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Cuba Tourism

Yes, and for the first half of the 20th century, Cuba was the holiday destination of choice for many well-heeled Americans, happy to enjoy the good life on the Caribbean's largest island at a time when many of the local people were living in poverty.

Fifty years ago today, a cabin cruiser named Granma landed in the south-east of Cuba. Her passengers were revolutionaries, including Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, who went on to win a famous victory against the island's dictator - and the US interests that lay behind him. Some Cubans (the disaffected, disinherited and dissident) say that the rot set in on 2 December 1956, and that Cuba has patently failed to achieve its potential over the past half-century. But despite decades of state communism, today Cuba offers more options for luxurious holidays than ever.

The island has far more depth and diversity than other Caribbean islands, and the culture has been preserved by the increasingly absurd-looking US economic embargo, which prevents Americans from travelling to Cuba. The Cuban people's rich heritage of music, dance and religion stands in stark contrast to the poverty into which their beautiful country has sunk - as do the new hotels, spa facilities and golf courses that are taking shape at a frantic rate, following Fidel Castro's oft-repeated acknowledgement that "Only tourism can save Cuba".

Despite embracing the tourist dollar - or, these days, euro - and the expansion of the top end of the market, Cuba doesn't yet offer the consistency of other Caribbean islands, however.

"As a country, Cuba is intoxicating, charming, but it is idiosyncratic - it's not always possible to do everything in a luxurious way," says Jenny Geal of Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; "And you need to know it's quirky - don't go if you want everything to happen on time."

Source: Tribune online

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