Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

I have confirmed that Austin-Lehman Adventures has received a People to People license that allows them to offer Cuba trips that are designed to promote American citizen to Cuban citizen interaction.

Although the Cuba trip page at Austin Lehman makes no mention of travel dates or price, Gay Nagle Myers of Travel Weekly is reporting that guided tours will begin in early 2012.

More from Gay Nagle Myers article

“Excitement about a tour program in Cuba has been running high among staff and past trip alumni,” said company founder Dan Austin. “There’s already a wait list with enough interest to fill the first two departures.”

Austin said the formal application process began early in 2011 after nearly three years of research into the possibilities of conducting guided adventure tours in Cuba.

“Because most Americans have been prevented from visiting Cuba since the U.S. embargo in the 1960s, we are extremely curious about our neighbor 90 miles south of Key West. Our license will allow us to lift the veil and rediscover this destination that’s been off-limits to Americans the past 50 years,” said Austin.

He noted that Cuba is an untapped market that “fits well with our core goals of exotic/desirable destinations, easy access from the U.S., lots of activities, a distinct and colorful culture, a friendly and welcoming host population and opportunities to immerse travelers in authentic Cuban life, including world-renowned music, cuisine, art and dance.”

Christopher Baker, author of six books on Cuba, worked with Austin to create an itinerary exclusive to Austin-Lehman. Baker will lead many of the tours as will other experts in Cuban lifestyle and culture. Baker also is leading several Cuba tours offered by National Geographic Expeditions.

From the Austin-Lehman Adventures Cuba trips page

Meet in Miami or Cancun for a charter flight to Havana. Transfer to the Hotel Iberostar Parque Central. This evening we are joined by a group of trip leader Christopher P. Baker’s Cuban friends spanning the spectrum of ages and professions as we get oriented with an introductory presentation.

Learn about the two-decade-old restoration project in Habana Vieja led by historian Esubio Leal; how the effort is self-financed; and how the strength of the local community is maintained in this tourist area of Havana.

Visit the Flores district to visit the Casa-Estudio de Fuster, the studio-home of José Fuster, commonly called the ‘Picasso of the Caribbean.’

Drive through the province of Pinar del Río to Finca Pinar San Luís, the private finca of the late and legendary tobacco farmer and Cuban cigar ‘ambassador,’ Alejandro Robaina.

Follow the old Carretera Central via Cuevas de los Portales, Che Guevara’s headquarters during the Cuban Missile Crisis; the faded old spa town of San Diego de los Baños; and Soroa, with a stop at its orchid garden.

Board a 1906 steam train to visit the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), with lunch at Hacienda Iznaga, a former slave plantation where we learn about the roles of sugar and slavery in Cuba’s history

About Austin-Lehman Adventures

Austin-Lehman Adventures, with a 35-year legacy dating back to 1974, provides “over the top” adventure vacations on four continents. ALA has built a stellar reputation on small group active travel, limited to 12 guests (18 on family departures), exceptional dining, distinctive accommodations and all-inclusive rates and services. ALA focuses solely on destinations in North, Central and South America, Europe and southern Africa.

Founders Dan Austin and Paul Lehman believe the best way to enjoy the natural beauty, culture and history of a place is to experience it as a local; close-up, at one’s own pace far off the usual tourist track. In addition to its scheduled group departures, ALA also offers customized trip planning for families, solo travelers and adults-only. To back up its strong commitment to the highest levels of guest service, ALA offers all its travelers a money back guarantee, a rarity among adventure travel companies.

—————————————- Havana Journal Comments—————————————-

Austin-Lehman Adventures is based in Billings Montana which is also the home of Rocky Mountain College. The college is also offering Cuba trips to students and to the general public for a $95 audit fee. Regardless of whether the college is offering tours on an educational license or a people to people license, they cannot offer Cuba trips to the general public. We understand this offering to the general public is an error but has not yet been confirmed.

People to people and legal travel to Cuba trips from Austin-Lehman Adventures, National Geographic and most recently the Manatee Florida/Manati Cuba sister cities association Cuba trip should be encouraged and celebrated but illegal travel to Cuba should not be promoted as it will force OFAC to release a Cuba travel advisory.

See our sister site for more information about legal travel to Cuba, travel service providers, Cuba travel licenses and more.