No doubt about it, Cuba offers plenty to fill an
enticing travel brochure,
along with the “forbidden
fruit” mystique of visiting
a Cold War adversary that’s
been off-limits to all but
select U.S. travelers for
more than half a century.
In the wake of the Obama Administration’s decision to open an embassy in Havana and allow the Cubans to open an embassy in Washington, D.C., and strong hints
that the current onerous travel restrictions
will soon be eased, U.S. airlines, hotels, tour
companies, cruise lines and incentive houses are champing at the bit to truly open up
this “new” destination to American tourists
and groups, but how ready is the island to
host U.S.-based business groups?
Once the beautiful Caribbean island
playground of notables like Frank Sinatra,
Mickey Mantle, John Wayne, Marlon Brando and, of course, Ernest Hemingway, Cuba
boasts stunning coastal and mountain beauty, and an unpolished retro architectural feel
straight from the late 1950s, albeit much
of it seems unimproved since the 1960
embargo took hold. Add to this a sizzling
Afro-Cuban vibe in nightspots like Havana’s
vintage Tropicana, where Flamenco dancers
do a dozen costume changes each show.
It’s an environment that is at once eerily
familiar and fundamentally different than
the cultural experience found in the U.S.,
and South Florida in particular.
And there’s lots more art in Old Havana,
which is ground zero for any Cuba group
experience. A UNESCO World Heritage
Site, it has 900 historical buildings that were
built between 1500 and 1800, all in less than
a square mile. Arched windows and colonnades accent
buildings that display Spanish
and Moorish influences to
form an eclectic mix of Cuban
Baroque and Neoclassical
architecture. Centuries of
Cuban/Spanish and American
history shroud the island.
See also the colorful, moving car show, with ingeniously
restored, parts-embargo-beat-ing 1950s-era cars cruising the
streets of the capital and its
famed Malecon hugging the
shore of the Caribbean Sea.
“Havana is not only unique in the Caribbean, but also in the world,” says Scott
Museum of the Revolution