Cuba’s Cultural Heritage III

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APR. 19-26, 2015 $4,695
Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad
Activity Level: Active Hide This
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Cuba's Cultural Heritage III

APR. 19-26, 2015
Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad

Join us as we explore the island of Cuba – a resplendent tropical island unlike any other in the Caribbean. It is a country of picturesque colonial towns and magnificent 20th century architecture, a country of spectacularly beautiful landscapes, an intriguing Afro-Cuban culture and a vibrant music, dance and art scene. Our program, which travels from Havana to Trinidad, will unravel the richness of Cuban culture and allow the group to meet professionals from all walks of contemporary Cuban life.

The trip begins with five days in Havana including a specially designed walking tour of Old Havana which harbors the greatest wealth of Spanish colonial architecture in the western hemisphere. It is a treasure trove of churches, palaces, citadels and mansions wedged along narrow streets or looming over palm-fringed plazas. The history of Cuban political development is well illustrated at the Presidential Palace, which is now a museum. A few minutes away is the Granma Memorial which preserves the vessel that brought Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. Learn more about Cuban contemporary art at the Ludwig Foundation, watch a rehearsal of the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba dance group and learn about Havana’s urban farms.

Then, depart Havana to explore the area in and around Trinidad, the fourth of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velasquez and maintained today as a living museum, just as the Spaniards left it in its period of greatest opulence. Close by is the spectacular Valle de los Ingenios, where the ruins of dozens of small 19th century sugar mills still stand. After two nights in Trinidad, fly directly to Miami avoiding the drive back to Havana.

Throughout this licensed program, discussions with economists, artists, educators and historians will allow travelers to gain an insight into life in Cuba today.

I have personally traveled to Cuba several times, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. With 17 sold-out departures over the last three years, more than any other university in the country, we are pleased to continue to offer this fascinating destination. We encourage you to book today as all trips have sold out in the past.


Christel Pailet
Director, Alumni Travel


Cost: $4,695
Distant Horizons
Activity Level: Active
COVID-19 Information:
  • Explore Old Havana on a specially designed walking tour
  • Meet with a leading economist to discuss Cuba’s changing economic policy
  • Participate in a briefing at the US Interests Section
  • Discuss foreign policy with a leading political analyst
  • Learn about Havana’s urban farms
  • Docent led visit to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
  • Watch a rehearsal of the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, a contemporary dance group
  • Visit to the Bay of Pigs
  • Explore historic Trinidad on foot
  • Enjoy a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir
  • Meet some of Cuba’s newest entrepreneurs
  • Visit a cigar factory and talk with staff
  • Explore the historic art and craft center
  • Sample Cuban cuisine in several “Paladars,” Cuba’s new, private restaurants
  • Tour is limited to 28 UCLA alumni and friends
Download Reservation Form Request Brochure In Mail
310.206.0613 (P)
310.209.4271 (F)
  • I believe this trip was a perfect overview of Cuba. Each lecture and visit revealed a different aspect of life in Cuba and its colorful history."
    Carol Coy ’76, Traveler
  • We are impressed by the quality of staff as well as the efficiency evidenced in the smooth running of the trip to Cuba."
    Mark and Joan Meyerson, Travelers
  • It was a wonderful learning experience and a lot of fun. The best trip I have ever taken!"
    Susan Schroeder ’88, Traveler
  • Our trip to Cuba was the trip of a lifetime. Your ears must be burning with all the good things I tell people about UCLA Alumni Travel and your tour to Cuba."
    Len ’50 and BJ Wolf, Travelers



DAY 1 | April 19. Depart for Havana, Cuba
Upon arrival, proceed directly to the Hotel Nacional for a welcome drink in the hotel’s hall of fame. Enjoy lunch at La Barraca Restaurant located outside on the grounds of the Hotel Nacional. We will take the group to an efficient place to change your money into CUC’s before driving along the Malecon to the Parque Central, ideally located in Old Havana. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the hotel rooftop followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel. (L,D)

DAY 2 | April 20. Havana
Meet in the Antilles Room for an introductory tour briefing and an overview of the trip.

This morning, begin exploring Havana by foot. Be ready to depart the lobby at 10 a.m. wearing comfortable shoes. Parts of the walking today will be over uneven cobblestones. As we walk through Old Havana, we will stop to admire the city’s many squares, its cathedral and talk with local residents, many of whom have returned to their homes that have been renovated by Habaguanex, the semi-private entity that manages the restoration of Old Havana. Stop at the scale-model of Old Havana which serves as an excellent introduction to the lay-out of the city. It is color-coded by age with the historic buildings painted in crimson, pre-Revolution buildings in yellow and the post-revolutionary buildings in ivory.

End the morning at the Plaza Vieja, a stunningly beautiful old square. Although the square was in a sad state of repair for many years, that decay is being reversed by the caring restoration of Habana Vieja.

Lunch at Café Taberna located on Plaza Vieja.

After lunch, enjoy a city orientation tour by bus (and parts by foot) led by architectural historian, Ayleen Robaina. Explore the City Garden of El Vedado which was planned in 1859-60 but not developed until early in the twentieth-century according to modern planning principles that introduced “green” in the city for the first time. Drive along La Rampa which climbs past the offices of Cubana. Stop at the steps to the University of Havana and climb up to view the campus. Close by are 1950s hotels like the former Havana Hilton designed by California architectural firm Welton Becket & Associates in 1958 as well as Art Déco and Streamline modern style apartments influenced by South Beach in Miami. The tour will include an inside visit to the wonderful Riviera Hotel which, when it opened in 1958, was considered a marvel of modern design. It was owned at the time by Meyer Lansky. Parts of the public areas of the hotel have recently been restored to recapture its 1950s ambience. Admire Havana’s tall office buildings such as the award winning 1953 Odontological Building and the 1958 Ministry of Public Health, both designed by Antonio Quintana Simonetti. See the 1956 FOCSA building designed by Ernesto Gomez Sampera and Martin Dominguez.

Return to the hotel late afternoon. Before dinner, enjoy a rum-based evening cocktail on the hotel rooftop (new wing). This is an ideal time to try a mojito, Cuba’s national cocktail which is a delicious mixture of rum, soda water and mint.

Dinner this evening at El Ajibe. There is usually a performance at the Gran Teatro on Sunday evening, and as soon as the schedule is announced, we will let you know. (B,L,D)

DAY 3 | April 21. Havana
Meet in the Antilles room for a discussion on US/Cuban Relations to be led by Professor Raul Rodriguez from the University of Havana. Dr. Rodriguez has written extensively on US-Cuban Relations including an article last year written for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Working Papers Series 1-10, Harvard University 2010, entitled “Canada, the United States and Cuba: Triangular Relations as seen in Cuban Diplomatic History 1959-1962.”

After the discussion, depart the hotel and walk to the Presidential Palace, a huge ornate building topped by a dome and now known as the home of the Revolutionary Museum. The history of Cuban political development is illustrated here from the slave uprisings to joint missions with the ex-Soviet Union. Although undergoing renovation, the Revolutionary Museum is still open for visits.

A few minutes away by foot is the Granma Memorial which preserves the vessel that brought Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. The Granma, a surprisingly large launch, embodies the powerful, unstoppable spirit of the revolutionary movement.

Private lunch at the home and studio of artist Jose Fuster who has turned his neighborhood north of Havana into one dynamic and enormous piece of mosaic art. Fuster is an artist who is dedicated to his creations which consist of a vast array of artwork from ceramics evoking the nation’s African roots, as represented in the Santeria religion, to whimsical paintings drawn from ordinary life in Cuba: commuters crowded inside creaky, smoke-belching buses, the ubiquitous dominoes games in backyards and street corners. Drive though his neighborhood known as Jaimanitas before arriving at his studio and home for lunch.

Walk through the Colon Cemetery to learn more about this beautiful cemetery which represents for many Cuban families the long and painful legacy of family separation. Though Colon is one of 20 cemeteries in the capital, it handles 80 percent of the city’s burials each year. The grounds are so saturated that the state has taken over the giant vaults of people whose families left after the revolution. Legal sales of some of the more than 53,000 burial properties at Colon have ranged from $600 to $1,700 but it is well known that there are many illegal sales of plots. Meet with Cubans as you explore this cemetery which offers an incredible display of architectural styles in the various tombs that are located here. Stop at the tomb of Amelia Goyri, the most visited tomb at the cemetery, because, it is said, she grants miracles.

Return to the hotel for a brief rest. This evening, enjoy dinner at Café Laurent – one of Havana’s best and newest private restaurants known as “paladars.” Owners Lorenzo Enrique Nieto and José Figueroa as well as chef, Dayron Aviles Alfonso will be there to greet the group. (B,L,D)

DAY 4 | April 22. Havana
After breakfast this morning, enjoy a discussion in the Antilles room (located on the mezzanine level of the hotel) led by Ricardo Torres Perez on The Changing Faces of Cuba’s Economic Structure. Mr. Torres is a macro-economist and professor at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana. He has been a visiting professor at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and is currently writing his dissertation on the impact of structural change on economic growth in Cuba.

Late last year, Fidel Castro was quoted as saying to an American journalist that the Cuban economic model, “doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Monumental changes since then have been announced including, but by no means limited to, the laying off of more than half a million state workers, the privatization of small businesses, a new credit law offering certain Cubans bank loans, and the devaluation of the peso to bring it on par with the dollar. As part of our round-table, we will discuss whether these moves signify genuine change or not.

Drive to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes: Arte Cubano (Cuban Collection) which will be led by curator Lucila Fernandez. The museum’s origins date back to 1842 when the San Alejandro Art Academy started its collection, forming the nucleus of the museum founded in 1913. It expanded greatly after Castro took over in 1959, notably with works from the private collections of Julio Lobo and Oscar Cintas.

Enjoy lunch on the rooftop restaurant of the Santa Isabel Hotel. This hotel has one small elevator and the rooftop is located on the fourth floor.

After lunch, attend a briefing at the US Interest Section.

Visit Ernest Hemingway’s home, which has been lovingly preserved by the Cuban government. The house is just as Hemingway left it, with the books on the tables and many of his favorite photographs on display. Although one can only admire the home from the outside, it is a fascinating visit.

Dinner at leisure this evening. (B,L)

DAY 5 | April 23. Havana
This morning watch a rehearsal of the Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. This extraordinary dance group melds the techniques of classical ballet and American modern dance with the rippling spines and head rolls of traditional or folkloric, Afro-Cuban dance; the complex rhythms of Cuban rumba; and the twirling hands and syncopation of Spanish flamenco.

Continue on to Vivero Alamar, a state-owned research garden to learn more about urban gardening in Havana. The effects of the Special Period and consequent food shortages have had the greatest repercussions in the city of Havana. With approximately 2.5 million people, Havana has about one fifth of Cuba’s total population. Havana’s urban agriculture has taken on many forms, ranging from private gardens (huertos privados) to state-owned research gardens (organicponicos) and this morning there will be a chance to learn more about how these gardens, located near urban areas, grow and distribute their freshly-grown produce. Meet with manager Miguel Angelo Salcines and other staff at the garden.

After lunch at a local restaurant visit a cigar factory where we will have a chance to meet with staff.

End the day at the art and craft center located at the former Almacenes de San José on the Port of Havana. This harbor-side warehouse was built in 1885 and is considered the oldest depository in Old Havana. The sober and imposing façade that looks out onto the city conceals the building’s steel structure, which has endured the passing of time and is perfectly preserved. After a painstaking restoration process of almost three years, the huge edifice is now the Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes San José. Conceived as a cultural center with art exhibitions, theatrical performances and recreational activities for children, it has also become a place for local crafts people to display their wares.

Depart the hotel for dinner at La Guarida. This well-known restaurant served as the setting for the main apartment in the film Fresa y Chocolate. Please note that there is no elevator in this building and the restaurant is located on the third floor of the building. (B,L,D)

DAY 6 | April 24. Trinidad
This morning, drive to Cienfuegos, stopping en route at the Bay of Pigs Museum and continue by foot to the actual landing point where, in 1962, about 1,300 heavily armed CIA-trained Cuban exiles came ashore fully equipped to provoke a counterrevolution to topple the Castro regime.

Continue on to Cienfuegos and enjoy lunch at Casa Verde.

Check into Hotel Jagua, and later enjoy a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir.

Dinner at the hotel this evening. (B,L,D)

DAY 7 | April 25. Trinidad
Drive to Trinidad, the fourth of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velasquez in 1514 as a base for expeditions into the “New World.” Today it is maintained as a living museum, just as the Spaniards left it in its period of greatest opulence. It is the crown jewel of Cuba’s colonial cities. The whole city with its fine palaces, cobbled streets and tiled roofs, is a national monument and since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trinidad’s prosperity rested on the sugar industry, which was introduced in the 18th century. As a result of the wealth that the sugar industry brought, Trinidad’s cultural life flourished.

Continue the day at the Plaza Mayor which is in the center of town and elegantly adorned with glazed earthenware urns. Around the plaza is the Museo Romantico, the Museo Arqueologia and the cathedral, Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad which was built between 1817 and 1892. Explore the cathedral, which is the largest church in Cuba, and is renowned for its acoustics. On the left at the front of the church is a crucifix of the brown-skinned Christ of Veracruz who is the patron of Trinidad. The altars are made of precious woods such as cedar, acacia, caoba and grenadine.

After a short walk, explore the Palacio Cantero, a former mansion with breathtaking views over the square from the upper floor balconies. Stop in at the home and studio of artist Carlos Mata; his wife, Barbara Calzada and daughter, Amaya Mata who are also artists.

Visit Trinidad’s Library where the group will learn more about the important role of libraries in Cuba. Meeting with staff at the library, the discussion will focus on the subject of intellectual freedom, a passionately debated issue. Participants will learn more about how books are selected and what censorship occurs. The discussion will also focus on how Havana exerts control in more rural areas. We recommend that you bring a copy of your favorite novel to donate to the museum.

Enjoy lunch at one of Trinidad’s wonderful paladars.

Continue on to visit to the Santa Clara Valley to see the remains of sugar plantations and spectacular landscape.

Enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant in Cienfuegos. (B,L,D)

DAY 8 | April 26. Depart for Miami
Return flight directly from Cienfuegos to Miami. (B)


Hotel Parque Central is one of the best hotels in Havana with a superb location in Old Havana. The spacious rooms are comfortable and nicely decorated. Each room has individually controlled air-conditioning, TVs, mini-bars, safes and hair dryers. The hotel has all the modern facilities you would expect in a hotel with a business center, a rooftop swimming pool, gym and restaurants.


In Cienfuegos, we will be staying at the Hotel Jagua, opened as the first hotel in post-revolutionary Cuba. Its air-conditioned rooms are simple, but spacious with balconies that overlook the peninsula. While the accommodations in the Cienfuegos area do not compare to those in Havana, experiencing rural Cuba is well worth the visit, and with some flexibility you will come away with a much richer Cuban experience.

What to Expect

Please note that travel to Cuba is controlled by The Cuban Assets Control Regulations which are enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located. The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba. UCLA has been issued a specific license for this program pursuant to section 515.565(b)(2) of the regulations.

Our program has been carefully constructed to offer participants an opportunity to meet with a number of Cubans as well as to learn more about this country. A full-time educational exchange program has been planned and participants are expected to be part of each group activity. We will be using comfortable 40-seat buses with air-conditioning and microphones. Roads are good in Cuba. Each trip will be accompanied by a national Cuban guide, a Distant Horizons tour director and a UCLA host all of whom will work hard to ensure that your trip to Cuba is memorable.

Cuba is a fascinating country that has remained relatively isolated from the rest of the world. Traveling on the island demands a spirit of flexibility and adventure and we want to make sure that you are well prepared. The nation’s isolation has had both positive and negative impacts on its society, but it is this unique feature of Cuba that makes our journey there so captivating. There remain many aspects of the nation to admire, including stunning colonial architecture, a dynamic art community, superb museums, a rich music tradition and a warm and educated population.

At the same time, there are stark differences – we cannot expect travel to be entirely smooth or for infra-structure conditions to be close to American standards. The impossibility of replicating the creature comforts of home will be fully experienced. It is important that participants are mobile and can walk on uneven cobblestones and for long distances on two half-day walking tours. Elevators in some buildings we visit may not function, and restaurants may also be located up three flights of rickety stairs with no elevator. As for food, a variety of fruits and vegetables are hard to come by, and the cuisine will be fairly basic and repetitive. Efficiency at hotels or sites may be lacking and expect restaurant service to be exceptionally slow.

We should point out that in Havana, our hotel is a comfortable 4 star property with all of the usual amenities. We will be able to eat at a few paladars, or privately-owned and operated restaurants with higher quality food. However, after departing Havana, you will notice a sharp decline in both accommodations and food, and hotels outside Havana are very basic 2-3 star properties. Hotel rooms may be dark and small and almost all rooms outside of Havana are in need of maintenance work. Distant Horizons has done as much as they can to minimize these inconveniences, but many are simply unavoidable.

Despite the stark evidence of a developing infrastructure, the natural, cultural, and political history that we will experience at this unique time will more than compensate, we believe, for these inconveniences. We are sure that the positive will far outweigh the negative and that your journey to Cuba will be absolutely fascinating. There is a strong sense among nearly all who have visited that Cuba is in a pivotal stage of development and is poised for dramatic changes. Some of the changes will be visible while we are there; others may be merely palpable and on the cusp of change, giving us much to think about.

However, we feel that it is important that you think about the impact of a developing infra-structure on your ability to enjoy the program. Having read the above, if you feel that these issues are insurmountable, you should seriously consider if this is indeed the appropriate trip for you.

Upon registration, you will be receiving a packet of information addressing topics such as currency, visas and what to bring. Please note for now that it is not possible to use a U.S. credit card in Cuba and that visas will be issued prior to departure. Your passport will not be required to issue a visa.


Pricing: $4,695
Single room supplement (limited availability): $790

Distant Horizons


  • Round trip airfare on charter flights from Miami to Havana, returning directly from Cienfuegos to Miami (eliminating the drive back to Havana)

  • Seven nights accommodation as listed in the itinerary

  • All meals as listed in the itinerary. One drink is included with lunch, and one with dinner

  • Cocktails at the welcome and farewell dinner

  • Bottled water on the bus for sightseeing

  • Sightseeing and excursions as listed in the itinerary

  • Transportation in a deluxe motor-coach with air-conditioning

  • Services of a local Cuban guide

  • Services of a Distant Horizons tour director

  • Services of a UCLA host

  • A Cuban visa

  • All gratuities

  • Mandatory Health Insurance and evacuation required by the Cuban Government. This provides $25,000 worth of medical coverage and $7,000 worth of medical transportation. Please note that this does not cover pre-existing conditions.

Does Not Include

  • Departure tax of approximately $30 to be paid on departure from Cienfuegos

  • Excess luggage charges which are strictly enforced

  • Fees for passport

  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls

  • Trip cancellation insurance (will be included in confirmation packet from UCLA)

Download Reservation Form Request Brochure In Mail
310.206.0613 (P)
310.209.4271 (F)
  • I believe this trip was a perfect overview of Cuba. Each lecture and visit revealed a different aspect of life in Cuba and its colorful history."
    Carol Coy ’76, Traveler
  • We are impressed by the quality of staff as well as the efficiency evidenced in the smooth running of the trip to Cuba."
    Mark and Joan Meyerson, Travelers
  • It was a wonderful learning experience and a lot of fun. The best trip I have ever taken!"
    Susan Schroeder ’88, Traveler
  • Our trip to Cuba was the trip of a lifetime. Your ears must be burning with all the good things I tell people about UCLA Alumni Travel and your tour to Cuba."
    Len ’50 and BJ Wolf, Travelers

Book this Tour

How to Book

Download the tour Reservation Form here. This tour is booked quickly, so sign up early to reserve space.

Enclose a check or provide credit card information for $500 per person, per tour, as a deposit for the selected tour. Make check payable to Distant Horizons. Deposits are provisional and fully refundable pending your acceptance of final brochure terms.

Mail completed reservation form and your deposit to:
UCLA Alumni Association
Attn: Alumni Travel
James West Alumni Center
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1397

Complete tour info will be emailed to you as soon as it is available.

Terms & Conditions

Please read this information carefully as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following terms and conditions.

To reserve your space on this program, a $500 deposit is required per person. Check only, payable to Distant Horizons. Reservations are acknowledged in order of receipt until the maximum enrollment has been reached. Your final payment is due 60 days prior to departure, check only.

It is advisable not to mention Cuba when making any payments such as writing Cuba in the memo line of your check or when wiring payments. Even though you are traveling on a licensed and legal trip to Cuba, due to the trade embargo, should your bank see Cuba mentioned they will be forced to freeze your bank account until they receive proof of the legality of your trip.

If you must cancel the trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your written notification. Refund for cancellations are subject to the following per person charges:

  • Notice more than 60 days prior to departure: a refund less a $350 cancellation charge.
  • Notice between 60 and 30 days prior to departure: a refund less 50% of the trip price.
  • No refund shall be issued if cancellation is received less than 30 days prior to departure.
  • No refunds shall be issued after the tour has commenced.
  • No refunds shall be issued for occasional missed meals, sightseeing tours or any unused services.

Because these cancellation policies are strictly enforced, we strongly recommend for your protection that you purchase trip cancellation insurance.

The liability of the UCLA Alumni Association as sponsor, and Distant Horizons as tour operator, is strictly limited. The UCLA Alumni Association and Distant Horizons purchase transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurant and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing tour arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omission of these independent contractors, their employees, agents, servants or representatives. The UCLA Alumni Association and Distant Horizons are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, the defect of any vehicle, or the negligence or default of any third party. All coupons, receipts, and tickets are issued subject to the terms and conditions specified by the air carriers, and other independent suppliers.

Distant Horizons is a California Seller of Travel (CST #2046776-40) and a participant in the California Travel Restitution Fund. Information regarding the rights of California residents to make a claim may be found at California law requires certain sellers of travel to have a trust account or bond. This business has a trust account.

Travel Insurance

We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance to cover the possibility of trip cancellation or interruption, emergency medical evacuation, medical expenses and baggage loss incurred while traveling. All confirmed passengers will receive travel insurance information in your confirmation packet. It’s one of our many membership benefits! For information about travel insurance, visit Coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, terrorist incidents and travel supplier financial insolvencies will be provided if the insurance is purchased within 15 days of your trip deposit. Please read the insurance brochure carefully.

Download Reservation Form Request Brochure In Mail
310.206.0613 (P)
310.209.4271 (F)
  • I believe this trip was a perfect overview of Cuba. Each lecture and visit revealed a different aspect of life in Cuba and its colorful history."
    Carol Coy ’76, Traveler
  • We are impressed by the quality of staff as well as the efficiency evidenced in the smooth running of the trip to Cuba."
    Mark and Joan Meyerson, Travelers
  • It was a wonderful learning experience and a lot of fun. The best trip I have ever taken!"
    Susan Schroeder ’88, Traveler
  • Our trip to Cuba was the trip of a lifetime. Your ears must be burning with all the good things I tell people about UCLA Alumni Travel and your tour to Cuba."
    Len ’50 and BJ Wolf, Travelers