a member of the Circumnavigators Club, an elite group of travelers whose charter requires that its members have traveled “around the world, in a single journey, having crossed every one of Earth’s meridians.”
“My goal with any tour is to help you to create a cultural portrait, both in images and in memories. For the photographer in you my style is to provide leadership and guidance that will get you in front of some of the most awe-inspiring architecture, interesting people and iconic sites and landmarks in the places we’ll be visiting, while at the same time explore more off-the-beaten-path locations. With our travel schedule in mind, we’ll plan get out early in the day in order to capture each location in the best light, and before the tourist crowds overwhelm. The main goal of any program is to help you to advance your capability to ‘see like a photographer,’ but also to provide an overall cultural experience that will not only reveal the location through your camera’s lens, but also through your mind’s eye.

Participants of all experience levels are welcome, and after an orientation I’ll provide advice about photography when asked, however, my style is to allow you the freedom to discover photo, and cultural, opportunities on your own, but to always be available to assist.

In my experience, the traveler who gets the most out of any international experience is the one who is open to going with the flow and is flexible. I’m a photographer who insists on traveling light, and I shoot 100 percent digital.”

"My feeling is that 75 percent of good photography is simply making an effort to put yourself in the right place at the right time." ~ Ralph Velasco

Pricing

Tour land cost: $4,195 US Dollars based upon minimum of 7 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 6 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single room supplement: $395; single rooms are subject to availability and are not guaranteed. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.

Note: The land costs on international tours is based upon current exchange rates. Although the rate has been relatively stable, should it change, there may need to be an adjustment in the land cost.

Details

Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds

A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic programs) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due.
If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:
• 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic programs), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your program, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
• 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic programs) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your program, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of program costs.
• 60 days or less before departure or anytime after departure: NO REFUND
REFUNDS FOR SERVICES THAT ARE VOLUNTARILY NOT USED BY YOU CANNOT BE MADE.

Includes

Group transportation for tour events in the tour van.
Accommodations based on two people sharing a room, singles are assigned on a first come, first served basis and are not guaranteed.
Services of driver, cultural guide (bilingual if applicable) during the tour.
Meals as listed in itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner).
Park entrance fees, day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary.
Extensive pre-departure information and services.

Excludes

Domestic or International air fare; other airfare if noted in exceptions; air fare tax; airport departure tax; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those not traveling with the group; excess baggage charges; meals not included in itinerary; activities listed as optional, or those taken on your own; passport/visa expenses; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, film or processing, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips for meals not included in itinerary.

Air

Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge is added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight times with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties.

Please contact Strabo Tours for destination airfare estimates, specific flight time arrivals, and departures.

Health

Fitness and Health
The majority of trips are not strenuous (see exceptions below for particular destinations) and anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to take part in most of the activities. You may experience general fatigue due to the long flights and the change in time zones. You will need to be sufficiently agile to climb in and out of the tour van and should be able to carry and manage your own equipment. We will frequently hike trails ranging from easy to moderate. Some hotels do not have elevators or air conditioners.

If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607-756-8676).

You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.

Exceptions:
The following destinations require more physical activity. China, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.
There will be several hours of walking each day, sometimes over rough terrain or at high altitude. It is important for you to be able to get around easily, since you will be hiking rough trails.

Insurance

Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.
We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, which outlines their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.

Subject to Change

This itinerary has been carefully constructed to assure participants the best this destination has to offer; however, should events arise that are beyond our control, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. Above is a summary of typical areas you will explore. Since there is no possible way to visit all of them, your guides will plan each day considering the interests of the group and the weather at hand. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.

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