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TRAVEL BLOG

Travel To Cuba

cuba-pic-from-virtuoso

By Virtuoso Air, Auto & Insurance | 29-Sep-2016 | Article #35601

The U.S. government does not currently allow Americans to visit Cuba strictly for tourism. U.S. citizens are permitted to visit Cuba if they fall under 12 approved categories, including family visits, educational activities and public performances or exhibitions. Additionally, anyone entering Cuba on a U.S. carrier is bound by those same restrictions, whether or not they hold U.S. citizenship. That means customers flying to Havana on Alaska Airlines must be authorized under one of the 12 approved categories – whether or not they hold U.S. citizenship.

  • Family visits
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Educational activities
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions

Additional Information:

  • In order to travel to Cuba, all passengers must have a valid visa and health insurance.
  • US credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba, so passengers will need to bring cash.
  • Internet and mobile phone service is limited

NOTE: Travelers NEED to make sure they bring enough cash for the entire duration of their trip. Without cash, travelers will be unable to pay for essentials such as lodging, food, and car rentals

To learn more about traveling to Cuba, call our Cuba specialist, Andrew Seligman or your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor

Andrew Seligman

Andrew Seligman

Email: aseligman@sbtravel.com
Phone: 805.969.7746

Montecito Office

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau
1485 East Valley Road #9
Montecito, CA 93108

Advisor Profile

Advisor Trip: The Rocky Mountaineer

Santa Barbara Travel Advisor, Nancy Herrmann, took the two day journey aboard Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer this Summer. This comfortable and luxurious train ride is a wonderful way to journey through the Canadian Rockies. Below, Nancy shares her experience, helpful travel tips, and photos of her journey.

Rocky Mountaineer in Exshaw, Alberta

Rocky Mountaineer in Exshaw, Alberta

ROUTE: I took the “Journey Through the Clouds” from Jasper to Kamloops to Vancouver and down to Seattle. I will start by saying: it was the most beautiful train ride of my life. The observation car allows a comfortable way to see the incredible scenery of Western Canada. The train and views are in the league of the dome cars of Anchorage and Denali, Alaska, with the big-time landscapes. Our itinerary worked with the direction we were traveling, but I would recommend going the opposite way– starting in Vancouver and ending in Jasper. From there you can drive along the scenic highway by motorcoach or self-drive to Lake Louise and Banff.

Four routes of the Rocky Mountaineer. Nancy traveled from Jasper to Kamloops to Vancouver to Seattle.

Four routes of the Rocky Mountaineer. Nancy traveled from Jasper to Kamloops to Vancouver to Seattle.

TRAVEL TIP: Travel from Vancouver to Jasper to end with the “wow factor” of mountainous Jasper.

Another interesting route is the Rainforest to Gold Rush—Vancouver – Whistler – Quesnel – Jasper –-perfect to see the great variety of the Canadian West. Whichever route you go, it is likely to be the best train ride you’ve ever had. The track passes along the coast and through the Canadian Rockies.

rocky-mountaineer-nancy

Nancy smiles for a photo in front of a high mountain lake

DINING: Meals and drinks are included in the price of the journey. However, Gold Leaf service provides a much better dining experience and is recommended. The meals are the same, but Gold Leaf service comes with a downstairs dining room, allowing you to get up and stretch. Silver Leaf members will dine in their seat. It is worth noting that you cannot walk from car to car during the trip.

Travel Tip: Drive or take the motorcoach from Jasper to Lake Louise and Banff for a few night stay, then fly out of Calgary.

Serenity on Lake Louis

Serenity on Lake Louis, accessed by scenic drive from Jasper or by train on the Coastal Passage and First Passage to the West

JASPER: Jasper is a tiny, tiny little town with a few restaurants and souvenir shops to support Jasper National Park. It reminded me of an old west town, with art galleries and gift shops. If you spend a few days here, take the Jasper SkyTram to the summit of Whistlers Mountain for a beautiful view, or drive the scenic route to Banff or Lake Louise.

KAMLOOPS: Nice farm to table restaurants and a fairly big city considering it is in the middle of western Canada. It is a beautiful town sitting at the confluence of the North and South Thompson rivers, with Kamloops Lake nearby.

VANCOUVER: We started our journey in Jasper, but would have started in Vancouver instead. This beautiful city with mountains and the Pacific would be a wonderful few days spent. Take a bike around Stanley Park, go to the top of the Vancouver Lookout, and visit the market on Granville Island.

Aerial View of Vancouver, Canada

Aerial View of Vancouver, Canada

SERVICE & HOTEL PACKAGE: There are two options– Silver Leaf and Gold Leaf. I chose the Gold Leaf package, which I recommend, as it provides vastly greater comfort and meal options, including meal service downstairs in the dining car and a seat in the observation car with a glass dome roof. There is also an option to upgrade the Gold Leaf Package to the Deluxe, which includes a hotel upgrade to the world famous Banff Springs Hotel. I found the Rimrock Resort Hotel to be comfortable, but it needs an upgrade as it feels quite out dated.

TRAVEL TIP: Choose the Gold Leaf Package, and upgrade your hotel if it is within budget to access the dining car, 2nd-floor seating, and a stay at the World Famous Banff Springs Hotel.

rocky-mountaineer-roof

Picture of our train car and Gold Leaf seating. Photo by Nancy Herrmann

WHAT TO AVOID: The Amtrak stretch of the trip was a rickety, uncomfortable 4 hour ride and a big let down after the comfort of the Rocky Mountaineer. I would recommend taking the ferry from Vancouver to Seattle, or just flying straight to Vancouver and spend a few nights to explore this beautiful city.

All said and done, the Rocky Mountaineer offers a great experience, especially for those who will not be itching to hike or swim in the mountains and lakes the trip introduces. If you are taking a cruise that begins or ends in Vancouver, I would highly recommend spending a few days on the Rocky Mountaineer.

rocky-mountaineer-nancyI would love to chat with you personally about the experience and answer any questions you may have. Please contact me by phone (805.869.1100) or email nherrmann@sbtravel.com. Learn more about Nancy on her Travel Profile

Cruise to the Music of the 80s – February 11-18, 2017

Join Santa Barbara Travel Advisor, Tina Slimp on an “80s” theme cruise in the Caribbean on the stunning Celebrity Summit.

Live 80s Bands and MTV VJs

Cruise Back to the 80s!

Cheap Trick, Belinda Carlisle, Survivor, Debbie Gibson, Morris Day & The Time, Colin Hay of Men At Work, Howard Jones, Berlin, The Romantics, Men Without Hats, Tiffany, MTV VJs and more!

 “Cruise back to the 80s with awesome activities, 80s theme nights, and non-stop music from the decade you love!”

For details or to book this fun-filled cruise, contact Tina Slimp at 805-966-3116 or  tnordholm@sbtravel.com

Northwest Passage 2017 Voyage

VOYAGE 7320 | 32 DAYS | AUGUST 15, 2017

NORTHWEST PASSAGE

ANCHORAGE/SEWARD TO NEW YORK CITY | CRYSTAL SERENITY

Responding to continued demand for its sold-out inaugural 2016 Northwest Passage transit, Crystal Serenity’s 2017 Northwest Passage Explorer will once again be journeying from Seward, Alaska, to New York City, New York, on a 32-day journey crafted for the world’s most curious adventurers. We have been following the 2016 Voyage on the “Live Tracker” and can’t be more excited to offer this trip once again!

2017 Northwest Passage Sailling in Luxury

2017 Northwest Passage Sailling in Luxury

Exceptional wildlife sightings, stunning displays of nature, and rare experiences carefully designed to reveal remote cultures in the most authentic and engaging manner are the defining aspects of this life-enhancing voyage. Joined by a dedicated team of approximately 14 professionals, the Captain and his expanded crew of navigation experts will incorporate unplanned “expedition days” when favorable weather conditions allow, as well as Unexpected Adventures™ ranging from Zodiac landings and kayaking in protected bays to trekking the tundra with an experienced guide. To whet your appetite for this extraordinary adventure, feel free to visit our current 2016 Northwest Passage webpage— crystalcruises.com/NWP — that details all you need to know to prepare for this incredible journey, including the proper gear and accessories required to enjoy the experience to its fullest.

WE’VE THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING… SO YOU CAN DISCOVER THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE IN COMFORT AND STYLE.

Crystal Cruises has compiled the following guide to answer your questions and get you excited about this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

2017_Northwest_Passage_townBEFORE YOU EXPLORE

So grand is the voyage, so magnificent the adventure, Crystal’s 2017 Northwest Passage has been perfectly planned. We’ve conferred with Canadian authorities and experts, and engaged the local communities to ensure every detail of this incredible adventure is attended to with the thoughtful finesse and skilled expertise the world’s most discerning travelers have come to expect from the World’s Best cruise line.

How can a luxury cruise ship offer an expedition-style voyage in the Arctic?

Crystal Serenity is experienced in operating in some of the world’s most extreme locations, such as Alaska and Antarctica, and will be navigating the Northwest Passage at the most optimum time of year, when the ice significantly recedes allowing vessels to safely transit with minimal risk of encountering ice concentrations. Two ice pilots will join the Captain and trained bridge crew at all times, and the ship will be equipped with state-of-the-art sonar technologies. The region is not as remote as one might think and the itinerary will pass communities that have regularly scheduled commercial air service. Given the limited infrastructure of many of the communities we will visit, an escort vessel will accompany Crystal Serenity, carrying with it “adventure equipment” including a platform for wilderness landings, Zodiacs, kayaks and a helicopter.

Wildlife Citings Along the Northwest Passage

Wildlife Sitings Along the Northwest Passage

What wildlife will I see?

Seals, whales and seabirds may be seen throughout the voyage and in High Arctic regions Crystal Serenity may encounter walrus, narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales. Musk-oxen might be seen on shore, and the passage boasts teeming colonies of kittiwakes, guillemots and murres. In general, wildlife along the Northwest Passage is unpredictable and often difficult to spot, and while polar bears thrive in this region, there is no guarantee that any will be seen on the transit. However, the expedition team will maintain a keen eye so that if an opportunity arises and conditions allow, the Captain will attempt to position the vessel accordingly.

What kind of excursions will be offered ashore?

We have created a series of immersive Crystal Adventures® unique to this itinerary:

• Complimentary Community Visits will provide insight into the daily lives and customs of the Arctic people. Guests will have the opportunity to go ashore in smaller groups to explore communities and experience the daily life of local cultures.

• Crystal Unexpected Adventures will be serendipitous stops when weather and wildlife present opportunities for sightseeing, whale watching and Zodiac landings.

• Crystal Wilderness Adventures™ & Crystal Overland Adventures™ feature thrilling explorations such as helicopter flightseeing, kayaking and whale watching by Zodiac.

• “You Care. We Care.™” Voluntourism opportunities will be offered on a complimentary basis with occasions to participate in local cultural activities.

Helicopter Ride's Are Amongst the Choices for Shore Expeditions

Helicopter Ride’s Are Amongst the Choices for Shore Expeditions

How do I pack? What do I need to bring?

We recommend packing outdoor wear that can be layered in breathable fabrics of fleece, cotton and wool, along with windproof, waterproof clothing and shoes. Crystal will provide water-resistant parkas and boot rentals, and has partnered with a wilderness outfitter offering expedition clothing for purchase. Onboard evening attire will be significantly relaxed, with very few formal evenings. A detailed packing list will be provided prior to the voyage.

2017_Northwest_Passage_view from helicopter

Will there be Internet access and mobile phone coverage?

The ship’s Internet and telephone services will be available for approximately 90% of the expedition, although signals may be slowed or not available at all in the northernmost areas. Shore-based cell phone signals will not be available, except in some of the towns we visit—and guests are asked not to use local signals so the local community’s capacity is not overwhelmed. The Captain and crew will always have operational and emergency communication throughout the entire voyage.

What kind of environmental footprint will the ship make?

Crystal Serenity will be voluntarily using marine gas oil, an extremely clean-burning, low-sulphur fuel that far exceeds regulations, as will the escort ship. The ship’s sophisticated waste management equipment, storage and procedures ensure nothing will be left behind. With regard to the individual communities, we will be working in advance with community leaders to ensure our visits are positive experiences for both locals and guests.

To contact a travel advisor about this incredible voyage in 2017, receive a full itinerary, and talk about specials, contact Nancy Herrmann by emailing nherrmann@sbtravel.com or calling 805.966.3116