Yes, Americans can visit Cuba – as long as you are there “in support of the Cuban people.” Which we were – Biffy and Ed, Sam and Sarah, Sam’s Sarah, Joseph and his friend Cathy, and me. We got our paperwork in order in Miami and, despite my anxiety about making the connection on time, it all worked and we’re all here!
My first sight of Cuba from the plane featured lots of lush green scenery and palm trees. (Royal palms, the national tree, are everywhere.) We made our way through the slow lines to be vetted (passport control and security) and were finally sent on our way. We got on the little bus that will be carrying us about and heard a lot about Cuba from our guide, Edelso, who would prove to be terrific.
Then to our hotel, which is lovely (though with steep stairs, luckily with sturdy railings). We were met by the incomparable Marta, the boss and general factotum of the place, with a small glass of a delicious pineapple rum drink (a theme) and sweeping views from the outside deck. Across from us is an old shabby Soviet era apartment block which has clearly seen better days,
but otherwise the area is filled with nicely maintained houses and gardens, and there’s a view of the ocean just beyond.
I have a room of my own with a lovely shower, air conditioning, and two double beds
And there’s wifi though it doesn’t seem to be very robust (this proved to be an understatement!). This will be just right as a base for our trip.
Our group is led by Cressie, one of the five lawyers who worked together on a big civil rights case back in the ’80s. They get together every couple years, and thus this trip. Cressie is a lowkey guy, very knowledgeable about Cuba, where he’s visited numerous times over the last seven or eight years. This was his first trip back since the pandemic, and he noticed that many things have changed: shortages, way fewer tourists, more blackouts, etc. But he has arranged a wonderful array of visits and experiences for us.
We had dinner at the hotel (with this iconic image of Hemingway on the wall),
and then Marta told us about some logistics, including what to do about money (both Euros and dollars are universally accepted, so no need to change), and how to maintain the plumbing (don’t flush toilet paper, place it in the little container next to the toilet, something we encountered everywhere).
The company is good, the venue is lovely, and tomorrow we start our adventures!