Trips from Orlando to Cuba begin

2 flights offered weekly beginning July 8

By Sheli Muniz - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - In just hours, Island Travel & Tours will begin its first flights from Orlando to Cuba. It's a historic trip that's been made possible following eased relations with the communist nation.

Two flights will be offered weekly starting on July 8.

While the move will allow families to see their country and relatives for the first time, not everyone is excited.

"I'm not planning to go to Cuba," said Silvio Ortega of the Sociedad Cubana de Orlando. "I have a happy memory -- before Castro took over."

Ortega, like a lot of folks who left the country after Fidel Castro took the reigns more than 50 years ago, believes tourist dollars will only strengthen an oppressive government.

"We lost everything in Cuba, we lost our freedom, we lost our democracy," said Ortega.

Just last year, President Barack Obama announced normalizing relations with a country that it's been at odds with for half a century. That means relaxing rules and, for some Cubans, reuniting with family.

"If they want to see it, it's OK with me," Ortega said. "People that have relatives in Cuba, it's OK with me (if) they go to see the family, (if) they go to help the family, that's normal."

The flights will cost around $429 plus an extra $100 for a visa. Travel is still very limited subject to a list of reasons, and general tourism isn't one of them.

Local 6 was at the airport as lines grew. Bill Hauf with Island Travel and Tours heads up the flights.

"Each day we get more and more inquiries it's funny the inquires are being spread out until next year," Hauf said.

One couple told Local 6 they were going to Cuba on an educational trip for the first time.

"You know when I go on a trip I research and I get answers and there's not much out there," said Katie Bray. "It's kind of a big unknown but it's more exciting than nervous."

Stay with Local 6 for sights, sounds and stories of Cuban life.

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