Tag Archives: Cuba thaw

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.

Westport’s Cubans React To Thaw

Yesterday’s announcement by Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro of a new relationship between their 2 nations surprised Americans and Cubans alike.

The news was particularly stunning for the small number of Westporters with Cuban heritage.

Yvonne Sabin Claveloux

Yvonne Sabin Claveloux

Yvonne Sabin Claveloux is a 1983 graduate of Staples High School. She grew up here, but her parents are Cuban. She says:

I think it’s time, but I have very mixed feelings. On the positive side, this gives hope that it will open dialogue to address issues in a diplomatic level.

On the negative, it will give the Castros a lifeline at a moment when they are desperate due to Venezuela’s crash due to decline in oil prices. There are also no concessions regarding the human rights of the Cuban people.

Tony Hernandez is 80 years old. He was born and raised in Cuba, but left in 1960. He says:

I feel that President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba’s communist regime is a very positive step. It ends 53 years of isolation, and simultaneously eases all the vicissitudes and misery the Cuban people have been suffering.

His daughter, Maite Hernandez, says:

I  just read that 7 million tourists are expected to visit Cuba, as opposed to 2 million in the past year. On the one hand, the flow of visitors and the money they bring will definitely boost the economy of Cuba, at a time where they have run out of countries to support them. I just hope this will translate to a better economic level for the local Cubans.

It remains to be seen whether  human rights issues will be addressed. There can be no compromise regarding this matter. Otherwise this move by President Obama will be seen as political, with the only purpose of securing himself a place in the history books.

Maite Hernandez and her father Tony.

Maite Hernandez and her father Tony.