Sug recently returned from a mission trip to Guatemala where she breezed past the security screening because she had been pre-screened.
When we heard how it expedited the trip we decided to do the same.
UPDATE: I canceled my appointment because the Global Entry program supersedes and includes the TSA Pre-check.
The online questionnaire took about 5 minutes after which I was directed to schedule an interview at a local office. Tomorrow I have a face-to-face interrogation at which I’ll be finger-printed and pay $85.
Actually Sug’s pass is called Global Entry which I have now also applied for. This is a little more involved and costs $100. I’ll make a report after my interview is complete.
Havana Airport (HAV) is also known as José Martí International Airport.
There are 5 terminals which are not connected. Most flights from the U.S. come into Terminal 3, the international terminal.
However Charlie and I arrived aboard Southwest Airlines at Terminal 2 which is known as “the charter terminal” but now accommodates scheduled flights as well. In addition to Southwest we saw Delta agents and planes.
So when we arrived we first went through immigration and one at a time presented our passports and Cuba travel card (which we had picked up at the desk near our departure gate in Fort Lauderdale).
Passports and travel cards were stamped and returned. We were screened through a security station and then we walked passed the guards under the status of “nothing to declare”.
I had been told that we could only change money at Terminal 3 but we simply walked next door from the “arrivals” building to the “departures” building to a CADECA window where we exchanged currency.
We were off on our week-long adventure.
When we were ready to head back to the airport at the end of our stay, people with more experience than we had tried to convince us we would not be leaving from Terminal 2 because of its reputation for being “charter only”.
That was not true but our taxi driver waited for us just in case we needed a ride to a different terminal. We arrived 3 hours before our scheduled flight. I went back to the same CADECA to change my Cuban money back to Euros (they did not have British pounds and U.S. dollars have a 10% additional fee).
We lined up at the Southwest desk to check-in and check our luggage.
Once more we entered into the immigration cubicle one at a time where our passports were stamped and our travel cards collected. This time they were not handed back to us.
We went through a security screening and into the waiting area.
There were restaurants, Duty Free shops, souvenir stores, bathrooms, and even money exchange windows which didn’t seem to be open.
I had read that none of these things existed at Terminal 2.
Our flight left hours after it was actually scheduled but at last we boarded our flight headed for Fort Lauderdale.
What do you do when the information you need is not available or erroneous?
Charlie and I, our wrangler William, and two other riders began our excursion through The Viñales Valley with a stop at the tobacco fields.
Combined sugar cane and coffee fields were next on the trip agenda.
Each stop along the way a guide was provided to tell us pertinent facts about the crops and how they are processed.
The guides are also supposed to sell us some of the finished products that can only be purchased on the plantations.
While we succumbed to cigars we did not buy and rum nor coffee at this point in our journey.
While we were waiting to be served a small tasting of rum a roving minstrel with a guitar serenaded us with a very aggressive song. A young lady in our party translated for us a suggestive love song of sorts.
When finished our musician laid a tip saucer on the table.
Then the five of us mounted up again to ride to the Valley of Silence where there was a small open-air cantina and a lake for swimming if one was so inclined.
Our silence was bombarded with a loud drunk who had evidently spent the day at the cantina and was now lying in the dirt yelling at the top of his lungs non-stop.
Since it was late in the day we did not swim. The last leg of our journey, about 25 minutes, took us back to the stables.
We walked through town to return to our casa particulare stopping at the open-air market in the middle of town where we promised to return the next morning to make some souvenir purchases.
The Viñales Valley, National Monument since 1979, was the first cultural landscape recognized by UNESCO throughout the Americas, declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and National Park in 2001
“Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.” Lonely Planet Travel Guide
Charlie and I took a 3 and a half hour horse ride through Viñales National Park for a fee of 25 CUC ($25) each which included being picked up at our casa particulare in a horse-drawn taxi. The tour was arranged by our hostess the day we arrived in Viñales.
Our tour started at William’s stables. He assigned a horse to each of us — we were 4 plus William who was our guide and wrangler.
Our first stop was a tobacco plantation where we saw men cutting the plant in preparation for drying. It was explained to us how the tobacco grows and is readied to become the famed Cuban cigars — Cohibas, Monte Cristos, or Romeo y Juliets.
It is dried in barns then rehydrated in an herbal bath to make it pliable enough to roll.
Each of us was given the opportunity to smoke. I declined but Charlie was happy to give it a try after our tobacco expert dipped the end that goes in the mouth in honey.
Our presenter showed us how he takes the vein, the part that holds most of the nicotine, out of the tobacco leaf.
Charlie smoked his cigar as we watched the creation of a hand-rolled cigar.
As the cigar-maker stacked the leaves he also rolled them.
Then he trimmed a leaf to become the outer wrapper. At this point the cigar was firmly wrapped but limp due to the rehydrating of the leaves. It will be dried again before it is sold.
Ninety percent of the tobacco grown on this farm goes to the Cuban government. We were allowed to buy and bring back to the U.S. unmarked Cohibas from the farm in a natural humidor.