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The Real Cuba
Steam and Culture
Educational & People to People/Rail Historians Tour
March 5-17, 2018
GROUP SIZE 35
NEW POLICY REGARDING
TRAVEL TO CUBA
Under President Trump's new policy and restrictions for travel to Cuba only individual travel is effected and will no longer be allowed. All group travel to Cuba will not be effected and will still be allowed!
Many visitors head just to Havana and the tropical beaches, but we aim to deliver the REAL CUBA to you, visiting provincial towns and countryside where the passage of time has been suspended. We travel both by road and our own chartered vintage Canadian RDC Budd railcar. The tour will appeal to both the dedicated railway enthusiast and those intrigued by many of the outlying places we visit. On rail we travel with diesel, steam and antique electric traction, and off-rail we aim to offer a culture option on most days. Come with us and explore the enigma which is Cuba!
Our tour visits the UNESCO heritage sites of Old Havana and Trinidad where, as well as the architecture, one of Cuba’s most distinctive anachronisms, roads full of 1950 classic American cars, can be witnessed. We look at cigar and rum production, and take to the countryside where the sugar harvest will be in full sway. The ‘zafra’ once employed fleets of American steam locomotives, and many of these are preserved and we expect to see almost 200 of them. We will make visits to where some of the locomotives are used for heritage operations. Our tour requires flexibility, and we will aim to incorporate all steam operations that are available during 2018 but, as always, we must remain mindful of Cuban infrastructure changes.
Day 1 Monday March 5: (D)
Independent arrivals in Havana and transfer yourself to the four star first class Hotel Sevilla located in the old historic section of Havana for check-in. In the evening we will have a “Welcome to Cuba Dinner”
Day 2 Tuesday March 6: (B,L,D)
We make a leisurely start on our first morning, starting with a visit to a cigar factory followed by a short guided walking tour around Old Havana to obtain an overview of the Cuban way of life. After lunch additional options will be offer to better understand the Cuban public and their public transportation system. 2nd night at the Hotel Sevilla.
Day 3 Wednesday March 7: (B,L)
We begin the day by visiting Hemingway’s villa on a hill in the Havana suburbs, complete with his furniture, books and other possessions (typewriter; hunting trophies…), looking like he’s just popped out for a few minutes. Then we will visit two of his favorite bars and the hotel where he stayed—including the room he used to stay in. After Lunch, we go to the Railway Museum, with its collection of mostly USA-built steam engines and diesel locomotives from Europe and the USSR. Then we will go to a waterfront warehouse converted into an enormous bazaar which will further introduce you to Cuban life and their economy. The warehouses used to be serviced by the WatersideTramroad and several ex sugar industry steam locos are parked outside, one of which will be in steam for us and running up and down a section of the old Tramroad. We then return to the Hotel Sevilla for the evening.
Day 4 Thursday March 8: (B,L)
We have a early flight from Havana to Santiago de Cuba of 90 minutes. After arrival we transfer to the four star Hotel Imperial. Once we are checked in you can have lunch at the hotel. Afternoon tour of Santiago to include Fidel Castro’s tomb. During the course of the day you will be able to meet some of the local Cuban people.
Day 5 Friday 9 March (B,L/D)
This morning we board our charter train! It is a single unit diesel railcar built by the Budd Corporation in the United States in the 1950s and purchased from the Canadian Pacific Railroad. It is not very powerful and cannot get up the hill out of Santiago on the new railway since built by the Soviets, and so we take our bus to San Luis higher up on the mountain to board the railcar. From San Luis we travel to Guantanamo, the city at the head of the bay around which the American base is situated. There will be water and beer on board our railcar, and lunch boxes. At Guantanamo, we will transfer to a Brill diesel railcar for a ride along the bay, past the salt pans and alongside USA’s fence, to Caimanera, where we will have a meal in a hotel with views across the waters of the bay to the buildings of the American base (whether this meal be Lunch or Dinner will depend on the time of our arrival). After our meal, our bus will take us to the two star Hotel Guantanamo.
OUR CHARTER RDC BUDD RAILCAR
Day 6 Saturday March 10: (B,L,D)
Our Budd railcar will take us from Guantanamo to Holguín. Again there will be water and beer and lunch boxes on board. Stops will be made alone the way to meet the local Cuban people. From Holguín our bus will take us to Rafael Freyre, where the narrow gauge railway which used to bring in the cane to the now-closed sugar mill has been kept open to offer a passenger service because there is no paved roads running up the valley. We have arranged for a steam locomotive to be switching cane cars in the yard and making up a authentic cane train for you to take photos of. Next we will ride one of the home made railcars up the valley to the end of the line and exploring the remote Cuban towns along the route and it's people. At the end of the day our bus will then take us to Guardalavaca for lodging check-in at the five star Playa Pasquero.
Day 7 Sunday March 11: (B,L,D)
Today our American built railcar will take us from Holguín to Morón, with a stop to visit the Brasil sugar factory. Again there will be water and beer and lunch boxes on board. There are rumours the fireless steam locomotives which used to switch the cane cars into the factory have been restored and, if Brasil is in operation they will be able to charge them up with steam for us. Brasil will in operation on our 2017 tour. After our sugar mill visit we continue to Moron and hotel check-in at the four star Hotel Morὀn.
Day 8 Monday March 12: (B,L,D)
Moron was once the headquarters of the Cuban Northern Railroad; the town has a large locomotive works, and a handsome station building. Morón is the home of the 50901 Class G-8 American EMD built switchers built in 1955 and approaching 62 years old. This is the last place in all of Cuba/North America where the famous G-8 diesels are still hard at work everyday. Some of these diesels are very unique as they have been re-fitted with Baldwin motive power. These are the only American built Baldwin railroad power plants in Cuba. Also the remaining fleet of broken down Budd RDC railcars are based here. This is where these railcars are made into a non-powered passenger cars. Additionally the Canadian GMD 1's are base here for heavy maintence. If all of this classic equipment was not enough the workshops are a partial roundhouse with an operating turntable. Oh, you will feel like you have stepped into a railroad yard in the United States in the mid 1950's. We have arranged for a visit to the workshops. After our workshop tour we walk over to the Moron station and board a different railcar for transfer by rail to the former Patria sugar mill which is now a railway museum with several steam engines. One of these will be fired up and will take us for a ride through the cane fields on what remains of the mill’s internal rail system. At the end of the line, at Rancho Palma, we will be served a Cuban-style afternoon tea (“merienda”) in a Cuban-style thatched barn. We then return to Moron where we board our Budd railcar for the run to Sancti Spiritus, and check-in at the two star Hotel Los Laureles.
Day 9 Tuesday March 13: (B,L,D)
Today we visit Trinidad, a fine example of a Spanish colonial town. First our bus takes us to nearby Manaca Iznaga where we will visit a once slave-owner’s estate and have Lunch in his colonial-style mansion. After Lunch, we will board the Trinidad Tourist Train for a picturesque ride through the countryside and into town. In Trinidad, we organise a walking tour of the city centrer. Also you will have the option to ride on the service diesel railcar to Casilda (Trinidad’s port). At the end of the afternoon, our bus will take us all back to S.Spiritus and we have a 2nd night at the Hotel Los Laureles.
Day 10 Wednesday March 14: (B,L,D)
This morning our Budd railcar will be waiting at S.Spiritus Station, to take us up the main line to Santa Clara, where we leave the mainline and head towards Remedios and the former Marcelo Salado sugar mill, near Caibarien. There will be beer and water and lunch boxes on board. You will have the option today to detrain at Santa Clara for a city tour to include Ché Guevara’s Mausoleum and the Armoured Train Memorial Park. Meanwhile, remaining passengers will be taken to the amazing Marcelo.Salado museum which has a collection of sugar industry steam locos, one of which will be in operation and will give us a ride to the town of Remedios. We then return to Santa Clara and check-in at the three star Hotel Los Caneyes.
Day 11 Thursday March 15: (B,L,D)
Today we continue westbound from Santa Clara along the busy main line of which we should meet some eastbound trains. At Jovellanos, we again leave the mainline and head north along the little-used Cardenas branch to reach the José Smith Comas factory, another closed sugar mill converted into a rail museum. JSC also has an interesting collection of steam locos and one of them will be in operation with cane cars around the mill yard for the photographers. Then the engine will take a train of their home-made tourist cars, with us aboard, to Cardenas. Finally our bus will take us to the nearby Varadero for check-in at the three star Hotel Barcelo Solymar. We will be here for two nights.
Day 12 Friday March 16: (B,L,D)
Today we go on our final excursion and ride the famous Hershey Railway which is a American style electric interurban line. We will ride on the Jaruco branch which the management says is the most reliable. By special arrangement, the train we are on will terminate at Hershey Station running past the vast car sheds and workshop very slowly, thus enabling photographs. Then it’s back to our Varadero hotel for the 2nd night.
Day 13 Saturday March 17: (B,L)
After lunch our charter bus will take us to the airport in Havana for our flights home.
1. The Cuban authorities reserve the right to change any arrangements if circumstances should make it necessary, and we cannot promise that everything outlined above will be achieved. However, the Cubans are also good at offering an alternative and we will not have any “empty” days.
2. This tour of Cuba goes off the beaten track and stays away from the tourist resorts. Some of the hotels we are assigned might not be of the same standard of other countries. People booking onto this tour are understood to have read these Disclaimers, and to accept the situation. We have always had a good time in Cuba but things rarely go exactly as planned!
3. There will be a special supplement to upgrade to a higher rated hotel in Havana to those that book early. The better hotel rooms in Havana are extremely limited at this time of the year so it will be first come first served.
all prices per person
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$4,895
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$595
DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE$1,500
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY DECEMBER 5, 2017
TOUR CONDITIONS FOR 2018 **PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Tour Price: All tour prices are subject to change without notice, at any time. All prices based on double room occupancy. Those people that use a credit card for payments a 3% conveyance fee will be added to the tour price. We reserve the right to change tour prices if necessary without prior notice.