La Parguera is a village (part of the town of Lajas) in southwestern Puerto Rico. For many years, tourism in the area focused on its “Phosphorescent Bay,” but recently the bay’s bioluminescence has all but disappeared. This article, posted by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, states that several institutions have come together to study how human impact and related factors have changed La Parguera’s delicate ecosystem.

A new study describes the social-ecological system of La Parguera, Puerto Rico, and identifies the different pressures that have changed this system over the last 40 years. According to the report, multiple pressures have changed this ecosystem, including: sedimentation, nutrient enrichment, elevated seawater temperatures, and overfishing. La Parguera is a small fishing village on the southwest coast of the island, best known for the night time bioluminescence of marine algae in its “Phosphorescent Bay.”

The new report contains maps representing the geographical distribution of habitats, human governance, and the human footprint of roads, settlements, and urban development. The assessment incorporates the views of various local stakeholder groups and provides an informational baseline and framework to restore the La Parguera ecosystem.

NCCOS, the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute, the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and the Puerto Sea Grant Program contributed to this study.

For more information, contact  or

For full article, see



Posted by: ivetteromero | July 22, 2014

Jamaica and China Sign Sweet Potato Research Agreement


The University of the West Indies-Mona and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science have signed a research agreement focused on developing and innovating technologies to preserve the shelf-life and quality of sweet potato.

The agreement involves research by the Laboratory of Crop Science, UWI Mona campus, headed by Professor Noureddine Benkeblia, and the Postharvest Science Laboratory, Institute of Sweetpotato Research/Xuzhou Sweetpotato Research Center, Xuzhou Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS), headed by Dr. Qinghe Cao.

The agreement, which was by The UWI Mona Principal, Professor Archibald McDonald and CAAS Director, Professor Fei Xu, will also seek to innovate technologies aimed at improving the ‘storability’ of sweet potato varieties that are grown in Jamaica and China.

Under the agreement, the Laboratory of Crop Science at The UWI Mona will deploy its expertise in developing the Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technology to extend the shelf-life of sweet potatos; the Postharvest Science Laboratory, Institute of Sweetpotato Research/Xuzhou Sweetpotato Research Center will investigate the selectivity of the different genotypes of sweetpotato and run some basic experiments on their storability under standard storage conditions. [. . .]

For full article,

Posted by: ivetteromero | July 22, 2014

Talking Caribbean: The Rhetoric of Mas


In “Talking Caribbean: The Rhetoric of Mas,” Simon Lee reviews a recent book by Trinidadian author Kevin Adonis Browne (Syracuse University), Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture and the Anglophone Caribbean, calling it an important addition to both Caribbean Cultural studies and Caribbean cultural theory. [See previous post New Book: “Tropic Tendencies—Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean”.]  Here are excerpts (with a link to the full review below):

Developed from his doctoral thesis, which attempted to answer two fundamental questions – (1) What is Caribbean rhetoric and (2) its role in popular culture- Browne refocuses critical attention on a wide range of Caribbean vernacular cultural expressions, viewing them through the trope of the carnivalesque and a creolized theory of rhetoric.  In so doing, he has finally pushed cultural theory in the Anglophone Caribbean beyond the Creole/ization discourse initiated by CLR James and formalized by Kamau Braithwaite over 40 years ago, in his 1971 The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770 – 1820.

Cultural theory and poetics in the English Caribbean have long languished in a parochialism and an anti-intellectualism, which are the legacy of British (specifically English) colonialism. In contrast, both the Hispanophone and Francophone sub-regions have well established traditions of cultural discourse and theory, led by Caribbean rather than Eurocentric concerns. In Cuba there was Marti, Fernando Ortiz and Benitez-Rojo; In Haiti Antenor Firmin and Jean Price-Mars, while Martinique engenderd Negritude (Cesaire), Creolité (Chamoiseau, Confiant and Bernabé) along with Antillanité and the Poetics of Relation (Glissant).

[. . .] The Mas Rhetorica Browne introduces all of us Caribbeans to is based on the “key topic in Caribbean rhetoric” the carnivalesque: “the premier act of rhetorical (re)invention and the critical response to shifting situationalities of everyday life”, “an embedded practice of culture and the definitive method for understanding and enacting the critical aspects of Caribbean ethos.” For Browne the carnivalesque is manifested in multiple genres: aural, oral, visual and scribal which resonates with far more meanings than a simple adjectival tag.

The immediate value of Browne’s enquiry is that it takes us back to the root of decolonization; a process abandoned in the Anglophone Caribbean as the vision of Federation went aground on the rocks of insular nationalism and a myopic pursuit of development. He reminds us at a critical juncture-when many of the expressions he analyses are under serious threat of erasure if not erosion- that Caribbean rhetoric  “coalesces as a series of carnivalesque displays in response to a historical situation” and that its development is “a deliberate response to misrepresentation.” However, he rejects the binarism implicit in viewing Caribbean culture “solely in terms of resistance” and the inevitable comparisons this would lead to with mainstream culture, by refocusing our attention and analysis on the question “whether we go far enough into our own systems to construct an approach that is sufficiently meaningful for us and useful for others.”

[. . .] He begins his own investigation of our systems with language and a classification of the rhetorical modes of Caribbean discourse: code-switching, wordplay, circumlocution, call and response, boasting/shaming, proverbs, the sermonic and nonverbal/visual semantics. [. . .]

For full article, see

Photo from

tropic1,204,203,200_Kevin Adonis Browne’s Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean was published by University of Pittsburgh Press in late 2013. Through a study of various forms of aesthetic production in the Anglophone Caribbean, Browne teases out the strategies of a Caribbean carnivalesque discourse and how it is used to express the complexities of West Indian consciousness and identity. Elaine Richardson (Ohio State University) calls it “a nuanced and distinct analysis of Caribbeans and their rhetoric.”

Description: A legacy of slavery, abolition, colonialism, and class struggle has profoundly impacted the people and culture of the Caribbean. In Tropic Tendencies, Kevin Adonis Browne examines the development of an Anglophone Caribbean rhetorical tradition in response to the struggle to make meaning, maintain identity, negotiate across differences, and thrive in light of historical constraints and the need to participate in contemporary global culture.

Browne bases his study on the concept of the “Caribbean carnivalesque” as the formative ethos driving cultural and rhetorical production in the region and beyond it. He finds that carnivalesque discourse operates as a “continuum of discursive substantiation” that increases the probability of achieving desired outcomes for both the rhetor and the audience. Browne also views the symbolic and material interplay of the masque and its widespread use to amplify efforts of resistance, assertion, and liberation.

Browne analyzes rhetorical modes and strategies in a variety of forms, including music, dance, folklore, performance, sermons, fiction, poetry, photography, and digital media. He introduces chantwells, calypsonians, old talkers, jamettes, stickfighters, badjohns, and others as exemplary purveyors of Caribbean rhetoric and deconstructs their rhetorical displays. From novels by Earl Lovelace, he also extracts thematic references to kalinda, limbo, and dragon dances that demonstrate the author’s claim of an active vernacular sensibility. He then investigates the re-creation and reinvention of the carnivalesque in cyber culture, demonstrating the ways participants both flaunt and defy normative ideas of “Caribbeanness” in online and macro environments.

Kevin Adonis Browne is assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University.

For more information, see

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 21, 2014

New Book: Monique Roffey’s HOUSE OF ASHES


The City of Silk is seething. The corrupt government has been ruling over the people too long and the city is becoming restless. Then one hot evening The Leader, a head of a group of rebels, gathers his followers and tells them: ‘Today, we will be making history. For ourselves, and our fellow countrymen of Sans Amen.’ And so a ragtag collection of men and boys take up arms and storm two of the most important buildings in the city: the house of power and the television studios. Together they will take back what is rightfully theirs. Caught up in the madness is Ashes. A bookish, learned man, he has been swept up by The Leader’s powerful rhetoric. But now that words have turned to action he is not so sure anymore. And trapped inside the government building with the rebels is Aspasia. A proud woman, a mother of boys, she sees much of her sons in these boys with guns in their hands and power in their eyes. A powerful, evocative and important novel from the author of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle.

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 21, 2014

Mariquita: Trinidad’s lady in the attic


…Mariquita’s long lost art retrieved from crumbling house in Manzilla, Richard Charan writes in this article for Trinidad’s Express. This is the last of a series of articles that by CHaran that you can find in the newspaper’s website.

THERE was once a wooden staircase in the corner of a room that led to the attic of that crumbling great house at Johnson Hill, Camparo Village, Manzanilla.

From this vantage point, one could choose any of seven portals, and see much of the 300-acre cocoa estate developed in the early 1900s by plantation owner George Johnson.

Old man Johnson, his cocoa panyol wife, and three children would, during the course of their lives, revel in the reputation of being aloof, eccentric, unfriendly and capable of delivering a “spirit lash” should anyone cross their path.

Many of the elders of the village can recall a story of the evil-doing that must have taken place in the house behind the hedgerow and, particularly, what must have been conjured up by whoever it was often seen drifting past the attic windows, during the day and by the light of lamp at night.

It turns out that the person in the attic was Behemia Mariquita Johnson and what she was doing was magical.

This woman, considered by many to be mean-spirited, cold and unapproachable, was painting and sketching.

Her collection, over the course of more than 50 years, could have been in the hundreds. She is possibly the most prolific colonial-era artist you never heard about.

Mariquita died in 1983. She was the last of the Johnson clan. In her will, she left no heir. The Johnson estate is still unresolved 30 years later and the passage of time has silenced, or erased, the memory of those who knew her.

Except Elmo Westfield, who befriended this woman in the twilight of her life, saw the real person and remains enamoured to this day.


Westfield, now 81 years old, said he met Mariquita in the early 1970s, when he leased 30 acres of her estate, with the intention of redeveloping the cocoa plantation which, along with much of the country’s agriculture and livestock industry, was one of the first casualties of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence in 1962.

He recalled that at the great house in Manzanilla “there were a lot of books and paintings, and pencil drawings. Many were of scenery, of the estate as seen from the house, some of birds, the beach, the hills. She was very interested in the history of Manzanilla, since her father owned so much. And the estate back then was a beautiful place. Yes, she had two brothers, but the three worked together at a distance. She was the driving force, the more educated one.

“People said she took after her father and was short-tempered. He was East Indian (while the mother was Venezuelan-born). Mariquita was a beautiful woman and very creative. And she was a mysterious lady. But when you sat down with that woman, you didn’t want to get up for two days,” said Westfield.

In about June of 1983, an ailing Mariquita left her Manzanilla home for her town house in Port of Spain. She died there, at Riverside Road, on August 12. She was in her 80s. There were only a few people to mourn her passing. Her accountant was one. They chose to bury her at Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Port of Spain, far from the mausoleum that she commissioned for her father at Cedar Hill Public Cemetery, located over the hill from the great house at Manzanilla.

That house was then left vacant for years and vandalised. Every piece of furniture, every article worth something was taken. There is no record of her or her work at the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago. There is also nothing at the house now that is evidence of her life, and no image of Mariquita known to exist.

However, there are a few things of Mariquita that the Express found. Like her Vauxhall Velox, the car in which she was taken to and from Manzanilla by her driver Roy Austin, whom she would marry in her later years.

The car, by then rusted and engine beyond repair, was acquired by San Fernando businessman Brij Maharaj, who restored it to pristine condition and returned it to the road. The car, a six-cylinder automatic with a 1949 date of manufacture, starred in the 2001 Merchant Ivory production of Sir VS Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur and more recently in an historical film, Pan! Our Music Odyssey, by Dr Kim Johnson.

Several of Mariquita’s paintings were rescued from the attic of the Manzanilla great house. Three paintings are in the possession of the family of former Express writer/historian Louis B Homer, who died last August.

Homer, who was born in Manzanilla and knew of the Johnsons, was the one who retrieved the artwork. He found other pieces but the bats had destroyed them.

One painting held by the Homer family depicts the samaan-tree-shaded walkway of what is likely the Queen’s Park Savannah. There is one of the British coat of arms painted at a time when the country was a crown colony. A painting shows two men playing a game of draughts. Another is of angels. This was the real Mariquita.

An art enigma

ART historian Geoffrey MacLean, considered an expert in the work of Trinidad’s most famous painter Michel-Jean Cazabon, was asked by the Express whether he knew of Mariquita’s art.

“This lady becomes more and more mysterious!” he said.

MacLean said he spoke with Helen Atteck, who with her sister Sybil (one of Trinidad’s leading 20th-century artists) opened possibly the first art gallery in Trinidad–first in Salvatori Building on Independence Square in Port of Spain and then at Trinidad Hilton, which existed between the mid-50s and late 70s.

Said MacLean: “Helen has never heard of her. She also echoed my thoughts about the second of two paintings, that she appeared to be excellent as an illustrator, or in contemporary terms, graphic artist. The second of the two is very art nouveau in expression and fantasy. The coat of arms is strictly a graphic representation. Her Savannah painting is interesting in terms of its representation — one assumes that it is the Queen’s Park Savannah, and one wonders what period this was, the 1920s would be an appropriate guess.”

CLEVILLE Morris, whose father was the child born of a relationship with George Johnson and his servant, has sought to resolve the dispute over the ownership of the estate, with the help of his siblings Francis Lloyd-Leopold, and Patricia Leopold. The matter remains muddled. However, Morris, who lives outside of San Fernando but often visits the place of his birth, hopes that one day, the estate of his grandfather will return to a Johnson descendant. Morris has a dream of restoring the Great House, and making it into an orphanage. One day, children may run through this house.

For the report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 21, 2014

The new wave of Caribbean writers


Novelist Monique Roffey enthuses about the explosion of new writers emerging from the Caribbean islands. Here is an excerpt, with a link to the full article below.

When I published my novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle in 2009, I already knew several excellent writers and poets in the UK who, like, me, wrote about the Caribbean region, and lived mostly in Diaspora. I knew then, there was a small UK- based group of poets and writers including Anthony Joseph, Roger Robinson, Vahni Capildeo, Amanda Smyth, Malika Booker and others. Of course, I was also aware of a resident group of writers in Trinidad such as Raymond Ramcharitar, Kevin Baldeosingh, Lisa Allen-Agostini and Sharon Miller.

Also I was aware that there are, still alive, famous Caribbean writers, even infamous writers of great esteem and merit, big names, these men and women are our God Fathers and Mothers of the canon, the Legends, the Nobel winners and the Booker winners.  But I saw these writers and poets as way ahead of me, existing in a kind of far away stratosphere. These big names were writers I’d read and admired, but they were on a different stage, higher, above me. They were the First Generation; they are now seen as the Golden Era of Caribbean Literature, which is an odd way of seeing them, given that so many of these writers, (some of whom I’ve now met), don’t glow and aren’t made of gold. They’re just people and maybe even a little annoyed at being so lauded.

Then in 2012 something happened. I attended the BOCAS Literature festival in Port of Spain, a world-class festival which showcases the work of Caribbean writers. It was a memorable experience for me because there in my hometown, I got to meet many other Caribbean writers born in the 1960s and 70s. Most of these writers were female, and incredibly they were of varied race, class background, and sexual orientation. It felt auspicious to meet such a group of peers at one gathering, some I’d heard of, some I hadn’t. We all had a lot in common and yet we were all so different; in fact, much of our life experience isn’t common at all. But what was pertinent for me, then, only two years ago, was to come across a constellation of writers of similar age.  We were children born into the early years of the Independence era in the region. We were children of the new era, literally.

I’d no inkling that such a large sweep of literature was being produced by writers connected to the Caribbean, that a whole New Wave of writers had emerged

I’ve now been to BOCAS three times, and over this period have met more and more of my peers: Kei Miller, from Jamaica, a multi-talented writer and award winner whose latest poetry collection is on the 2014 Forward Short-list, Shara McCullum, a poet, also from Jamaica, Loretta Collins-Klobah, an American living in Puerto Rica for decades (also Forward short-listed), Kerry Young, a Chinese-Jamaican novelist, James Aboud, a Syrian-Trinidadian poet, Marlon James a Jamaican novelist, Amanda Smyth, a Trinidadian novelist, Diana McCaulay, a Jamaican novelist, and of course, though I have not met him, the famous Pulitzer Prize winning Junot Diaz from the Dominican Republic. These names are just off the top of my head; the list goes on and includes many writers who are on the cusp of publication.

Until BOCAS 2012, I’d no inkling that such a large sweep of literature was being produced by writers connected to the Caribbean, that a whole New Wave of writers had emerged – and this new generation is remarkable and complex and spread across the Caribbean region and the world (some live in the region and some don’t.) There are now dozens of us New Wave Caribbean writers and poets writing and we constitute a much more diverse group of writers than previously existed in the so called Golden Era; we are fresh blood.

Of course we are talking about a generation now writing in the early part of the 21st century. Things have changed in the Caribbean since the dawn of the Independence era. Issues have changed. The Caribbean has been globalised, the world-banking crisis has hit the region too; we have specific environmental issues and the USA is the new long-term colonizer, only they haven’t invaded the region with guns, bearing arms. The USA arrived silently, insidiously, via cable and internet, via fast food outlets and big corporations and this American invasion has affected everything in the region from food, and architecture to carnival and thought itself.

Homosexuality is still illegal through much of the Caribbean, homophobia is rife. HIV is high, domestic abuse is also high and so is drug-trafficking, gang-related violence and murder. In Trinidad, alone, the murder rate is over 300 deaths per year. Trinidad, an oil-producing island, has now been de-classified as a developing nation. It is now considered developed; this is due to the amount of nearly new Japanese cars on the roads, Port of Spain’s new water taxis and glittering office blocks. New Port of Spain looks neatened up, glamorised. Meanwhile, civic society is neglected. The artists and culture bearers are ignored. The police are corrupt; the health service negligible, the schools use outdated curriculums, and town planning does not exist. Floods are common in the rainy season and so is fire in the dry season; both devastate the homes of hard working citizens.

To continue reading go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 21, 2014

Jamaica’s Drought Is Intensifying, Says Official


“Wasting water” is now considered a crime in the Caribbean nation, the Associated Press reports.

A severe drought is intensifying in Jamaica with water supply systems already well below normal, the Caribbean country’s environment minister said Sunday night

In a national address, Robert Pickersgill told Jamaicans the government is trucking water to hard-hit farming districts where parched conditions have withered crops. Many Jamaican small farms lack irrigation systems and depend entirely on rainwater.

Rainfall has been scarce for months and inflows into reservoirs are significantly reduced. Some water supply systems have “dried up entirely,” Pickersgill said.

Reservoirs are dwindling so badly in areas serving the island’s capital of Kingston that temporary shutoffs of the public water supply happen daily.

“This is a challenge and it is one that is made worse by higher temperatures and windy conditions that provide the perfect combination for bush fires, which, given the present water shortage, will be difficult to control and extinguish,” Pickersgill said.

Two weeks ago, the government announced that wasting water was illegal. There has been a prohibition notice on activities like filling up swimming pools and watering lawns. Water wasters can be fined or even serve a 30-day jail sentence.

Authorities are increasing work crews to respond to leaks in water mains amid the worrying shortages. Two phone hotlines will be set up so people can report leaks.

Pickersgill said a policy is being developed to increase rainwater harvesting. “I firmly believe this is the route we must take in the face of climate change impacts which will intensify drought conditions,” he said.

The minister noted that weather projections do not forecast increased rainfall even for the island’s next rainy season starting in October, so the “already serious water supply situation we are experiencing will most likely worsen.”

Other countries around the Caribbean are also struggling with drought. The island of St. Lucia is under emergency water restrictions and Venezuela has been rationing supplies.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 21, 2014

Explore the Wild West of the Caribbean – Cuba


This October will mark the 54th year of the US embargo against Cuba. While recent polls show that even a majority of Cuban-Americans now strongly oppose this policy, it remains stubbornly in place. The embargo continues to prevent meaningful exchange between our countries. Members of a few scientific, religious and cultural groups are allowed to travel to the island to carry out their work, particularly The Ocean Foundation’s Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Project (CMRC).

However, few Americans have seen firsthand the natural wonders that abound along Cuba’s coasts and forests. Cuba’s 4,000 miles of coastline, large diversity of marine and costal habitats and high level of endemism make it the envy of the Caribbean. US waters depend on coral, fish and lobster spawn to partially replenish our own ecosystems, nowhere more than in the Florida Keys, the third largest barrier reef in the world. As portrayed in Cuba: The Acc idental Eden, a recent Nature/PBS documentary that featured CMRC’s work, much of Cuba’s coastal resources have been spared the deterioration of other Caribbean nations. A low population density, the adoption of organic agriculture after Soviet subsidies disappeared in the early 1990s and a progressive Cuban government approach to coastal development, coupled with the establishment of protected areas, have left much of Cuba’s waters relatively pristine.

CMRC has worked in Cuba since 1998, longer than any other US-based NGO. We work with Cuban research institutions to study the island’s marine resources and assist the country in protecting their ocean and coastal treasures. Despite the challenges that the embargo presents to every aspect of life in Cuba, Cuban scientists are exceptionally well trained and highly professional, and CMRC provides the missing resources and expertise that allow Cubans to continue to study and protect their own resources. We have worked together for almost two decades yet few Americans have seen the stunning areas we study and the fascinating people we work with in Cuba. If the American public could understand what is at stake and see what is being done to protect marine resources downstream, we might just conceive a few new ideas worth implementing here in the US. And in the process of strengthening protection for shared marine resources, relations with our southern brethren might improve, to the benefit of both countries.

Times are changing. In 2009, the Obama administration expanded the authority of the Department of Treasury to allow educational travel to Cuba. These new regulations allow any American, not just scientists, to travel and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Cuban people, provided they do so with a licensed organization that promotes and integrates such exchanges with their work. In January 2014, The Ocean Foundation’s day finally arrived when it received its “People to People” license via its CMRC Program, allowing us to invite an American audience to experience our work up close. American citizens can finally see sea turtle nests at Guanahacabibes National Park and engage with the Cuban scientists who work to protect them, experience manatees feeding on seagrass meadows off Isle of Youth, or coral gardens in some of the healthiest coral reefs in Cuba, off of Maria La Gorda in western Cuba, the Gardens of the Queen in southern Cuba, or by Punta Frances in the Isle of Youth. Travelers can also experience the most authentic Cuba, far away from tourist track, by interacting with fishermen at the rustic and captivating fishing town of Cocodrilo, off the southern coast of the Isle of Youth.

The Ocean Foundation invites you to be a part of these historic trips to Cuba. Our first educational trip takes place from September 9-18, 2014. The trip will take you to Guanahacabibes National Park, the island’s westernmost area and one of the most biologically diverse, pristine and remote nature parks in Cuba. You will assist Cuban scientists from the University of Havana in their green sea turtle monitoring efforts, SCUBA dive in some of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean, and visit the breathtaking Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll meet local marine experts, assist sea turtle research, birdwatch, dive or snorkel, and enjoy Havana. You will return with a fresh perspective and a deep appreciation for Cuba’s incredible ecological riches and the people who work so hard to study and protect them.

To receive more information or sign up for this trip please visit:

Posted by: lisaparavisini | July 20, 2014

Ever Wanted to See Cuba? You Can with These Cruises


This article by Elissa Garay appeared in

Cuba, that exotic yet forbidden Caribbean fruit, has long sat so close, yet so far from American travelers’ reach. Finally, in 2011, the U.S. government reinstated its “people-to-people” program, welcoming a wave of new (though often pricey) travel options for U.S. vacationers. They can now explore the island nation on eye-opening, education-based trips focused on cultural exchange.

Visitors can sign up for guided tours with licensed travel companies. The itineraries are jam-packed with cultural encounters with local community leaders, cigar-makers, musicians, merchants, and more. A handful of travel providers are also chartering vessels to navigate the tropical isle both by land and by sea, from its faded colonial cities to its far-flung coastal isles. Caribbean cruising has never sounded so rewarding.

Group IST

Specialty travel provider Group IST has just announced its seven-night, Havana-to-Cienfuegos voyage around Cuba. Travelers will sail aboard the 46-passenger S/C Panorama yacht (owned by Variety Cruises), which is equipped with billowing sails, a duo of bars, a sundeck, and a swimming platform. The Panorama will sail from historic Old Havana to the pretty city of Cienfuegos (aka the “Pearl of the South”), with stops at the Spanish colonial city Trinidad, Guanahacabibes National Park, and the limestone isle of Cayo Largo.

The itinerary is supported by interpreters and Cuba experts (historians, religious leaders, artists, etc.) who engage with guests at an array of museums, religious institutions, schools, community centers, and more. Excursions might include city walking tours, art gallery visits, and a sea turtle encounter at a local breeding center.

Group IST’s guided tours include chartered roundtrip flights from Miami to Cuba; all meals, activities, accommodations, and transportation; Cuban visas; and travel medical insurance. Book one of eight sailing dates between Dec. 6, 2014, and March 28, 2015; rates start from $4,490/person, plus port taxes of $375/person.

Road Scholar

Canadian cruise company Cuba Cruise garnered plenty of buzz when it launched its weeklong circumnavigation sailings around Cuba in early 2013, aboard the 1,200-passenger MV Louis Cristal (chartered from Greek-owned Louis Cruises). The Louis Cristal touts all of the big-ship trappings, including lounges, restaurants (serving Canadian and Cuban cuisine), a casino, a swimming pool, and Cuban-inspired music and dance performances (as well as a Cirque du Soleil-esque aerial show) in its two-level theater.

Boston-based nonprofit travel group Road Scholar was the first U.S. company to partner with the cruise line, in January 2014, to offer American-friendly tour packages aboard their cruises. The itineraries, naturally, follow the same ports of call, but they also feature customized in-port excursions to adhere to the people-to-people program requirements. Participants take in visits to museums, cemeteries, private homes, and more.

Road Scholar’s 12-night “Adventures Afloat: Cuba in Depth — A Grand Voyage Around the Island” program is limited to 24 participants. It kicks off with a preflight, overnight stay in Miami and a three-night hotel stay for in-depth immersion into the highlights of Havana. An overland journey for an overnight in the city of Santa Clara is followed by embarkation on the Louis Cristal in Cienfuegos, for a five-night sailing to the isolated Isle of Youth and the port of Holguín, before disembarking for a two-night tour of the lively Afro-Caribbean-infused Santiago de Cuba.

Trips include chartered round-trip flights from Miami to Cuba; all meals, activities, accommodations, and transportation; Cuban visas; travel insurance; and gratuities. Ten departure dates are available between Dec. 22, 2014, and March 16, 2015; rates start from $4,996/person.

Insight Cuba

Insight Cuba, a leading Cuba-specialized travel company based in New York, is launching 2015 cruise-tours to Cuba, also aboard the Louis Cristal. Its 11-night “Cuba by Land & Sea” tour (limited to 24 participants) pairs a six-day land tour with a six-day sailing. Tours kick off on land in Old Havana; continue on to Playa Girón, the site of the Bay of Pigs; take in UNESCO biodiversity reserve Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata; and hit up colonial Cienfuegos, before embarking for the trip’s cruise portion. Port calls include the Isle of Youth and the port town Antilla, before disembarking in Cuba’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba.

Excursions highlight plentiful meet-and-greets with local artists and musicians; a lively visit to a local community center for Cuban-style singing and dancing; and a presentation by Cuban mechanics who maintain the country’s signature vintage cars.

Four tour departures are planned in 2015: January 6, February 24, March 3, and March 17. Rates include a one-night hotel stay in Miami and Playa Girón; two nights’ hotel in both Havana and Santiago de Cuba; chartered round-trip airfare to Havana (from Miami); a five-night cruise on the Louis Cristal; all excursions, transportation, and meals; and travel insurance, starting from $5,495/person (excluding airfare and visas).

Friendly Planet

For a sneak peek around the bend, the folks at Friendly Planet are also whipping up a 10-night Cuban cruise-tour of their own. It is set to launch on the heels of the travel company’s well-received three-year run of land-based, people-to-people tours in the country. They’re likewise planning to partner with Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal, which they’ll use for accommodations, transport, and onboard activities, while designing their own excursions in port, helmed by Friendly Planet guides and tour leaders.

The company is just waiting for its “people-to-people” license for Cuba travel to be renewed. If all goes as planned, look for full tour details to be announced in October, with plans for the sailings to start in January.

For the original report go to

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