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Grand Destination Incentive Trips are more than a reward for design business achievement. They are a chance for Decorating Den Interiors designers and their team members to travel together as a group, exchange ideas, relax and build camaraderie.

November’s Grand Destination Cuba was like a ‘before’ picture prior to what might become a grand makeover. Only time will tell what’s in store for this island. However, for our group of 47, the visit was a combination of an old car museum, pleasant people, pre-modern farming, high-energy music and dancing, crumbling buildings, and the spirit of Hemingway.

“Being in Cuba was like going back in time,” said one designer. “It was a chance to learn about a certain history. One could project and imagine the more prosperous times of the Cuba that Ernest Hemingway fell in love with,” said another.  “It really was a once-in-lifetime experience.”

The “Sail-Off Party” was scenic as our Norwegian Sky cruise ship left the skyline of Miami Beach amidst a spectacular sunset. We awoke docked in Havana and the day began with a three-hour bus ride with a very informative guide who related history and perspective as we rode through much of Havana. It set the stage for the individual and smaller group tours taken during the rest of the day and the next.

For some, it was traveling around in an open-top 1950’s car that looked sharper than it probably did in the showroom. For others it was the ride to the country side and seeing first-hand how Hemingway left his house just as he had lived in it, having gone to the U.S. for medical attention and expecting to return.  For others it was experiencing a working farm.  Cuba has a huge agro-ecological knowledge, and whereas in other countries sustainable, organic or ecological agriculture may have become a health-trend, generations of Cuban farmers are loyal to their own farming philosophy and methods.  And, for others it was experiencing a step-back to Cuba’s “musical golden age’ of the 1930s and 40s with the music and dancing of the Buena Vista Social Club show in the historic Melia Cohiba Hotel.

After two days for touring, it was a welcome respite to spend a relaxing day at the private island Great Stirrup Cay, a former pirate hideout. The clear blue water was perfect for snorkeling and other activities, while some were happy to recline in the sun or in the shade of a cabana.

It was all wrapped in the comfort of the cruise ship with its wide array of dining, entertainment and chatting over libations. Most definitely a trip for the scrapbook.

Some of our group at the foot of the Cristo de La Habana (the Christ of Havana on a hilltop overlooking the bay in Havana. It is the work of the Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera, who won the commission for it in 1953, before the revolution.

Touring in cars older than the occupants.

The camaraderie of our designers is a unique benefit of being part of Decorating Den Interiors.

Great food and libations on the Norwegian Sky.

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