A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed below are some of the experts and the departure date(s) they will be joining.
Born and raised in Italy, photojournalist Massimo Bassano has published his work in National Geographic Traveler and on the National Geographic website, plus in numerous European and Italian publications. Massimo first visited Cuba just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He fell in love on that visit with the Cuban people, their lifestyle, and their culture. He has returned to Cuba seven times since, sailing the country's coastal islands and illustrating a book on rum, cigars, and the flavor of Cuba. For this assignment, he followed Ernest Hemingway's travels extensively all over the main island and ate fish with the first mate of Hemingway's fishing boat Pilar, Gregorio Fuentes—widely held to be a model for Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. Massimo also had a lengthy interview with Fidel Castro at Havana's Tropicana Club on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Cuban Cohiba cigar. He regularly teaches National Geographic photography workshops and is a popular expert on National Geographic expeditions all over the world. His acclaimed photography book The Color of Silence details the 12 weeks he spent in a little-known Italian monastery.
Renowned percussionist Carol Steele has been traveling to Cuba for more than 25 years and introducing the island to fellow travelers for 15. Carol’s enthusiasm is contagious, as is her love of Cuba, its culture, its history, and its people. As a professional musician, Carol’s résumé reads like a Who’s Who of popular music. She has performed or recorded with Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Joan Baez, Tears for Fears, Bette Midler, and many other well-known artists. Carol was the first American women to play with Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, one of Cuba’s iconic folkloric groups, and played and sang on tour in the United States with Lazaro Ros and Amelia Pedroso, two of Cuba’s most popular and beloved Afro-Cuban folkloric singers. After many years of study, Carol has been initiated into the Regla de Ocha (or Santeria, as most people know it). She loves to share her knowledge about the history of this religion, of music and art as a form of prayer, and of how the faith manifests itself throughout everyday life in Cuba.
Born in the U.S. but raised in Spain and Cuba, Rob Hernandez was in Havana during the pivotal early years of the Cuban Revolution. After leaving in 1960, he first returned in 1987 with the hope of gaining access on behalf of the National Geographic to what at that time was largely a closed nation. He has traveled widely throughout the island and will enjoy sharing with you his broad knowledge of the history, culture, and environments of this enigmatic nation that's still struggling to reconcile its past with its future. A 28-year veteran of the Society, Rob first served as a senior editor for the magazine, later becoming Senior Vice President and head of the Society's International Publishing division that produces books, magazines, and other media in more than 35 languages. An ecologist by education, he spent his early career doing field research and documenting through films and photography many of the world's more remote places, work that has appeared in leading global publications. After spending two years circumnavigating the Indian and Pacific Oceans in a small sailboat, he went on to lead many expeditions to Africa, the Arctic and Antarctic, Southeast Asia, and South America, among other regions.
The Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year,' photographer and writer Christopher Baker is one of the world's foremost authorities on Costa Rica and Cuba. He has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama in the National Geographic Traveler series. He is also the author of the award-winning Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, published by National Geographic Adventure Press. His more than 20 other books include the coffee-table book Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles. He has written for more than 200 publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Newsweek, and has been an invited speaker at National Geographic headquarters, the National Press Club, and the World Affairs Council, among other prestigious organizations. Christopher has been profiled in USA Today and featured on the National Geographic Channel, NPR, and dozens of other radio and TV outlets.
Fabio Esteban Amador is a Senior Program Officer for the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, which is dedicated to funding exploratory research around the world. He has traveled and worked extensively throughout Latin America and is presently collaborating with research projects in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Peru, El Salvador, and Madagascar. He has also traveled regularly to Cuba over the past five years on educational and scientific missions for National Geographic. As a trained archaeologist, his interest in Taino Indian culture (which spanned the Greater Antilles, including Cuba) is focused on the sacred landscape and the use of caves for ritual activity. In his role at National Geographic, Fabio uses imaging and visualization technologies to provide new ways of capturing data and to document the experience of conducting research and exploration. His initiative in supporting worldwide research has resulted in a workshop titled, The Art of Communicating Science. This capacity building initiative is aimed at students, scholars, explorers, government agencies, and stewards of the cultural and natural patrimony, so that they can be trained in how to develop, design and use imaging technology to document, protect, and communicate the importance of their heritage through exploration, discovery, and storytelling. Amador’s continued effort in communicating science has allowed him to use photography, cinematography, and other multimedia tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch online blogs.
Tim Weed is an award-winning author, outdoorsman, and independent explorer. A founding director of National Geographic Student Expeditions, Tim has lived and worked in more than twenty-five countries on every continent except Antarctica. Highlights of his long career in international education have included directing college semester abroad programs in Spain, Australia, and Venezuela; bringing some of the first American students to Cuba since the Revolution in the late 1990’s; creating and leading programs for writers, artists, and musicians in Spain, Cuba, Argentina, Italy, and Ireland; and trekking at various latitudes in the Andes cordillera in Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, northern Argentina, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. His articles on travel, history, outdoor adventure, and the writing craft have appeared in Talking Points Memo, Backcountry, Writer’s Chronicle, National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog, and many other magazines and journals. An undergraduate Spanish major at Middlebury College, Tim received master’s degrees from the University of California and the Warren Wilson College MFA for Writers program. He is the winner of a Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award and a Solas Best Travel Writing Award, and his first novel, Will Poole’s Island, was released in 2014.
As National Geographic's Geographer and Director of Editorial and Cartographic Research, Juan José Valdés is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products. He guides and assists the Society's Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for the Geographic. Born in Havana and later raised in the U.S., Juan oversaw the development of National Geographic's groundbreaking new map of Cuba.