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.
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.
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.
Raul Touzon is a documentary and underwater photographer who specializes in making images that convey what he refers as to “The Eternity of a Moment.” Born in Santiago, Cuba, Raul has traveled extensively, building a collection of photographs that have been featured in many publications including Time, US News and World Report, National Geographic Traveler, and National Geographic magazine. For the last 10 years Raul has been a full time educator and instructor producing and teaching workshops around the world. His images are represented by National Geographic Creative and Getty Images.
As National Geographic Maps' Geographer and Director of Editorial and 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.
Tim Weed is an award-winning author and educator with more than two decades of experience developing and leading educational travel programs abroad. A founding director of National Geographic Student Expeditions, Tim has served as a guide and featured expert for cultural, academic, creative writing, choral music, and arts programs in Cuba since 1999. He taught an honors global engagement course on Cuba-U.S. relations at Keene State College and served as an interpreter and guide for the Cuban National Choir’s tour of New England in 2012. Tim’s articles on travel and the outdoors have appeared in many national magazines, and his essay “Embargoed Brothers: An American in Off-Limits Cuba” won a 2012 Best Travel Writing Award from Traveler’s Tales. Tim is fluent in Spanish.
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.