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TRAVEL BLOG

Cuba – What’s the Scoop?

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With the announcement earlier this month that Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise ship company, has received approval from the US government to operate cruises to Cuba as a provider of ‘cultural exchange programs’, we’ve been getting a lot of calls from clients. Many want to go to Cuba soon, before it completely opens up and becomes too touristy.

It’s important to note that, even with the normalization of relations with Cuba, US citizen travel to the largest island in the Caribbean must still fall within 12 categories of authorized travel. These include educational activities, humanitarian projects, or ‘people to people’ programs. Travel just for tourism is still off-limits to Americans – so no lounging on the beach with your mojito allowed quite yet.

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Carnival‘s approval falls under the ‘people to people’ program section. It’s cruises won’t begin until May, 2016 and will not use Carnival ships. Instead, it’s ‘fathom‘ brand will launch one cruise every-other week with a 710-passenger ship called Adonis, currently operated by P&O Cruises.

Other operating details, such as specific sailing dates, have not yet been finalized. Prices for the 7-day Cuba cruise start at $2,990 per person. This fare includes meals on the ship, and some cultural immersion activities on land. Reservations are being taken for this cruise now. Because details of the cruise are not yet finalized, deposits are (for the moment) fully refundable.

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Can’t wait till next May to see Cuba? One option is International Expeditions, which has a long-standing ‘people to people’ ground tour. They have already added a new, small ship cruise itinerary to their program. The Panorama, a 48-guest, three-masted yacht, will sail Cuba’s Western coast on 10-day sailings scheduled for December 17, 2015, January 28, March 10 and April 7, 2016.

International Expeditions'  48-passenger yacht has 10 day sailings around Cuba's Western coast

International Expeditions’ 48-passenger yacht has 10 day sailings around Cuba’s Western coast

Another possibility is sailing with long-time Cuba expert Alexander+Roberts. Their 210-passenger ms Saint Laurent sails completely around the island on a 10-day, round-trip Miami voyage. Sailings already have detailed itineraries, and are scheduled and being booked now for 2016 cruises on February 29, April 5, April 15 and a special, New Year’s voyage on December 30.

Passengers on the ms Saint Laurent will explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus rarely visited ports.

Passengers on the ms Saint Laurent will explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus rarely visited ports.

If you’d like more information about any of these cruise sailings, ground tours with a wide variety of themes, or even biking expeditions around Cuba, give us a call at Santa Barbara Travel Bureau.

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau at the 2015 French Festival

Despite the historic rainfall resulting from Hurricane Delores, it was a great weekend on July 18-19 at the 2015 Santa Barbara French Festival. There were over 14,000 attendees, poodle parades, strolling gendarmes, and one quite interesting drag revue. Santa Barbara Travel was there, giving information about travel to and around France, and providing special offers from select vendors for trips around France and French Polynesia.

South Pacific Management was the sponsor of the French Festival Grand Prize Drawing. They gave away a French Polynesian resort vacation for one night at the Manava Suite Resort in Tahiti, and two nights at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa.

Even if you did not attend the Festival, we still have special offers from Viking River Cruises, Backroads, Pleasant Holidays, Star Clippers, Oceania, Paul Gauguin Cruises, and South Pacific Management that will be available for the next few weeks. Give Santa Barbara Travel a call to see if any of these offers are right for you.

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Pleasant Holidays Representative Laura Davis and our own Phyllis Brown enjoying the sights and sounds of the French Festival.

 

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SBTB Travel Advisor Tina Slimp talking to clients about the amazing offers to France and French Polynesia.

 

Thinking of Travelling Solo? If so, you’re not alone !

Whether it’s a case of hectic, conflicting schedules with family and friends, or just a desire for a deeper, more personal interaction with places and people – there’s no denying that solo travelling has exploded in popularity in recent years. More vacationers have come to enjoy the flexibility that comes with travelling independently and have decided to get out there and see the world on their own. In fact, there’s been a 148% increase in women travelling solo, just since 2008.

Suppliers are taking note. Increasingly, they are reexamining their policies on the dreaded ‘single supplement’ charges. Many are reducing them, or eliminating them outright, as with this fabulous new offer from AMA Waterways.

If this interests you, or you’d like to discuss other possibilities for taking a vacation where you get to do and see only what interests you, or you want to connect more deeply with your destination – give us a call at Santa Barbara Travel Bureau.

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Trip Report: Sheila Cohn with Pearl Seas Cruises to Canada

Recently returned from a ‘Canadian Maritimes’ voyage on Pearl Seas Cruises, Sheila Cohn’s first comment was, “it was much more than I expected!

With only about 200 passengers, the ship felt much more like a riverboat than a cruise ship.”  Never having traveled with Pearl Seas before, Sheila was immediately impressed with the size of the cabins; she compared them more to hotel rooms than the usual cruise ship cabins, and each room had its own balcony.

What stood out for her?  “Hands down, the service.  I’ve been on cruises on many different lines, and the service on this ship really stood out,” Sheila said.  “I was also impressed with the food.  Everything was fresh and cooked to order; there were no buffets.  Since we were travelling through the North Atlantic Ocean, a unique feature of this particular sailing was the abundance of lobster.  We had lobster tails, whole lobster, lobster mac and cheese, and even lobster rolls during this trip.”

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Pearl Seas Cruises along the Canadian Maritimes, beginning in Quebec City and ending in Portland, Maine.

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Favorite destination?  “Without a doubt, Prince Edward Island!  I could easily move there.  I’ve heard that Prince Edward Island (or ‘PEI’) is called ‘the garden of the Gulf,’ and I can believe it.  Not only was the PEI unbelievably green, I was fortunate to be there at the height of wild lupin and lilac season.  The aroma from all the flowers was almost indescribable. I was so impressed, I brought back some lupin seeds as a souvenir. Let’s see how they do in Southern California!”

Sheila suggests that this trip would be a great option for those who really want to feel they’ve traveled abroad, but without the long and taxing overseas flight and jet lag.  A great deal of this trip covers territory that was either historically French or Arcadian (in fact, many of these Arcadians migrated to New Orleans to become the ‘Cajuns’ we know today).  This means that many of the stops have a distinct French flavor.  “In fact, I’d  recommend that anyone taking this cruise arrive in Quebec City a few days early to really soak up the French culture,” concludes Sheila.

Lupins on Prince Edward Island

Lupins on Prince Edward Island

Check out these Special Travel Deals at the Santa Barbara French Festival !

It’s just a little over a week until the Santa Barbara French Festival.  As if can-can dancers, strolling gendarmes, cabaret singers, poodle parades, French food and a Femme Fatale Drag Revue weren’t already enough to entice you – here are just a few of the fabulous travel offers to France and French Polynesia which will be available at the Festival.

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FrenchFestival 2015 offer

South America, Easter Island & Tahiti, All in One!

Easter Island and Tahiti are some of the most exotic – and remote – destinations on the face of the earth.  Here is an opportunity to easily see these, plus South America and Pitcairn Island (from ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame) in comfort and luxury.  On this one special, 18-day sailing, prices include airfare, pre-paid gratuities, internet AND $900 shipboard credit!Oceania Pac Serenade 2016 Sailing flyer3-page-001

July First Thursday at Santa Barbara Travel: Easter Island

Marci Bogusz from SPM Hotels discusses the history and culture of Easter Island at Santa Barbara Travel on July 2, 2015

Marci Bogusz from SPM Hotels discusses the history and culture of Easter Island at Santa Barbara Travel on July 2, 2015

The remote and mysterious Easter Island was the topic of July’s First Thursday presentation at Santa Barbara Travel. Easter Island is the most remote inhabited place on earth: it’s 3,500 miles from Chile, and 3,000 miles from Tahiti.

In two presentations on Thursday evening, July 2nd, Marci Bogusz from South Pacific Management hotels discussed the history of this island – discovered on Easter Sunday in 1722 – and also called Rapa Nui in Polynesian. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island contains 887 ‘moai’ or stone carvings. Marci discussed the mysteries still surrounding how these moai were carved, erected and moved across the island.