Travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens is now being permitted through select organizations, including the National Geographic Society.
National Geographic Expeditions was recently granted a special license by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which oversees travel to the country.
The new program, Cuba: Discovering its People and Culture, is a 10-day expedition that allows travelers to meet and interact with Cubans and experience the colonial cities, culture, landscapes, and beauty of this island nation.
The expedition includes: exploring the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Old Havana and Trinidad with Cuban preservationists; meeting with the curator of Ernest Hemingway’s hilltop home, Finca Vigía, now a museum; attending music and dance performances; and a chance to meet Cuban photographer Julio Muñoz, whose family appeared in a 1999 National Geographic article.
Travel writer and photographer Christopher P. Baker is the expert leading many of the Cuba expeditions. Baker received the Lowell Thomas Award in 2008 for “Travel Journalist of the Year.” He has authored books about Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Panama as part of the National Geographic Traveler guidebook series.
Policy changes by President Obama this year have expanded specialized travel opportunities to Cuba by reinstating “people-to-people” licenses. In 2003 licenses stopped being issued due to new travel restrictions imposed by President George W. Bush. National Geographic Expeditions ran programs to Cuba once before, in 2001-2002.
The “people-to-people” license requires programs to have “a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.” According to Baker, this requirement will give participants of the expedition the opportunity to learn about Cuban life directly from the people who live there.
The dates for the Cuba departures sold out within two weeks of being offered, according to Nat Geo Expeditions. However, more dates have been added and will open to the public once those on the waitlist have been given first priority.
Photo: Ricardo Dinis/ My Shot