Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Cuba Connection


We got to Cuba thanks to to a tip from Airbnb that put us in touch with an Amazon-like super model disguised as a travel agent. Her name is Antoinette. Just like her Cuban mother, she has been wearing 6” heels since she was thirteen and she doesn’t take them off until she goes to bed. And now she runs her mother’s travel agency in Miami serving Americans traveling to Cuba. She helped us with everything we needed for the trip other than booking our Airbnbs.

Connecting with Antoinette in the departure lounge at the Miami airport.
Her thick black ponytail whipped side to side as she took catwalk-worthy strides towards us at at the Miami Airport at check-in for our flight to Havana. She had our tickets, our visas (traveling as “journalists”), our health insurance documents and a whole bunch of advice about traveling to Cuba.

The lovely Antionette. The agency does not have a website - but you can give them a call.
If you get the urge to visit Cuba, and you are willing to travel from Miami (the cheapest and easiest US departure point as I write this) give Marianao Travel a call at (305) 331-3002. Tell her the Senior Nomads sent you!
Down to one bag for our trip to Cuba. It will be an experiment in traveling with less.
Because of the unknowns of traveling to Cuba, including getting around once we arrived, we decided to consolidate our worldly goods into just one of our two large suitcases. We basically took our warm weather clothes and stuffed them into one bag (along with our trusty pillows, of course). Then crammed coats, heavy shoes, pants, sweaters, books, anything to do with cooking (since wouldn’t be doing any of that), and other non-essentials into the other bag. After some negotiation, we were able to stow it with the Bell Captain at the Sheraton Miami Airport while we were in Cuba. It all made sense because when we got back to Cub in three weeks, we planned on spending the night at the Sheraton.

A typical load of who-knows-what heading to Havana working around the embargo.
Now we see why people spend $20. a bag to get them wrapped in plastic at the airport
Unloading at the other end in Havana. Our suitcase is in there somewhere!
While Antoinette helped us check-in we couldn’t help noticing our luggage didn’t match most everything else that was heading for the belly of our chartered plane. Baggage check-in looked like a long line at Costco. There were a few tourists like us of course, with normal suitcases, but everyone else had mounds of cheap bags swaddled in multiple layers of blue plastic wrap to keep them from breaking open. We couldn’t tell what was underneath most of that wrapping but it was easy to recognize boxes containing flat screen TV’s, computers, a vacuum cleaner, a car seat, and, yes...a kitchen sink. Antoinette told us the charter airlines make their money on the freight hauled to Cuba by friends and relatives, not the passenger tickets. We could certainly see how that could be true!

Happy to be in a taxi heading to our first Airbnb in Havana!
We arrived in Havana a little late, custom clearance was slow, and of course getting our luggage separated out from the plastic wrapped booty took some time. We were hot and tired and very glad to see a young taxi driver holding a sign with "Campbell" scrawled on it waiting outside the departure gates.
I loved this upbeat image! We can't wait to see what the real Cuba is all about.
Cuba has been on our travel wish list for some time. We moved it up the Senior Nomads itinerary after learning Airbnb had opened listings there, and because we met Airbnb Super Hosts Sylvio and Julia Ortega at the Airbnb Open in Paris last November. Their home in Havana was our first stop on our three week tour of Cuba. I’ll start with our arrival at the door of Casa Rosa Ortega next!

Thanks for following along,

Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads

8 comments :

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