On my last six trips to Cuba (over the past two years), I functioned as an assistant to our Cuban travel guides. Most of those flights departed from Miami. However, this time I’ve come by myself, traveling through Cancún. I took the overnight flight on United from SFO to Houston, and flew from Houston to Cancún. At the Cubana Airline check-in counter, I noticed that there was a separate line for First Class, which seemed like an odd option to be offered by the flagship airline of a Pinko-Commie/Socialist government.
Instead of flying on an old Russian Ilyushin turboprop, as on past flights from Cancún, I learned that we would be flying on a new A-319 Airbus. It turned out to be quite modern and comfortable, especially when I discovered that I had a first class seat—2B. After we took off, the black drapes were pulled to separate the eight of us from the peons in the back of the cabin.
Seriously—I had no idea why I ended up in first class. I didn’t request it. Maybe it was just random good luck. It could also be that my agent in Toronto coded me differently for sending her company so much business. The seats were a bit larger, and there were only two on either side of the aisle. We received a lot of attention from our attendant, including a special snack tray and unlimited drinks. The in-flight magazine was a top-quality production. The whole experience seemed like a major upgrade from previous propeller-aircraft flights from Mexico.
Customs in Havana was a little slower than usual, but remarkably easy. No bags opened, no prying questions. I took a cab to town and was dropped off here at the home of a friend’s father on the edge of Old Havana. I plan to spend the weekend visiting with friends, and getting together with three American students whom I only know through email. One of them contacted me because her uncle lives in my hometown. She and her friends have been studying for several months in Mexico, and wanted to know how they could legally visit Cuba. I explained the basics a few weeks ago by email. Now that they are already here in Havana, I plan to meet with them for dinner Sunday evening to explain the details.
As I unpacked, I realized this was the quickest trip from California to Cuba I had ever made. I left San Francisco about 11pm Pacific time and and arrived in Havana this evening around 5pm EST, for a total of 15 hours. On all previous trips I had to spend at least one night in Miami, Cancún, or Toronto.