This is Cuba? – See More, Experience More

This is Cuba? – See More, Experience More

This is Cuba? – See More, Experience More

By Kai Rambow


The wind whispering through the trees. Water rippling, cascading down the mountain. This is Cuba? It is – if you venture beyond the cities. We opted to explore one of Cuba’s national parks, El Nico.

El Nico showcases Cuba’s natural beauty with a surprising variety of waterfalls and wonderful views.  This tour is not for everyone.  It involved hiking up very steep inclines and slippery conditions, even in some dry places.  If you have the physical ability, it is rewarding.  In an attempt to get a photo, I ended up in the water.  Camera landed safely in a dry spot; I was completely wet and still had a great time.

Note: There are other easier, great tour options to colonial Trinidad or in Cienfuegos itself.

Mention Cuba and people think of Havana. However, there is much more. It’s easy to forget that Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, seventeenth largest in the world and longer than Florida.

Passing through non-tourist towns and the countryside provided a glimpse into more of Cuba.  For example, as we passed through one town we noticed several taxis that were horse drawn carriages. There are 12 million people in Cuba, but only 2 million cars. There is a bus system, but hiring a private car, bicycling or walking are common options. This was much more noticeable driving through the countryside than it was in the city.

Having the opportunity to see beyond the historic sites and experience the natural beauty of Cuba was a captivating adventure.


Tips for a Great Trip

Take a Cruise: The easiest way to visit Cuba is by cruise ship. One very adventurous passenger had done a land trip staying at B&Bs. The B&Bs had no air conditioning and communal bathrooms. After sightseeing all day, returning to creature comforts on your ship is probably a preferable travel option.

Cruise options now range from just a few days stopping only in Havana to eight day cruises with three stops in Cuba. One consideration: in some stops tenders are used to transport passengers ashore.

Pack Patience: If you’ve cruised before, you may be used to simply walking off the ship. Every port in Cuba required us to clear customs. This takes some time, so you will need to be patient.

Work with a Travel Agent: Traveling to Cuba is new, and there are several questions you’ll have. For example, when experiencing difficulty booking this excursion, our agent directed us to an alternative.

Cruise Tours vs. Private Tours: Cuban tour companies have adapted quickly to meet American preferences. They now use modern buses complete with air conditioning and a toilet on board.

Private tour companies often use air conditioned cars with a driver and tour guide. This is a more intimate experience, and can be customized to meet your interests. The key on a private tour is to ask good questions about daily life to learn more about Cuba.

Visas: One advantage of cruising is your visa can be easily processed by the cruise line. They’ll provide you with the paperwork and charge the fee to your onboard account.

Money: US dollars are not accepted in Cuba. After clearing customs, there are money exchangers. The rate is fixed and you will be given Cuban convertible pesos or CUCs (CUC$).  These are different than currency used by Cubans. CUCs have pictures of famous monuments or buildings. Local currency has pictures of famous people. Be sure to check you have received the right currency. Tip: Attend the briefing on board ship to know what to expect.

Shore Excursions: Recommend booking well in advance. Was too late booking, so booked private tour with Caribbean Pearl Tours. Tour was paid in advance through website. Only needed CUCs for snacks and tips.

Special thanks to Jayne Kirse, Manager at Sun City Center Travelworld, for her invaluable assistance.


Caribbean Pearl Tours

The News Staff Spends a Day at the Circus

The News Staff Spends a Day at the Circus

The News Staff Spends a Day at the Circus

By Paula Lickfeldt


The staff of The News of Sun City Center & South County all revisited their childhood as they marveled at the array of acts presented at The Sarasota Circus.  Each of us was asked what our favorite act was: the horses, the silly clown, the acrobatic sisters, the juggler, the dogs, or maybe the daredevil in the “Wheel of Destiny.”  We had lots of discussion and decided that we really could not choose, because they were all wonderful.

Reporting the news in and around Sun City Center is an effort all four reporters finds very rewarding. We started out as coworkers and have become very good friends. We laugh and tease each other a lot, and we are always supportive of the work that each of us does.

Each of the reporters, when asked why they write for the paper, said volunteering with The News gives them the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. Each reporter, however, put their own spin on the opportunity.

Diane Loeffler said she likes knowing what is going on and being able to meet the people who make things happen. Working for the paper gives her an appreciation for the many people in our community who are willing to give of their time and energy to keep all of the activities running.

Ilona Merritt said she enjoys the variety of things she gets to write about. The reporting is full of surprises and is never just routine. Being a part of the team has opened new horizons for her.

Kai Rambow said he gets the opportunity to ‘learn about so many different hobbies and activities’. When he meets someone who participates in an activity that he has reported on, he can talk to the person about that activity with knowledge of it.

For me, it feels good when I’m out and about in the community and someone recognizes me and says how much they enjoy reading my articles. If you think you might be interested in joining our fun team of hardworking, enthusiastic community reporters, contact the editor, Adam Porter, here.


In the feature photo: The staff of The News of Sun City Center & South County had so much fun at the Sarasota Circus. Pictured, L to R: Paula Lickfeldt, Ilona Merritt, John Wolf, Diane Loeffler, Adam Porter, and Kai Rambow.