Countdown to Cuba — 2

We bought our jet tickets to Havana yesterday at our state capital’s oldest travel agency from a guy named Augustin.

Neither my child bride nor I have been on an airliner in about eight years.

Augustin offered us two nonstop choices:  Interjet, a relatively new airline, and Cubana, the Cuban Commie Carrier.

I would have preferred Cubana because I’d like to see how Fidel melds his cruel austerity with something as capitalistically elegant as air travel.

They likely serve gruel and tepid tea.

But Cubana’s flight from Mexico City to Havana departs at 6 a.m., not surprisingly, because they don’t want you to get any sleep.

We went with Interjet, a Mexican carrier that just got off the ground, so to speak, in 2005 and which departs at the civilized hour of 11:30 a.m.

The tickets were about 800 Gringo bucks for the both of us, round-trip.  I gotta 20 percent discount for being a, uh, senior citizen.

Since I first mentioned this outing early last month, I have come to my financial senses and canceled the $200-a-night hotel.

I did this in part to economize, but I also did it because I wouldn’t have felt right in such snazzy surroundings while all the Cubans out on the sidewalk were under the austere Communist Boot.

Yes, it was a gesture of solidarity with my fellow suffering Man.  I don’t want to rub my One-Percenter credentials in their long, collectivist faces.

So instead we will be staying at the beautifully named Orchid Residence for a whale of a lot less than $200 a night.  Try $60, and that includes a jacuzzi.

Augustin also sold us two health-insurance policies that Cuba demands of all visitors, a relatively new requirement inspired by the many “tourists” who were appearing on Havana’s doorstep with medical issues that needed free FidelCare.

Those policies ran us about $30 each.

Since our flight will not take us near the United States, I’m assuming a full body X-ray will not be necessary, and we will not be required to remove our shoes, our underwear, nothing like that.

More to come . . .

26 thoughts on “Countdown to Cuba — 2”

  1. I am glad the insurance is relatively cheap. This is, like you say, a new issue. Our Canadian Visa credit card gives us free medical insurance for a couple of weeks any time we travel and that kept Fidel happy. Those who “forget” to purchase insurance can buy it in the airport in Cuba for an inflated amount. We were not asked for proof of insurance when we went through immigration but we were asked for out hotel reservation confirmation which we had made extra copies of so we both had one as you go through the immigration booth separately. There is also a money changing booth at the airport. Remember there is a 25% tax on USA cash right off the top so take Euros or Canadian dollars which are accepted at full value. Canada and Europe have been much friendlier to Castro and are thusly rewarded. I do not know the situation with Mexican pesos.

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    1. Croft: I already have two copies of the hotel reservation at hand. And U.S. dollars will not be an issue. We’ll be toting Mexican pesos which the exchange businesses will accept, I have learned. I will land in Havana with no indication of my Gringo past apart from the unmistakable face which, now that I think on it, could easily be mistaken as Canuck.

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  2. The Orchid Residence appears to have contemporary style common areas and very old fashioned bedrooms. I think it will suit you to a “T”.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

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  3. I have flown Interjet several times and have been pleasantly surprised at their efficiency, cleanliness, and quick turnaround. Kinda like air service was 40 years ago in the US. No body searches or any of that hoorah. I think you’ll be impressed.

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    1. Barbara: That is music to my ears. Due to being quite tall, airline travel has long been a real challenge for me. It’s a major reason we’re going to Havana and not Spain or Buenos Aires, which were earlier possibilities. Too far. I had initially intended on dealing with the problem by splurging on Business Class seats, but Jeez, they are really expensive.

      Airplanes, theaters, etc., can be a real problem for me, and that’s when I get a seat on the aisle. Whenever I cannot get an aisle seat, I simply do not do whatever it was I was planning on doing.

      Got our seat assignments yesterday too, and I got a real good one with plenty of legroom. The seating layout was one I had never encountered before.

      Not really all that important because the flight is only 2.5 hours.

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  4. I would have preferred Cubana because I’d like to see how Fidel melds his cruel austerity with something as capitalistically elegant as air travel.

    They likely serve gruel and tepid tea.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ……

    You obviously haven’t flown in a long time, amigo. Because the capitalistically elegant air travel has been serving gruel and tepid tea or coffee along with every other austerity they can think up for more than a decade, now. Airline toilet paper is a miracle of nanotechnology, and soon they will charge extra for breathable air. LOL…

    And if you’re feeling like splurging, you can pony up an additional $50 to get the legroom you used to get included with your ticket.

    There are also “meals” available for purchase, but most of them have a shelf life measured in years. Don’t travel on an empty stomach.

    The only air travel even approaching elegant these days is business or first class travel on foreign, first-world airlines.

    The only reason bankers are the most hated industry is that most people don’t fly.

    Given the lack of profit motive, the commie airlines are probably plush in comparison.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where, as you may have noticed, we absolutely loathe the airline industry.

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    1. Kim: It’s been quite a while since I flew, and I hear it’s pretty grim these days. However, I don’t want to head to Havana on a boat.

      From what Barbara said in another comment, Interjet sounds better than average, which heartens me.

      Since the flight to Havana is only 2.5 hours, I imagine we’ll only get a snack, if that.

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  5. Our flight from Vancouver to Cuba was about nine hours! I am tall like you and managed to get an aisle seat so I could stand up and walk around quite often. It was not a pleasant flight but it could have been a lot worse. Previously flights to Cuba were not allowed to fly over USA airspace so flights had to travel east over Canada to the Atlantic and then South over the water to Cuba. Back then it was a worse ordeal.

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    1. Croft: Had I been faced with a nine-hour flight, we would just have gone to Spain.

      From what you say I take it that flights from Vancouver to Havana can now fly over the U.S.

      That’s a step in the right direction but, of course, the U.S. embargo is way overdue to end.

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  6. Seems to me that you have insightful and well traveled readers. Although I have no experiences in Cuba travel, its easy to see that this is shaping up to be quite the adventure for the celebrating anniversary couple.
    The Orchid, for my dollar, is more attractive than the $200 competitor! 6:30am for a flight is way to early for any self respecting discounted senior discounter! Although the commie flight would be more interesting!
    Two thoughts left; Will there be a language problem in the different dialects? And looking forward to reading Felipe’s take on Fidel’s Cuba!

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    1. We have a Cuban friend who is a retired Professor from the University of Havana (Mathematics and Physics degrees, teaching mathematics and fiber optics) who is now a registered guide. He says he finds it easier to understand English than Mexican Spanish.

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      1. Croft: Any Latinos who can’t understand Mexican Spanish need to go back to bed and get up again. Mexican and Colombian Spanish are reputed to be about the clearest of all on this side of the Atlantic.

        Too bad your friend has such education credentials, yet has to be a tour guide. Perhaps when freedom and capitalism arrive, as it will, he can have a much better life. Let us pray so, and that it will happen soon.

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        1. Our friend is actually quite well off by Cuban standards. He guides for the same reason we write, to stave off boredom. He also loves meeting foreigners and perfecting his English.

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          1. Croft: I’m betting he’s hoping to find a tourist with a big enough suitcase who is also willing to smuggle him out to Freedom.

            But, no, that cannot be because all the Cubans are soooo happy!!!

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    2. Parker: Well-traveled readers? Appears so. Insightful? But of course. Those with less insight who pass by here usually get irritated at me quickly and head off to greener internet pastures.

      Yes, the Orchid will be more to our liking, I am sure. I made the reservation through an online international booking agency. They gave me the Orchid’s email and phone number. I emailed them a couple of weeks ago with some questions. No response yet. A week or so back, I phoned. The connection was so bad that I could scarcely make out what the woman on the other end was saying, but I believe she said that it was not the Orchid. I’m gonna try again in a day or two. Maybe the connection will be better. Ah, communist infrastructure. Gotta love it.

      Cuban Spanish can’t be that different from Mexican. I imagine it’s pretty much like Puerto Rican Spanish. That’s where I once lived. They drop their S’s and lisp, but other than that …

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      1. The idea of a Cuban not being able to understand a Mexican is hysterical. Based on my (admittedly limited) experience with Cuban Spanish, the Mexican variety is practically The Queen’s English (OK, Spanish) compared to the sloppy few syllables the Cubans deign to pronounce.

        It’s far easier to understand what’s clearly pronounced by a Mexican than having to guess at what it is the Cuban left out of the word.

        Kim G
        Boston, MA
        Where we speak Mexican Spanish, but also studied for a year with a Colombian tutora.

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  7. The US planes aren’t any worse than they ever have been, and I’ve been flying for 38 years. The TSA is a hassle, that is for sure. I got felt up in the Amsterdam airport before getting on a plane to the US, that was special treatment just for US bound flights. My husband was egregiously explored by the TSA after landing in Atlanta, flight over! From Costa Rica.

    Have fun in Havana, you one percenter!

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    1. Celeste: The nice thing about our upcoming flight is that the TSA won’t be a part of it, though I do see on the Interjet website that they get a little goofy about gels and liquids.

      That your pony-tailed hubby gets a second look returning from Central America doesn’t come as a big shock to me.

      One percenter? Me? I wish.

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    2. PS: Thinking further on it, it’s clear that your hubby got profiled, but since he’s a white guy it was okay to do so. Long-haired fellow with, I would bet, a tropical shirt coming back from Central America has pull-me-outta-the-line written all over him.

      I support profiling enthusiastically, but I support it for everybody, not just the white guys. He should sue.

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