LGBTQ South Florida

Fort Lauderdale gay and lesbian chamber plans LGBT tour of Cuba Oct. 15-18

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is preparing an LGBT tour of Cuba Oct. 15-18.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is preparing an LGBT tour of Cuba Oct. 15-18.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is preparing a four-day LGBT tour of Cuba beginning Oct. 15.

“Join us on this exclusive and historic Taste of Cuba! Our exciting journey is limited to 25 people, so secure your spot now,” reads the chamber website.

“I believe this is the first trip of its kind — others are planned, but we are leaving on Oct. 15,” gay chamber President/CEO Keith Blackburn tells the Miami Herald.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Blackburn about the trip:

Q: How many people can travel with the group?

A: ​Anywhere between 10 and 25. ​

Q: How much and why is this a fair value?

​A: The all-inclusive cost to our members is $2,300. Future members are $2,495 per person.​

It is priced similarly to similar packages, but ours includes five-star hotels. which are essential in Cuba. All in all, I think it is a great value. In my research, I have discovered some four-star hotels without air conditioning and or hot water! Because of this, we went with five-star hotels.

The all-inclusive price includes:

▪ 5-Star Hotel accommodations at Melia Cohiba and Royal Hicacos

▪ Roundtrip flights from Miami to Havana

▪ Cuban entry visa

▪ Cuba departure tax

▪ One carry (up to 20 pounds) and one check bag

▪ Choice Aire administration fee and bank fees

▪ All meals included in itinerary

▪ Tour guide through trip duration

▪ Air-conditioned transportation throughout trip

With the ​old ​restrictions being eased, this is the perfect time to go ​— before it becomes just another tourist spot.

on the group’s upcoming four-day trip to Cuba

Q: What can people expect to see on the island?

A: Havana, Cuba, including a panoramic bus tour, Jose Marti Memorial, Revolution Square and Morro-Cabana. Cienfuegos City, located in the Central Southern part of the island, a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2005. Sugar Mills Valley and the Historical Center of Trinidad, a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.

Q: Will there be government restrictions on what you can do and visit?

A: This tours complies with the categories of OFAC that allow travel to Cuba. ​Our trip qualifies for the People to People program​. ​​It includes: touring the city of Havana and Trinidad​; exchanging culture with the locals while learning history. ​We will have English-speaking tour guides as we explore many ​sites and learn of the history.

Q: Have you been to Cuba?

​A: This will be my first visit.​

Q: Many people in South Florida have conflicting opinions about vacationing in Cuba. Why is this the right time to go there?

A: It is understandable that there are different opinions about Cuba within the South Florida communities. There is much history there with families and Cuban Americans who were born on the Island. ​Politics aside, ​​Cuba has much to offer, with UNESCO World Heritage sites and more.

“With the ​old ​restrictions being eased, this is the perfect time to go ​— before it becomes just another tourist spot,” Blackburn said. “Europeans​, Canadians, South Americans, etc.​ have been going for years, ​so I believe this is a great time. ​

Herb Sosa, a gay Cuban-American community leader and activist in South Florida, believes the trip comes at the wrong time.

“Although it may be legally acceptable under the current policies, it is unfortunate that a South Florida organization — that should be painfully aware of the decades of human-rights violations on that island and its direct results on South Florida — chooses Cuba as a vacation spot, once again overlooking the harsh realities and lack of freedoms for all Cubans on the island. There are many other World Heritage sites they can choose at this time,” Sosa said.

Blackburn says he understands the passion expressed by Sosa and many other Cuban Americans.

“The U.S. has tried for half a century to effect change. The old approach has obviously not been effective. Isolating the island didn't create positive change,” Blackburn said. “The current U.S. administration has acted to make changes in the way we approach relations with Cuba. By going on this trip, our chamber is in no way endorsing the current situation in Cuba. Major changes need to take place.

“I also recognize the recent LGBT parade organized by Mariela Castro (daughter of Cuban leader Raul Castro) in Havana, promoting same-sex marriage and the human rights of the LGBT community,” Blackburn said. “I feel that efforts like this, along with people to people exchanges like ours will help accelerate the long awaited change.”

Steve Rothaus: 305-376-3770, @SteveRothaus

If you go

The all inclusive cost for GFLGLCC members is $2,300/person, based on double occupancy. Nonmembers, $2495/person, based on double occupancy. Please add $350 for single occupancy.

Contact: Keith Blackburn

Source: The Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

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