When Dad decided to visit a few islands impacted by last year’s hurricanes, I did not realize it could become complicated. After all, we have been on numerous cruises throughout the Caribbean so it should be easy, we thought. But we never visited a Communist country.
We booked a cruise which will be visiting Key West and Cuba—each for no more than a day. Dad was particularly interested in seeing the old cars, which is one of the attractions for tourists visiting that island nation. Why are they all old, you may wonder, and the answer is because the Castro regime had banned the import of foreign cars since 1959.
Once the trip was booked, we learned we needed to purchase a visa to leave the ship in Cuba, and we cannot go to any beaches and are limited on strolling around the island on our own during the entire stay. During the Obama administration, I had learned that travels to Cuba had opened up slightly, but there are 12 categories of authorized travel permitted, such as journalistic or religious activities and research.
Under Obama, individuals could visit under the “people-to-people” category, which meant you had to interact in ways that “enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.”
Our new president has changed that, and it now appears that individual travel is now banned. We need to be with a group—hence cruise travel. We booked an excursion through the ship—a show at the Tropicana Club—which is allowed under Trump’s new Cuban travel rules. (Who knew watching scantily-clad women would be permitted?)
However, I have read that our little group of four people can do a tour with a private (non-government) agency, but I am still researching this rule before I book it. I keep thinking of Grandpa’s sister, who we all know ended up in that Russian jail after not following the rules.
All I want is to see the city of Havana, enjoy a nice Cuban lunch with a cold mojito, and check out the old cars. I am thinking it would be easier to visit one of the other Communist countries such as China or Vietnam.