Latest Cuba travel restrictions. Airlines and first class. ITN hat.

By: David Tykol
This article appears on page 2 of the January 2018 issue.

ITN subscriber Tim Ramstad in his new hat.

Dear Globetrotter:

Last summer, Tim Ramstad of Brightwood, Oregon, wrote, “Any plans to bring back the ITN-logo hat? Lost mine on a trip from Portland to Jamaica.”

When we told him “No such plans,” he wasn’t deterred. He decided to create his own and requested a graphic of the ITN logo that was on the original hat.

In late October, he recounted what he did next, writing, “I went online to REI.com and found a hat that looked similar to the original ITN hat I had. It was offered at half price, and, with shipping, I paid $24 to have the hat in hand.

“I took that to Rock Ranch Embroidery in Sandy, Oregon (503/668-5300, www.rockranch
embroidery.com)
, and for $20 they created my new ITN hat to replace the one that I had worn for many years. Mission accomplished! On a recent golf outing, my oldest son didn’t even notice the difference.”

Tim added, “If anyone wishes to create their own hat, contact Gary or Cristy at Rock Ranch. Now that they have the template on file, there will be no setup charge. Send them a hat, and Cristy will embroider the ITN logo on for $8 plus shipping-and-handling costs. They say it usually takes a couple weeks or so. Great people to work with!”

Thanks for spreading the word about ITN, Tim. Every bit of exposure helps.

I have a few travel items to report. This first requires some background.

Tourism to Cuba by US citizens has been illegal since 1963, due to an embargo imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an agency of the US Department of the Treasury (DOT). More recently, though, travel to Cuba has been allowed — with varying degrees of enforcement of the regulations — if the traveler could meet certain criteria.

When President Obama left office, Americans could travel to Cuba as individuals and essentially move about freely within that country. That was because every traveler was automatically granted the “People to People” license required by the DOT for legal travel to Cuba. Prior to that, most US citizens could visit Cuba only by joining groups of travelers on “People to People” tours led by tour companies licensed by the DOT.

On Oct. 8, 2017, the new travel restrictions to Cuba that President Trump announced in June were enacted, and they essentially rolled back the United States’ Cuba-travel policy to the previous version. Once again, any US citizen who wishes to visit Cuba but does not qualify for a special license (that allows a visit for the purpose of education, business, religious activities or visiting family, etc.) will need to join a licensed tour group.

But there are some differences to the original policy. US citizens no longer can legally do business with companies in Cuba that are owned by or supply money to the Cuban Communist government, specifically, the security services. This includes certain hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and retail stores.

For example, the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, though operated by Swiss hotelier Kempinski Hotels, is locally owned by the tourism group Gaviota, which is a financier of the Cuban military, so Americans are no longer legally allowed to stay there.

The new rules are intended to encourage the Cuban government to provide greater economic freedom to Cuban citizens, who in recent years have been allowed to rent out private rooms and to open private restaurants.

US travelers to Cuba are unlikely to accidentally break any of the new laws, as US-licensed tour operators will adjust their itineraries to avoid illegal transactions.

Travel-related transactions made prior to Oct. 8 for a later visit — such as airfare that was purchased or a room that was booked — are not affected.

The airline Emirates (800/777-3999, www.emirates.com), based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, announced on Oct. 28 that, by the end of December 2017, it would be removing all first-class seats on most of its Airbus A380 planes that fly between Dubai and London-Gatwick in order to expand the number of coach seats available on those flights from 489 to 615. Business-class seats would continue to be available. Emirates schedules at least three flights per day on that route.

Emirates is just the latest of the international airlines to drop first-class options on some routes or even entirely. Among airlines that have ceased offering first class are Air New Zealand, LATAM Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Qantas, the only airline in Oceania that offers first class, will begin operating a Perth-Heathrow route this year, but it will not include an option for first class.

Note that I am talking about international routes. Between US cities, most US airlines offer a “domestic first class,” within which the amenities and service are closer to what can be expected in international business class than in true first class. (There are a few domestic routes, such as those to Hawaii, on which US airlines offer seating with true first-class service.) 

European airlines offer a similar, pared-down “first class” for inter-Europe routes. However, for true “flat bed, wine service, complimentary gift bag” first class, you have to go long-haul. 

As of press time, only two US airlines (American Airlines and United Airlines) and four European airlines (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa and SWISS) were offering true first-class cabins and only on some routes. For a wide variety of first-class options these days, look to the airlines of Asia and the Middle East, which currently are the kings of first class. 

In East Asia, 10 airlines offer first class on at least some of their routes. And seven Middle Eastern airlines offer first class on some routes, including Emirates, but if Emirates’ experiment in cutting back ends up being profitable, some of the other airlines may follow suit. 

CORRECTIONS to note —

• A letter from Kathy Wilhelm of Cary, North Carolina, regarding the article “Reclaiming Ancestral Citizenship in Luxembourg,” by Glenn Schmidt (Nov. ’17, pg. 46), prompted a little more research into the benefits, as enumerated in the article, of aquiring Luxembourg citizenship.

In confirming the benefits mentioned by Mr. Schmidt — which included eligibility to vote in European Union (EU) elections, access to free health care within the EU and the ability of the applicant’s grandchildren to receive an “almost-free” education in Europe — a cursory search seemed to support these claims, but after delving further, it became clear that some clarification and a correction are in order. 

The right to vote in elections does come with Luxembourg citizenship, as does access to very low-cost education at the University of Luxembourg (and a number of other institutions throughout the EU, provided the student is a qualified applicant) — not to mention the right to live and work anywhere in the EU — but access to health care is another matter. 

Throughout most of the EU, access to guaranteed medical coverage is based, with a few exceptions, on residency rather than citizenship. And because medical benefits are made possible by the payment of taxes into the system by residents of each country, a nonresident may not claim the same benefits. 

Further, the health care system in Luxembourg is a system of reimbursement, meaning the patient must pay any expenses out of pocket, and the amount of reimbursement is determined after expenses are submitted. 

Whether or not nonresidents qualify for medical coverage in the EU should be verified by the individual regarding each country, as eligibility rules vary.

• Meg Quinn of Los Angeles, California, and Martha Jo Morehouse of Glendale, California, noticed two major blunders in the Travel Brief “New Olduvai museum” (Dec. ’17, pg. 39), which stated that the museum, in Tanzania, “sits right on the spot where Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the skeleton of Lucy, one of the most complete skeletons of an archaic hominid.”

Meg pointed out, “Lucy was discovered in 1974 in southeastern Ethiopia, in the Afar Depression near Hadar, by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson. In the 1980s, I went on a private tour to the museum in Addis Ababa where she resides. They would soon be installing a plastic replica, but I managed to grab a picture of her before they did that. Where most people carry pictures of children in their wallets, I have Lucy.

“In 2001 I went to the Olduvai Gorge and to the museum there that the new museum replaced.”

Note that the Olduvai Gorge Museum also has a replica skeleton of Lucy on display.

Donna Pyle of Boulder, Colorado, noticed the errors, too, and contributed, “What the Leakeys did find at Olduvai Gorge was the 1.75-million-year-old Zinjanthropus. Mary Leakey, in particular (she was the patient one), spent months fitting the skull together from over 400 separate pieces. 

“I led a group to Kenya and Tanzania in 1975, and we had the privilege (for $100) of meeting with Mary and having her show us the discovery location. She was one tough and fascinating lady! Louis Leakey had died in 1972, and Mary was carrying on their work there alone.”

• Donna added, “While I’m at this, on page 35, in one of the subscribers’ lists of Top 10 recommended and favorite destinations, Bernard Sonnek names Torres del Paine National Park as one of the attractions of Argentina, but the park is in Chile. The glacier park in Argentina is called Los Glaciares.”

When alerted to this, Bernard replied, “It was, indeed, Argentina’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares that I meant to recommend.”

• Referring to his same list, Bernard wrote, “And for number 6, where I wrote, ‘New Zealand…Be sure to stay overnight in Milford Sound,’ I meant to put ‘Doubtful Sound.’ Milford is the most famous sound, as it’s easier to access, but it was Doubtful Sound that my wife, Peg, and I visited.”

• We’re not done yet. Meg Quinn added, “On another note, the December crossword has the clue for 37 Across as ‘Classical Greek sculptures which were originally part of the Parthenon, 2 words.’ I went NUTS, as I knew the answer, which turned out to be ‘The Elgin Marbles’ — three words, not two.”

We apologize for the errors.

The new year has started, so it’s time for you to tell us where you went LAST year. 

If you are an ITN subscriber, write up a list of all of the nations you visited outside of your own country anytime in 2017 and email it to editor@intltravelnews.com or address it to Where Were You in 2017?, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Remember to include the mailing address at which you receive ITN.

Note that Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau all are officially part of China and would not count as visits to separate nations. Similarly, a visit to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be counted as a single visit to the United Kingdom. Nonsovereign territories will be counted but listed separately from official nations.

The information we gather — the impressive numbers of places our subscribers travel to overseas — will be used to attract potential advertisers to ITN, which will help keep this magazine coming to you each month. Our editorial staff also is interested in knowing “what’s trending.”

And there’s a reward for your effort. We’ll gather everyone’s email printouts, postcards and letters, put them into a bin and hold random drawings for a number of prizes. The deadline for entry is March 31, 2018, and I’ll announce the results — and the winners — in the June 2018 issue.

And, sure, prizes are great, but write in because the data will help everyone who receives this magazine. We want to hear from all of you.