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So, I’m in isolation.

Isolated to get ready for some work-related travel. With this, I’ll have lots of time to (finally) keep my word and get this place caught up again. And of course, some nice cigars are resting with me, ready for smoking in strange new countries again.

The food is meh. But its in a wired room, so that’s a good thing at least.

More to get caught up on, and uploaded here shortly.

Cheers all.

National Mourning…

This sucks.

Yesterday, there was the incident in Toronto.

Man arrested after Toronto van attack charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder

Here’s what we know about the victims of the Toronto van attack

I was about to post a cigar review yesterday, and a couple other Cuba trip posts, but it’s not the mood / time right now.  At this point, I’ve been able to hear that most family and friends in Toronto are not directly involved, and all appear to be safe and sound.  Which is good to hear.  And it’s comforting to see how that city / this province / this country is coming together for this incident.

I lived in Toronto for a number of years back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and a place that I worked at was right at Yonge St and Sheppard Ave, right at Spring Garden Ave, just a few blocks south of Yonge and Finch Ave.  So, I know that region / plaza / street quite well – a very bustling area, with the Ford Center for the Performing Arts right there, and the plaza area surrounding the North York municipal center and whatnot.

Current reporting states that the arrested guy (and my hat’s off to the Toronto PS cop that nabbed the guy) used to be a Canadian Armed Forces member.  It sounds more like he was a “recruit” than a “member”.  By the sounds of things, he only made it through 16 training days out of his Basic Training when he started with the CAF last summer / fall, before he was punted out.  So, no, he didn’t become a full member of the Forces, as it sounds like he got turfed for simply not fitting in (but doesn’t sound like there were big warning bells on an incident like this either).  It might be interesting depending on what other info about this becomes known also.

But I know within the military, and policing as well, these types of incidents are always in the backs of our minds, as front line personnel, and for military and police planners.  Lone wolf.  Mental health issues.  Soft targets.  Hardened weapons-of-opportunity/convenience.  Etc.  Everyone worries about international terrorism, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.  But it’s these types of incidents that Canadians as a whole have had a lackluster approach to, as a society.  How many times do we hear “I never thought it could happen here” in the media stories???  Unfortunately, we think about it in military and law enforcement circles – hell, an old Warrant Officer of mine from a number of years back (before the Ottawa attack even) used to say that what Canadians unfortunately NEED is to have one of these types of attacks occur, on Canadian soil, on a big, soft target, to make everyone wake up and realize that complacency and shoving our collective heads in the sand won’t make the threats go away.  That our downloading of mental health beds/hospitals/treatment over two-plus decades has left a HUGE gap, and coupled with the budgetary limits placed on the Armed Forces and first responders, that it’s all a giant accident / incident waiting to happen.

So, we need to learn from this, and gain as much valuable insight as we can.  To not to be Chicken Little, and be afraid of our shadows, and deviate from our everyday lives.  But to simply have a slight vigilance about us, and to actually fund the personnel, training, and infrastructure for our military and law enforcement and first-responder institutions, to make us all the better prepared and ready should something terrible like this happen.

Thoughts and prayers (to whatever deity you worship) being sent to all directly or indirectly affected by this.  Hopefully the coming days and weeks will yield more answers, more understanding, some forgiveness, more tranquility and calmness, and more awareness of the underlying issues.

Cheers all.


CBC News Story – “Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”…

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.

“Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”

Fingers crossed for them.  I say that (new boss / old boss), as that’s just what simply comes to mind.  But I dunno.  I hope for more positive changes.  I’ve seen the benefit since the 2008 transfer from Fidel to Raul, and then the Obama détente, and in last November’s trip, the DEFINITE pall that’s been cast since Trump rolled back some of those benefits.  As a few fellow travelling friends said then, Cubans have seen the benefit economically of having American tourism dollars roll in unabated, and now they’ve “had a taste”, so there’s a definite depressive feeling since it’s disappeared a bit again.

And as the CBC News story mentions, there is also the concern of removing the two-peso-system in place there (with both the CUC and CPE pesos in use), and the worry among some of us cigar travelers that we could wake up with our pocketed CUCs (sometimes said as the “C-U-C” letters, or stating CUCs in plural such as “cooks”, or more jokingly “cookies”) suddenly unusable overnight.  Though “the rules” on the island state that the CUC money is not to leave the island, and should be exchanged back-and-forth when arriving and leaving, there’s quite a few of us that pocket a few hundred bucks in hand when we leave, so that we have ready cash available for our next return to Cuba.  To simply have readily-available funds to grab a taxi at 3am from the airport, or something like that.  Some moolah on hand for hitting a restaurant or bar that first evening on the island, to be able to not fret about needing to hit a cadeca (money exchange) until later the next day or as needed.

So that is something that’s been talked about for 2 or 3 years now at least, about a perhaps overnight transition of their financial system, with some of us worried about any personally-held CUCs to be potentially worthless.  And the sounds back when a lot of it was first mentioned, a few years back, and discussed then was that the two-peso-system would remain until a Castro wasn’t in power.  So there’s a lot of chance that it will be one of the first things to change under Diaz-Canel, perhaps.  It’ll be interesting to see what he decides to do to pick up the economy, so to speak, with the current funk that things appear to be in from many accounts.

But, alas…first world problems there on us travelers losing out on a few CUCs.

There’s the definite note that Raul will still chair the party until 2022 or something like that, so Diaz-Canel will likely be leading while also being led himself.  So that’s where the “new boss/old boss” thought and comment popped into my head.  But, he definitely is of a different leadership ilk and generation than the Castro brothers, so I do hope for more positivity for Cubans with this.  Fingers (and toes) crossed.

Cheers all.

Encuentro Partagas 2018 anyone???

So, a friend on the FOH forum recently shared a picture of the general program poster for the Encuentro (de la yada y a yada) Partagas for this upcoming November 2018, and said no issues to share it here.

And fuck, I know I still have to update posts and such from my Partagas Fest trips to Havana from both November 2017 and even 2016 still, but I figured I’d get this up here ASAP for any wondering about the dates…


Apparently, this was on display back at the start of March, during the Habanos Festival.

Time to confirm and book my tickets, if they’re actually being that much in advance, and confirming again the move to the 2nd week of November instead (they’ve done that for the past year or so, as opposed to the 3rd week during previous years).  Weather’s turned out not too bad during the last few years, so…fingers crossed!

Cheers all.


Recently Updated “Cigar Price List For Cuba”…

So a great BOTL, Yann, out of the Montreal-area, he runs the YUL Cigars online price list tool for Cuban cigars, with pricing for purchases of Habanos right at the LCDH shops in Cuba directly.  I think I’ve passed along his info / blog-link before, and with high praise.

Well, recently, he passed along to a bunch of us in the different forums and groups that he’s just completed some further updating and additions.  He’s also now added pricing for a lot of the rums, coffees, wines and other goodies that Havana-philes specifically look for too.  So, it’s an absolutely awesome reference to look over.

Quite simply, you can find the price list at his link here:

An absolutely invaluable tool for anyone into cigars, travelling to Cuba, etc.  Bookmark it, save it, add it to your Favorites, whatever you need to do.  Note that all prices are listed in Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs).

Cheers all.

Arc’teryx and Danner Boots…why hast thou forsaken us?!?!?

So…I’m a gear whore.  That definitely rears it’s ugly head as it relates to both my cigar accoutrements, as well as my workplace gear.  I’m an EDC (everyday carry) geek somewhat – due to workplace training, I damn-near ALWAYS have a pocket knife (primarily as a tool, NOT a weapon) and little LED flashlight in my pocket.  I also generally try to have a seatbelt cutter and window punch tool (Res-Q-Me tool) on my keychains and duty gear.  I like to have a small “go-bag” of basic 24- to 48-hr essentials on me, usually in my vehicle if I’m out and about – I’m VERY impartial to this kick-ass 5.11 “RUSH / MOAB” single-strap pack, and have travelled with it both domestically and overseas, and it’s an extremely modular and well-executed piece of kit.

That’s just kind of my mindset, to have EDC stuff and gear on hand, even before getting into the Military Police, from my years of doing civvie Search-And-Rescue before – “plan for the worst, hope for the best”, “expect the unexpected”, etc.  So, over the years, I’ve bought, used, sold, and stockpiled some very unique and task-specific gear.  I’m glad my wife doesn’t back-check the credit cards too much!!!!

Anywho, so I’ve recently got back from some more deployment travelling stuff, and getting prepped and ready the last few weeks and months for a decent-length full-on deployment, and I’ve been getting some new gear and such.

Danner Boots.  Always worn them on patrol.  Have had a number of pairs over the years (mostly all different variants / colours of the Kinetic boots).  Looking to get some more pairs, including some hiking shoes.

Arc’teryx LEAF.  The “dead bird”.  Used a fair bit of their gear in years past, loaned from buddies and whatnot.  But trying to get set-up finally with my own LEAF account, and order some of my own gear.

And whaddya know, but both decide to fail horribly when it comes to the customer service aspect.

With Danner, I tried a few various types of boots, mostly tan or coyote colour.  Ended up focusing on the Desert TFX GTX / Gore-Tex.  HORRIBLE fitting boots.  Very drastic pinch points and whatnot at the ankles, really over-engineered and not-realistic lacing system, etc.  So, I go through the return aspects, and while it only took 2 days to order and have shipped out, it was “expected to take” upwards of 6-8 weeks to process my returned boots, and actually give me my refund back.  They had the shipment, but didn’t have enough people to process the return (wish they ran it like Amazon does with returns – very slick).

But in the interim there, I wrote some reviews.  Frankly, I posted one for the Desert TFX GTX on three different occasions.  After the 2nd time of it being up there, but then removed / deleted, I e-mailed them.  I was told, simply, that due to foul language it was removed.  There was only one insertion of a “WTF” in there (and literally, just those letters).  But, after a revision and resubmission, still removed and gone.

Honestly, I was VERY unflattering in my review.  And as a long-time Danner fan, I was definitely feeling let down by some of their products.  I’m actually waiting on more to try, and keeping fingers crossed.  But this experience had me look at their pages, and the reviews.  They actually don’t list them in order in any way.  It looks like they bury unflattering reviews on following pages.  Stuff is not on there in any reasonable chronological form.  And plainly, they have no issue deleting / not-publishing very harsh and critical reviews.  Very much a “controlling the message” aspect.  Hey – then LISTEN to people’s complaints (I noticed the issues I brought up have been brought up by lots of other people online outside of Danner’s reviews/webpages), and make a better product.  Quit ruining a great product, over-engineering and throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and then disappointing long-time customers.

So then we come to Arc’teryx LEAF…

I finally decided to get myself an account set up back on March 9th.  Weeks and weeks of getting ad e-mail sometimes every day (after I SPECIFICALLY unchecked boxes and ensure I would NOT be requesting to be put on spam mail lists).  But no follow-up about my submitted documents for an Arc’teryx LEAF account.  So I e-mail and e-mail, and finally get the following response just a few days ago:

Hi Keith,

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delayed response. Unfortunately we regret to inform you that this program is no longer operational.

We are committed to maintaining the highest level of customer service across all of our programs, however we learned that the LEAF Purchase Program has limited uptake yet requires significant program maintenance. For this reason, we made the decision to discontinue the program in order to refocus our efforts on other customer initiatives.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and ask that you please contact your local Arc’teryx tactical retailers for direct purchasing needs.

Kind regards, Oliver

WTF???!?!  Arc’teryx, that dirty ol’ dead bird, is discontinuing the LEAF program?!?!!?!?

What I’m understanding is that the products will be available, but no more discounted purchasing options now for military / LE members.

A quick Google search, and nothing to be found.  Nothing in any news releases, and nothing either to any of the various newsletters or a blog by Arc’teryx, as far as I can see.

I worry – who knows about this?  Figured I’d share it here.  Any military / LE members, those who have been enjoying the LEAF program for years…any word on this?

Frankly, I find this all very disappointing.

There’s lots of these companies out there that have BUILT their brands’ reputations on the backs of the military members, first responders, outdoors professionals, etc., who have purchased, used, and SWEAR BY the legendary quality and performance of these items.  Lives are trusted to this gear sometimes.

Due to all of this, these companies and brands have received MILLIONS OF DOLLARS’ WORTH of FREE ADVERTISING by those professionals using and spreading positive word-of-mouth on this gear.

So now they just bail?  They don’t respond to issues adequately, they hide bad reviews, they drop reasonable-discount programs in support of those who helped build their businesses?

Reminds me a bit of when I was posted to the base in Halifax, and I went to the Roots Canada store at one of the big local malls, and I found out that Roots had just recently cancelled their discount program for Canadian Forces members.  It was a 10 or 20% program (I want to say it was only 10 or 15% off).  But, the staff clerk ironically explained to me, the same corporate-internal release that notified stores of that discount ceasing for military members, also stated that a new discount program was being offered for all NHLPA members, to the tune of 40% or so.

Nice.  Very nice.  Thanks for nothing, I guess.

But spread the word about Arc’teryx – who knows; hopefully they’ll reconsider dropping the LEAF program.  Fingers crossed.  But my further e-mails have gone unanswered.

Cheers all.

I’m A Slacker…

Alright, I know I’ve posted it before – I’ve been tied up busy for the past few months, and haven’t really updated stuff on here for a while now.  But, I’m ready to rock-and-roll again in the next little bit, and have a ton of things lined up.

Lots of work stuff to post.  Planes, jets, mysterious countries, tools and toys-for-big-boys and stuff, etc.  Some cool stuff to put up here.  Frankly, some things needed to get past a standard “6 months after” timeline for posting.

Lots of cigar reviews coming.  I’ve got some really awesome stuff back-logged on that front.  Some new spots and stuff I’ve stumbled across too, and some stuff with cigar goodies.

And definitely, I still need to post write-ups from the Nov 2017 trip to Havana (and frankly, basic stuff from the Nov 2016 one too!)  So, there’s a bunch of pics and tidbits for that.

It’s coming.  Sorry all, but I’ll get my shit in gear and stop slacking!!!  LOL.

Cheers all.

“You Are Not A Leader” – RCMP Cpl to Commissioner…

Here’s a good one.  Someone willing to speak truth to power (and frankly, the world needs a bit of that right now)…

CBC News – ‘You are not a leader’: RCMP boss’s testimony about Moncton shootings inflames corporal

Reminds me of some recent writings by retired OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis and from his “Lighthouse Leadership Services” consultant business, articles that have been fairly recently and frequently published in BlueLine Magazine, a policing monthly publication here in Canada.  Stuff about the difference between Leaders and Managers, about Leaders and “Bosses”.  About how being a leader is about ensuring those under you and that you’re responsible for are taken care of, how you listen to their frontline knowledge, how you value their input; on the contrary of being a boss or a manager, who only worries about the next promotion, about the “organization foremost over the individual people”, about doing the politically correct and easy thing, rather than the “right” thing necessarily.

I remember one article that Chris Lewis wrote that summed it all up so succinctly for me, as it relates to policing – not verbatim, but to the effect of…

“A manager or boss is the one who, when something goes wrong, asks their staff how they’re going to fix it, doles out discipline whether people were ‘wrong’ or not, and orders a timeline for getting things done, and takes the credit afterwards.  Whereas a leader is the one who, when something goes wrong, takes the blame for what went wrong, works with their staff as a team to resolve it, helps and assists their team to get it done, and doles out credit afterwards for positive actions, yet while also not ‘passing a fault’ and ensuring improvements are made.”

With everything coming out of the RCMP from the past decade-plus or so, and their continual head-in-the-sand mentality, I can’t understand why they just don’t want to move forward and improve.  Their members are…in need of it / begging for it / deserve it.

Sounds like the RCMP management team are still in need of reading Commissioner Lewis’ writings.

Cheers all.

Dashcam Video Released From Philando Castile Traffic Stop…

So, the police dashcam video footage has been just released earlier today from the Philando Castile shooting in July 2016.  This video hasn’t been released until today, due to it being held back as evidence in the officer’s trial.

This is the shooting that further enraged things in the U.S. going on with the Black Lives Matter movement, due to it being another unfortunate case of a black male shot and killed by police, but was exacerbated by the fact that Castile had a permit for the legal gun in his possession, and also due to the fact that his girlfriend who was in the vehicle at the time (along with her four-year-old daughter too) actually live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook.

The police officer in question, Jeronimo Yanez, was charged with manslaughter after the shooting occurred in the state of Minnesota last summer.  He was just acquitted of all charges just late last week.  Yet, the police department he worked for in the city of St. Anthony has now also decided to terminate him regardless of his acquittal.

Jeronimo Yanez, as the police officer, is a Latino male police officer.  Philando Castile, as the shot and killed driver, was a 32-year-old black male, who worked as an elementary-school cafeteria worker, and had a proper permit to own the firearm that was found in the vehicle with him.

Yanez’s defense pointed to the fact that Castile was high on marijuana at the time of the shooting, as to a reason why he was not listening to the officer’s commands, and that Yanez stated that Castile was going for the gun.

So, all that said, here’s the link for the video.  Mature subject matter, obviously.  Please use your discretion…

Video: Dashcam Video, full screen

CBC News: Dashcam video shows officer firing 7 shots into Philando Castile car

I gotta say…

Fuck me.  I don’t know what to say.

There’s been a lot of videos of officer-involved-shootings in the U.S. lately, and be it from the Michael Brown shooting to the Tamir Rice shooting to the Jamar Clark shooting, I’ve personally believed that the racial profiling, on the part of protesters, has slanted their view more than that of the officers involved; I myself have seen all those videos / publically-released reports now, and felt that, whether I personally agreed with them or not, or whether I would have done the same or not, that the officer’s actions could be justified.  (And grain of salt here – that’s as an outside person, seeing only what anyone else in the public can see, and trying to look at it from an informed position, but understanding that I may not have all the info, and it’s just an opinion.)

But this video…


The sheer terror.  The anger mixed with terror that the officer displayed afterwards.  I don’t know if that’s solely and only a stress reaction to the incident at hand, but it doesn’t look like racism to me.  To say this was “another” racist shooting is out of hand frankly (and yes, the cop was Latino, but it doesn’t matter that way either, in my opinion).  It’s reactionary vile of the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” variety spouted off by those that want to add fuel to the fire to anything race related in the U.S.  Take this exact same shooting, and put a white driver and a black officer with the EXACT same scenario and action run through to the exact same conclusion (just changing up the colours and roles therefore), and you won’t see people saying it’s racist.

But it does look terrifying to me.  Did the officer actually react according to his training, due to the threat to life that he perceived, and therefore did he act properly per his training?  Or did the officer overreact?  I dunno.  The biggest thing with that is whether or not the threat to life was a “reasonable belief” / reasonable threat.

Did the driver actually reach for the gun?  Even with the girlfriend sitting in the front seat, she may not have actually seen what the officer saw, nor knew what the subject was thinking / doing.  No matter what the court and jury decided (and, they decided outright that they believed the officer’s defense 10-2 at the beginnings of deliberations, and then unanimously acquitted him in the end), only Officer Yanez himself and Castilo himself truly know what happened, and what each other’s intents were.

All I know is, this video, and the anguish for all involved, is the only one in a good long time that had me have such a gut-wrenching reaction.

I honestly felt violently ill after watching this one.

I’ve had a time once that I’ve screamed at someone like that, asking them why they’ve put me (and us both) in the situation they did.  And that wasn’t even a “gun’s-out” situation.

And, it almost sounds indefensible.  Almost of the “why’d-you-make-me-do-that” rationale that spousal abusers and their ilk will use afterwards to justify their actions.

But, it can be real.

No matter what I’ve done / will do in my policing career, no matter what I’ve done / will do in my soldiering career, either at home in Canada or overseas, I do fully understand that policing in the U.S. is a completely different beast from what I do.  I’ve said to many friends and family – stereotyping as it may be – that I really don’t think I could be a street cop in U.S. cities such as Miami or New York or Los Angeles.  And that from a guy that’s stood downrange from baddies in strange overseas spots, and had a good couple of gun’s-out situations in my short-so-far policing career…I just know that what U.S. cops deal with is, well, different.  Not better or worse, but different.

This one video was just absolutely gut-wrenching to watch.

There can be both victims and perpetrators on all sides.

Humidors, Cigar Storage, Aging, Etc…

So, with my earlier post about spring cleaning, you may have noticed that I have a new category added in to the breakdowns on “Lights, Sirens and Cigars”, a category for Humidors, Cigar Storage, Aging, Etc…

As I’m compiling some of these more historical posts from the last two years (some of these photo outlays are gonna be fuckin’ AWESOME – so gawddamn many gigs of photos to download from my iPhone, DSLR, and Canadian Forces Combat Camera’s archives too), and trying to get everything caught up on here, I’ve noticed that I’ve got a bunch of subjects that would do well to be put in a separate category from what I’ve had before.  As well, there’s quite a few posts / threads that I put on the Friends of Habanos forum over a number of years now about such subject matter, such as when I made a custom humidor cabinet, or some trial-and-error things about “coolerdors”, or switching out the green foam in powered hydration units, etc.

And likewise, a while back I created a Miscellaneous Gear, Toys, Swag and Accessories… category, but haven’t put much in there yet (mostly just “also ran”-linked with other categories when I’ve put up posts, and mostly stuff from back in 2015).  With some of these updates, I’ll have more being put in there also for specific items.

A lot of this stuff should help out with some out there that are looking for answers / help.  Hell, there’s a shit ton of resources out there in Internet-land for cigar newbies and old pros alike, and lot of resources to guide them through things.  But that said, I still get asked questions and for help from time to time, so I thought that adding these things on here could help out a bit more, especially with trying to add more photos and more real-world-trial-and-error experience into the mix.

So, a head’s up on all that!

Cheers all.

Policing: To Serve OR Protect???

Occasionally, I enjoy turning off the mmm-da-mmm-da music, and listening to CBC Radio, both for the news as well as some of its shows and programming.  Today, the program “Ideas” presented a very thought provoking broadcast entitled “Policing: To Serve Or Protect”.  As per the program, this was recorded back in May at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, and is Part 1 of the program, with Part 2 of 2 to be aired soon.

You can find the podcast from the show here:  Policing: To Serve Or Protect?

I think this was a great programme for everything it discussed.  The issues discussed included traditional roles, Sir Robert Peel’s principles of policing, native issues, racism, police trust issues, community backlash, social ills, costs, body cams, police culture, Canada versus U.S. aspects, etc.

However, there were plenty of issues not discussed, and various other points and counter-points that were left off the table.  As well, the unfortunately typical usage of American terms relating to a Canadian show or subject was present too (for example, “misdemeanours and/or felonies” [U.S.] rather than “summary conviction and/or indictable offences” [Canadian]).

But the title of this programme alone spoke volumes. Not “Policing: To Serve And Protect”, as we’ve all known that classic saying, but “…To Serve Or Protect”.  That simple word change is indicative of the changing world of policing and of the changing  aspect of the world views of police.  And unfortunately, too much of the outside views on police are based on the dire straights within the U.S.; however as a few of the panelists agreed, its definitely not an apples-to-apples comparison across the border lines.

Give the program a listen.  Time well spent, in my opinion.

Cheers all.

Trump Hits Reset on Obama’s Cuba Policy…

Is anyone surprised at this really?  As much as it does suck for fellow cigar fans and Cuba buffs out of the U.S., I think that most of us felt this was inevitable…

Trump hits reset on Obama’s Cuba policy, challenges Castro

Most notable bits, in my opinion:

  • “Announcing the rollback of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening during a speech in Miami, Trump said Cuba had secured far too many concessions from the U.S. in the “misguided” deal but “now those days are over.””  [Really?!?!  The U.S. gave up too many concessions?  From a brutal policy that they enacted almost 60 years ago?!?!  LOL.]
  • “More details about the changes are expected to be released Friday, when the new policy is set to take effect. But none of the changes will become effective until the Treasury Department issues new regulations, which could take months. That means that any U.S. traveler currently booked on a flight to Cuba in the next few weeks, or even months, could go ahead and make the trip.”  [Dear gawd, I hope that travelers don’t get screwed over this.  As we’ve all seen with the Trump White House’s implementation of the Muslim travel ban, one minute things are one way and the next minute it’s different.  I hope that travelers that are currently booked for something, already “approved”, don’t end up showing up to an airport and getting stuck in limbo.]
  • “But individual “people-to-people” trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the U.S. government will police other such trips to ensure there’s a tour group representative along making sure travelers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.””  [Wait, what?!?!  So, you’re cancelling out some aspects of the détente, because you don’t like the undemocratic military-state, but you’re adding layers of bureaucratic policing?  Pot, meet kettle.]

It’s just unfortunately another shitty situation for the Cuban people.  The Castro regime(s) definitely aren’t a piece-of-cake for the citizens there, and changes need to be made.  But on the surface, this appears like it may hurt those local-people more, than any government entity.  (Not that the détente has overly assisted those same people either, but something’s better than nothing.)

And frankly, as a longtime Canadian traveler to Cuba…

I must be honest and say that a part of me is happy for this too, for purely selfish reasons, I may add.

Many of my fellow American cigar compatriots know how to get to Cuba, one way or another, before/during/after this détente bullshit.  Whether the U.S. government “allows” them to travel is of moot difference really.  However, since the Obama-Raul détente, the sheer number of American travelers (not necessarily those brethren cigar aficionados either) have overwhelmed damn near everyone.  Cuba is building additional hotel rooms in shudderingly terrifying numbers (especially if one is aware of construction “norms” in Cuba).  Availability still continues to drop disproportionately, and prices have been skyrocketing.

Fuck, I remember when we did one of the first bigger Canuck group-trips to Havana for the Friends Of Partagas festival in November 2012.  Airfare from Toronto, transfers, taxes all-in, and double-occupancy room bookings at the Hotel Nacional in Havana was just under $1200 CAD then.  We’re just looking in the past month for a few different options for this November’s Encuentros again (probably doing the same casas again as last year’s big FOH / AmiCigar group trip, which were AWESOME).  Anywho, looking at doing the same thing as we did in Nov. 2012, Toronto airfare, Nacional hotel, all-in, and the current pricing is just over $5600 CAD per person now!

So, frankly, once the “standard American tourist” is banned from the island, I can’t say I’ll honestly be upset from my own personal perspective.  That said, I definitely doubt that hotel prices will ever drop to what they were for us before (but shit, if they drop into the $2k range, it’d almost be a steal again.)

But I still hope for the best for some Cuban friends – some have put some hard work into the current small-business atmosphere.  I hope these changes don’t see worsening conditions for them.  It scares me what some foreign government’s can do to another’s country, just with the swipe of a pen.  Without an appreciation for the people on the ground, who are these people to make those choices?

Cheers all.