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Friday, 10 June 2016 08:48

Our real man in Havana

Our Man In Havana (1958) is a famous novel set in Cuba by the British author Graham Greene. He makes fun of intelligence services, especially the British MI6, and their willingness to believe reports from their local informants. The book predates the Cuban Missile Crisis, but certain aspects of the plot, notably the role of missile installations, appear to anticipate the events of 1962. The book is a black comedy  set in Havana during the regime of Cuban dictator and Castro’s predecessor, Fulgencio Batista. 

Briefly, James Wormold, a vacuum cleaner retailer, is approached and offered a job working  for the British secret service.Because Wormold has no information to send to London, he fakes his reports using information found in newspapers and invents a fictitious network of agents which later leads to many complications.

The book was adapted for a film with the same name and takes the action of the novel and gives it a more comedic touch.

Well, our real man in Havana really has nothing to do with the novel or movie by the same name. He is our Cuban contact or facilitator. His name is Eddie “G” and here lives in the neighborhood of Vedado. The latter is is a central business district and urban area in the city of Havana. Bordered on the east by Central Havana, and on the west by the Miramar district, Vedado is the most modern part of the city, developed in the first half of the 20th century, during the Republic period. The main street running east to west is Calle 23, also known as "La Rampa". The northern edge of the district is the waterfront seawall known as the Malecón, a famous and popular place where Havana’s people or Habaneros gather both day and night. 

In addition to Cuban Eddie, we have another  great contact on our team, Max Gómez. Maxie has 20 years experiences traveling  all over Cuba while running a successful travel business there and in Central America. Between both of these “go to guys," travelers could never be in better hands while in Cuba. However, Eddie is the one with more "boots on the ground experience” and a real “mover and shaker."

Those thinking taking an introductory tour or doing long-term stay in Cuba need to have good contacts  in order to get the most out of the country and especially to see the “real” Cuba before it changes. Most of the tourists who are currently flocking here from the U.S. will never  see the country like our clients.

We have been conducting tours to Costa Rica and Central America for over 30 years and can assure you that the average tourist on a regular tour will never experience what we offer, which is exactly why we have experienced insiders who can help with your trip.

What  we mean by experienced are people who  were either born in Cuba or who have many years living there, speak theSpanish  language, know the culture,  the ins and outs,  dos and don’t’s, can walk the walk and can guide visitors. 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 07 September 2015 14:41

Cuba Preparing For Biggest U.S. Invasion Ever

Cubans Ready To Welcome Influx Of American Visitors.

TODAY CUBA – It will be the largest number of American tourists to arrive in Cuba since the 1959 Revolution. The increase is expected to exceed the 50% of visitors who have already made their bookings.

While authorizations for all kinds of travel and transportation companies are multiplying in the U.S., moving beyond the tourist blockade of the island, Cuba is declaring that the last quarter of 2015 could beat all records in U.S. tourism since the Revolution given that so far and despite visa restrictions American tourist presence has increased by 50%.

An absolutely clear signal is that hotel chains have started to work out agreements with the almost 20,000 privaterooms that provide cheap accommodation in Cuba, by hiring beds to which tourists will be redirected when they have no space.

These agreements are quite unprecedented since private rooms for rent are – at least in theory – illegal and up to this point the big chains had never dealt with the issue except to criticize these accommodations where necessary. 70% of these unofficial rooms are located in Havana.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved the lifting of the ban on travel to Cuba, which is only the first step in a series of legislative guarantees that Democrats and a section of the Republicans are willing to approve in its totality, which would authorize all types of travel before the year end.

With seven companies already authorized to start ferry trips between Florida and Havana in September (Havana Ferry Partners, Baja Ferries, United Caribbean Lines, Airline Brokers Co., International Port Corp, America Cruise Ferries from Puerto Rico and the Spanish Balearia), everything is pointing towards the first part of the high season in Cuba being successful.

With relations having become more flexible – and even before the opening of the embassies – Americans increased visits to the island by 55% compared with 2014, making 2015 the year of most American visits since the revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.

Meanwhile operators are facing an upsurge of queries in Florida and increasing difficulty in booking accommodations. However, plans are underway and while the state hotel agency – Gaviota – has announced an agreement with Bouygues, the French construction company, to build three new hotels in the historic centre of Old Havana, Marriott International has reached an agreement with the government on business possibilities as soon as conditions are right for investment.

The United States officially reopened its embassy in Havana and the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry made an official visit to Cuba. The seven-story building was built in 1953 and closed in 1961 when the United States broke off ties with Havana. Months later it declared a blockade that has lasted until today, half a century later, and is considered the longest in history.

In his official speech, Kerry said: “Friends, we are gathered here today because our leaders, President Barack Obama and President Castro took a courageous decision: to stop being prisoners of history, focusing instead on opportunities for today and tomorrow.”

Article originally appeared at 

Despite the travel limitations imposed by the U.S. government, there has been a 54 percent increase in the number of visitors from the United States during the first six months of this year. A lot of people have skirted the travel restrictions by first going to countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, the Bahamas or Jamaica, and then on to Cuba.

According to the Ministry of Cuban Tourism 88,996 Americans visited Cuba between January 1, 2015 and July 26, 2015. This is without counting the 164,368 Cuban Americans who traveled to the island during the same period of time. In 2014 only 57,768 visitors came from the U.S. It is predicted that by the end of 2015 almost four million tourists will have visited Cuba with around 150, 000 coming from the U.S. Indeed the country is becoming more and more popular due the improved relations with the U.S. and the fact that it is safe for Americans to travel there.

Furthermore, it is widely believed that many of the tourists who traditionally visit Cancún, the Mayan Riviera, the Dominical Republic or the Bahamas will now visit Cuba instead.

Tourism is one of the mainstays of the Cuban economy and it creates thousands of jobs for the Cuban people in the hotel industry. Taxis, private home stays(casas particulares) and paladares (small restaurants) also benefit greatly from the increase in tourism.

If you are interested in visiting the real Cuba for both short and long-term stays, then look into one of our Exploratory Tours in conjunction with Discover Cuba.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015 12:54

The Daiquiri has a new king

The famous Havana Bar El Floridita, one of the favorite watering holes of Ernest Hemingway, chose the new "King of the Daiquiri" (El Rey del Daiquiri) in a new international competition that began this year. Bartenders from the US, Argentina, Canada and Puerto Rico participated in this event for the first time.

The 12 contestants were given five minutes to make their version of the classic daiquiri that consists of lemon juice, frappé ice and rum.

Pedro Iván Rodríguez, who is Cuban and works in Havana's El Ajibe restaurant, won first place in the competition. Cubanbartenders also finished in second and third place. The winner, señor Rodriguez, was previously named the best bartender in the city of Havana in the year 2013 and said that it was an honor to compete at one of of the ten most famous bars in the world, El Floridita. The contest marked the first time in 60 years that a bartender from the United States was allowed to prepare a daiquiri due to the improved relationship between Cuba and the United States.

In conjunction with the daiquiri contest another interesting event happened in Havana. The grave of the barman who served drinks for writer Ernest Hemingway was the setting Friday for an unprecedented toast with daiquiri prepared by United States and Cuban bartenders at Havana’s Colón Cemetery. A dozen bartenders from both countries — which this week re-established diplomatic ties after half a century of enmity — gathered at the cemetery to honor barman Constantino Ribalaigua, known as Constante, who died in 1953.The peculiar tribute began with a minute of silence in front of the mausoleum of Constante, who for 35 years owned the Floridita bar in Old Havana, where this cocktail made of rum, lime juice and ice, created in Cuba in the late 19th century, became famous.

The homage to Constante marked the start of activities to celebrate the bicentennial of the Floridita, in 2017, one of the bars preferred by Hemingway (1898-1961), who lived in Cuba for 21 years.Next to the Floridita's counter there is a life-size, bronze statue of the author of “The old man and the sea” and 1954 Nobel Prize-winner for literature, with which nearly all tourists take a selfie.

The Floridita serves daily between 600 and 700 customers, who pay $6 for each daiquiri, and is one of the two most famous bars in Cuba. The famous bar is the “Bodeguita del Medio,” where Hemingway used to drink mojitos, also in Old Havana. Despite the United States-Cuba political dispute after the 1959 revolution, devotion to Hemingway was kept alive on the island. In fact, he is one of Fidel Castro’s favorite writers.

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