Sunday, October 5, 2008


September 25th found me packed and heading to Toronto for my third trip of the year.
Flying Cubana, and being allowed 2 x 23 kg, permitted me to take a large quantity of pre approved supplies and books. Thanks to Mags for giving up a generous portion of her 2 x 23 kg to haul for the dogs.

I must say, that with our allowance, we did take the opportunity to deliver about 8 kg each of medical supplies to Policlinico Docente Principal de Urgencia Tomas Romay in Habana Vieja.
These bags were provided by Not Just Tourists (NJT)- Toronto.
NJT provides bags of donated medical supplies for delivery to Cuba - free of charge.

A few days before departure we were informed our flight would be delayed 5 hours.
Upon arrival at the airport we found out that our CU183 flight would stop first in Havana then go onward to Camaguey. This was odd but appreciated --- as it meant we would be in Havana well before the midnight we were expecting.
Boarding the aircraft there was no one in Tropical Class (first class). Strange. The departure time came and went and we were still on the ground. Soon the Tropical Class seats were occupied. Those in the seats were given a beverage and the aircraft pushed back. Once in the air the curtain between Tropical Class and us in steerage was drawn. After the seat belt sign went off four Cubanos got out of their seats and chatted the entire flight perched, for the most part, on their respective armrests in front of the drawn curtain.

For those interested in the food and beverage inflight, Cristal and Bucanero were offered at $3 CDN.

The meal was enjoyable and much better than the $6 CDN sandwich offered on Air Canada flights.

Greek salad with olives and feta.
Grilled chicken breast served chilled.
Focaccia with tarragon (albeit dry)

Blueberry swirl cheesecake

Our flight was a smooth one but there was one tense moment ---no passengers were allowed to pass the drawn curtain.
The pleadings of one woman who said she could not wait for the washroom line up at the back of the aircraft. Tense to say the least.

Our flight landed in Havana and taxied to an area of the airport unaccustomed to me.
An announcement requested all Havana passengers, "remain seated". This seemed like a cue for all the Camaguey passengers to queue in the aisle.
Stairs were rolled up to the aircraft, the doors opened, and Tropical Class emptied --- along with the chatty arm resting Cubanos.
There was a whole lot of hugging and hand shaking taking place on the tarmac.
After a few minutes of this the aircraft door was closed and everyone was told to be seated.
The stairs were rolled back and the engines started.
We taxied to the main terminal.

Here is what we figure was going on.
On September 24th, Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura addressed the United Nations in New York.
It was likely that to return to Cuba the delegation and security (aka chatty armresters) flew NYC - Toronto to connect with a Cubana flight to Havana. Our Cubana flight.
So, to accommodate the Cuban delegation, our flight was delayed five hours and landed in Havana first and not Camaguey as originally scheduled.

After disembarking we proceeded to the immigration area. It was obvious we were the only arriving flight as the oficers began to scatter for their booths, firing up the computers at our appearance.
It was 9:20 pm and a very quiet airport.
Clearing immigration was smooth, taking two minutes and one question. Compare that to my previous trip where the officer in Varadero questioned me for 20 minutes.
As I mentioned earlier, I had my supplies pre approved. Upon recovering our bags I showed the rubber stamped paperwork to Aduana officials and was directed to the exit.
The elapsed time from arrival at the passenger terminal to exiting into the Havana night was 21 minutes . Suave

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