A funny thing happened on the way to booking my Oct. 31 group trip to Cuba....
NOW, I can call it "funny" but, at first, I would not have ascribed such a gentle descriptor. Earlier this week, I was sitting at my desk, preparing my group list for the annual All-Girl-Yoga-Posse trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo. Despite the fact that the trip would not be flying out of Toronto until Oct. 31, the booking deadline loomed large on my June calendar. It was time to call Sunwing, pay the deposit and officially lock in our prices.
A computerized "ding" alerted me to a fresh email. It was from my Sunwing rep. In her usual cryptic style, she was writing to inform me that the flight schedule had been altered and, instead of 8 nights, my group would now only have 7. What?! What about the two-weekers? Would they now have 14, not 15 nights? There was no mention of them, nor was there a reference to the price. I already had 24 people signed up – $150 deposit fee paid by each – based on $636 for eight 8 nights or $838 for 15.
Struggling not to use other F-adjectives, I called Sunwing and chatted with my rep. The flight schedule to this part of Cuba had been revised for the entire winter, she explained. Such things happen. Sunwing has very comprehensive fine print, so the corporation can simply shrug it off; apologies are not even considered necessary. She she assured me, however, she would get me a new and improved price pronto, as well as an extended booking deadline. She did.
The all-inclusive prices are now $618 for 7 nights or $818 for 14 for the upgraded VIP Cabana package – for EVERYTHING, including all taxes, flights, accommodation, sunset cruise, lobster on an idyllic beach, etc. And, there's no "single supplement" at that time of year, so you don't have to pay extra to have a private room. But, if you want to share, there are twin beds in each cabana.
Okay, that's about $20 off the already great prices. Interesting. I had been thinking about adding on a small percentage – optional, of course – for my humanitarian work in that impoverished part of rural Cuba. Since I'm not a registered travel agent, I can not legally take a cut for the work I do to organize the trips I lead to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo; the prices my group members get is exactly the cost I'm quoted, with no service fee added in. And, I pay for my own trips, which are now usually twice a year. I also have other expenses due to the projects I've begun in the region, such as distributing free bikes, clothing and other necessities to people in the outlying areas, often far from the resort.
If I had about $20 from each person in my group, I'd been dreaming, that would cover the cost of car rental and gas to get way out into the mountains and help many farm families – people who wouldn't ordinarily even encounter tourists. Well, it seems like my wishful thinking worked! The universe heard me, you could say, or my angels are working overtime (again). Since people have already been expecting to pay $636 or $838, perhaps they won't mind contributing the difference between that and the new rates to the Cuban Friends' Fund (CFF) to facilitate my humanitarian projects.
People help in many ways, within their budgets, so I've been reticent to ask for extra money – but this provides a perfect opportunity to gently encourage donations! So, if you're going with me to Marea del Portillo on Oct. 31, I hope you won't mind paying the previous price, even though the trip is now one day less, and making a contribution to the CFF. The stage is set for me to humbly ask....
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.