Another early morning as we are instructed to meet at gate by 9:30am for our 11:30 flight. Making our way, we scope out others in the vicinity to determine who belongs to our group. There are 24 of us on this trip with ages ranging from possibly the 20s to the 70s and from California to New Jersey and many towns in between.
The tone for this adventure is quickly set . . . the Insight Cuba staff member is late, but no worries, the flight is delayed . . . and delayed . . . and delayed. The silver-lining is that bonding begins quickly as it becomes apparent who the complainers are and who among us experience it all with a sense of humor and adventure! As the delays continue, out itinerary becomes thwarted.
During the time we should be experiencing an educational and culural exchange with Cuban dance students and the director of the Pro Danza dance company, our flight is finally called. Whereas it's been almost 5 hours of waiting around, our flight takes just under an hour.
Gathering up our bags at the José Martí International Airport, we meet our tour leader Jeff Phillippe, a young American who has spent a couple of years living in various parts of Cuba learning to dance. This will prove to be a really fun aspect of our trip . . . He also has an undergraduate degree in geography and master's in water resource geography; has traveled and lived in all 20 countries in Latin America; and led Outward Bound experiditions in the US for 13 years — and he's young! We also meet our Cuban guide, Héctor Gonzáles Pérez, who was educated to become a high school teacher, but due to the needs of the country was reassigned to the tourism industry. He is articulate and passionate about his country . . . which will prove to add a really fascinating dimension to our adventure.
Our tour bus is large and comfortable, which is great, as will be driving across much of this island nation in the next 11 days. Our first destination is the Hotel Presidente in the Vedado section of Havana along the Avenue de Los Presidentes. This is considered a more modern neighborhood with historic jazz clubs and cabarets. We are also within three-blocks of the Malecón, the roadway adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico.