Salsaville's Winter Getaway Music & Dance Educational Tour of
Cuba: January 11th - 27th, 2019
Salsaville's epic two-week plus Music & Dance People-to-People Tour of Cuba - Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Baracoa
The plan is to first spend 6 nights taking in the big city and salsa capital, Havana. We will explore the salsa scene in depth (parties, concerts, local dance clubs, and more), meet locals, and take in the architectural splendor that is Havana.
Then, we all fly onto Santiago de Cuba to spend 5 nights in this more provincial setting, which is known as the cultural capital of Cuba. "Son" music, the root of all salsa music (e.g., Buena Vista Social Club), is from here, and you will live and breathe it during our stay there.
Havana and Santiago are very different and both provide amazing experiences. Havana has more striking city sights, is close to spectacular beaches, and has internationally famous salsa bands playing live every night. Santiago is more compact with a somewhat laid-back smaller-town feel, is easy to get around on foot, and has so many easily accessible and wonderful music & dance experiences.
Finally, we all take a ride seeing gorgeous countryside, coast, and mountains to arrive in charming Baracoa, Cuba's oldest town, located in the most isolated region of the island. It has its own set of music & dance culture and has among the most abundant natural beauty on the island, which we will explore extensively during our 4 days there. Click here to read a good article about this area.
There are three options:
1. Havana, Santiago, and Baracoa: Leave Friday, January 11th(*) and return Sunday, January 27th.
On Thursday, the 17th, we all fly to Santiago, and then bus to Baracoa on Tuesday, the 22nd.
I do recommend this first and longer option, as you will get to experience the two most important places for music & dance culture in Cuba. Each city is so different, and seeing both will provide a much more balanced & complete view of Cuba.
If your schedule simply does not allow you to be gone for two weeks, we have two alternate options:
2. Havana only: Leave Friday, January 11th(*) and return Sunday, January 20th
The main destination in a visit to Cuba, Havana, the capital of Cuba, has the most access to music & dance events along with offering so much more. You will leave with getting an extremely good view of the culture of Cuba.
3. Santiago and Baracoa only: Leave Thursday, January 17th, and return Sunday, January 27th.
Santiago and Baracoa are such special places. You will bond with the cities and their people. Recommended especially for those who strongly prefer smaller cities/towns, or perhaps for those who previously visited Havana but haven't yet explored other parts of the country.
* Depending on where you are coming from and how early you are willing to get up, you may be able to arrive to Havana the same day and thus leave on Friday, January 11th. Otherwise, you will need to leave the afternoon before, spent the night in either Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, or Houston, and then fly to Havana the following morning/early afternoon.
Testimonials from Salsaville's first Music & Dance trip to Cuba - November-December 2015
Testimonials from Salsaville's second Music & Dance trip to Cuba - January-February 2016
Testimonials from Salsaville's third Music & Dance trip to Cuba - March 2016
Testimonials from Salsaville's fourth Music & Dance trip to Cuba - November 2016
Testimonials from Salsaville's fifth Music & Dance trip to Cuba - January 2017
The Application Form is at bottom of this page.
This trip will be run under a legal people-to-people educational license for travel in Cuba.
The group size will be limited to 16 or so travelers.
Please note that this will be run as a "semi-boutique" tour, meaning that the group size will kept on the small side, each member of the trip will receive individual attention, and the tour can be somewhat customized to your desires & interests. In addition, we are staying in upscale accommodations, but as a home-stay, not in a hotel. The group will be able to move around more efficiently and do more than a larger group could. This way we can all achieve my goal of making sure that each person has an amazing experience.
Included in the package price is:
Music & Dance Activities:
The only things that are not included in the package price and you should bring money for are:
Payment schedule is as follows:
If you need to cancel for whatever reason, I'm afraid none of the payments are refundable, except for a partial refund if we can find a replacement traveler and transfer the plane tickets into their name.
Why travel with Eric "El Cubanito" Freeman?
Eric has been traveling to Cuba since 1995. He has traveled there 20 times, and spent a total of 24 months there. He has studied dance there extensively and has developed numerous connections over the years. Join him to explore and experience the amazing things Cuba has to offer. The focus of the trip will be dancing and music, but the tour includes exploring Cuba's history, architecture, beaches, and their fascinating people.
From Cathleen Zuzelski (email@example.com):
"I knew Eric as a dance instructor and didn't know what to expect of him leading a trip to what has been a country unexplored to most of us living in the US. The result was better than I could have imagined. Not only did my dancing improve, but I was able to better interpret the Cuban music as well as understand the origins of where it came from. (There are still nights I drift asleep to the beat of the son clave). After the trip, I can't imagine having explored Havana for the first time as a solo traveler. Eric knows the city, can walk the talk, and is passionate about others experiencing the magic that is Cuba. Even with a group of 8 foreigners, I never felt like a tourist. From the casa particulars, intimate house dinners and private dance parties, I couldn't have felt more at home in this foreign land."
From Lorena Herrera (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Thank you so much for the wonderful experience in Cuba. The trip was more than I expected.
Your knowledge of the people, culture and places made this trip hassle free and pleasurable. The hardest part was keeping up with all the events and activities you had planned for us.
As I was going though my pictures, I couldn't believe we did so much in just ten days: dance lessons, night clubs, concerts (Los Van Van and Habana D'Primera to name a few), road trip to ViŮales, road trip to the beach, El Callejon de Hamel, the parks we visited, field trip to see the band practice, nice dinners and so much more.
Being so close to the culture was my favorite part. Talking to people and hearing their stories about how they deal with scarcity was very touching. The dancing was the best I've ever seen. The money exchange ;-). Walking through the streets and seeing real Cuba is what I wanted to experience and what I got.
I appreciate your continuous concern for making sure the we were enjoying ourselves and that you had picked out the most memorable places to see and things to do.
This is a trip I will never forget. And I think your love and enthusiasm for Cuba has become contagious because now I want to see the rest of the country.
From Shawhin Roudbari (email@example.com) and Shideh Dashti (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"What a trip! It was an unforgettable and magical experience. It left a deep, deep impression on me and my wife. Cuba is an amazing country with so many complex things going on... and on top of it all music and dance is everywhere. For the first few days back in CO, we couldn't get the rumba out of our shoulders and hips. The classes were intense and great. We learned a lot. We bonded with some of the instructors and miss them terribly! Being with Eric and the group for a week was awesome. Meals together, cramming into taxis together, getting humbled on the dance floor together was all so, so wonderful. We miss the friends we made and canít wait to get together again soon... Anyhow, itís hard to express in words how fun, rich, and impactful the experience was."
From Lupe Ledezma (email@example.com):
"I am thankful to Eric Freeman for providing this unique opportunity to travel to Cuba and learn about the culture, as well as taking amazing Cuban salsa lessons daily. It was a great trip that I will remember always. The chance to interact and become immersed in Cuban daily life was a way to really ďfeelĒ the soul of the music. Watching everyone from little kids to elderly move to the beat of the music on a daily basis was reflected in the hustle of the city of Habana. It is a city ďfrozen in timeĒ in many ways, while still offering most of the conveniences of modern living. Even the slight glitches and delays were an integral part of the experience given that the Cuban people live with these issues on a daily basis. While the trip was about taking classes and improving the craft of dancing salsa, it became a way to get an intimate look at another form of living and a once in a lifetime vacation. I canít wait to go again!"
From Graciella Funes (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"Eric and I have been friends for years and I was thrilled when I learned that he was taking a group of travelers to Cuba at the same time that I was going to be visiting my family in Havana. I didn't know at the time when I planned my trip that this fortuitous coincidence would enrich my return to my birth country more than I could have imagined. Eric's love and understanding of Cuba and it's people, culture and music is impressive and contagious. I've known him for a long time and sometimes, I just sat back and noticed how much he was in his element. His crafty ways of getting around obstacles, his vast knowledge of Cuban musical traditions, dances and folklore and his surprising Cuban street savvy ways, provided us with unique and fabulous experiences. Cuba is interesting, different, unpredictable and very fun, but in order to enjoy her, you have to be curious, open and flexible. Eric has mastered the art of navigating Cuba's temperamental nature and has turned it into a colorful adventure. Thank you my friend for inspiring me to see my country through a different lens."
From Laura E. GŁida (email@example.com, 303-827-8416):
"Why travel to Cuba with Eric Freeman? Because you will count on an experienced traveler, dancer, and teacher who would open doors into the Cuban life that you could not find otherwise. Eric provided me with a wonderful opportunity to explore the life and music of Cuba as he developed a well planned itinerary that included great housing, sightseeing, music events, dance lessons with great instructors and touristic attractions. He invited us to enjoy with him his love for music and the Cuban lifestyle which made this trip worth repeating as soon as I have a chance.
Even though I speak Spanish as a first language I could have not experienced Cuba and its music with the depth that Eric's expertise allowed me to grasp. His knowledge of the Cuban ways, the plethora of tips and pointers that he gave me as I explored this unique culture, and his genuine love for music facilitated my enjoyment and learning.
Eric is a wonderful teacher: his patience, his ability to analyze and learn, and his technical knowledge transpired every time we were exposed to Cuban music. He offered us an ample array of opportunities to learn and enjoy the most authentic of experiences as we danced to the best bands of Cuba, witnessed band rehearsals, and visited many dancing venues where we were in humble awe of very talented dancers, some of whom recognized Eric as a teacher across the globe! It was with immense pride that I identified myself as one of his students although I still have much to learn.
The people and music of Cuba will touch your heart, and there is no better opportunity to experience them than with Eric's help. Now go enjoy the trip!
Feel free to contact me if you want more details or have questions."
From Barry Solway (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"We landed in Tampa on a Friday night. Eric met up with a friend who showed us around downtown Tampa and eight hours after we had left Denver we were already dancing salsa in a little bar. And we weren't even in Cuba yet! Cuba is a strange mix. World class architecture from over a hundred years ago mixed with poverty and lack of maintenance. Sixty year old cars with tricked out sound systems. Walking the historic district, seeing the bazaars, the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Earnest Hemingway lived and wrote. Walking up to a window off the street to order a pizza. The culture of dance and music that is woven throughout the country. Every day felt like two days, with the mornings full of dance lessons and the afternoons and evenings full of sightseeing, concerts and night clubs. As he showed us in Tampa, Eric connected with an amazing assortment of people. We had an opportunity to see both the tourist side of Cuba and to live with the Cubans themselves, eating dinner together and dancing together. This was a great experience and Eric's passion for the music and dance of Cuba made this an unforgettable trip."
From Lisa McIntyre (email@example.com):
"My trip to Cuba this past November was an experience of a lifetime! Thanks to Eric Freeman for doing such a fabulous job orchestrating the entire journey. Not only did he handle all the details from flights to meals, but he allowed time for us to explore the culture of the area as well. We had a taxi available all day and night as we be-bopped around the city from our private casas to restaurants and events. Music and dance are an integral part of the Cuban culture and Eric ensured that we were exposed to all of it! The daily salsa lesson included personal instructors who love to teach. By the time we left Havana, each of us were walking to the rhythm of salsa: uno, dos, tres ... cinco, seis, siete!
One of my fondest memories was spending Thanksgiving afternoon at the beach drinking our make-shift pina coladas in the sand. We bought a bottle of Havana Club Rum, a box of pineapple juice, then purchased fresh coconuts from a local vendor who opened them with a machete so we could access the sweet milk and create our cocktail. Beats turkey and candied yams any day.
I had a desire to explore things outside of salsa dancing, including baseball and coffee. Since I am not a Spanish speaker, I needed to have someone with me who could speak English and share the details of the landscape, the politics and interesting cultural facts. Eric ensured this happened by lining up the right people at the right price. I took an entire afternoon away from the group with my Cuban guides, Keyler and Jorgie, and traveled in a '55 Chevy to the La Mocha region outside of Havana. There we drove along a hand-laid cobblestone road to a three-hundred-year-old French-Cuban coffee plantation at the top of mountain. We also stopped at a park where kids were playing baseball, Cuba's national sport. I was peering through the fence, taking it all in when some of the mothers noticed me and my blonde hair. They smiled and waved with full acceptance of my interest in the game. The people of Cuba were always welcoming, both in the city and in the countryside.
From Sherri Brody (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"The trip to Cuba was nothing short of amazing and one of the most memorable experiences of my life. From the moment I stepped out of the airport, I felt as though I had stepped into a bizarre time warp of old 50's automobiles, horse drawn carts, and neoclassic architecture, a scene that hinted of the once opulent lifestyle of old Cuba. It is like nothing I have ever seen! Within the rows of narrow streets lined with dilapidated but ornate dwellings with original marble floors, stained glass, and Corinthian columns dwell a people who are too poor even to paint their homes but whose passion for life and music are too contagious to ignore, whose smiles light up a city block, and whose sense of pure play drives everything they do. The city pulses with song and dance in a way that makes you want to get up yourself and dance on every sidewalk, in every restaurant, and on every beach; and finally, here is a place where it is as normal as breathing to do just that! Here is a place where an average meander through the colorful and busy streets might take you into some incredible adventure like running into the Buena Vista Social Club performing in a small restaurant, or perhaps just making a new friend and sharing a dance; wandering through a lush jungle to find at the other end of the trail a paradisiacal outdoor dance floor with a high energy salsa band playing for the locals. This - for a salsa dancer - might be comparable to finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow! Eric's passion for the Cuban culture is extremely contagious. He went above and beyond to bring our group back-to-back incredible and authentic experiences that we could have never known without the guidance of one so immersed himself in the culture. This is a man who loves his job and has found his calling in a big, big way.
Eric brought us to various music venues to see some of the hottest Cuban bands. The energy in these places went right through the roof. I cannot remember this kind of energy at a concert since I saw the Rolling Stones about 15 years ago from the 5th row (Mick Jagger might feel right at home in Habana). There was one surprise on our day at the beach that was completely random though partly engineered by Eric that made my entire year! I remember feeling so overwhelmed with emotion that I was thinking, "I could die now" because my life felt somehow complete. Overwhelmed by emotion for the remainder of the trip and mouth gaping in wonder, I fell sweepingly in love with the Cuban culture and hope to return some day. I'm glad that I could bring some of that electricity back into my daily life!
In addition to the intensive immersion, the group synergy was really wonderful - I enjoyed sharing my days with such fun and interesting people. Eric really took care of us, looking out for us every step of the way. He planned every detail and everything was seamless, especially for a group our size. It was a great relief not to have to plan anything and to have no decisions to make except what I wanted for dinner that night.
If you do decide you want to go to Cuba, I highly recommend going with Eric on one of these group tours while they are still available, especially at this low cost. You will not be disappointed. A trip like this is easily worth two or three times the cost, but more accurately, is priceless. You will definitely want to know some Spanish and, of course, take a crash course in Cuban salsa dance before you go.
Finally, I wish to say to you, Eric, how very grateful I am to you, my friend. My life is richer for having you in it.
Brazos y besos, Sherri"
From Greg Slopey (email@example.com):
"Are you looking for an sensual injection of Cuban dance, music, and culture? Eric's trip to Cuba provides you with an instant immersion to the real Cuba before the onslaught of Americans. You immediately meet friendly Cubans who introduce and teach you the rich history of their culture and salsa dance. Where can you meet the best dancers/instructors and musicians in Cuba, up close and personal? - only with Eric!
Eric's extensive Cuba experience covers the waterfront of non-stop action. I feel fortunate to be on the last trip and see Cuba as it starts its transformation. I highly recommend this trip. I have traveled and lived around the world, this trip injected my soul with the Cuban spirit!! Bravo Eric!!"
From Kim Horton (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"This trip was amazing! Generally, I avoid travelling with a group and prefer to go solo. However, I am convinced that for this kind of trip, it was the best way to go. Eric organized everything so well, I didn't waste any time trying to figure out where to go or how to get there. My goal was to enjoy as much music and dancing as possible and I was not disappointed. Thanks to Ericís knowledge and direction I was able to enjoy great social dancing every night of the week at the best salsa clubs in Havana. There were so many great options for live music it was hard to choose which ones to attend. All the concerts we went to were amazing. I couldnít have been happier with all the great dance lessons and quality instructors. In addition to all that, we enjoyed parties, a tour of the city, delicious dinners, trips to the beach and opportunities to get to know locals. There is no way I would have been able to squeeze in so many awesome activities without Ericís great planning. This was truly one of the most memorable trips I have ever had."
From Laura Brenton (email@example.com):
"Iím having trouble expressing how much this trip meant to me. But hereís a try ...
This is a trip you donít want to miss. If you love dancing and love music, you will love this trip. Eric created a cohesive group of people who were really fun to be with - not your typical "group trip". Adding in our Cuban dance partners, it turned into a full-fledged dance party. What a way to experience another culture!
There just isnít enough time to do everything you want. Having Eric make arrangements saved lots of time. We were able to see and do things that wouldnít be possible traveling solo. Although you could choose to opt out of activities, I never wanted to miss out on anything so it was an action-packed time. Traveling in Cuba, being outside the mainstream media was truly a retreat. If thereís any possibility of going on this trip - GO!
Eric, thanks so much for everything."
From Nora Reznickova (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"I am still trying to recover from the "Cuban dream." Not only did the trip exceed my high expectations, but Eric with his knowledge of the country made it a very special trip with great immersion into the Cuban dance and music and he tailored the experience to every person of the group. It was a very, very busy trip. We saw, heard and danced so much! We made so many connections with local people and especially with Cuban dancers. We saw Cuba changing in front of our eyes. I wish I could go back with the next group."
From Adam F (email@example.com):
"Eric is the ultimate guide for your dance-inspired adventure in Cuba. His expertise of the area, the culture and the local dance scene is truly invaluable. He is open, easy going and a super fun person to be around! No matter what your dancing level, I highly recommend traveling to Cuba with Eric ĎEl Cubanitoí Freeman if youíre interested in learning how to dance Cuban salsa in the ultimate full imersion environment."
From Diane Brenton (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"When I hastily signed up for a trip to Cuba, organized and led by the very competent Eric Freeman, I had no idea what a treat I was in for. Having lived in Venezuela for many years, I am well aware of the challenges of negotiating schedules, events, transportation, and lodging in certain countries. Any number of things could have gone wrong, and quite honestly, this was a perfectly run trip. Because of Ericís experience traveling around and living in Cuba, the whole sojourn was an utter delight. If your goal is to experience the culture, the energy, and the very soul of Cuba, then this is the kind of trip for you. Eric has a knack for lining up "once-in-a-lifetime" meetings. His energy is boundless and infectious, making everything - the dancing, the transport, the sightseeing, the meals - tons of fun. Eric is personable, ever so patient, and super connected. These assets are invaluable when traveling in Cuba, a yet unconnected domain. His friends and his overall know how of ways to maneuver Havana, and the rest of the country, saved us days of flailing, wandering around aimlessly, and frustration. Eric thought of details one may not think of him/herself, e.g. when and how to change money into the 2 differing currencies, where and how to buy water, where to eat, transportation to and from every single event, delicious breakfasts (and all meals), dance lessons AND private lessons, cultural and musical experiences beyond oneís imagination, and so much more! Traveling with Eric as leader opened up a world to us in a way we could never have experienced Cuba without his expertise. I couldnít recommend this trip more highly. It was inexplicably fun and extremely productive, all due to the meticulous and intuitive planning by Mr. Eric Freeman. Youíd be crazy to pass up a trip offered by him. Go and have a great time!"
From Peyman (Sasha) Razifard (email@example.com):
"I had wanted to visit Cuba for years. So when Eric mentioned his upcoming tour I was excited to join the trip, though I didn't know what to expect. It turned out that the trip exceeded my expectations in every aspect and I can't wait to join Eric's next trip to Cuba. Eric was very well organized, we stayed at comfortable apartments, enjoyed lovely tours of Havana, Tropicoco Beach and the town of Vinales. We shared great food and enjoyed awesome dance classes during the week. It was one of those "Once in a Life Time Adventures" and I highly recommend it."
From Keith Nowicki (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"I went with Eric on his February music and dancing tour in Cuba. I have nothing but good things to say about my experience. The dance schools were energetic and intensive. The nights were filled with live music and dancing. Eric spent a lot of effort to make certain everything ran smoothly and provided us with an overflowing selection of events to attend.
Cuba itself is in a transition and seeing the changes to the society was fascinating. In my free time I wandered the city and talked with people. If you want to see what Cuba has been like due to years of tense relations with the US and see how it will change as those international relationships normalize, now is the time to go and see this fantastic island. But, here's a warning: A few of us got pretty depressed having to leave that island and return to our normal lives. I've already asked to be included on the trip later this year."
From Matthew Dean Moyers (Matthew.Moyers@Colorado.EDU):
"What an experience! When can I go back? My name is Matt Moyers and I have just returned from a 10-day Cuban excursion packed with music, laughter, meaningful connections, and salsa dancing. I am blessed to have been able to travel all over the world within my short 23 years of life, and I can say without a doubt that my time in Cuba gave me the most lasting impression of a different culture.
The big difference between the other journeys and the 10 days in Havana was the fact that I went with a group from Salsaville Dance Studios. Our leader, Eric Freeman, had visited the country over 20 times before and had mapped out a daily schedule filled to the brim with dance classes, tours, dinners, and live music. In between our busy schedule, I was able to reach out to the friendly Cuban people who were eager to dive into deep conversations about everything from baseball to international relations. In this way I was able to utilize every second of my time on the island and fully engage in the vibrant Cuban community. I would recommend this program for anyone who sees himself or herself as a "go-getter" and wants to learn not only how to dance salsa, but to fully experience life on the Cuban island with an open mind."
From Jamie Montoya (email@example.com):
"The March expedition to Cuba was an amazing experience that exceeded my expectations as a dancer and as a tourist. Part of my motivation to go on this trip was for the salsa dancing, which was phenomenal in Cuba. There are so many people who are such great dancers, it was even great to watch the children dance with so much confidence and attitude.
Another reason I was inclined for this trip was just pure curiosity about this country that has been cut off from the United States for so many years. Eric did a great job in finding a balance between Salsa and allowing us to tour and experience the city. Even though I do not speak Spanish, there were many opportunities for me to interact with locals and learn a little bit about the Cuban culture.
There was very little time to relax, but all the fun events and activities were well worth it. There was so much to do in so little time, and I was amazed with all that we did in 8 days in Havana. The Los Van Van concert was my favorite experience. That day we also had the chance to hang out with some locals, and take a break from the touristy areas of Havana. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Cuba, and I hope to get the chance to visit again soon."
From Sally Lamberson (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"Donít put off this opportunity! I had more fun than Iíve had in 20 years! Seeing Cuba as it is now & experiencing the people, music & dance all at once completely filled my senses. You just canít get any better of a tour, and worth much more than I paid for. Eric really knows the flavor & the people- and he brings it all to you in a way that helps you really understand Cuba in a visceral way. Architecture- cars- sensuality. We saw the grandeur & the poverty & everything in between.
The dancing? Incredible. There were dance partners for all our lessons, and they joined us on several occasions in the clubs at night, making it less intimidating for those of us not used to the club scene. ALL the dance schools were welcoming & each had a flavor of itís own. Feeling a part of things, joining in a neighborhood "block party", participating in a band rehearsal & learning what each instrument was for ... all added to the richness of the trip. Eric had everything so well organized, and there was never a moment of nothing to do- but it was also not a problem to create some time & experiences on your own. Our home stays were comfortable & warm. Meeting everyone from our hosts, to our guides, photographer & of course the wonderful people on the tour will never leave my memory."
From Ruth Kalin (email@example.com):
"Just returned from Eric's wonderful trip to Cuba. Where shall I begin? Of course, the dancing, dancing, dancing with our own personal teachers for every class, and then private lessons on top of that. The numerous opportunities to hear live music, twice played by musician friends of Eric's in their own homes and backyards. One night Eric arranged a party at the last moment at the home of a bandleader, he knew - Armando Machado of Los Guanches. An entire roasted pig was brought to the party and Armando invited his family and neighbors, and the teachers from the dancing school came too. We were dancing with Armando's aunts, cousins, friends; it was very special.
Traveling with Eric felt as if you were traveling with a friend who was sharing all of his favorite places and people in Cuba. I'm usually not a traveler who enjoys tours, but I this one couldn't have been better.
This trip was so rich ó all the dancing, a little bit of sightseeing but not too much, dance performances, a live performance of the top band in Cuba, dancing in a pavilion in a lush garden with live music and ó hardly any tourists! A highlight of this trip were the many opportunities to visit with Cubans in their own homes and talk with them about the political/economic/social conditions in the country.
Eric was conscientious and detail-oriented, and super accommodating. As his aunt (disclaimer!), I was very impressed. This guy left no stone unturned!
It was a great visit to Cuba."
From Shirley Cieluch (Scieluch@aol.com):
"My trip to Cuba, March 2016, the first leg in Havana, the 2nd leg in Santiago de Cuba.
I don't know where to start. Some of my questions before the trip: 2 weeks is a long time. Will I have the stamina to dance that much? I don't speak the language.
My answers to those questions, 2 weeks was not long enough, I had more than enough stamina to dance every day, and I managed to communicate without knowing any spanish. I fell in love with the people and the country. I personally am going back again.
Eric does an amazing job of guiding you through every step of the way. He schedules a variety of activities above and beyond dance. Whatever you want to get out of the experience is possible, just ask. He gives you knowledge and tools that allow you to navigate independently."
From Lori Kashman (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"Que experiencia fascinante! This was a trip of a lifetime. I have dreamed of visiting Cuba for over 20 years. Eric made this dream a reality. He exposed us to a country that we could never have experienced so intimately without his vast knowledge of the culture and the people. Eric proved to be an invaluable resource as we explored this foreign land, which is surprisingly only 90 miles from the shores of the USA.
I loved feeling like we had ventured back in time to the 1950's. Everything from the gorgeous, old model Chevy's to the antiquated, colorful mansions - you could close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like in the heyday - before the Castro dictatorship put an end to it all. The opulence of the past remained very evident as we roamed the streets of Havana.
The warmth from our new Cuban friends was so profound. Gretell, Keyler, Karel, our host families, and the dance instructors were all amazing! They made us feel so welcome and seemed to really enjoy sharing their culture with us. The energy there was phenomenal. Eric exposed us to many diverse opportunities. I loved when we went to see a private rehearsal of the Oderquis Reve y su Changui band. We got a history lesson of how Cuban music evolved and had the opportunity to talk to the musicians and interact with them on a personal level. We took a group picture before we left the rehearsal venue, and before we left Havana, we received a CD from the band with our personal group picture, and a picture of the Cuban flag and US flag together, along with the title of all the songs on their disc. I was beyond touched by this gesture of friendship. It is a souvenir I will treasure forever.
Thank you, Eric, for all you did to create an unforgettable, unique journey to a country you have admired for so many years. It was truly wonderful to see Cuba through your eyes."
From Gary Brenner (email@example.com):
"My Salsaville trip to Cuba. Here are a few impressions:
1. Today Cuba is the place. Everyone wants to go. But you'd like to do more than just look on. You'd like to be part of the scene, to share a moment beyond commerce. Traveling Cuba with Eric is like being with a really cool cousin who not only knows everybody, grammas to hepcats, but they all love him. And because he's your cousin, they give you credit for being really cool too, and you are cool: everyone wants to talk to you and dance with you, even if, like me, you don't dance worth beans.
From Judy Grosswiler (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Cuba and hope someday to go again! The Cuban people were so open, warmly friendly and engaging and I feel very close to the ones I connected with--especially a violinist in a street band (we shared making music). Going to the National Theatre to see the National Ballet of Cuba was very exciting. The crumbling buildings had a rich, elegant grandness to them. People's homes open right onto the street and I loved walking down them because there was such an opportunity to communicate and feel a part of their world. Seeing and riding in "fixed up" old cars brought back memories and was fun. Last but not least, my salsa technique was lifted to a higher level."
From Roberta Dages (email@example.com):
"There is no question that I will go back to Cuba. If you love to dance, listen to salsa music and connect with people of another culture I would highly recommend signing up for one of Eric's trips to Cuba. The anticipation was high for me, and my expectations were exceeded.
Even though the second week of our trip was interrupted by the mandatory mourning period for Fidel Castro, Eric kept us busy. We all have different ideas of what we want in a trip of this type. For me....meeting people, learning some of the history, dancing with the locals...it was all part of the experience. One of my favorite memories was walking by the open doorway of a home one night and hearing family members clap out the clave rhythm while their toddler was learning to walk. The beat starts early and is a part of their lives.
The trip started with me being terrified that I wasn't good enough. That changed when I realized the dance partners and studio owners were encouraging and helpful and that they really want to see you succeed. By the end of the trip I was feeling much more confident. The confidence however, was not just in my improved ability but in the freedom to dance for myself.
Every day since I have returned from Cuba new memories have come to mind; memories of the Cuban experience and memories with my 14 travel companions who are now forever friends."
From Diana Vasquez (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"I had the most wonderful time in Cuba with the group that Eric took in November, 2016!!!! I am a dancer and have traveled to many places, but Havana, Cuba was one of the best! I wanted to go with Ericís groups because I know Eric has been going to Cuba for many years and I knew I could not have the experience I was looking for unless I went with someone who knew the area and the people well. The majority of our trip was experiencing the local life and people, not the tourist attractions, which is what I was looking for. We went to local neighborhoods, we went to local peopleís houses. The taxi drivers became our friends. The lady that owned the B&B where I stayed was like an aunt. The dance studios and night clubs experience was one like no other I have had in any of the places I have visited!!
I was so pleased with Ericís guidance, planning of the trip and concern for everyoneís enjoyment as well as their safety and well-being. Eric is a real professional and knows the area and people well. Thank you Eric for an experience I will always treasure!!! I definitely want to go on another one of your group trips."
From Sanae Elmoudden (email@example.com):
"Traveling in a group with Eric Freeman to Cuba is one of the best experiences that could happen to you. Eric was excellent. He planned our itinerary for each day based on our own unique needs. He paid attention to every member of our large group of 14 members. Based on his vast and accurate knowledge of the country, he set up our expectations prior, during, and after our travel. For instance, one of his suggestions was to bring snacks from the US. This was very handy during the day but also in late nights after having a great time dancing our night away. In addition he made outstanding suggestions considering each group members personal likes and dislikes for food and activities. He directed our meat lovers, vegan, and vegetarian members to restaurants that satisfy their needs.
Although I cannot do justice to the gorgeous experience I had with Eric Freeman during our travel in few paragraphs, I can tell you that it is one of the best travel experiences I had, and I have traveled to each continent. Cuba is a fun and a historic country. Eric organized our dance classes and music knowledge so we can have a taste of many types of Cuban dancing and music. He even organized our classes from an easier school to a more difficult one so that we can feel and experience our own sense of achievements. However, a fun time is not the only thing you are guaranteed when you travel with Eric. History in making seems to be part of the agenda. Our prior group was in Havana with Eric when Air Force landed in Cuba for the first time in more than 70 years ago. Our own group got to experience the historic event of Fidel Castro's death while we were on the soil of Havana. So yeah I would definitely encourage you to travel with Eric Freeman as he made our travels fun, stress free, easy, and historic. And, yes, if time permits I would travel with him again to Cuba in a heartbeat."
From Charmaine Lawrence (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"If you love dance, salsa music, and people, this is the trip for you! Our group had many different personalities, but I truly enjoyed sharing our love of dance and learning about Cuba together.
For me, there were many highlights....starting with the 'band rehearsal' of friends of Eric's, all of our classes, a concert in the Jardines, and last but not least, the special new friends I made. Eric arranged home visits with Cubans at two different spectrums of life in Havana. I am already looking forward to a reunion!
A traveler to Cuba should be prepared for the anything....power outages, music around every corner, interesting car rides and gorgeous architecture!
Thanks, Eric, for the trip of a lifetime❤"
From Jesse Garland (email@example.com):
"On the trip:
From Jessica Montoya (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"My experience for the November 2016 Havana trip was one of the most incredible I have ever had. Going to Cuba has always been a dream. Dancing is my passion and I wanted to experience the authenticity of Cuban culture and dance.
I chose to go with Eric because I believe he shares the same passion for the Cuban people and culture as I do. Eric has put the time and effort in to making his trips no less than amazing.
My time in Cuba has been life changing in so many ways. I came back with my soul filled with the beautiful melodies and movement of Son, Rumba, Salsa, ChangŁŪ and so much more. I view life must sweeter. I was able to dance non-stop ... except to eat and sleep a little! ha! But everyone was able to do their own thing when they needed to, which put no pressure on anyone. Our group was absolutely phenomenal... like a family even though many of us just met for the trip. I made life long friendships.
Eric provided a connection taking us into a beautiful land where we had such unique opportunities that were priceless to me; from awesome dance workshops, amazing concerts from the best Salsa bands like, Alexander Abreu, Pupy y Los Que Son Son, Maykel Blanco y Su Salsa Mayor just to name a few .., city tours, private band rehearsal (one of my favorite experiences), dance opportunities that only locals know about, and wonderful locals sharing their knowledge about the country.
This trip sparked a fire inside to continue my Cuban journey... I am so grateful to Eric for all he did for me, the others in our group, and the beautiful Cuban people.
From Jeanine Butler (email@example.com):
"Eric Freemanís Salsaville excursions to Cuba are a great way to combine learning about the real Cuba, its culture and people, with all of its charm, while experiencing its amazing dance and music.
Eric has a lot of experience traveling, is very good with logistics - from visas to airfare - and has many connections in Cuba, including money exchanging, private photographers, Cuban drivers of historic cars, Internet cards, Paladars (home-based restaurants) and Casas particulares (private homestays with Cuban families), etc, etc., so you can focus more on enjoying your visit, and Cuban people, culture and country.
The trips are fully packed with a lot of variety, so you will be sure to get a good sampling of Cuban people and culture - you can always opt out of an activity if you want bit of a slower pace, as I did occasionally.
Traveling with a group of Americans, most who spoke some Spanish, enabled me to tag along and enjoy the trip in spite of being both hearing-impaired and non-Spanish speaking.
As a vegetarian, I managed to find enough good food to eat, but I recommend for veggies to bring along snacks to space out your meals, as what you are used to will be mostly impossible to find. Eric was kind enough to go to extra trouble to make sure I had veggie options at meals.
Even when unexpected circumstances curtail plans, as in Fidel Castroís passing during our trip, Eric was quick to negotiate the continuation of our plans, as in our Santiago dance classes, and come up with alternative activity options to replace what we could not control: the ban on music throughout the country during the 9-day mourning period.
I would highly recommend Eric Freemanís Salsavilleís excursions to Cuba, especially for those who love dance and music."
From Juelz Lange (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"Thanks again for some great lifetime memories! It's great to see all the photos and videos on fb! I would definitely recommend your trip to anyone who wants to improve their dancing, learn new styles of salsa, and dance with dancers who have sabor and love dancing,...you could feel it on the dance floor with every dancer. The trip was a real Cuban experience and for anyone who wants to feel immersed in Cuba and it's culture they should consider the two week experience to Havana and Santiago. Kudos for herding a group of independent cats while at the same time coordinating meals, rides, shopping, etc. for everyone.
Lets keep in touch for a possible next trip!"
From Bill Kotsch (email@example.com):
"This is the tour for people who don't like tours. Eric is well organized and a wealth of ideas and information. He offers plenty of planned activities. However the atmosphere is congenial and relaxed, and everyone is able to pursue their own agendas.
Cuba is a marvelous place; the people are warm and friendly; and the dancing is wonderful. I highly recommend it, and I look forward to my next trip with Eric to Cuba."
From Dan Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"I can't begin to enumerate the rich experience that Eric choreographed for each member of our group. More than just dance (as if that wasn't enough) -- going to Cuba with Eric is an rich experience not to be missed. Each day was an adventure -- specially catered meals, dancing on the beach with a live Salsa band, a pig roast followed by live music and dancing, etc. This was not a trip that that I, an experienced traveler, could have duplicated on my own--at any price point.
Eric knows Cuba intimately and goes to amazing lengths to insure every member of the group gets an experience that is perfect for them. Want to dance all night -- Eric knows the best venues and will send his driver to pick you up when the clubs close; you want to do a relaxing side-trip to a colonial town -- Eric can set that up as well and will insure that it all goes smoothly.
If, like me, you are not a proficient dancer and haven't enjoyed dance lessons in the past... no worries--learning to dance/dancing in Cuba is really, really fun. And, of course, if you're an accomplished dancer you're going to have the time of your life."
Nora Reznickova (email@example.com):
"I chose to go for a SECOND trip to Cuba with Eric as I already knew: It will be well organized, we will hear excellent music and meet interesting local people, dancers and musicians, I will dance a lot and improve a lot and I wonít need to take care of anything except having valid passport and comfortable shoes to dance in. That was true and much more. I like Ericís creativity, flexibility, how he builds up on the experience from the previous trips. He made the trip again a very rich experience. It allowed every member of the group to meet their own goals at their own pace. I hope more people can experience Ericís introduction to Cuba in future. It is so worth it!"
Jenny Plaza (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"One or two paragraphs is not enough to describe my experience in Cuba. I got together with my sister Terry last night and we spoke about Cuba and how the trip was so worth it because of your planning every little detail. Amazing.
Thanks Eric, I would do the trip again in a heartbeat to see more of the Cuba that I knew not only from history, but also in combination with the dancing and the people we met.
Thank you once again."
Edward Ho (email@example.com):
"Suyan and I really found the trip exceptional. It was beyond our expectations to not only learn the music and dance, but especially to meet the people you arranged in their homes and studios. The memory of such experience will stay with us for a very long time.
As for you, you definitely did a good job preparing for the trip. You communicated with us frequently before the trip including emails and Skype, sharing your own past experiences in Cuba so we knew what to expect when we got there. When we got there, because you personally knew so many locals, you were able to make adjustments and surprises if things did not go as planned. (As I realized these things can happen as a norm in Cuba).
Thank you so much and we really enjoyed the trip."
Claudia Munoz (firstname.lastname@example.org):
"Being that I have always wanted to immerse myself in the heart of Cuban culture, I saw no better way of doing so than to join Salsaville on this epic journey!
Who knew you could dance your way through Cuba!? I joined our New York based dance studio over a year ago. So of course, when I heard about this opportunity to blend my love of travel with dance, who wouldn't jump at the chance.
It's always a safe bet to travel with people who know the lay of the land. Eric Freeman is one of those people. He was able to provide us with the best Cuba has to offer. Whether its a specific menu you seek, a customized itinerary, catching the hottest live bands, dancing in the most popular nightclubs, seeing historical sites, and arranging tours...he has all the answers and is able to accommodate you. I was fortunate to go with some of my family members. We took a couple days to take a road trip and explore the rest of this beautiful country. Of course, Eric was able to arrange for a personal driver immediately. And to put the cherry on top ...a classic 1956 Chevrolet just for our trip!
What's also great about going with this group is the flexibility. Not only did I have the time to perfect my skills at dance classes, I was also able to take time to myself to see the sites which are not part of the itinerary. By day two, I was already strolling down to the market and exploring the lay of the land on my own. There wasn't a moment I didn't feel safe.
The group size is perfect, making it possible to accommodate everyone's personal needs. You will definitely bond together and make some great friends along the way. I know I did:)
I learned so much of the history and passion that goes into Son, Salsa, Afro-cuban, Mambo, and Timba. Dance is the heart and soul of the Cuban culture, and that heart and soul emanates in full force from the Cuban people. It was magnificent to witness.
I definitely recommend anyone looking for an authentic experience to join this group. Cuba is such an incredible, intoxicating place. So much so that I am joining the next group later this year. I guarantee you will want to return too. And you will definitely want to return with El Cubanito;) Thanks to Eric for making this a trip of a lifetime!"
Tatiana Klimov (email@example.com):
"Thank you Eric for the amazing experience! Thank you for the Fun trip filled with hours of dancing every day, tasting local cuisine, visiting historical sites and performances of famous bands. Thank you for the opportunity to meet new Friends!
Don't think, just go and see it for yourself!"
Please copy & paste the below text into an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and fill in:
(Please avoid printing out this form and writing in answers by hand.)
1. Which dates are you signing up for:
Option #1: November 17th to December 2nd (Full trip)
Option #2: November 17th to November 25th (Havana only)
Option #3: November 24th to December 2nd (Santiago only)
2. Would you like single or double occupancy?
If double occupancy, tell me the name of the person you are sharing a room with, or, if you would like me to attempt to match you with another traveler to share a room.
Note: For Havana, rooms usually have one bed only. For Santiago, rooms usually have two beds.
3. Please indicate your preferred origin and return airports:
For example if you live in Boulder, CO, then normally DIA (Denver) would be the airport for both leaving and returning. If you want to return to a different airport, or perhaps stay in Miami on your own for a few extra days on the way back, please indicate this.
4. Your email address:
(If you do not check your email at least once every 24 hours, please let me know that.)
5. Your cell phone number with the ability to receive text messages:
(If you do not have a cell phone that you regularly use, please provide an alternate phone number, and let me know that you cannot receive text messages.)
6. Do you have Facebook?
We tend to use Facebook for group communications (mostly before the trip), but this is not at all required.
7. Fill in the info below as it appears on your passport. (Needed to book airline tickets).
Date of Birth:
8. Contact info for any emergency:
Name of person:
9. Your mailing address:
10. Attach a good quality scan of your passport. (You can take a photo with a smartphone camera instead.)
11. Do you have any physical and/or psychological issues that could impede your ability to successfully participate in this trip?
12. Understand that this tour will involve walking at a moderate pace of up to 1-3 miles per day. This will be in, depending on the weather, fairly hot, humid conditions. In addition, we will be doing (on about 8 days) 2 to 3 hours a day of dance lessons in well-ventilated, but non-airconditioned rooms. In most evenings we will be going out dancing for 2-3 hours. All activities are optional. If you are tired at any point, you can always opt-out and go back to your B&B to relax, rest, etc.
13. You will need to sign a fairly standard liability waiver to sign which will be delivered to you upon accepting of your application.
14. From time to time you will be asked for your input on some aspect of planning the trip. You will sometimes be asked to respond in as little as 24-48 hours. Do you agree to do your best to respond in a timely-manner? (Examples include RSVP'ing to a propsed group orientation meeting time, and getting your go ahead in purchasing specific airline flights.) I will need your timely response in order to help effectively plan the trip.
15. What are your expectations for participating in this trip? (Two sentence minimum here please.)
16. Any dietary restrictions that could be relevant to this trip - like if you don't eat red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, etc.
Eric "El Cubanito" Freeman
Owner, Salsaville Dance Studios