|This is the first step to Havana- Once you find a flight deal, of course.|
Times are changing. Now, I'm sure most have their (strongly held) feelings about whether this is, in fact, a good thing or not. However, let's compartmentalize for a moment and just focus on the one change that arguably is good for travelers. Having a new place open up to visit, especially one as unique (and close) as Cuba, is good news. What's even better news, is that with the major US airlines jockeying for timeslots at the newly accessible Havana airport, and with travel to Cuba still somewhat restricted for US citizens, there's a lot of capacity and redundancy in these flights this year.
This all adds up to a mileage deal I couldn't take the chance of missing. For just a couple of hours, tickets from Seattle to Havana went on a flash sale, including round trip, First/Business class for $380 base fare! Given that the routing takes has a total of six segments, and earns double elite miles because of the class of service, it's an amazing deal.
So what's the catch??
Well, one is that it starts in Seattle, where I don't live. However, I've been known to go as far as Toronto...or even Sri Lanka to start a mileage run, so hopping up to SEA wasn't going to stop me. Next up, this itinerary doesn't happen to have any widebody planes, so while it's in business class, there'll be no lie flat seats (except maybe between Dallas and Miami on one segment, but we'll see). Still.... 12k EQM and a trip to Havana for this price... the many hours on 737s wasn't going to turn me off.
The real catch is, predictably, Cuba itself. Though the US's policy on travel has gotten far more liberal, you still have to get a special visa, and your trip must fit into one of several distinct categories. The process (so far) has been fairly straightforward. I followed along with AA's recommendation and got my visa card from "Cuba Travel Services."
As far as accommodations go, Havana obviously doesn't have any American chain hotels, and hotels in general can be expensive. The 'thing to do' is to use Airbnb to book one of the traditional "casas" which are privately run, but legal, rooms for rent in small boarding houses or people's individual houses. I booked a room in Old Town that came with good reviews for around $45 a night. We'll see... but.... culture!
I don't have ambitious plans for my time on the ground- mostly to unplug and explore. This is just one more example of how this hobby expands your comfort zone, and makes you consider experiences you wouldn't otherwise. So far, I haven't regretted one, and I doubt it'll be happening anytime soon.
Bring on the Mojitos!