CHARLOTTE, March 19, 2012 — Many people mistakenly believe that American citizens are not permitted to travel to Cuba, however the specific restriction refers to spending money there, which, more or less, amounts to the same thing.
Today, regions such as Varadero and Holguin are rapidly regaining popularity. Old Havana, with its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with mansions, churches and colonial-style architecture that have been restored to their former magnificence. La Habana Vieja, as Havana is called in Spanish is once again returning to its glorious past through renovations that have given a dramatic facelift to its previously tired countenance.
Nightclubs featuring traditional music and the magic of the salsa are making Havana nights lively again.
With more than 3,000 miles of coastline, Cuba has some of the world’s best beaches, which are lapped by translucent waters and drenched by rays of the sun. For naturists, nudism is officially banned, but it has been tolerated for years and there are several beaches where an all-over tan is possible.
Since the dark, sinister days of the Bay of Pigs debacle and the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s, tourism to Cuba by Americans dried up.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro (lower right) sits inside a tank near Playa Giron, Cuba, during the Bay of Pigs invasion, April 17, 1961. (Raul Corrales/Granma/CP/AP)
In 1959, the country’s current president, Fidel Castro, came to power when he and Che Guevara staged a dramatic, historic coup to oust Fulgencia Batista.
Castro’s assault ushered in Communist rule and, with his rise to power, tourism between Cuba and the United States has been virtually non-existent for five decades.
In April of 1961, only three months after the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, the United States attempted to overthrow Castro with an invasion at a beach called Playa Giron, at the mouth of an area known as the Bay of Pigs.
The CIA had been recruiting anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami since 1960 to lead the attack. It took just three days for Cuban forces, which had been trained by the Soviet Union and other Easter Bloc nations, to repel the attack and thoroughly, and politically, embarrass the United States.
To counter future attempts at Castro’s regime by the U.S., Cuba, with the aid of the USSR and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschchev, began to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles on the island aimed at the United States. Khrushchev was also acting in part to United States missiles which had been installed in Turkey.
When the secret mission was discovered, the United States established a blockade to prevent Soviet ships from arriving in Cuba with their missiles. The international game of nuclear chicken lasted 13-days before the Russians backed down and a nuclear confrontation was prevented.
Since those ominous events, United States tourism to Cuba has all but disappeared from what was once a haven for Americans.
During the time that has elapsed, Cuba’s tourism infrastructure declined dramatically thanks to a trade and economic embargo by the United States. Where Americans once flocked to glitzy casinos and the sensual rhythms of Havana’s music scene, the lively touristic atmosphere all but disappeared for half a century.
Changing Face of Tourism
By the 1990s the effects of the embargo, lack of resources including the loss of Soviet subsidies and the effects of Communist bureaucracy resulted in a renewed effort by Cuba to reopen its doors to tourism.
Though Americans were still absent, Canadians and Europeans were soon making their way to this rediscovered destination.
Cayo Largo, Cuba
It would be misleading to say that Cuba has come all the way back from the glory days of the past. But the island nation is rapidly reviving itself, and the best news for Americans is that some tour operators are now obtaining licenses that allow them to bring U.S. citizens back to this once popular travel destination.
AAA Travel has obtained permits through one of their preferred suppliers for a U.S. Treasury Department License and a Letter of Authorization to bring American travelers to Cuba.
The Magellan Travel Club is currently offering an 8-day package through AAA Travel to Havana, the Bay of Pigs and Playa Giron in August of 2012. Dates for the tour are August 2 – 9. Ground rates for a double are $2,795 plus air. Singles are $3,095 plus air. The group is limited to 16 participants.
Phone: 704 569-7729 or 1-800-3262 Ext: 10729
Address: AAA Carolinas, 6600 AAA Dr., Charlotte, NC 28212
Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC, founder of The Magellan Travel Club which creates and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.
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