The 20- year-old Tessa Kroninger arrived for the first time in Cuba. The Psychology student at the University of North Carolina confesses her excitement to finally be in a country that has heard both. “It’s a dream, an amazing thing,” she enthuses in good Spanish, inherited from her Colombian mother.
She is part of the more than 600 students and teachers who arrived Monday in Havana harbor onboard the MV Explorer cruise, to continue the academic program Semester at Sea , sponsored since 1964 by the University of Virginia, Charlottesville , United States and administered by the Institute of Studies on Board .
Restrictions imposed by the government of George W. Bush to travel to academic and cultural exchanges between the two countries prevented the visit to Cuba of the boat for nine years.
Nearly three years had to wait for the government of President Barack Obama in June 2013 to approve the travel license for Americans that would visit the island
Today, however, it returns to Havana full of young people eager to feel this piece of the Caribbean.
They know little, but want to learn much of this nation, Marisol Botanes said upon her arrival, Cuban student who shared space with the youth of the Semester at Sea for 11 days. On her experience on board, she found out that they only come with a preconceived idea of what they were told before landing, a rather negative message of the Cuban reality.
Since he boarded the ship in San Salvador de Bahia (Brazil) on November 25, Luis René Fernández , professor at the University of Havana (UH ) , also tried to convey to the youth of the cruise at least a bit of culture, history, traditions and economy of Cuba .
“We hardly had time to eat, wherever we went we were asked about where they could eat, dance or learn to speak Spanish on the island, while others questioned about changes in the country,” he said.
Received on the port by Gustavo Cobreiro, rector of the University of Havana, and representatives of the Federation of University Students (FEU), travelers fill out a comprehensive program of exchanges and visits to places of historical and cultural interest in the Caribbean nation.
In that sense, Laritza Limia, president of the FEU at the UH, said that in the premises visitors, who were mostly Americans, received conferences on history, politics and scientific development of the island, and exchanged with students of different studies.
According to organizers, the delegation of Semester at Sea will also hold talks with representatives of the Office of Interests of the United States in Cuba, while in the evening, they will enjoy a musical show at the Amphitheatre Havana.
During the eleventh visit to the Island by the cruise, the vast majority of passengers will feel the baseball fever that exists in the Caribbean country this Tuesday when attending a match between the teams of Industriales and Artemisa. Over 400 of them will be in the game at the 26 de Julio stadium, where they will enjoy with academics and people in general of the newly created province, Milagros Martinez, an official of the UH announced.
The students come from 200 universities in 42 States of the Union, along with staff of the program that will visit unique sites Cuban history and culture, among these, Playa Girón (Matanzas), Vinales (Pinar del Río) and Che Guevara Mausoleum (Villa Clara), guided by Havanatur agents.
Cuba was included in the cruise in 1999, from then until 2004, they made 10 stopovers in Cuba, in seven of which the students caught the attention of the highest authorities of the country and were even greeted by Fidel Castro.
After touring various regions of the world, the cruise will stay in Havana until February 11, when leave for their final destination, Fort Lauderdale, U.S.