Economy drive: Havana may get a ferry link from Key West in Florida / EPA

How to see Cuba soon, combine Cuba and Florida, and explore cruise possibilities

The US embargo means you don't meet many Americans in Cuba, even though it is the biggest and most beautiful island in the Caribbean, and the closest to the US – just 90 miles separates the north coast from Key West in Florida. But that lack of contact is about to change. Here's what you need to know.

How can I see a lot of the island, soon?

Join an escorted group tour organised by a specialist. Journey Latin America (020 3432 1578; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) has departures roughly monthly until early December 2015. The fortnight-long Cuba Beyond the Beach trip (£1,798) includes hard-to-reach destinations such as Baracoa in the extreme east and the mountains of the Sierra Maestra where Fidel Castro marshalled the rebels. If you can't wait, Exodus (0845 287 7533; exodus.co.uk) has a family adventure departing on Monday for 16 days: £2,099 for adults. £1,599 for children. It takes in many top attractions, including the city of Trinidad and the final resting place of Che Guevara in Santa Clara. Prices for all these trips include non-stop flights on Virgin Atlantic.

A note about travel insurance. If you can't present your policy on arrival you have to buy cover at the airport. But be warned that insurance underwritten by the US giant AIG (as sold, for example, by Boots) is not valid for Cuba. It asserts the island is as risky as Afghanistan, Liberia and Somalia. Warmer relations should eliminate that absurd exclusion.

Could I combine Cuba and Florida one day?

It's a little-known reality that you already can: British passport holders can fly on US-Cuba charter flights without a problem. But short hops are expensive, and it can be tricky organising an "open-jaw" ticket into Miami and out of Havana. Once air links are liberalised (and cheaper), airline alliances will make it easy. Better still would be a restored car-ferry link from Key West to Havana for a two-country fly-drive.

How will the cruise lines respond?

One aspect of the embargo that has worked: suppressing Cuba's cruise business. By denying access to US ports for any vessel that had the temerity to visit Cuba, Washington made sure that superb ports such as Havana, Santiago and Cienfuegos featured on few itineraries. Western Caribbean cruise programmes from 2016 onwards will include Cuban ports. This will also have the benefit of providing extra accommodation until new hotels are built.

Presently, Thomson Cruise (0871 231 5938; thomson.co.uk) has a Caribbean programme that includes Cuba, offering a two-night stay in Havana on the edge of the Old Town. The departure on 15 January costs £1,163 for a week, including flights to Montego Bay from Gatwick (£1,191 from Manchester).

For our most recent Cuba films and features see independent.co.uk/AutenticaCuba

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