Cuba by Land and Sea

Explore the breadth of Cuba in depth—from west to east, by land and by sea — with the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) from February 3 - 12, 2019.

CubaJoin the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) from February 3 - 12, 2019, and be among a small group of alumni and friends that will rediscover Cuba. Explore the breadth of Cuba in depth—from east to west, by sea and by land—while interacting daily with friendly and inquisitive Cubans from all walks of life who are quick to smile and talk openly with you about their day-to-day lives, culture, work and family traditions. You will also gain insight into from the lasting influence of Spain; the glamorous playground that once drew celebrities, gangsters, movie stars, writers and heads of state; to the legacy of Fidel Castro and the island’s emerging future. Explore the vivid and mesmerizing landscape, which has lodged itself into the imagination of artists, dancers and writers, who in turn infuse all aspects of Cuban culture with their irresistible zest for life.

Delight in all that Cuba has to offer during this exceptional opportunity while experiencing seafaring in its most timeless form—beneath 16,000 square feet of billowing white sails aboard the exclusively chartered, three‑masted  LE PONANT. Enjoy a refined yet casual lifestyle on board this intimate, deluxe small sailing ship featuring only 32 Staterooms—all ocean‑view. The LE PONANT is able to call in smaller ports that are inaccessible to larger ships, making this combination of sea and land travel the best and most comprehensive way to see Cuba. Enjoy a six-night cruise aboard   LE PONANT, followed by three nights in Havana’s comfortable MELIÁ HABANA HOTEL.

Discover the full portrait of Cuba on this intimate cultural exchange and experience the true character and traditions of the island. Explore Havana, with its vibrant spirit, iconic Malecón and beautifully restored Old City and fortifications, a UNESCO World Heritage site. See the historical center of Cienfuegos, settled in 1819 and built in a neoclassical style; explore the rarely visited colonial town of Trinidad; and visit Santiago de Cuba’s San Pedro de la Roca castle—all UNESCO World Heritage sites. Admire Cuba’s misty Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site replete with lush green tobacco fields, striking karst formations and the azure sea along the island’s stunning coastline, and visit the dynamic city of Santa Clara in Cuba’s heartland.

This travel program offers a full schedule of events, all of which involve significant people-to-people exchanges with Cubans from diverse backgrounds who reflect this island’s unique rhythm of daily life and are eager to share their life experiences with you. Our 2019 tour of Cuba provides  a long-awaited “people-to-people” exchange and travel opportunity for Columbia Alumni and their guests. Shared with cosponsoring association(s), and limited to a total of 64 guests, please reserve early as space is limited.

Dates & Prices:


Trip Dates:    February 3 - 12, 2019
Prices:  from $6,995 - $10,995 per person based upon double occupancy

Single space is extremely limited on this program. If available, there is an additional supplement. We are also happy to assist with trying to pair singles with roommates for the trip. While not guaranteed, we will make every effort to accommodate requests. Please contact us to inquire about shares or single space prior to submitting your reservation.



Depart the U.S./Arrive Santiago de Cuba/Embark Le Ponant - Day 1

Depart the U.S. Upon arrival in Holguin. Transfer to LE Ponant for Embarkation

Santiago de Cuba - Day 2
Cuba's second largest city is perhaps the island's most vibrant and culturally rich, with its lively music and attractive colonial architecture. On the walking tour, see Cespedes Park including historic City Hall, where Fidel Castro announced victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and 15th-century Casa de Diego Velazquez, the oldest standing house in Cuba. Enjoy picturesque views of the city and refreslunents from the rooftop terrace of the illustrious Hotel Casa Granda.

Visit the expansive Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, the grandiose final resting place of Cuban national hero and important Latin American literature figure Jose Marti; Emilio Bacardi Moreau, known for his namesake rum; and Compay Segundo, guitarist of the Buena Vista Social Club. After lunch on board the ship, view imposing Revolution Square and historic San Juan Hill, a pivotal site during the Spanish-American War. Tour the Casa del Caribe, a vibrant, multifaceted institute that celebrates Afro-Cuban music, dance and culture. See the original Bacardi rum factory, first opened in 1868, and enjoy a traditional Cuban rum tasting.

• Enjoy a colorful dance performance of the rumba, salsa and other traditional forms of Cuban entertainment at Casa del Caribe.

Santiago de Cuba - Day 3
From Santiago de Cuba, travel to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Cobre to visit La Virgen de fa Caridad (Our Lady of Charity), the patron saint of Cuba, a brilliant shrine and Cuba's most sacred pilgrimage site. Tour the holy basilica, where Pope Francis recently visited, and listen to the captivating legend behind this revered shrine. Walk through the lush Jardin de los Helechos, featuring over 350 species of ferns and 90 types of orchids. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Castillo San Pedro de la Roca (Ef Morro), a 17th-century fortress built to protect the important port of Santiago de Cuba Bay.

Return to the ship for lunch, then enjoy an afternoon at leisure in Santiago de Cuba.

• Interact with local Cuban pilgrims at the Our Lady of Charity shrine.
• Enjoy a performance by an all-female Cuban vocal quartet.

Cruising the Caribbean Sea - Day 4
Enjoy informative on-board discussions and lectures about Cuban history and culture while at sea.

Trinidad - Day 5
Developed from the wealth of the sugar industry in the 19th century, UNESCO World Heritage-designated Trinidad retains much of its colonial charm, with terra-cotta tiled roofs, pastel -hued houses, cobblestone streets and ornate tiled courtyards. Walk through 18th-century Plaza Mayor, and visit the neoclassical Museo Rornantico and Palacio Cantero, two museums showcasing the history of Trinidad's residents.

• Enjoy lively rumba and salsa performance at the Palenque de los Congos Reales, an outdoor music center devoted to traditional Cuban music and dancing.
• Visit the authentic Casa Chichi, a multi-generational pottery workshop established in 1892 that still uses clay sourced from caves.

Cienfuegos for Santa Clara - Day 6
Known as the " Pearl of the South," the UNESCO World Heritage-designated colonial harbor city of Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 by French settlers from Louisiana and Bordeaux while located in a Spanish territory, which has made for a fascinating blend of history and local culture today.

From Cienfuegos, travel to Santa Clara, the gateway to Cuba's historically and agriculturally rich central region. Visit a Casa de Abuelos for a unique opportunity to learn more about social welfare in Cuba from the active senior citizen residents and staff. Santa Clara, long associated with Ernesto "Che" Guevara, has been shaped by the most prestigious university outside Havana and features one of the country's most spectacular grand colonial theaters constructed in 1885. See the beautiful Teatro La Caridad, where famed musicians such as Enrico Caruso once performed, and visit the impressive Che Guevara Monument and the History Museum of the Revolution.

Attend the Captain's Farewell Reception this evening.

• In a Casa de Abuelos, elder Cubans and staff will introduce you to a time-honored Cuban dance tradition, the danzon.
• Enjoy lunch in the Autentica Pergola paladar.

Cienfuegos/Havana - Day 7

This morning, disembark Le Ponant. En route to Havana, visit Finca Vigia, the former home of Ernest Hemingway, afffectionately called "Papa" by locals. Here he wrote Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

• See a perfomance by dance and percussion group Habana Compas.
• Enjoy lunch in the Autentica Pergola paladar.

Havana - Day 8

Cuba's capital, the early-20th-century "Paris of the Caribbean," remains arguably one of a kind, mixing impressive urban architecture and culture with an earthy, informal vibe and a lively arts and music scene, while retaining a distinctly vintage feel bolstered by the prevalence of 1950s American-made automobiles fondly called "Yank tanks" by the locals who painstakingly maintain them. The Spanish colonial core of Habana Vieja, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a colorful neighborhood of winding cobblestone streets, pastel-hued houses and picturesque squares filled with architectural beauty, including the bayside Plaza de Annas, the site where San Cristobal de la Habana was founded in 1514.
Havana's downtown district of Vedado is a mix of old and new, including the University of Havana, the pre-revolutionary Capitolio reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol, the iconic Malecon (oceanfront promenade) and the legendary HOTEL NACIONAL DE CUBA. See Revolution Square, where Fidel Castro gave his famous eight-hour May Day speeches. Visit the community of Jaimanitas, home to the Hemingway Marina and one of Cuba's best known artists, Jose Rodriguez Fuster, a sculptor and painter whose distinct works of art are inspired by Antoni Gaudi.


• Local architects and architectural restoration scholars discuss the preservation and evolution of art and architecture on a walk through Old Havana.
• Interact with residents of Jose Rodriguez Fuster's artistic community.

• Enjoy an invigorating performance by a local stomp band.

• Enjoy a reception and dinner in a paladar in Old Havana.

Havana/Pinar del Rio and Vinales Valley - Day 9

The striking Vinales Valley in Cuba's westernmost province of Pinar del Rio is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known for its natural beauty, the valley is a much photographed and painted 270-square-mile plain surrounded by limestone karst hills called mogotes. The farmland here is among Cuba's richest, and the ancient agricultural practices produce robust coffee and some of the world's best tobacco, products central to Cuban history and identity.


• Meet a traditional tobacco farmer and cigar-roller in Vuelta Abajo, the country's tobacco heartland. Spend time with his family as he welcomes you into his home to sample Cuban coffee.

• Tour an organic farm and enjoy a discussion with the farmer on the growth and sale of crops as you explore his gardens. Afterward, share a homestyle lunch with his family, an enriching opportunity.

• In the historic town of Pinar del Rio, Visit a community art project where creativity is fostered in young people with Down syndrome.

Havana/U.S. - Day 10
This morning, transfer to the airport for your return trip to the us.

Miami Hotel Pre-Program Option
Arrive in Miami, Florida, the day before your flight to Holguin. Enjoy comfort able accommodations for one night in the MIAMI DOUBLETREE HOTEL and a convenient, complimentary shuttle to the airport. Pre-Program Option is available at additional cost. Details will be provided with your reservation confirmation.

Special Notes:

This program entails traveling to Cuba under a People-to-People license, which involves extensive educational and interactive experiences. This special People-to-People travel program will be different from other programs you may have previously experienced. Per licensing requirements, this is a full-time program with many inclusions. There will be little free time  during the program. U.S. law requires that all participants of this program adhere to the full-time schedule of people-to-people activities. Deviation from this itinerary, even in part, is not permitted.

Our tour operator has been granted a license to operate a People-to-People educational exchange program to Cuba by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (License no. CT-2014-310067-1).


Many of the cities and towns being visited were founded centuries ago, and the terrain is rugged. This travel program involves bumpy drives over roads that are poorly maintained. Expect a fair amount of walking in warm to hot temperatures and high humidity along narrow cobblestone streets, stone floors and uneven and/or slippery surfaces and climbing several flights of stairs (some without railings).

Walking excursions often cover distances of at least one mile and are approximately three hours in length. Most stops do not have elevators or wheelchair access. While most hotels and restaurants have air conditioning, not all of the sites visited on our itinerary do.  Please be advised that the ship will dock in ports during the travel program.

All meals included - dinner in a private, family run paladar, and French-inspired cuisine on board the ship; complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the 5 night cruise.

On land in Cuba, menu choices in restaurants are somewhat limited, but options for vegetarians or alternative choices may be available. Vegan and gluten-free options will likely be limited to rice and beans and various cooked vegetables. Baked goods with gluten-free flour and whole-wheat products do not exist in Cuba. In this culture, salad is not an entrée but rather a garnish of limited ingredients shared at the table. Dinner is customarily served later in the evening. Coffee may not always be included after a meal, as some restaurants are not equipped to serve coffee to large parties. Tea drinkers may want to bring their own tea bags along, as tea is sometimes difficult to find in restaurants.

Outside of the ship and hotel, public restrooms are not always available and may not be kept up to the standards of public restrooms in the United States or those in the hotels we are staying in. Public facilities generally require payment, and toilet paper and soap are often in short supply. When using public facilities, be prepared with small coins, tissue and hand sanitizer.

Specific itinerary inclusions (visits, meetings with individuals and organizations and home visits) are dependent on outside factors, and it may be necessary to substitute with alternatives of equal relevance and interest. In Cuba, some activities that have been scheduled far in advance sometimes become unavailable for a number of different reasons. Therefore, flexibility is key. It is important to go into this experience with a very open mind.


Located in Havana's quaint Miramar district, near the Gulf of Mexico coast, the MELIA HABANA HOTEL provides comfortable, air-conditioned accommodations and modern amenities and services . It offers guests an array of dining options, two outdoor pools, a piano bar, live evening entertainment, cigar sommelier service, state-of-the-art fitness center and salon and massage services.


The intimate, three-masted deluxe M.Y. LE PONANT offers an unforgettable and captivating sailing experience-seafaring in its most traditional form. When the 16,000 square feet of majestic sails are unfurled, the ship's sleek lines and elegant beauty evoke the Golden Age of Sail. A harmonious alliance of nautical tradition and great style, this small ship is designed to cruise into the most secluded harbors where larger vessels cannot reach, and the refined yet casual lifestyle on board is manifest in the warm charm of each Stateroom and in the crew's impeccable service.

Each of the 32 ocean-view Staterooms features a window or porthole, private bathroom with shower, one fixed queen bed or one queen bed
convertible into two twin beds, individual climate control, satellite flat-screen television, Wi-Fi, direct-dial telephone, safe, minibar, dressing table, hair dryer and plush robes. Meals feature superb international and Cuban specialties and are each served in a single, unassigned seating. Breakfast and lunch can be enjoyed alfresco in the indoor-outdoor Le Diamant Panoramic Restaurant, and dinner is served in the elegant, wood-paneled Karukera Restaurant.

Complimentary alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages are served throughout the cruise. The comfortable public areas showcase the ship's tasteful sophistication favoring life in the open air. There are two lounges, a library and expansive open- air decks that extend the full length of the vessel, and there is an observation platform just above sea level for optional water sports and viewing marine life. Fully equipped Zodiacs are used to facilitate landings. There is a doctor onboard the ship. The courteous, English-speaking crew provide attentive, professional service, with a guest-to-crew ratio of less than two to one, and they are always delighted to answer your questions about their sailing maneuvers. M.Y. LEPONANT will certainly captivate anyone who steps aboard its gleaming timber decks.

Included Features:

In Havana

  • Three nights in the MELIÁ HABANA HOTEL, Havana.
  • Farewell reception
  • All meals, featuring:
  • Transfer in private antique automobiles along the Malecon and in old Havana to a private cocktail reception on the veranda of the historic Hotel NAcional de Cuba, followed by dinner in this iconic grande dame hotel.
  • Dinner in an authentic paladar, a family-run private home restaurant.
  • Wine or beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner; coffee and tea with all meals.

On Board the M.Y. Le Ponant -

  • 6-night cruise
  • Deluxe Ocean-view, air-conditioned staterooms with private bathroom
  • Captain's Welcome & Farewell reception
  • Flavorful French-inspired cuisine each day at single, unassigned seatings
  • Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the cruise
  • Complimentary snorkeling equipment

Exclusive Local People-to-People Hosted Excursions and Cultural Enrichments

  • Visit to Santiago de Cuba's 17th Century Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well-preserved example of Renaissance engineering used by European colonial powers in the Caribbean.
  • Informative walk through the soulful town of Santiago de Cuba with a local historian to learn about the extensive restoration efforts.
  • Visit to Casa de la Cultura in Santiago de Cuba for a conversation with local musicians
  • Walk with a local historian in the colonial city of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Cuba's colorful history lives on in its 16th-Century architecture
  • In Trinidad, visit to the Temple to Yemaya to learn about the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria
  • Hosted visit to Santa Clara's grand colonial Teatro de la Caridad
  • Conversation with elder Cubans in a typical community senior citizens' center, Casa de Abuelos, in Santa Clara
  • Informative “Student Life in Cuba Today” lecture at Havana University.
  • Interaction with local artists in the Muraleando Community Project, an art district in Havana
  • Walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with local architects and architectural restoration scholars to learn about the preservation and evolution of art and architecture in Havana.
  • Visits to the 16th-century Plaza de Armas, the Antique Automobile museum in Old Havana.
  • Visit to the home and studio of renowned Cuban artist José Rodríguez Fuster.
  • Music performance by and discussion with musicians from the Cuban Institute of Music.
  • Spanish language introduction of Cuban dialect basicphrases and pronunciation.

Enhanced Travel Services

  • Medical insurance as required by the Cuban government and only valid in Cuba.
  • The services of an experienced Professional Program Director throughout the program.
  • Travel document wallet, name badge and pre-departure information.

Not included:
Airfare; Passport and associated fees; personal expenses such as laundry, internet access and telephone calls; accident/sickness, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance; excess baggage charges on aircraft; local departure air/airport tax(es); Airfare and associated local taxes, airport facility and security taxes and federal inspection fees not listed in the “Included Features” section of the brochure; transfers and baggage handling to/from hotel/ship on day(s) of arrival and/or departure if you are arriving earlier or later than and/or departing earlier or later than the scheduled group transfer(s); any overnight on land due to flight schedule(s); meals, alcoholic or other beverages and all other services not specifically mentioned in the “Included Features” section.

Please call us toll-free at (866) 325-8664 or email us at for more details.

OFAC License number:  CT-2014-310067-1