Exploring Cuba in Search of an ARCC Summer Program

Hola de Cuba, I am already enchanted by this wonderful nation filled with contrast: a spirited, vibrant population, mired in an infrastructure circa 1959, but extremely proud of their people, their country and their traditions, and always looking forward. Driving through the cities and small towns and seeing street after street of crumbling facades of once magnificent colonial buildings, you can’t help but wonder “what might have been?”.

But while “El Revolution” has been tough on the architecture, almost 60 years of isolation has also produced a strong and self assured people tempered by decades of shortages and neglect. There is a hint of an “us against the world” attitude, and yet the people are intensely curious about the United States and are delighted by the thawing relations. Some are frustrated by their government and the tough bureaucracy, but they will be the first to praise Cuba’s universal healthcare, education and food distribution programs. Neighbors take care of neighbors, understanding that the government sometimes falls short, and they cannot fathom how homelessness can exist elsewhere in the world. It is truly a fascinating social experiment that we have the opportunity to witness firsthand.

Here are some of my observations from Cuba so far:

-The airport checkin line for the Miami-Cuba flight had the same feeling as a flight bound for Las Vegas…lots of laughter and energy. The flight was mostly a mix of Cubans living in Miami and Cubans returning from a visit to the U.S..

-People checking in in Miami had huge bundles filled with hard to get items, all tightly wrapped up in blue saran wrap type plastic. I even saw several bicycles “saran wrapped”.

-You pay $2 for every pound your combined bags weigh over 44 lbs. I’m told excess baggage fees bring in more than ticket revenues. Based on the number of giant packages bound for Cuba, I’m not surprised.

-People were fascinated, and shocked, to see an American standing in line heading for Cuba. I had a crowd around me excitedly asking (in Spanish) “are you sure you can go?”. One guy even called his friend right there to tell him an American was going to Cuba.

-All Miami airport announcements re. the flight to Cuba were only in Spanish.

-The flight time to Cuba was just 38 minutes.

-I met with 3 different immigration officers upon arrival. All were extremely pleasant, but very, very curious about what I was going to be doing in Cuba. Once I told them I was “kind of like a teacher that was going to be bringing students to Cuba”, they relaxed and let me in.

-The waters off the beautiful white sand beaches are stunningly blue and turquoise. It is easy to forget that Cuba is a Caribbean island until you get here.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Discover Cuba on our History Making Program!  Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.