Give Your SPG Points a Boost Now That Starwood Hotels is Moving Into Cuba

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently announced it has signed three hotel deals in Cuba, marking the first U.S.-based hospitality company to enter the Cuban market in nearly 60 years. It’s a great reason for participants in the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program to start packing their bags!

Longtime Havana landmark, Hotel Inglaterra will join Starwood’s Luxury Collection and Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton. Both hotels will undergo renovations before raising their new brand flags later this year. Starwood also announced plans to convert the Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of The Luxury Collection, as well.

Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district

Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district


Here’s what we know about the new Starwood Hotels in Cuba

Hotel Inglaterra

Hotel Inglaterra in downtown Havana

The renowned Hotel Inglaterra is a national landmark in Cuba, and is just steps from the Gran Teatro de La Habana in the heart of downtown Havana. The hotel first opened its doors in 1875 and is home to the famed Gran Café El Louvre, which has hosted artists and travelers for over a century. Upon completion of the preservation and conservation projects later this year, the hotel will offer 83 rooms and reopen under Starwood’s The Luxury Collection banner.

Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district will be rebranded as Four Points by Sheraton Havana later this year. With 186 rooms and state-of-the-art meeting facilities, the hotel will cater to business travelers.

Hotel Santa Isabel is a nineteenth-century colonial-style palace situated on the Plaza de Armas, Havana’s oldest square, and overlooking Havana Harbor. As a member of The Luxury Collection, the Santa Isabel will offer Starwood guests a respite in the heart of Havana’s historic city center, with 27 rooms, including 11 suites.

american express starwood preferred guest front purpleIf you’re not already carrying the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express, get one now

With this announcement, Starwood beats out other major hotel chains seeking to enter the market in Cuba. This is great news for those of us who carry the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express. If you don’t already have the card, we suggest that you sign up for the 25,000 bonus Starpoints that you’ll earn after spending $3,000 in your first three months.

Cuba isn’t Point Savvy… at least not yet

barclay card arrival plus world eliteBesides earning SPG points when you book at one of Starwood’s new hotels, there aren’t many ways to earn points in Cuba. Right now, the majority of restaurants, retails shops and other establishments do not accept U.S. credit cards or U.S. dollars. That is sure to change in the coming months and years, but for now, you’ll have to exchange your U.S. dollars for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).

The best way to be Point Savvy on a trip to Cuba is to earn miles or points on the travel purchases you make before you leave. For example, if you book your flight to Cuba using your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®, you can pay for the purchase using your miles, and get 5% miles back toward your next redemption.

How to get to Cuba

With the recent announcement that the U.S. has now authorized 110 daily flights to Cuba in the coming year, expect to see announcements of major airlines expanding service into Cuba in the very near future. So far, American, Southwest, Alaska, Delta, United and JetBlue have submitted applications for flights to Cuba.

But for now, your choices are to book a seat on an expensive charter flight or choose one of these airlines to get from the United States to Cuba:

With these airlines you must first fly into another country to gain entrance to Cuba. For example, here’s how to fly to Cuba via Mexico on Aeromexico:

Information for American travelers to Cuba

Traveling from the U.S. to Cuba on Aeromexico has never been easier!

Seven easy steps to get from the U.S. to Cuba!

  1. Pick your departure city. We offer flights from 16 U.S. airports and seven border airports such as Tijuana Airport with its convenient new pedestrian bridge from San Diego.
  2. Check our prices for tickets from the U.S. to Cuba here on aeromexico.com. Pay for your plane ticket to Cuba with your American credit card (or card from most other countries). Your credit card will be charged in the United States in U.S. dollars, so there are no foreign transaction fees for U.S. cards.
  3. Check in for your flight, drop off your luggage and board your flight to Mexico City or Cancun. Enjoy free meals on international flights (free snacks on domestic flights) and free beverages including tequila and beer after 11 A.M.
  4. When you arrive in Mexico City or Cancun, show your passport, then pick up your luggage so that you can clear Mexican customs. Right after customs, drop your luggage off and follow the signs for connecting flights.
  5. Enjoy the extensive facilities at Mexico City airport or Cancun airport during your layover including plenty of restaurant, bar, and shopping options. Why not enjoy some authentic mole enchiladas, tacos al pastor, a fresh tropical juice or margarita while you’re with us in Mexico? If you are a SkyTeam Elite Plus member including Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond, you can enjoy the Salón Premier lounge.
  6. Aeromexico sells the Cuban tourist card (also known as a Cuban visa) at both Cancun airport and Mexico City airport, at both the check-in desk and the customer service desk near the departure gate — no need to obtain this document in advance!
  7. At the departure gate of your flight from Mexico to Cuba, obtain, sign, and turn in the form for U.S. travelers to Cuba – more information below. Citizens of certain countries must purchase the Tourist Card directly at the Cuban consulate in their country of origin. Purchase at the airport is not available for the following countries: Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Syria, Fujian Province, China.

The good news is that the flight costs seem to be on par with travel to other parts of the Caribbean and Central America. Here’s a round-trip flight we found from Washington, D.C. to Havana on Copa Airlines (including a layover and customs check in Panama first, before continuing on to Havana):

What to do when you get there

La Factoria Plaza Vieja
Visit Havana’s original microbrewery on the corner of Plaza Vieja. Enjoy ice-cold homemade beer outside on the cobblestone or inside the beer hall.

Plaza de Armas
Originally known as Plaza de Iglesia, this is Havana’s oldest square and is the main tourist square in the city.

CubaRuta Bikes
Enjoy the scenery as you’re led on a three-hour city tour from the beautiful Bosque de la Habana to the ferry across the harbor. Helmets, bike rental and a bottle of water are included.

plate of cuban food with black beansWhere to eat in Havana

San Cristobal Paladar
This is the family-owned and operated restaurant that President Obama and the First Lady dined at and enjoyed on their recent visit to Cuba. The restaurant boasts an upscale menu of classic Cuban cuisine.

D’Giovanni
This restored 18th-century mansion just off the Plaza de la Catedral offers the best pizzas in Havana.

El Patio Plaza De La Catedral
This 18th century house boasts a beautiful inner courtyard, and is a great place to try the Cuban standards: chicken, plantain, and black beans with white rice.

Restaurant Paladar La Fontana
Featured in Cigar Aficionado and other high-end publications, this legendary restaurant is located on the Plaza de Armas near Starwood’s newly acquired Hotel Santa Isabel. La Fontana specializes in non-traditional Cuban fare, from lasagna to steaks.

If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, take advantage of your SPG status and earn points on your travel expenses

Now that relations have been re-established between the U.S. and Cuba, more and more of us will start considering Cuba as a vacation destination. As with any travel you may plan, always look for ways to earn miles and points to make your getaway even more rewarding.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

SPC American Express Card

green apply button

  • Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Get free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Visit our credit card partner’s site in order to learn more and securely apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Bonus
25,000 Starpoints

Intro APR
N/A

Ongoing APR
15.49%-19.49% variable

Annual Fee
$0 first year, then $95

BarclayCardArrivalPlus

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days – that’s enough for a $500 travel statement credit.
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases.
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise.  Redemption values vary.
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem for travel statement credits.
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing.
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country.
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers

Bonus
50,000 Miles

Intro APR
0% on balance transfers for 12 months

Ongoing APR
16.99%, 20.99%, or 23.99% variable

Annual Fee
$0 first year; then $89

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.