Travel To Cuba, Fame Not Required

While 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]

Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z to open 40/40 club sports bars at select airports

Jay-Z (yes – THAT Jay-Z) issued a press release this morning, outlining his plans to open several 40/40 clubs at “select airports”. The first of his eight 40/40 clubs opened in New York City in 2003 and since then, locations have opened around the country, as well as abroad.

The airport club concept will offer passengers a stylish sports bar and lounge. Very little was revealed about the exact theme or design of the airport clubs, but you can probably expect a decent bar service, along with a variety of TV screens showing sports games.

The clubs are a collaboration between Jay-Z and airport hospitality firm Delaware North. A spokesman for Delaware North had the following to say:

“We are thrilled to partner with the 40/40 Club, to bring a stylish sports bar and lounge to airports across the country. From the personalized, one-of-a-kind jerseys on the wall, to every sports game you can think of on the television screens, the club will bring a new experience that we are sure travelers will welcome.”

To me, this means they have probably never been to an airport and seen one of the many Fox Sports Bars around the nation where a very similar experience has been offered for years.

Still, I’m sure there is enough interest in a 40/40 club at airports, the market for airside booze is massive – revenue from thirsty passengers is a great incentive to sell as much liquor as possible. After all, who doesn’t love a $6 beer with some $12 nachos before their flight?

[Photo: Getty Images]

Jay-Z and Coldplay ring in the New Year at Las Vegas Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino

There’s no denying that Las Vegas knows how to throw one rockin party, but when it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Las Vegas hotels work to outdo each other. Newcomer on the block Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino might just take this year’s prize.

The hotel, set to open December 15, will host a New Year’s Eve celebration with Jay-Z and Coldplay expected to perform. The hotel is, of course, offering a sweet package to ring in 2011 at the new complex. Rumor has it only a few packages are left so get ’em while they’re hot:

· A three-night stay in a city room or terrace studio · Access to the Marquee nightclub and Dayclub preview party · Dinner for two on New Year’s Eve at the restaurant of your choice · New Year’s Day brunch at Wicked Spoon (the hotel’s buffet joint) · Two non-transferable tickets to the live concert featuring Jay-Z & Coldplay.

The total package cost is $5,600 and in case you want to think before buying, know that full payment is expected at the time of booking.

Rapper Jay-Z files $3.7 million hotel lawsuit

Seems not everything the “Big Pimpin” rapper touches turns to gold. Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, filed a $3.7 million lawsuit accusing a bank and investment company of owing him money on his New York hotel development.

Jay-Z had his sights on the J Hotel, a luxury development in Manhattan, that his company bought for $66 million in 2007. WENN Entertainment News reports the rapper obtained a $52 million loan that was assigned to investment managers Highland Capital Management LP and serviced by NexBank SSB, the two businesses named in the lawsuit.

Citing economic issues, the partners failed to pull in investors, resulting in a shortfall of funds. The 10-time Grammy winner came to the rescue and offered the land back to Highland rather than face foreclosure. However, it seems Highland didn’t jump at the opportunity, which resulted in interest and personal costs on the loans – a debt now owned by Jay-Z.

Court documents claim that Highland improperly diverted funds in an effort to garner more money from the music-mogul. Jay-Z is seeking $3.7 million in damages. We’re not sure how this one will end, but we’re hoping there’s a song in it somewhere…