Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

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Nuanced diplomacy: One result of people-to-people travel to Cuba

Ever since Ellen Creager of the Detroit Free Press published her article last August asking whether legal travel to Cuba was in danger of ending, I’ve had many calls from journalists asking about my thoughts on the subject. Friendly Planet Travel, which I started more than 30 years ago, was one of a few commercial travel companies granted one of the first people–to-people licenses back in 2011, and now everyone wanted to know about our renewal. Had we applied? Had our renewal been granted? Had I heard about the evident slowdown (at best) or complete cessation (at worst) of the licensing process?

Had I heard about it? We waited each day for the magic message from OFAC that our license application had, indeed, been renewed. I had read every single printed word on the subject since we submitted our renewal application in June, not sooner than 90 days prior nor later than 60 days prior to our expiration date, according to OFAC’s new rules.

Yet, as the days and weeks passed with no word from OFAC except that our application was still pending, I continued to believe we would get our renewal. I was pretty sure that we would get another go at organizing groups of travelers ready to engage in the kind of interaction between people that is the ideal, the dream outcome, of world travel for the true travel aficionado. Don’t ask me why I was so sure, because all the signs pointed to some other scenario, instigated by political agendas, the elections, and who knows what else. (more…)

Friendly Planet Travel receives license renewal for travel to Cuba!

BACK TO CUBA: Friendly Planet receives its people-to-people license renewal to send travelers to Cuba!

BACK TO CUBA: Friendly Planet receives its people-to-people license renewal to send travelers to Cuba!

We have already sent over 1,000 travelers to Cuba in the first year of our people-to-people license (Jan.–Sept. 2012), and the year isn’t over yet. We’re hoping that many more travelers will take the opportunity to visit this unique country, rich in culture and history, because the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) just renewed our people-to-people license through September 2014!

OFAC grants people-to-people licenses to travel providers that promote contact with Cuban people through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and a whole host of other topics. It’s through this license that we, and our travelers, have experienced this wonderful country through meaningful and rewarding interactions with Cubans.

For travelers who travel because they love to explore new places for the purpose of meeting people in other lands, understanding how they live, what’s important to them, and being able to share the same about themselves, our people-to-people tours provide a perfect opportunity. We’re very excited to be able to continue offering these tours as one of a very select few tour operators fortunate enough to have this license.

We’ll continue to offer our two tours to Cuba: the five-day Discover Havana program, set in Havana with trips to Cojimar and Las Terrazas, and the eight-day Colors of Cuba program, which visits Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, and more. We also plan to offer a new tour to Santiago, pending OFAC approval.

These tours include round trip airfare from Miami via a U.S. government-licensed charter service and letter of authorization, as well as a Cuba entrance visa. They also include all land transportation, superior hotel accommodations, and meals. Travelers will engage in comprehensive programs of educational exchanges organized by Friendly Planet with a professional, English-speaking local guide who will facilitate these exchanges, as well as the benefit of a Friendly Planet representative who will lead travelers throughout the program.

Have you traveled to Cuba on a people-to-people exchange program, or are planning one in the future? We’d love to hear your story! Feel free to leave it in a comment below.

The Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure Part 4: The best of Cuba

WONDERS OF CUBA: The Grannies on Safari saw it all
while traveling to Cuba

Few Americans have had the opportunity to visit Cuba in this lifetime. The Grannies on Safari, however, were given this opportunity courtesy of Friendly Planet Travel. These globetrotters came away with a new understanding of Cuban life, and formed their own opinions about what the best aspects of their trip were.

We hope our Cuba podcast series has helped build your knowledge of Cuba and highlighted all of the wonderfully rewarding experiences the country has to offer. Listen as Pat and Regina excitedly fill us in on their favorite parts of the trip, and why they’d love to go again. Also, if you’re interested in seeing their trip in its entirety on their television show, they give the details about the air date in the podcast.


Thanks again to the Grannies on Safari for speaking with us about their trip!

Pictures from the Grannies on Safari’s Cuban adventure

The Grannies on Safari have done a great job updating us about their Cuban adventure through our podcast series, but I’ve been itching to see some images from their people-to-people tour. Since their Cuba trip will not be aired on their PBS TV show until May of next year, I asked Pat and Regina if they would share some of their personal photos with us.

Because a picture is worth a 1,000 words, I thought I’d let their pictures speak for themselves. Here’s a snapshot of a Friendly Planet Travel people-to-people Cuba trip through the eyes of the Grannies themselves.

The Grannies first stop was Havana, where they visited Plaza Vieja,located in the center of Old Havana. Currently undergoing restoration, this square showcases the famous Cuban colonial architecture.

While in Havana, they also visited Revolution Square, which has held many political rallies throughout the years. An image of Ernesto “Che” Guevara is pictured on one of the buildings overlooking the square.

Regina and Pat pose next to a mural painting of Che Guevara. Known as a hero of the Cuban revolution, his image has become a cultural symbol in Cuba. 
Masks play an important role in Cuban culture. They are often carved by street artists and used as decoration or sold for profit.

The Grannies loved the classic feel of Havana, especially the vintage cars scattered about the city.

They even got their photo taken in a classic car!

The Friendly Planet Colors of Cuba tour, which the Grannies traveled on, is a people-to-people trip that promotes contact with Cuban people through educational exchanges concerning art, music, and culture.

The Grannies learned how to make mojitos at the famous Hotel Nacional, and also had a great time tasting their creations.

Regina and Pat loved their tour guide, Alejandro, who helped the Grannies have a meaningful experience in Cuba.

The entire Grannies on Safari group posed for a picture in Old Havana, including Pat, Regina, Alejandro, the production crew, and Regina’s granddaughter Alessandra.

From the looks of it, the Grannies on Safari had a great time experiencing the colors of Cuba! If you can’t get enough of the Grannies, keep an eye out for the final installment of the podcast series where they’ll spill more details about their trip.

The Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure Part 3: Unexpected experiences in Cuba

Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson have no reservations about experiencing all the world has to offer. These Grannies on Safari travel the world and film their adventures for their TV show, so they often expect the unexpected.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: The Grannies on Safari
got to see how the people of Cuba live

But even the Grannies on Safari experienced some things they didn’t anticipate while traveling to Cuba on a trip sponsored by Friendly Planet Travel. Regina and Pat had the opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at the lives of the Cuban people not usually covered by mainstream media. Hear their stories below.

COCO CAB: Regina called these open-air taxis coco puffs!


Stay tuned for the final installment of our Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure podcast series.

The Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure Part 2: The tastes of Cuba

CUBAN FLAVOR: The Grannies got to
sample frozen drinks!

If you’re interested in hearing about Cuban culture, look no further. That’s because we’re back with another installment of our podcast with the Grannies on Safari, Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson, who document their world travels for their show.

Most recently, they ventured to Cuba, courtesy of Friendly Planet Travel. Take a listen to our interview below to hear all about their cultural adventures while in Cuba. Can you say cigars, mojitos, and black bean soup?


Keep an eye on our Grannies on Safari go to Cuba tag to hear more updates about Regina and Pat’s trip.

The Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure, Part 1: Meeting the people of Cuba

LIFE-SIZE ART: Regina and Pat saw this work of art in Cuba

Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson have returned from their trip to Cuba sponsored by Friendly Planet Travel! For the unacquainted, Regina and Pat are the stars of the PBS TV series, “Grannies on Safari,” sponsored by AARP.

We recently interviewed Regina and Pat for our blog, and they gave us the inside scoop on what their trip to Cuba was like, how they enjoyed their people-to-people experience, and how the trip to Cuba exceeded their expectations.

We’re sharing that interview here — even before their show airs! Since there was so much to talk about, I decided to split our podcast into four installments, and I’m excited to give you the first one below.


Regina and Pat’s trip was made possible through People-to-People licensing, which allows Americans to travel to Cuba to promote contact with Cuban people through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and more. Stay tuned for more updates from the Grannies on Safari’s Cuban adventure.

Cuba predictions: What the Grannies on Safari hope to see

Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson, also known the Grannies on Safari, have just returned from their trip to  Cuba, all thanks to Friendly Planet Travel. While we anxiously await a peek at the TV program they filmed during their visit, I wanted to share the second part of our podcast that we conducted with them before they left.

In this part of the interview, Regina and Pat tell Friendly Planet Travel blogger Caitlin what “dying trade” they hope to uncover in Cuba, what old pieces of history they’d like to visit, as well as why Regina was so excited to bring her granddaughter on the trip. Listen in to the rest of their conversation below!


Stay tuned to our blog because Regina and Pat will soon fill us in on the wonderful people and places they saw in Cuba. We can’t wait!

What will the Grannies on Safari do in Cuba?

The Grannies on Safari made their travel arrangements, packed their bags, traveled to Cuba, and have just returned home. If you’re not familiar with their story, Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson are two friends who film their travels for their Emmy® award winning TV series, Grannies on Safari, sponsored by AARP. They recently made their first ever trip to Cuba, sponsored by Friendly Planet Travel.

Going to Cuba was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I look forward to hearing if Regina and Pat felt the same way about their journey. So, just before they left for Cuba, I asked Friendly Planet Travel blogger Caitlin to jump on the phone and talk to these worldly ladies about their upcoming trip.

Listen in as Caitlin asks the Grannies why they decided to go to Cuba next, what cultural aspects they want to experience, and what they’re most looking forward to doing while visiting. Regina and Pat are so much fun to listen to, so you’ll definitely want to hear what they have to say.


Stay tuned for more updates from the Grannies about their trip to the Cuba with our Grannies on Safari go to Cuba tag and the second half of the conversation to be posted shortly!

Grannies on Safari make their Friendly Planet Travel debut in Cuba

GRANNIES GO TO CUBA: Watch their adventures
in Havana and beyond

When we met the Grannies on Safari at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show, we hit it off immediately. So even after the camera stopped rolling, the conversation kept going.

If you didn’t see our original post, Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson are two friends who travel the world together and film it for their PBS television series “Grannies on Safari.” They’ve turned their love of people, art, and travel into an Emmy® award winning TV series, sponsored by AARP.

In their interview with Friendly Planet Travel blogger Caitlin, Regina and Pat said that Cuba was on their short list for destinations to visit next. Well, it looks like the stars have aligned!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that we’re one of seven tour operators nationwide offering ‘People-to-People’ tours to Cuba. Cuba was my #1 destination to visit in 2012, and I can’t say enough about this amazing destination.

It was perfect timing to learn that the Grannies wanted to go on a trip that only a few, including us, offered. So we’re sending the Grannies to see the culture and diversity of Cuba, all courtesy of Friendly Planet Travel.

The Grannies will be packing their bags and jet setting to Cuba on June 16. From there, they’ll be spending eight days getting to know the places and faces of Cuba. The People-to-People license that allows travel to Cuba requires that travelers partake in educational exchange activities. That means that Regina and Pat will spend time with local Cubans, learning all about their lives and sharing their experiences as devotees to culture.

They’ll be traveling on our Colors of Cuba tour, where they’ll see local Cuban schools, neighborhoods, and even visit an organic farm to lunch with local Cubans who benefit from the food grown there. We’ll be posting the details of their trip as the departure draws near!

The Grannies on Safari will be updating us on their experiences while in Cuba, so bookmark the ‘Grannies on Safari go to Cuba’ tag for the latest updates and keep your eyes on our blog to hear more about the wonderful destination of Cuba!

Grannies on Safari are traveling to Cuba on a trip sponsored by Friendly Planet Travel. The opinions expressed about their experience on the trip are their own. Friendly Planet Travel will publish their content unedited and in its entirety.

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