To cruise or not to cruise…




To cruise or not to cruise or not to cruise is definitely a question for a lot of people who have not done it before. In my opinion, cruising is one of the most cost effective ways to travel and visit several different vacation destinations on an all inclusive package.

I went on my first cruise with a friend and her church group for my 24th birthday. I had no clue what what I was getting myself into or how it would be with a church group, but there was no way that I was passing up a 7 day vacation to Puerto Rico, Aruba, St. Thomas/ St. John, Barbados and Dominica for $550! Yes people, $550… That made me a believer and I have been on 5 more cruises, including a Mediterranean cruise that I will save for another post, since then.

Back to my first cruise, there had to be at least 50 people in our group so we were able to get a great deal on Carnival for this Eastern Caribbean cruise. I only new two other people but that did not matter at all, we were on vacation! We had to fly into Puerto Rico that morning and we did not set sail unto about 10:30pm that night, so we were able to check in, get back off the boat and we had the whole day to take tours and explore the city. The flight to Puerto Rico was about $450. You cannot beat a vacation like that with food and drinks included for right at $1,000.

I lived in Orlando for a while after I got married and decided that I wanted to go on a cruise for my birthday one year. I had always wanted to visit the Cayman Islands. Tampa is a major port for cruise ships and Carnival had 4 day cruises going to the Grand Cayman and Cozumel (Tulum) for $350. It was an hour and a half drive for us and we paid to park while we were gone.

I was able to spend some much needed quality time with my mom on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Labadee Haiti and Ocho Rios Jamaica. I never imagined that I would ever visit Haiti. Royal Caribbean has its own private beach there and it is gorgeous! It is also home to the world’s longest zip line over water. You can relax on the beach for the day, shop at the straw market and enjoy lunch. You can also snorkel, explore surrounding Labadee with a shore excursion or relax on a sandbar. In Ocho Rios, there were so many excursions to choose from but we shopped, had jerk chicken and hung out at the beach. I really enjoyed the accommodations on Royal Caribbean. The rooms were big, the beds were super soft, there was a ben and jerry’s, johnny rocket’s, chop’s steakhouse and starbucks! The ship that we were on had a mall, and even an ice skating rink, but everything closed down at 9pm each night. This cruise was definitely  meant for relaxation. We were able to get in on this trip with a group as well for $550 and we set sail out of Ft. Lauderdale. Our flights were $197. This is another great price for an all inclusive trip.

One year, we took a cruise out of Jacksonville, Fl during the month of December which is a great time to get cruise deals. We went with a group of about 10 (you see the group trend here also for those discounts) and we got the cruise for $250 each. We drove 5 hours from Atlanta to Jacksonville  and paid to park at the port. We went on a 5 day cruise to Key West and the Bahamas on a Carnival cruise ship. We had a blast! You cannot beat that price when it comes to traveling with family and wanting everyone to be included.

The last cruise that I took was in February of this year. My Sorority line had an anniversary and we decided to take a last minute trip to celebrate. When I say last minute, I mean we decided within less that 60 days. Cruises are always the easiest route when it comes to pre- planned travel. I called an agent and she had us all booked and on our way to the Bahamas for a 4 day getaway by the end of the day for $350. We had a great time with no stress. Our plane tickets were about $200 each for an all include trip under $600.


For those of you on the fence about cruising…

Just do it at least once. Cruising is not just for the older retired crowd anymore, it is for singles, couples and families. There is a cruise for everyone. Don’t just take a cruise because it is a good deal. That is the best way to get turned off. If you are into high end luxury, look into Crystal Cruises, Oceania and Seabourn. There are over 500 theme cruises available such as the “Top Chef Cruise” for all of you foodies out there. There are singles cruises, Marvel Comic cruises, Jazz, Crafting, Poker, Photography and even swingers cruises available. Then, there are the regular “let’s just go on a fun vacation” cruises out there. The main cruise lines that people use in this category, along with first time cruisers are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess, Disney, Celebrity and Holland America. Really do your research, look at the reviews, ask around and pick an itinerary that makes you happy. If there is something on the ship that you are not 100% happy with when you get there, you have the bright side of knowing that you are heading to a place where you have always wanted to visit.

A bit of advice for first time cruisers…

If you are a drinker, buy the all inclusive alcohol plan if your cruise is long enough to do so. Alcoholic beverages are not included with your cruise price and your taxes, gratuity and port fees are not either. You cannot be the only one in your stateroom to buy the all inclusive alcoholic beverage plan, your roommate must purchase it too. This will be something that you need to discuss before you decide who to room with if you are going with a large group. If you are visiting a place where you want to participate in an excursion that is in high demand, book it online before you go. I am usually not a fan of this, but in locations like Labadee, zip lining is in high demand and one of the only things to do there. The zip lining is owned and operated by the ship and it gets booked up really fast. In the Bahamas, if you want the Dolphin experience at the Atlantis, book it online in advance. There are only so many slots available for guests from the cruise ship since they still need to service guests that are staying at the resort. I am a fan of late seating for dinner each night. This gives you more time to spend on land at your port of call. You won’t feel the need to rush back to get ready for dinner. You will almost always make it by 8pm. If you don’t have a passport yet, get one. You do not need a passport if you set sail from the Unites States and will travel to the Caribbean, you may use your birth certificate. For long cruises on bigger ships, please take a carryon bag with toiletries and clothes to change into for that night and the next morning. On my very first cruise, my luggage did not show up until the next day at my door, 5 minutes before our first excursion. Pack some dramamine in case you get sea sick and a jacket. It tends to get a little cold on the ship.

I have not taken my kids on a cruise yet, but we have one booked on Norwegian for next year that includes airfare and we are taking them. This is Norwegian’s 50th anniversary and they are celebrating by allowing each person to book a cruise with a fifty dollar deposit. Norwegian also has a low price guarantee. If at anytime, I see that the price for our cruise has dropped between now and 60 days before we set sail, we will be refunded the difference. You can’t beat that! Norwegian also has a kids club that we plan on using while we are on board so that we can have some adult time during dinner.

I really enjoy cruising and feel that it was also the best way for us to see the Greek islands. I will talk about that on next week. Until next time, #LiveLoveTravel









Enchanted Travels Holiday Gift Guide!

It is the holiday season and the perfect time to shop and save! I have compiled a list of the top three affiliates from my blog that have given me exclusive, deep discount codes just for you, my readers. I have also included my online boutique, Ivy & Vine Clothing Co. All items will be reduced to up to 50% off for you to begin shopping on Thanksgiving Day and we have flat rate shipping. Please research each travel deal and company before making your purchase, read the reviews and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance!

Visit Ivy & Vine Clothing for the special women and little girls in your life. My Live Love Travel Tee, travel infinity scarf and our Style and Travel Girl Passport holders are featured this morning in the Global Lifestyle Holiday Gift Guide for Luxury Travel items. Ivy & Vine has several items available for the stylish traveler from passport covers and sunglasses, to infinity scarves with hidden pockets that will hold your wallet and cell phone during your travel excursions. Visit to shop and save.

Give the Gift City Pass in Atlanta and save up to 43% by clicking my link. The person who receives it can use it within 6 months of the purchase. This will be perfect for Spring break! You get an average savings of up 50% when compared to Box Office Prices. Skip lines at attractions. Travel when you want, visit attractions in any order on your own time. Also available in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Toronto. Click my City Pass affiliate Banner to the right for more information.


I have several deals with Tour Radar that will be available for you only through Cyber Monday! These deals will start on Black Friday, November 25th and run through Monday the 28th. You will receive 35% off of packages to Europe with deals starting as low as $286 with a 7 day tour through Scotland and 40% to Asia including 10 days in Indonesia – Bali and The Gili Islands starting at $735. Other European deals include Italy, Greece, Ireland and Great Britain. Deals are available to Japan, Indonesia, South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well. Please click the Tour Radar Black Friday Banners to the right for more information.


SpaFinder Wellness 365  has been the leading resource for health and wellness expertise for over 26 years. There are over 20,000 wellness locations in the US including the popular “Bliss” Spa that accept Spafinder Wellness 365 gift cards. A SpaFinder Wellness 365 gift card never expires. You can print your e-gift card or receive one by mail. Receive 15% off of any gift card purchase over $100 by clicking my SpaFinder Wellness 365 banner to the right now through November 27th.


I’m traveling abroad with my In- laws for the first time…

I am a firm believer that a family that travels together, stays together. I have mentioned before that my husband loves to travel as well. It is strange since he grew up being a self proclaimed home body. As much as I love to stay on the go, my kids would rather be at home. I know, I know. How could this be! Well, it is in their DNA. My in- laws are from Miami, FL. Growing up, they would take my husband and his sister on trips to DisneyWorld, they would go to California and even take short day cruises to the Bahamas. Two to three days away from home was always more than enough for the family. Home was a comfortable place to be! Same goes for my kids. No matter how much money we spend on fun and entertainment, the question of the day from my son is “can we go home now?”

We have taken long weekend vacations together to New York and Savannah and we have all had a great time, but times are changing! I recently came across a nice deal to go to a country that I had never visited in Europe before. I shared it with my husband and asked him if he wanted to go. Of course he did! At first we were going to take the kids, we didn’t want to burden our parents yet again with the task of keeping them. I passed the deal along to my sister, sorority sister and my mom and he shared it with his parents as well. Why not? We never thought that they would bite. This is just not something that they do, but you never know. My mom passed but offered to keep the kids, all of them (THANK YOU JESUS) my sister and sorority sister are in, cool. My husband sent me a text message from work saying that his mom was interested in going on the trip. Word??? Word. You know the flight will be more than 2 hours right? All my husband has to do is convince his dad. He called his dad and presented the trip and his response was “sure, why not.” Just like that, we are all going abroad in January! Me, my husband, my sister, sorority sister, my sister in law, my mother in law and my father in law. The only people in the group that have crossed the Atlantic are me and my husband. This is going to be great!

Have you traveled abroad or on long trips with your in- laws before? What has your experience been? Leave a comment below!


I’m all about new experiences and adventures and this trip will be one for sure. I also love playing tour guide but we have never been to this country before either. Planning for this trip will be a challenge for several reasons, but I have come up with a quick guide for packing for Europe in the Winter that you may be able to use as well. We will restricted to traveling with a carry on suitcase and one personal item because of the airfare deal that we got. It will be cold so we will need to dress in layers and we will be gone for 5 days. Here is what we will do. You can click the links to purchase the items:

  • 2-3 thin, long-sleeved shirts for layering
  • tank tops
  • thermal shirt
  • 1 sweater or sweatshirt
  • 1 thermal jacket with a hood
  • Toggle-front wool jacket
  • 1 pair of snow boots
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 3 pairs of leggings
  • 1 pair of loose jeans that leggings can fit under
  • Enough winter socks and your comfiest underwear for a week
  • bag large enough to fit a camera, iPad, knit hat, and gloves
  • 1 small clutch for daily use that fits inside your carry-on bag in transit
  • 35 L or smaller carry-on bag/ suitcase
  • Camera, Batteries die quicker in cold weather, so bring a back up battery and chargers for your cell phones and cameras as well.
  • The standard European (220 volts) converter
  • Scarf, gloves and travel sized umbrella
  • Warm Hat

We will need layer up and wear the big coats on the plane. We will also have to leave room in our personal items to bring back any souvenirs that we may buy. I hope that this packing list helps you with your future trips. I am excited for this adventure abroad. We always have a great time on our family travels. This one will be even more special since we are taking the whole family to a new country and we will experience a new culture together. Follow our story on instagram and get the details on the blog when we return!

Wednesday on the blog, I will discuss a holiday shopping guide for the travel addict.

Alisha #LiveLoveTravel


If Anthony Bourdain is not reason enough to get your tickets to the 2017 Cayman Cookout, here are 10 more reasons why you should…

Tickets are on sale for the 2017 Cayman Cookout, created by Chef Eric Ripert January 12-15, 2017 at the Ritz Carlton on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman Island. This intimate culinary weekend will bring together Chef Ripert and special guests Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse, Christina Tosi, Terrance Brennan, Daniel Humm, Tim Love and Roland Passot, along with famed mixologists Charles Joly and Bob Peters.


This past January, during MLK weekend, I attended the Cayman Cookout with my three girlfriends for our annual “Girls Vacation”. We have gone on girls vacation each year since 2002, and it was one of the best ones to date. We spent 5 days in paradise, surrounded by the best chefs in the world. Literally!!! We had an all access pass to Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Ludo Lefebvre, Jose Andres, Hubert Keller, food, wine and rum punch for the week.

The Cookout started on a Thursday, but since we were flying in from different parts of the country, we decided to take the day and relax, explore the island, get acquainted with our resort and reunite with each other. We all flew in around the same time, rented a car and got the party started!


About this time last year, we started planning for this trip and we decided as a group on the events that we wanted to attend during the cookout. We narrowed them down by the obvious. Anthony Bourdain, buffet style food tastings (because we have no shame) and we threw a wine tasting in there. We ended up choosing “Around the World with Anthony Bourdain” for that Friday, and “Sailing the Silverado” which was a wine tasting on a catamaran later that evening. We had Saturday to ourselves and got tickets  the the “Palm Party” where Chef Hubert Keller was the DJ and we ended the weekend Sunday at the “Bon Vivant Cook -off Brunch”.

We left our resort super early to drive over to the Ritz Carlton and check in for the cookout and get all of our event tickets and event swag. There is a comfortable hospitality room setup for cookout guests to hang out in with several sofas available, water, rum punch is flowing and plug ins are close by to charge up your cell phone. This is also the place where you check in and volunteers are there to answer all of your questions. When you check in, you receive your bag, a year subscription to Food & Wine Magazine and unlimited samples of rum cake during the whole weekend. Yes! As long as the hospitality room is open, help yourself to rum cake. The Ritz Carlton also offers a free wifi code to cookout guests for the weekend as well so that we can snap, post and share.

We are all checked in, off to see the man that we came for, Anthony Bourdain!!!

This session is set up outside on the back lawn like a food festival and it showcased up and coming chefs from the island. There was plenty of covered seating available and it was a gorgeous day. Bourdain casually strolled in with a cookout attendee on time and headed right to the first booth. Each booth served food that was local to the island and it was anything from conch to wild boar. Anthony Bourdain took his time to taste each dish  and give his opinion. He was the most gracious host! He took time and answered questions from the guest who were there at the end and he took pictures with us as he moved from each booth along the way. We even had a surprise appearance from his good buddy Eric Ripert during the session. The food was amazing and plentiful and there was never a line to stand in to get an item. No one ran out of food and the rum punch was served all the way until the very end.

Around the world with Anthony Bourdain was amazing! We are stuffed and a little tired and we have our wine tasting event coming up this evening. Luckily the hospitality suite is available for us to relax in and there is space available for us to freshen up and change our clothes. One thing that you may not know about me is that I have a major school girl crush on Chef Ludo Lefebvre. I love Ludo’s accent, his tattoo’s, he’s cute, I could go on. We are all relaxing in the hospitality suite and guess who walks in… Ludo! I freak out, he freaks out, I ask his wife to take our picture and my day has been made all over again.


Later that afternoon right before sunset, we were bused to Lalique Point Dock and we boarded a catamaran for the Sailing with Silverado event. Silverado Vineyards is located in the heart of Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley. This region is known to produce some of the most stunning Cabernet Sauvignon’s in California and in the World. We were greeted with bites of Ceviche, wine and at the end of the sail, we were served a 2001 limited edition Silverado made only in the best vintages. It was a highly rare batch, only 300 cases were made per Mr. Russel Weis, President of Silverado Vineyards, who joined us on the sail.

Saturday morning we enjoyed the sunrise over the beach from our balcony, we laid out, enjoyed the infinity pool, the swim up bar and happy hour. We drove into town and had the best dinner at Osetra Bay Grand Cayman. The meal and service were outstanding. After dinner, we headed to the Ritz Carlton for the “Palm Party” hosted by Chef Hubert Keller. The whole weekend has been very laid back. All of the Chef’s have been very approachable and friendly. No one has been pretentious and there has not been a need for anyone to walk around with security. The party had a cool house music vibe. Chef Keller went from behind the DJ booth to the dance floor enjoying himself with all of us. Lionel Richie even made an appearance in the hotel lobby. We danced the night away!

Sunday is here and we have our final event for the weekend, the Bon Vivant Cook Off- Brunch! Endless Moët & Chandon Champagne and extravagant brunch selections. Grand Cayman’s most ambitious amateur Chefs duel in a live cook-off in The Cayman Islands Ballroom at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The amateur Chef finalists face-off during Sunday brunch and the winner is determined by celebrity Chef judges Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés. Seating is assigned by table number but the line to get in is still really long, so get there early. This is the most overwhelming event of the weekend food-wise. Each chef, amateur and professional, cooks at this event and there is every type of food station available that you can think of. Everything is served in a full portion size, everything is gourmet, you will want to try everything at least once, and the Moet flows the whole time. Come with an empty stomach! The host judges are up mingling with us during the brunch as well, so if you have not taken that selfie, here is your chance. Me and my girlfriends are major foodies, Top Chef fanatics and Anthony Bourdain groupies, so this festival was the perfect storm for us. Tickets to each event will sell out so purchase them now if you can. Here is the link :

In my post next Monday, I will discuss traveling abroad with my in-laws. I will be doing it for the first time in January! Have you traveled abroad with your in- laws? It will be my first time and their first time crossing the Atlantic. Lets talk about it!

Until next time. #LiveLoveTravel



It won’t take you more than 3 solid days to see Cuba if you do it right…

If you plan on just making a stop in Havana, your visit will be centered around visiting the four historic plaza’s in Old Havana, Ernest Hemingway’s House, buying rum and cigars and getting your requirements in for your people to people or educational visit. This will not take you more than a couple of days to do and you can use the third day to visit the beach. There honestly is not much else to do and see without venturing out to the other cities along the coast and for that, I would recommend taking a cruise.

Here is what you need to do to get everything done and save those extra vacation days for another trip to somewhere else…

Day 1: Walk through the four historic plazas in Old Havana and take photos with the locals. The locals that you will want to take photos with will be in traditional 1800’s Cuban attire and are employed by the government. They will show you their government I.D, and will ask you for $2 to $3 cuc’s (Cuban Pesos) in exchange for taking the picture.


The Havana Club (Rum museum) is in San Fransisco Square. Take a walk through there and enjoy a brief history on Rum in Cuba, have a Rum tasting and this is also the best place to buy your rum. My favorite is the Havana Rum number 7 and the Havana Club Ritual. The Havana Club 7 goes great with coke even though it is not meant to be mixed. The locals love Santiago Rum which is not meant to be mixed as well and is best with cigars. You can buy Santiago Rum for about $7 cuc’s at the Government Cigar stores. The Government Cigar stores are found in the squares and are the best place to buy your cigars even over the cigar factory because the government stores are regulated. The prices are not cheap but you are sure to get the best quality.

In that same area, go ahead and get all of your handmade souvenirs, artwork, t- shirts and whatnot at the Almacenes de Depósito San José, a giant arts and crafts market. The craft market is closed on Monday so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that you are working with cash only and you do not have access to an ATM and you can’t use your credit card. Most websites suggest that you take $100 per day. If you are anything like me and love to shop, take at least $200 per day. I had an all inclusive meal and lodging plan and used all of the money that I had. I bought art, handmade leather purses for me and my mom and sister, rum, cigars, linen clothing for my daughter. So many things were appealing and hard to just leave on the shelf. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. The American dollar does not go far with conversion rates of .87 to $1.00.

End the day with a good meal and enjoy the evening at the Tropicana Show or watching the traditional cannon blast.

Day 2: Start the morning by visiting Ernest Hemingway’s Home which has been turned into a museum that displays his library and holds his manuscripts. This site visit takes no longer than 30 minutes since you cannot go inside.

Next, fulfill your people to people or educational visit requirements. We spoke with a professor from the University for 90 minutes on many aspects of everyday life in the country, including the role of women in Cuban society, the trade embargo and how Obama has done so much but can’t do more because of bills that were signed back in the ’90’s that gave congress most of the power. We spoke about racism, the LGBT community, human and civil rights and the government’s role in them all, and why countries are afraid to invest their money into Cuba and cannot invest their money into Cuba. Cuba is so advanced in many aspects of society such as equal pay for women. The government provides a year paid maternity leave with full salary plus a year off after that with full pay, to take care of your child, they also offer paternity leave. Sounds great right? It’s the least they can do when you are a slave to the government and your salary is only $25 per month. The average Cuban family only has one child because they simply cannot afford to have more. Also, the National religion is not Catholicism, they just used it as a disguise to practice the Yoruba religion of their African ancestors. Racism is real and they struggle to keep their roots. Change comes from the top down and the bottom up. They are proud and strong people that are survivors. They acknowledge that they get their survivor spirit from their African ancestors and they honor them. This should be the main focus of your trip. 

End the evening at the Buena Vista Social Club where you can have dinner, drinks and enjoy entertainment by the Afro Latino All Stars.

Day 3: If you get a late flight out, you can do this all in 4 days, 3 nights solid. Day 3 will be your beach day. I will let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to ride two hours away to touristy Varadero to enjoy the white sand beaches and beautiful aqua blue water that Cuba has to offer. The locals enjoy beautiful Santa Maria Beach, about 20 minutes East of Havana. Save your money and most importantly your time. Hire a car for the day and after breakfast, have them take you straight to Santa Maria Beach. Lay out for a few ours, sip fresh coconut water and ride a few waves. Chair rentals are available once you get there. Your driver will stay with you. On your way back into town, stop by the home of revolutionist Che Guevara and take photos of the best panoramic views of Havana. Stop by the Plaza de Revolution for more photos and El Floridita for a daiquiri. If you time it right, you can get this all in and make it to the airport in time for a 6:30pm flight and be back in Miami by 7:30pm.

So, would I go back? Of course! We are already running low on rum and my husband has to see it for himself. I would not do Cuba the same way. Next time, we will fly into Havana and cruise to the other cities on the island. I am a fan of not having to worry about lodging and having all of my meals included. We will see what else Cuba has to offer and take advantage of tour guided excursions.

Here is a list of the entertainment and restaurants that we enjoyed.

Until next time next time! I will talk about my love for Anthony Bourdain and why you should get tickets to hang out with him at the Cayman Cookout in my next blog post.  #LiveLoveTravel



The Tropicana Club

Buena Vista Social club

The National Hotel Restaurant

El Ajiaco: See TripAdvisor

El Ajibe


Café del Oriente


Why Cuba could not wait…

When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday back in August, I initially said that a day at the spa would be great. I had a trip planned to Mexico coming up on Labor Day weekend with my mom and sister and did not want to overdo it. But after hearing his response of “that’s all you want?” I quickly retracted my statement and expressed my desire to go to Cuba for several reasons.

With travel restrictions being lifted, making it easier for airlines to fly into Cuba daily, I new that there would be a mass influx of visitors to the island within the new year. This would mean overcrowding, low inventory for lodging, increased conversion rates and overall inflation on packages for group travel to the island. The time to go to Cuba was now.

I started doing my research and weighing the pro’s, cons and cost of DIY travel vs. group travel packages and quickly found out that choosing an all inclusive group travel package was the cheaper and safer route to take.

My theory was proven right when hurricane Matthew rolled in the exact weekend that I was scheduled to leave. As I was packing my suitcase, I received an email from the agency saying that our charter flight to Cuba from Miami was cancelled. No!!!!!!!! Besides the fact that I was taking this trip to celebrate my birthday, the only other dates that the agency had available for us to reschedule were in the Summer of 2017 (ain’t nobody got time for that, my itinerary is full). One thing that I also noticed about the 2017 rates from this same agency is that they went up by at least $1500 and they would have wanted us to pay the difference. Heck NO! So after a bunch of ranting and raving, emails and phone calls, we were able to get on the group tour and flight for the next weekend to Havana.

Here are a few things to remember when booking travel to Cuba even though cheap direct flights are available now.

1). You must have Cuban Medical Insurance and a Cuban Visa. Travel agencies take care of this step for you. When you purchase your own flight to Cuba, you are responsible for obtaining these two important documents and you won’t know if your travel documents have been granted until you check in for your flight, so please purchase travel insurance.

2). You cannot book a hotel in Havana without going through a travel agency. In order to have housing, you must be invited to stay with a host family or stay in an airbnb. There are only a few hotels in Havana that have been renovated and have 3 star ratings. The hotels are clean, modern and breakfast is included daily. When staying with a host family, rooms and restrooms are usually shared and breakfast is served family style.

3). If you plan on traveling without a group, hiring a tour guide and private car is highly recommended. Navigating through Havana’s streets can be tough since there are typically no street signs to indicate where you are and English is not a second language for the locals. You can hire a state issued taxi for $30 an hour that comes along with an english speaking tour guide to take you wherever you need to go for the day.

4). The dollar does not go far in Cuba with the current conversion rates and we cannot use our credit cards and ATM machines just yet. All of our meals and activities were included in our package so $150 to $200 per day was a good amount for us to have in cash each day for the purchase of cigars, rum, art, extra entertainment and tipping.

5). There are many websites and agencies that offer deals for you to travel to Cuba and some of them are very sketchy. You cannot go wrong with booking your all inclusive tour through American Express Travel. They will connect you with an agency to fit your individual needs and budget.

*Major Key Alert*

We had to check in for our charter flight four hours before departure and the ticket counter closes an hour and a half before the flight leaves for Havana. Ok cool. No problem. We will have plenty of time. Our flight leaves Miami at 2pm and we leave Atlanta at 7:30 am and land at 9:30am so we are straight. Our flight pushes back on time, we are next in line to take off and we get the dreaded announcement… “Folks, we have to taxi back and deplane. We are having a maintenance issue that will take a while to fix and we have to get you guys on a new aircraft.” No!!!!! Here we go again. I know there are more serious issues in the world, but this can’t be my life right now. The ticketing agent seriously stressed the fact that we needed to be there 3 hours before the flight leaves to check in and if we landed when we were supposed to, we would have enough time to eat breakfast, find our gate, check in and be good. So, I stressed for a minute but my God is able and they had a new plane for us to get on within 45 minutes.

When we arrived in Miami and found our check in counter, I realized again why Cuba could not wait. American tourist are not the only ones going to Cuba…Cubans are making the trip back home daily and they are going in droves. With cheaper, daily flights now available, this will only get worse. The line to check in for our charter flight was at least 2 hours long and each person had 6 pieces of luggage, 3 televisions, 2 bicycles and random power tools to check so that they could take back home to Cuba to sell. This is why we need to be here to check in 3-4 hour before the flight!!! There was a silver lining… We booked with a travel agency! We were pulled out of line and our passports were taken. The ticketing agent came back with our travel departure and return boarding passes, our Cuban tourist visa and Cuban medical insurance. The only downside was that I over packed my carryon and I had to stand in a separate line to pay for that and check it. i had to pay $50 cash but that covered me roundtrip.

Finally, off to beautiful Havana!!!



I have so much more to share about my experience in Cuba. There will be several blog post to follow that will include my recommendations on food, activities, entertainment and more. My next blog post will come next week on Monday and will show you how to do Havana in 3 days.

Here are the links to the resources that I spoke about.

American Express Travel:

Travel Insurance Quotes:

Until next time… #LiveLoveTravel