Travel To Cuba, Fame Not Required

travel to cubaWhile travel to Cuba has come a long way recently, not everyone can visit as easily as Beyonce and Jay-Z who chose Havana as the place to celebrate their anniversary. Still, even for super stars, travel to Cuba is not like buying a ticket from New York to Chicago and there are a few hoops to jump through. But a new program by a trusted source might just be the answer for travelers who want to visit Cuba.

People to People Ambassador Programs, the educational travel experience company that sent students to Japan after the earthquake/tsunami is back with a new twist on an old way of traveling to Cuba.

People to People is the company that partnered with actress Holly Robinson Peete to award five students with travel scholarships and helped college students complete degrees with international travel programs designed to do just that.

Applying their expertise of sending students around the world for global educational experiences, People to People acquired a travel operator license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for adult travel programs in Cuba starting in July 2013.

That travel operator license is required to satisfy requirements of the Trading with the Enemy Act, which is the major roadblock to unrestricted travel to Cuba. Exceptions to the ban are allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.

People to people will not be the first enterprise to do this. USA Cuba Travel specializes in travel to Cuba and arranged for over 100,000 Americans to get there last year.But People to People’s Citizen Ambassador Programs are designed not for college-age students, but for career professionals who want to get a first-hand look at Cuba for business reasons. Those “business reasons” open up an extremely wide field that many would-be travelers to Cuba can qualify for. Enrolled in medical, educational, business, law or sociology-related programs, delegates have an immersive cultural experience through the program that sounds a lot like an ecotourism trip.

Taking part in a walking tour of a village, going to a street party, interacting with locals or being part of a local community project are all bona fide activities and part of the curriculum. Being in the program, on the ground in Cuba, will also require sleeping and eating there, much like a trip to any other destination around the world.

Trips are seven nights in country with regularly schedule departures from Miami in July 2013 through December 2013. People to People programs typically cost from $4,500-7,999, depending on length, destination and itinerary but are all-inclusive. Transportation, meals, accommodations and activities are part of the deal. Good news, the price range for Cuba programs currently run $4,699-$4,999.

Not part of the deal? Cuban cigars – so here is a little video about how they are made:


The US Allows You To Go To Cuba, If Your Name Is Beyonce Or Jay-Z

Cuba off limits? No way.

Forget travel restrictions… if you’re Beyonce that is.

For their fifth wedding anniversary, Beyonce and Jay-Z picked Havana as the spot to celebrate their marital bliss, and were granted the right to go by the United States Treasury Department.

Although the Obama administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba, most Americans have to jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops to receive permission to get there.

What happens when a famous person gets to do what most of the rest of us don’t? It causes a bit of a media storm. Beyonce was referred to as a tool of “Castro propaganda” and the trip was highly criticized. Maybe the Obama administration was chalking it up to “cultural exchange”?

Wherever you stand on the Cuba issue, the Beyonce/Jay-Z effect has done one thing: bring U.S.-Cuba relations front and center in traditional media. If TMZ is talking about it, it must be important.

[Photo credit: JMParonne]

Beyoncé’s Pimpin’ Private Tour Jet

What? You think Beyoncé has her own special private airplane with black velvet seat cushions and a bedazzled fuselage all covered in blingetty-bling (with a ring on it) and with bottles of Vitamin Water lined up like a rainbow in her mirrored mini-fridge? Well, she doesn’t. No doubt, girlfriend could afford it, but being the smart, sensible artist that she is, Beyoncé just chartered a plane from OpenSkies, the transatlantic all-business-class airline that flies nonstop between Washington, DC, New York City, and Paris.

Beyoncé and her entourage chartered the plane in February 2010 for the two-week South American leg of her recent “I AM… SASHA FIERCE” tour, beginning with a week of show dates in Brazil, followed by appearances in Argentina, Chile, Peru and finishing off with a last-stop carnival hurrah in Trinidad capital Port-of-Spain on February 18th. The Boeing 757-200 charter jet that carried her from gig to gig is compact but with long-range capacity and lots of luggage space for all those crazy stage sets and costume changes. The all-business-class layout offers two cabins, one with 24 BIZ BEDS (seats that convert into a 180° fully flat bed) and another 40 BIZ SEATS (which recline only to 140°). Of course, Beyoncé slept up front in one of the BIZ BEDS, while her hairdresser and makeup team were most likely hanging out in the back of the plane. Flight attendants reported that “Beyoncé’s really nice” but “not as tall as you think she is.” (Yeah, you already knew that.)

OpenSkies is known for its spectacular French gourmet meals (in spite of its affiliation with British Airways) but most suspect that 28-year old Beyoncé chose the airline for its signature color, which is vivid lavender (expressed inside the airplane’s lush interiors.)

So there it is. For all you Beyoncé fans who wonder how the Queen Bee travels from one sweaty stage to the next, that’s it.

The best airline safety announcement videos

Air travelers have all been there — the plane is about to take off, but first we have to awkwardly look away or bury our noses in magazines to avoid paying attention to the safety announcements. They’re the same every time, so we always know that the closest exit may be behind us. But a few savvy airlines have come up with better ways to grab passengers’ attention. From stripping down to rapping, here are some of the best airline safety announcements you’ll see on board.

Thomson Airways
British airline Thomson Airways knows that cuteness always gets attention. When a plane full of adorable kids tells you how to buckle your seatbelt, you’re sure to listen:

Air New Zealand
If cute doesn’t work, sex always sells. Take this Air New Zealand video, which encourages passengers to “take a second look” at safety — and the body-painted flight crew:

To further prove they have a sense of humor, Air New Zealand released a blooper reel of the clips that didn’t make the safety video. After all, reciting lines wearing body paint can’t be too easy:

Delta Airlines
Delta is a little more subtle with its sexy announcements — but every person in the video is ridiculously attractive, with perfect teeth and not a hair out of place. YouTube commenters have even dubbed the main announcer “Deltalina” for her resemblance to Angelina Jolie:

Virgin America
International airlines aren’t the only ones who get to have fun. Take Virgin America’s safety video, which pokes fun at the various characters found on a typical flight:

Southwest Airlines
Southwest is known for its funny flight crews. This flight attendant brings the entertainment with a safety rap:

This Southwest attendant makes announcements American Idol-style, singing a parody of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies:”

Virgin Atlantic
When in doubt, use flashy graphics. Virgin Atlantic puts passengers at ease with its calming music and intriguing animation: