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MPC/PhotoZone Tours

Photographing Cuba: Havana and Viñales
with Layne Kennedy and Mark Alberhasky
is Now Full. We Can Put You on a Wait List

We found Cuba to be fascinating, and haven't been able to let go of it yet, nor do we think we’ll be able to. Our American and Cuban tour guides were fantastic. Our days were busy with stops emphasizing the People to People theme of the trip, providing opportunities for many cultural images of life in Cuba. Mornings and evenings were generally open, so we were free to wander, capturing early morning / evening light and photographing where our heart and vision led us.”
You can go anywhere and feel safe in Havana and the surrounding areas.  Although Havana is a large city, there aren't many streetlights and when you look down around the city at night it is dark. The Cubans are friendly people and want to know about you as much as you want to know about them. Our best times were just talking to the people of Cuba, asking questions, and going into their homes. Many people will invite you in and this is an excellent time to see how they live. Some in our group even had a Santeria experience which is a cleansing ceremony to get rid of bad energy and spirits.You will visit " Paladores" which are restaurants in a home; this is an experiment in private enterprise. It is a pandora’s box of curiosity at every turn.

Havana was modeled after Barcelona, Spain and the architecture is amazing. You can see that the homes and buildings were once majestic, beautiful, and ornate. They are in shades of pink, blue and yellow. There is a real patina that only age can bring.  We would close our eyes and imagine the grandeur of 60 years ago. Once in a while you’ll come across a renovated building, but they’re mostly for tourists and the state like, museums, hotels and government buildings.

Whether you’re a photographer or not, if you’re at all curious about Cuba you won’t be disappointed. The best tip we can give is to engage and speak with the Cuban people as they will share the true experience of life in Cuba.

                                                            Abby & Orie Rutchick, Directors of the Mpls Photo Center

Here is what a few from our last tour group had to say about their experiences:

“Thanks Orie and Abby for setting up the trip, it was a fantastic experience, and as I process the pics, I am reminded how wonderful the opportunity we had to see Cuba while it is still in a time capsule. Thumbs up to Mpls Photo Center and all of you, who made the trip fantastic! "

“Camera-worthy at every turn. Haunting. The perfect destination for the time traveler, Havana remains poised on the edge of the past. The rich history, the warm people, and the vibrant city... A once in a lifetime opportunity that has changed my view of the world around me.”

"We enjoyed meeting the Cuban people face-to-face. They were very welcoming and enjoyed sharing their culture.  They were equally curious about ours."

“On this trip we learned so much about Cuba and its people. We felt sad for them, but the people on the streets appear happy, maybe because of their Cuban Culture, music, spirit and hope.”

“I found Cuba to be rich in color and the people most friendly.  Hope to return soon.”

Our Two Professional
Photographers Lead and Teach the
Group Throughout the Tour

Layne Kennedy Minneapolis based Editorial Photographer Layne Kennedy travels the world on assignments. His clients include the National Geographic Society, Smithsonian, Outside, Newsweek, Forbes, Islands, Terre Savauge, Time, to name  a few.

He has authored numerous books including his most recent,  PADDLE NORTH-Canoing the Boundary Waters/Quetico Wilderness, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Layne has been teaching workshops for over twenty years including everything from photo tours in Iceland and Italy to adventure photo workshops like dogsledding in N.E. Minnesota with polar explorer Paul Schurke's Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge.

He has taught his workshops at the Mpls Photo Center the last four years.

His photographs are represented by his office and CORBIS in Seattle, Washington.
Mark Alberhasky In 2004 photographer Mark became a contributing photographer for Nikon and regularly creates images for print and web campaigns. His work has won awards internationally with placements as diverse as commercial ads, magazine covers, textbooks, action sports publications, and corporate installations.

Whether hanging backwards out of a race car at speed, hovering inches from a surgical field in the operating room, or chest deep in water chasing a windsurfer he finds unique combinations of subject and light.

He has been featured multiple times in Nikon World magazine and the Nikon World calendar.

An international speaker for clients including Nikon, Hewlett-Packard and X-rite, his presentations touch audiences worldwide.

Mark teaches as a Nikon mentor for Pop Photo magazine’s Mentor Series Worldwide Treks, leads trips for and private clients. You can find out more about Mark at his website:

Tour Price: $4795.00
Single Supplement: $399.00 per person

• Round - trip from Miami to Havana including chartered flight and all airport taxes
• One of our Friendly Planet American Tour Guide
• Two professional photographer instructors
• Everything you need for arrival and departure including all transfers to and from the city of Havana
• 8 nights hotel accommodations including breakfasts, lunches and group dinners
  (1 night Miami, 5 nights in Havana and 2 nights in Vinales)
• Private English speaking Cuban National Guide for the duration of tht tour
• All transportation (where noted) by modern air-conditioned bus
• All entrance fees (where stated) to tour sites
• 2 bottles of water per person / per day (excluding arrival & departure days)
• Cuban travel insurance covering medical expenses
• Cuba Visa Fee
• U.S. Treasury Department license and letter of authorization

• Your national passport
• Items of personal nature (laundry, telephone, internet fees, etc)
• Gratuities for guides, drivers, hotel maid service, hotel porters (1 bag per person) &
  restaurant waiters.
• Cuban departure tax 25CUC (approximately $30 USD per person)


Arrive Miami. Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins as you arrive in Miami, Florida. If you are arriving at Miami International Airport, complimentary hotel shuttle service to the Crowne Plaza is available every 20 minutes from any 2nd level departure terminal, simply hail the driver as they pass. In the evening at 7:30pm, our travelers will get an introductory briefing to get acquainted with your fellow travelers and review your documents and program itinerary. You will be informed of the departure time of the group shuttle leaving the hotel the following morning. Accommodations: Crowne Plaza, Miami Airport.

Arrive Havana, Cuba. After clearing Cuban immigrations and customs you are welcomed by your private national English-speaking guide and transferred to directly to Old Havana where you have lunch at a local restaurant followed by a stroll through the busy cobblestoned streets of Old Havana.

You will be escorted this afternoon by a professional Cuban photographer. Check into your hotel around 4:30PM this afternoon. Dinner this evening is at your hotel. Hotel Nacional (B, L, D)

At 6:00AM this morning a professional Cuban photographer will meet us in the lobby of our hotel and lead us on a “first light” photo session along the Malecon, Havana’s highly colourful walkway situated along the harbour in surrounding Havana. We return to our hotel for breakfast before venturing off to visit the Plaza de la Revolucion.

Around 12:00PM this afternoon we visit the highly colorful neighbourhood of Callejon de Hamel with its original painted building murals and live salsa music and dancing by the locals before we have lunch at El Aljibe Restaurant.

Later this afternoon we visit “Fusterlandia”, the neighbourhood which has been personally decorated by one of Cuba’s most revered artists, Jose Fuster. We also visit Mr. Fuster’s private home and studio with the option of meeting him and discussing his art if he is in residence.

Dinner this evening is just a short walk from our hotel in one of Havana’s private home restaurants, Paladar Café Laurent. Hotel Nacional (B, L, D)

We depart our hotel after breakfast this morning as we set off for a visit to a cigar factory, either Partagas or Corona. We see how Cuban cigars are made entirely by hand. We continue to the Cemetery of Columbus, the Miramar area, and Morro Castle known for its magnificent view of Havana.

Lunch today is at El Prado y Neptuno Restaurant in Old Havana. Later this afternoon we have the distinct pleasure to visit the private home of Roberto Salas, an icon of Cuban photography, who is the former personal photographer of Fidel Castro. Mr. Salas’ works are on display at his home. It is possible you might like to purchase an original signed print of one of Mr. Salas’s highly famous photographs. Dinner this evening is not included. Hotel Nacional (B, L)

After breakfast this morning we visit Havana’s Villa Manuela Gallery where many of Cuba’s best photo works are displayed by local professional photographers. After our visit to Villa Manuela we will have the rare opportunity of visiting at least two local photographers’ personal studios who display their works at Villa Manuela.

Lunch today is served at Tocororo Restaurant which is located in the Miramar section of Havana. Some of Havana’s most architecturally interesting edifices can be seen and photographed in Miramar.

This afternoon your group is once again joined by a professional Cuban photographer to assist in location and shooting specific areas of interest to the group.
Dinner this evening is not included. Hotel Nacional (B, L)

This morning travel to the Alamar district on the outskirts of Havana, an expansive housing project started in the 1970’s and now home to hundreds of thousands of Cubans. Alamar began as a social housing project of the 70’s and 80’s. Now, hundreds of thousands of Cubans live in apartment blocks four stories high, in Soviet-style pre- fabricated concrete buildings. Community gardens, called organoponicos, are located between the buildings, where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, for their own consumption and for local sale. Similar to co-op and community gardens in the United States, these organoponicos offer Alamar’s residents access to fresh produce as they facilitate community building. Few visitors to Cuba ever have the opportunity to visit this area and experience how many Cubans live on a daily basis.

There are many historical and cultural ties between Cuba and the United States, and one that is known and appreciated by all is that of the legacy of Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1960. Visit the mansion and museum of Hemingway, Finca Vigia, where his 9,000 book library is preserved, as well as his animal trophies and famous fishing boat, Pilar. Later, visit the village of Cojimar, setting for the novel The Old Man and the Sea.
Return to Havana where lunch will be served at Hemingway’s famous hangout, the Bodeguita del Medio, in Old Havana.

After lunch this afternoon you find yourself in the heart of Old Havana where you have the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure to wander the streets and photograph this highly colorful and architecturally vivid area of Havana.

This evening, dinner is served in the rooftop restaurant of the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where Hemingway lived in the 1930s and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and where you will enjoy live, traditional Cuban Buena Vista-style music and salsa dancing. (B,L,D), Hotel Nacional (B, L, D)

We depart our hotel after breakfast this morning for Las Terrazas Nature Park, a one hour drive from Havana. Las Terrazas is a “must see” in Cuba and known world wide for its magnificent scenic beauty. We visit the Nature Park and the local community of Las Terrazas, the falls of the San Juan River and the artist workshops of Las Terrazas.

Lunch today is an authentic country meal prepared and served outdoors at a local farmhouse near Las Terrazas before we continue on to Vinales which is located in the heart of Pinar del Rio Province. Late this afternoon we catch the sunset over the “mojotes” (mountains) surrounding Vinales. We photograph the magnificent changing colors of sunset right from our hotel. Dinner this evening is at our hotel. Hotel La Ermita (B, L, D)

After breakfast, we depart for a three-hour leisurely walk in the valley. Our first stop is at Heraldo and Senora Clara’s turn-of-the-century farmhouse. On our photo walking tour of the family’s farm, Heraldo will explain how tobacco is fermented in his traditional drying barn which rises to a thatched roof made from palm for ventilation. Senora Clara will graciously invite us for a cup of home-brewed café Cubana made from beans grown in her backyard and crushed using a wall-mount grinder.

We proceed on an easy walk on a hard dirt path through the fields planted with pineapples or tobacco, past small hamlets and up into the mountain caves where slaves hid more than 500 years ago. Photo opportunities abound as we observe locals working the fields which are surrounded by “mogotes”.

Lunch is served at a local restaurant in the valley. This afternoon we visit the charming town with its traditional one-story wood stores and houses with large porches which serves as social focal points for families in the community.

Back to Havana where dinner this evening is not included. Suggested is one of the wonderful private home restaurants near your hotel known as Paladars.
Hotel La Ermita (B, L, D)

We drive directly from Vinales to the Havana Airport today in time to catch our charter flight to Miami.

General Terms & Conditions for Friendly Planet Travel Programs
To achieve our goal of providing you with the very best services at the lowest possible prices, we ask that you read our "fine print" carefully and note the policies as outlined below

Passports & Visas

• PASSPORTS are required for all US citizens traveling abroad and must be valid for at least 6 months after your date of return. Many countries will not allow you to enter their borders if you do not have at least 6 months of remaining validity on your present passport. If you already have a valid passport, please send Friendly Planet Travel two clear photocopies of the signature and photograph pages of your passport with your reservation. If you do not already have a passport, you should make arrangements to get one without delay and send the photocopies of the appropriate pages as soon as your passport arrives. Be sure to sign your new passport before you make your photocopies for us. Friendly Planet must receive your passport copy 60 days prior to departure in order to assure that your name appears on your ticket exactly as it appears on your passport. Airlines may apply penalties if it is necessary to make corrections to your name either in the air record or on your ticket.

• VISAS U.S. passport holders must have a visa to enter Cuba in addition to a passport, valid for at least 6 months from date of travel. As authorized by the U.S. Government, Friendly Planet has made arrangements for all our passengers, regardless of nationality,* to have the visa issued by the charter airline at the airport upon check-in for your flight. NOTE: Your mother's maiden name is necessary for the Cuban Visa. *Only passengers who were born in Cuba cannot receive a visa through our efforts. If you were born in Cuba, you must apply for your visa directly. Please notify Friendly Planet at the time of your reservation if you were born in Cuba.
Transportation & Touring

TRANSFERS & TOURING are provided by modern, air-conditioned touring coaches. All entrance fees to places visited in the itinerary are included except those mentioned as optional. Arrangements for the itineraries, domestic transportation and flights are solely at the discretion of the local land operators and are subject to change without notice. If any changes are made, Friendly Planet has no liability.

A deposit of $600 per person is required for each individual when placing reservations. INDIVIDUAL DEPOSITS ARE NON-REFUNDABLE ON ALL FRIENDLY PLANET TOURS.
FINAL PAYMENTS are due at least 75 days (105 days for program including a cruise) prior to departure or on the due date indicated on your invoice. Payments may be paid by check or major credit card.

Up to 76 days prior to departure $600
75-46 days prior to departure $1,000
45-30 days prior to departure $1,700
No Refund 29 days or less prior to departure

Friendly Planet Travel strongly recommends insurance coverage for your trip. Travel insurance through our special wholesale plan costs only $139-$229 per person (depending on your total trip cost) and is an invaluable asset for protecting your vacation investment. Travel insurance must be purchased before or at the time of final payment and is non-refundable. After we receive your final payment, our travel insurance package will no longer be available for purchase. In order to take full advantage of this comprehensive travel protection plan available through Travelex, we recommend purchasing the insurance at the time of booking. This way, the pre-existing conditions waiver will apply and your deposit will be covered. For Full coverage details please visit our website at: Friendly Planet Travel Insurance

For more information and to Register for this tour, contact our travel partner,  FriendlyPlanet

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