Here’s good news for customers of the popular tour operator Central Holidays: the 43-year-old company is extending its vacation offerings to Cuba. Until now specializing in travel across Europe and the Mediterranean, Central Holidays will debut five Cuban tours in November starting at $2,999 per person including jet hops from Miami to Cuba and back.
“Broadening our expertise as Cuba destination specialists, we are thrilled to present our newest culturally enriching people-to-people itineraries including religious and spiritual focused programs,” said Gianni Miradoli, CEO of Central Holidays. “Given the demand for niche tours like ‘L’Chaim Cuba,’ with its personal view of Jewish life in Havana and beyond, or our custom group tours with options ideal for Christian travelers, we really offer something for everyone in this fascinating country.”
Licensed via the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Central Holidays’ signature Cuban programs include:
Afro Cubanismo (10 Days/9 Nights; from $4,199)
Start off a journey through Cuba in the capital of Havana where highlights include a visit the Museum of the Revolution housed in the former presidential palace, speaking with the Afro-Cuban community of Regla and meeting a well-known Afro-Cuban filmmaker and expert in Cuba race relations. After a short flight to Santiago de Cuba to explore the birthplace of some of Cuba’s most famous musicians, it’s on to Camagüey to explore its many UNESCO World Heritage sites, see the city’s lavish churches and enjoy a live Afro-Cuba jazz show at a local nightclub.
L’Chaim Cuba (9 Days/8 Nights; from $3,999)
Begin the adventure in Cienfuegos with a walking tour of Cuba’s “Pearl of the South” before meeting local residents and business owners and joining the members of the small Jewish community there. Following a full-day excursion to the colorful colonial city of Trinidad, move on to Havana to tour the old city and visit Ernest Hemingway’s winter home where the author kept a 9,000-volume library. Next is a tour of the Orthodox Adath Israel Synagogue, the only shul with a mikvah in Cuba, a meeting with the only kosher butcher in Cuba, a stop at the Sephardic synagogue Centro Safardi and the opportunity to attend Shabbat services at Temple Beth Shalom.
A Taste of Havana (6 Days/5 Nights; from $2,999)
Step into the past upon arrival in Havana with a stop at Revolution Square where American classic cars abound. Next, in the small fishing village of Jaimanitas, stop by the home, gallery and workshop of artist Jose Fuster, the “Picasso of Cuba,” followed by a special performance by the Habana Compas dance troupe and a Buena Vista Social Club dinner show. A walking tour of Old Havana with a local architect will showcase the crumbling buildings of yesteryear and the renovations ongoing to bring them back to life. Then, a short drive transports guests into the world of Ernest Hemingway at his farm Finca La Vigia where he penned many of his greatest works. Throughout the journey, enjoy the opportunity to meet the locals during dinners at Havana’s paladares, privately owned small restaurants serving authentic Cuban dishes.
The City & The Sea (9 Days/8 Nights; from $3,899)
Begin with two days in the resort town of Varadero including activities such as traditional dance lessons, touring an art school, meeting local students and visiting a rationing store to learn about the government food distribution program. Next, tour Havana’s fascinating arts and dance projects, see Old Havana and visit El Morro Fortress. After a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s house enjoy a special jazz performance. Next on the itinerary is an all-day excursion to the eco-village of Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and site of Cuba’s earliest surviving coffee plantations, followed by a short drive to the small fishing village of Cojimar, the inspiration for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
Hola Cuba (9 Days/8 Nights; from $3,999)
In Havana explore the nation’s storied history and lively culture by meeting local artists, dancers, musicians and cigar rollers, visiting museums and rum factories, tasting its authentic fare at locally-run paladares, and much more. Continue to Cienfuegos to visit a verdant botanical garden before day-tripping to the colonial city of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the evenings, optional activities include taking in a live jazz or Buena Vista Social Club show, enjoying some of Cuba’s finest rum cocktails, strolling through Old Havana’s winding cobblestone streets, or getting dessert at Coppelia, one of the largest ice cream parlors in the world.