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HAVANA,June 7th Must President Donald Trump undo all humanitarian progress that was made by former President Barack Obama? It almost feels like Trump’s whole motivation is bitter vengeful spite or jealousy to take down the legacy of a much admired and respected man.

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HAVANA, Apr 22th (PL) Cuban tourist authorities have celebrated the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the Spanish airline Iberia to Cuba, a major event considering the booming tourism in the country.

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US Softens Cuba Travel AdvisoryHAVANA,Jan 10th The U.S. State Department has downgraded its travel advisory for Cuba, recommending Americans “reconsider travel” to the Caribbean island.

The department had previously warned citizens not to Read more

2835HAVANA, Dec. 3th Interest in travel to Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented surge – but at least four British operators have stopped taking bookings to the country as its infrastructure struggles to cope with demand. Read more

27cuba-master768HAVANA, Oct. 29th Travelers will soon be able to book accommodations to Cuba through TripAdvisor, one of the world’s largest travel websites. It’s the latest development in an American travel industry that is slowly expanding tourism to Cuba. Read more

havana-live-pearl-mistHAVANA,  July 28  While still awaiting governmental approval, Pearl Seas Cruises announced plans to launch cruises to Cuba in the spring.

The seven- to 10-night cruises would offer the People-to-People educational and cultural programming that legalizes travel to the island long off-limits to Americans.

The cruises would be operated by the Pearl Mist, a new 210-passenger luxury cruise ship, round-trip from South Florida to both the Southern and Northern coasts, including ports such as Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

Pearl Seas President Charles A. Robertson made no secret of his desire to begin operating to Cuba once President Obama announced late last year that he was working to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. In fact, the cruise company issued a press release back in January that it was exploring itinerary options.

“We are delighted to play such an important role in the People-to-People program in support of the Cuban people,” Robertson said. “The 210-passenger Pearl Mist allows access to more of Cuba’s ports and regions, while providing a relaxed means to engage directly with Cubans and explore the rich history and fabric of Cuban culture.”

However, Pearl Seas said its Cuba voyages still are pending approval by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury, the Department of Commerce and the Cuban government.

Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand also recently announced plans to sail to Cuba starting in May. Carnival said it had obtained approval from the U.S. government but was awaiting the go-ahead from Cuban authorities.

Also, Haimark Line revealed plans to operate cruises from Florida to the long off-limits island starting in February. It hopes to operate legally under an extension of the approval granted to United Caribbean Lines, a company headed by veteran cruise executive Bruce Nierenberg that also plans to start ferry service to Cuba.

MSC Cruises will base a ship in Cuba for the winter 2015-16 season, but the cruises are not yet marketed to Americans.

A Canadian company, Cuba Cruise, started sailing around the island in the 2013-14 winter season. Athens-based Celestyal Cruises now is the majority shareholder in that company.

Just last week, the U.S. and Cuba resumed diplomatic ties and reopened embassies for the first time in more than 50 years.

http://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/pearl-seas-announces-cuba-cruises.html

 Move goes further than Obama administration’s easing of travel restrictions 
Appropriations committee also votes to end banking curbs for exports to Cuba

HAVANA, July 23  A Republican-controlled Senate panel has voted to lift a decades-long US ban on travel to Cuba, giving a boost to President Barack Obama’s moves to ease travel restrictions and open up relations with Cuba.

The Senate appropriations committee also voted to repeal a law prohibiting banks and other US businesses from financing sales of US agricultural exports to Cuba.

The Obama administration issued rules in January to significantly ease travel restrictions to Cuba and allow regularly scheduled flights for the first time. The committee’s 18-12 vote comes just days after the US and Cuba formally ended more than a half-century of estrangement by re-establishing diplomatic relations cut off during the cold war.

“We have the opportunity to increase the likelihood that Cuban people have greater liberties and freedom with the ability to connect with them,” said sponsor Jerry Moran, a Republican. “I also would say that as Americans we have certain freedoms that we cherish, and Americans can travel around the globe today without exception – no country is totally prohibited with the exception of Cuba.”

The House appropriations committee has moved in the opposite direction, but the intra-party disagreement among Republicans makes it far less likely that the GOP-controlled Congress will try to use spending bills to challenge Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba.

The House provision would block new rules issued in January that would significantly ease travel restrictions to Cuba and allow regularly scheduled flights for the first time.

The Senate language goes beyond the administration rules, which lifted a requirement that US travellers obtain a licence from the Treasury Department before travelling to Cuba. Instead, all that is required is for travellers to assert that their trip would serve educational, religious or other permitted purposes.

“Positive change in Cuba will take time,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat. “But it will come not as a result of stubborn nostalgia by a vociferous few for the Batista years, but by visiting Cuba, listening to the Cuban people, and engaging with them.” Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s dictator before he was overthrown by Fidel Castro in 1959.

The hospitality industry and other business sectors are still blocked from doing business in Cuba. The president of Marriot International, Arne Sorenson, just returned from Cuba and is representative of many companies eager to do business there, especially as more Americans travel to the island.

“With travel to Cuba now surging, existing Cuban hotels are full and hotel companies from other countries are racing to tie up as many of the new hotels as they can before the likes of Marriott and our US competitors show up,” Sorenson said.

The panel’s votes reflect growing sentiment, even among some GOP conservatives, to ease the five-decade-plus Cuba trade embargo and travel restrictions to the island, which have failed to move the Castro regime toward democracy.

“After nearly 60 years, we might try something different,” Moran said.

The panel also voted to lift restrictions on vessels that have shipped goods to Cuba from returning to the US until six months have passed.

The Cuba legislation was added to a $21bn measure funding the Treasury Department, which enforces the longstanding trade embargo.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/23/cuba-travel-ban-should-be-lifted-senate-panel

havana-live-american tourists just landedHAVANA, July  19    “We want to see Cuba before it changes.”

Simultaneously, on multiple continents, the brilliant Germans, Turks, Argentinians, Mexicans, and other Americans at the Havana guesthouse where we were all staying had hatched the unique idea that they needed to get to Cuba before Starbucks, Chipotle and Urban Outfitters do. One local guide claimed that U.S. tourism was up 36 percent from December, when Raul Castro and President Obama become BFFs.

My husband, Jon, as a child on a family vacation, visited Cuba before the island’s last big change. Fulgencio Batista was the dictator, the American mob ran the hotel casinos, and Fidel Castro seemed like an annoyance rather than a mortal threat.

Jon had long wanted to return. He suddenly decided now was the time, before Cuba changes. Good idea, but arranging the details wasn’t easy.

Despite America’s new opening, we had to book our trip with a tour organizer (Australian), change our money into Canadian Loonies, and fly through Cancun because of America’s embargo restrictions that presidential aspirant Marco Rubio thinks are so helpful.
Once on the island, no one took credit cards, toilet paper was not guaranteed, soap was a luxury and, most appalling to us first-worlders, there was virtually no Internet. When I did weasel my way into a fancy hotel “business center,” the guy at the next computer terminal was from Northeast Philly.

Except for the enterprising native who unsuccessfully tried to mug my husband (who also can’t get his wallet out of his jeans pocket), Cubans were welcoming, even when they had nothing to sell us. Most Cubans don’t have anything to sell tourists, though there are an amazing number of people who claim to work in cigar factories and just happen to have a few “extra” Cohibas.

My fellow Pennsylvanians can instinctively relate to Cubans because their country also sells all its liquor in government stores, the roads are full of potholes, and everyone is madly preparing for Pope Francis’ visit. It’s just that in Cuba, the state controls almost everything, including the newspapers, where I could be a cartoonist as long as I drew Raul as the handsome, brilliant genius that he is.

While in Havana, we stayed near the historic square where slaves were once sold. It’s now lined with a restaurant with tablecloths, an excellent coffee shop and a microbrewery — which could use a brewer from Philly’s Fishtown to help with its recipes.

Fortunately, there are few cars, because the ones they have are 60 years old, belch pollution, and can barely pass down the narrow streets. The cars are, however, luscious, and made me wish Detroit would return to some of those flamboyant styles. If Cubans can have tail fins, why can’t we?

While Detroit carmakers are forced by our embargo to stick to the mainline, Chinese carmakers are busily peddling their fin-less “Geelys,” most recently 719 of them, to the Cuban car rental market for tourists. Since many actual Cubans, especially outside Havana, still get around on horse-drawn carts (including trotting along on the one main “interstate”), there would seem to be room for growth. Missiles are not OK in Cuba; a growing Chinese market apparently is.

The historic architecture is beautiful but decayed — severely decayed — with trees growing out of balustraded balconies and interior stairways that would even make Pennsylvania inspectors take notice. Many families live packed in these potentially lucrative buildings that will all be renovated soon.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Raul Castro are facing the same problem: How do you make way for the new and wealthy without displacing the old and poor? It will be interesting to see if the Castros, whose rule depends on total control, can do any better than Philadelphia has.

Personally, I doubt it, as the U.S. restores its diplomatic relations with Cuba and the tsunami of Americans joins all the other world’s tourists making plans to see the “real” Cuba. Before it changes.

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20150719/OPINION03/150719211