American recently announced that it would increase mileage awards by as much as 50%.
A lot of people ask me if we can really run legal trips to Cuba. My answer is, yes of course U.S. Citizens can travel to Cuba legally. Zoom Vacations has already hosted a few trips to Cuba in the last year alone, permitted by a People-to-People Cultural Exchange license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, and is offering a third in October of this year.
This program is an exception to the embargo laws banning U.S. Citizens from traveling to Cuba. First offered by the Clinton Administration for a brief period, the Obama Administration has allowed the program to once again continue in order to encourage more contact between Americans and citizens of the Communist-ruled island.
This means that you can now fly from the U.S. mainland directly (most usually from Miami) and can come back the same way, and clear U.S. Customs and Immigrations as if you were flying in from London. You are also allowed to bring back books, art and music without violating the embargo laws. Of course, this program of legal travel to Cuba by U.S. Citizens can be withdrawn at any time by the U.S., especially with a change of administration.
Traveling to Cuba with Zoom Vacations is easy, legal, and educational. To do it otherwise could mean civil penalties of several thousand dollars and/or criminal prosecution.
It has been months since I returned with our group from Cuba, and I have to say that the experience has remained emblazoned on my memory. I can't seem to forget the wonderful people I met, the unparalleled architecture we saw, and the beautiful cultural performances we witnessed, such as an inspirational choral performance. It is amazing how little our group knew about Cuba when we arrived, and how much insight we gained by our visit.
Perhaps it is the gorgeous painting I bought in Cuba (my favorite in my home) hanging over my bed that keeps Cuba forever on my mind, or maybe it is the reminiscing with fellow Zoom Vacations travelers over the experiences we shared that we know few Americans get to encounter. Whatever the case, I haven't stopped thinking about our time there.
The whole time we were in Cuba, our minds were in overdrive, constantly making connections and drawing parallels and distinctions between our home countries and other places we've visited. Many people say that you should go to Cuba now before things change, and I know they are right. We may be nearing the end of an age, and it is an era that I can promise you do not want to miss.
When I look back on 2013, it is interesting to review which memories stand outfor me. It wasn't any of the bigger purchases I made.
No, the first and most important things that come to mind are several of the trips I took, and the unique experiences I had in those destinations.
A few highlights include watching a cheetah stalk an impala in South Africa, drinking caipirinhas with new friends on the beach in Rio at sunset, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Traveling has the power to inspire the mind, heal the soul, and energize the body. It gives us great memories to think about when things aren't going well, and it helps us create tighter bonds with the people who matter to us. Just like people matter more than things, to me travel matters more than things.
We have had guests on our tours whose lives have been changed for the better because of the unique travel experiences they have had or due to relationships they have built through traveling. And the more you travel, the more you make connections between similar things in different countries.
Traveling isn't merely a part of a fun life. It is an essential part of a healthy life, and maybe even a healthy planet. I am reminded of one of my favorite travel quotes:
"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
~ Maya Angelou
People have often asked us why Zoom Vacations offers yachting voyages instead of big cruises. If you join us on one of our yacht voyages, you will have your answer in about two seconds, as you are welcomed aboard with friendly smiles, a cold towel, and a glass of champagne.
Our mega-yacht voyages embody great attention to detail, customization, quality, and casual elegance-- all hallmarks of a Zoom Vacation.
Since the yachts are smaller we can visit smaller ports, inaccessible to larger ships, and we can stay longer at each destination. The food is exquisite, and since it is all inclusive, our time onboard is simply effortless. Once you start comparing the two experiences, you realize that there truly is no comparison. Pictures of a recent yachting adventure can be found on our Facebook page. In fact, the photo above is from one of our stops at St. Barth's in the Caribbean.
Social media has replaced the paper postcard as a means to communicate with friends back home. Facebook in particular continues to let our friends and family know where we are, that we're safe, we're enjoying ourselves, and what we're up to, in real time.
And it's not just about what we're writing but also what we're posting, such as movies, articles, and pictures, that help our friends and family travel and experience the destination vicariously. Facebook can also help us connect with locals when we're traveling. While I was on Zoom Peru just a few weeks ago I posted that I was going to Lima and one of our Zoom alums contacted me and we met up after not having seen each other for a few years.
So, as you can see, social media has closed the circle connecting us with family back home while at the same time connecting us with friends locally when we are abroad. Facebook has become a travel resource.
During Zoom Vacations tours, we update our page on Facebook with periodic photos of the trip, allowing you to see the tour unfold in realtime. If there is a trip you've been considering, following Zoom on Facebook can be a great way to see what you may experience on the tour. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to learn more about the destinations you have or have not been to.