As many of you know, I have been organizing group trips to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, Cuba, twice a year. In 2010, I started doing the booking myself and not charging anything for my services because I wanted to keep the cost as low as possible. My goal was to encourage more people to travel to this small resort in the shoulder seasons (April & October), in order to help the local economy and the people of this community.
It didn't seem complicated to book trips for groups. Let me revise that: it shouldn't be complicated to book trips for groups. Maybe it isn't complicated with some international travel companies but, with Sunwing, it is. From my perspective at the present moment, in fact, it is crazy-making!
Without going into all the gory details as to why I feel incited to insanity, let me just say this: Sunwing's group booking rules seem designed to discourage group travel; they are obtuse and should be revised.
However, I don't give up easily. I will be taking a group to Marea del Portillo in April and I am continuing to work on getting the best possible prices for everyone who wants to join me. Unfortunately, Sunwing is the only airline that services this resort, so I must play the game according to their rules. That means I am learning new forms of patience and trying not to grind my teeth too hard.
I can't give you any firm prices for the April trip yet but I am remaining confident that the two-week rate will be around $1,000 and the one-week rate will be close to $800 for the VIP Cabana package - hopefully less - including the fuel surcharge, which is presently $290. This all-inclusive deal covers your flight and taxes, food and beverages, accommodation and a selection of perks, such as a lobster dinner on a lovely island. Here is a link that gives you an overview of the resort; if you scroll down the list, you will see what is included in the VIP package. I prefer staying in a cabana because they are quieter and more private but, if your budget is snug, I can book you into the beach-front hotel, right next door to the cabanas.
This group will be departing from Toronto in two stages: April 5 for the two-weekers and April 12 for those going for a single week. The return date will be April 19.
During the second week (April 12-19), there will be some special options available for those who are so inclined. Wendy Martin of Sacred Breath Yoga Studio will be offering yoga on the beach. Wendy Oke of Alma Matters will be available to lead a mini-workshop on art and spirituality, with respect to 2012 and Cuba. Karen Wehrstein, who excels in many styles of writing - from journalism to fantasy - is also hoping to join this travel posse and lead a writing workshop.
As well, as always, I will be arranging some special activities for my groupies (so to speak). I'll announce those details later. Meanwhile...
This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.