Eileen Ogintz Takes The Kids To Cuba

“06880” is a huge fan of Taking the Kids. That’s Westporter Eileen Ogintz’s website, jam-packed with information, insights and tips on everything family- travel-related. From spring break getaways to “do millennials families travel differently than everyone else?”, she’s your go-to/how-to guide.

I don’t have kids — and if I did I’d think twice about traveling with them.* But I’m always fascinated by what Eileen writes. I was particularly intrigued by her recent post on Cuba.

She was one of 700 passengers on Adonia, the first ship in a new Carnival brand devoted to immersive and impactful travel– and the first American cruise ship to dock in Havana in nearly 60 years. Lots of children and teenagers were on board.

Adonia passengers line the deck as the ship enters Havana harbor.

Adonia passengers line the deck as the ship enters Havana harbor.

Eileen says: “I’ve learned first hand that encouraging kids to be global citizens, to be comfortable outside their own comfort zones, helps them navigate unfamiliar and difficult turf in their lives as they grow up.”

She notes:

Cuba programming is a work in progress. As required by the United States, Americans traveling to Cuba must participate in 8 hours of approved “people-to-people” experiences daily (that doesn’t leave much time for Cuba’s beautiful beaches). Some P-to-P programs are excellent, others need work.

Eileen met the manager of a new private restaurant, and visited a unique private hair salon/art gallery/museum devoted to the history of barber shops and hairdressing.

She concludes:

It isn’t difficult, particularly if you speak Spanish to interact with the Cubans as they couldn’t be more friendly and eager for anything from candy to pens. You should feel safe bringing the kids here.

A classic Cuba photo: American kids from the Adonia surround a classic American car.

A classic Cuba photo: American kids from the Adonia surround a classic American car.

The Adonia is not a big ship (the Havana dock can’t accommodate anything bigger yet). It only has a minuscule pool, no waterslide or kids club, no casino and the internet is spotty. That doesn’t seem to faze anyone on board in the least, especially not the kids…

“Children are the future,” Papito the Barber said. “We want to see enterprise between the United States and Cuba. “We are very different cultures,” he continued, as today’s children get to know each other and focus on their similarities rather than their differences, “they can tighten the bonds between us.”

(To read Eileen’s entire story, click here.)

*That’s a joke! Based solely on the woman who sat next to me on my flight this past Saturday, with a 2-year-0ld and 10-month-old. She started drinking as soon as she could (10 a.m.), and spilled wine all over me shortly before landing.

Among the friendly Cubans: this young boy, holding an American flag.

Among the friendly Cubans: this young boy, holding an American flag.

24 responses to “Eileen Ogintz Takes The Kids To Cuba

  1. Mark Mathias

    Great story, Dan. Every year, the youth group from Saugatuck Congregational Church goes on a mission trip. This year, we’re going to Cuba from Saturday, June 25, returning Friday, July 1. The group is 40 people and includes youth and adults. We have people who attend the church and people who don’t attend the church joining us. There are still a few seats available if anyone would like to join us. Contact Saugatuck Church at 203-227-1261 for more information.

    • Do you plan to visit any political prisoners Mark? Or anyone whose father or mother or sister or brother has been jailed or worse for the crime of expressing opposition to the Castro kleptocracy? Do you plan to watch the more or less weekly arrest of the Damas de Blanco (it usually happens on Sundays)?

      • Arlene Avellanet

        Well said, Iain. Cuba is a country full of persecuted nationals with an illegitimate government which evolved after Jan 01,1959 when the last leader Batista, fled the country.

        • Iain Bruce

          For the avoidance of doubt, being anti-Castro does not make me pro-Batista.

      • A. David Wunsch

        Should Nixon not have visited in China in 1972 ? Would the world be better off without the exchanges (cultural and economic ) we’ve had with China since then? Chairman Mao was a monster –his cultural revolution killed many millions. He makes the Castro brothers look like Gandhi or Mother Theresa.
        ADW Staples 1956

        • Iain Bruce

          Nobody makes the Castros look like Mother Theresa, even if you have Christopher Hitchens’ view of her. How many people to you have to kill, or merely imprison, to become a “monster”?

          The US & Nixon got something back for the 1972 opening, and so did the people of China. We got nothing back here, and neither have Cubans. Note that over 50 dissidents were arrested on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Cuba.

          I have long been in favour of relaxing restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba. But I have not been in favour of doing it in exchange for nothing. I have not been in favour of pretending the place is anything other than what it is: a once-lovely island, now a squalid prison whose economy has been hamstrung if not destroyed by thieving dictators who suppress basic freedoms while garnering the plaudits of pampered western elitists who have the luxury of not having to suffer what Cubans do. I have not been in favour of the American (and Canadian, Nancy) left’s uncritical view of the Castros and the parallel hagiographic fawning over the the Castros’ pal, vicious racist homophobic murderer Che Guevara.

      • Nancy Hunter Wilson

        Sounds like you’d prefer to build a wall rather than educate.

  2. Just curious as to when this P to P programme started, and if it’s an ‘aspiration’ or really mandated? (mandated as in there are penalties if the USA traveler doesn’t do the mandatory P to P time)

    I have been there a few times already several years ago and the experience was very different from this woman’s. I wasn’t there on a family fun style vacation but with US real estate investors invited by Raoul Castro. Then and from what I hear now it is safe to bring children there if they are of the age that they stick with parents but if they are teenagers or young 20’s, i.e., will be out and about on their own for a portion of every day, I would leave them behind (they would be safer left alone in Miami than out and about in Havana 😉 because American teens/young adults there with cash would be aggressively targeted by hustlers, prostitutes, etc.

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      I know of a number of 20-year-olds who have had very positive experiences holidaying in Cuba. Their only complaint was the food, a minor problem in the scheme of things! Their reason to go there was to witness an isolated country/culture. Isn’t travel the best education, not just for the visitor but for the “host” as well?

      • That’s wonderful!

        The 20’Somethings I know, I’d be afraid they would be as mischievous as my friends and I were at that age, (more my friends than myself of course 😉 To be honest, on 1 of my trips there, a friend, I later learned, had to tell them we were married so he could get out of whatever trouble he had gotten himself into, and on the flight back to Mexico. I can only imagine how much more mischief my friends could have gotten into if we were en masse allowed to be there as Americans now are. So my warning was more for that type of 20 year old than those you are familiar with 😉

  3. A. David Wunsch

    Am hoping that the Cubans start a major league baseball team that plays in the US. The American east coast is closer to Cuba than it is to much of the US. This would encourage a warm relationship between the two countries. And since many major league players are already of Latino origin, it would further acknowledge that Latin America is a fine source for American baseball talent.
    ADW Staples 1956

    • Jerry MacDaid

      As you probably know, Cuba does have a professional baseball league as well as a national team that plays internationally. Unfortunately for them, most of the best players find a way to defect while traveling outside of Cuba seeking to make more money in MLB or other professional leagues.

      As for simply starting up an MLB team, they can’t actually do that. I suppose it is possible that they could try to entice an existing MLB team to relocate to, say, Havana. I would imagine, however, that the local economy would be unable to support a MLB team. While I would imagine there could be a strong local fan base given the popularity of baseball in Cuba, they probably could not afford to pay MLB level ticket prices nor would the local TV broadcast market be lucrative enough to offset the attendance shortfall to be able to support a MLB payroll.

      • A. David Wunsch

        Thanks, As my comment may have indicated I don’t really know a lot about baseball. Thanks for the info.

  4. Colleen AOL


    I am not sure how you find your stories, but I was just at stop and shop and all of the trees on the parking lot of been cut down. I have no idea why, and no one in the store seem to know either. Do you know why?

    Sent from my iPhone