TAMPA (FOX 13) - The president, the Tampa Bay Rays, even the Rolling Stones will be in Cuba this week and hundreds of Americans will be joining them for their very first trips to the once off-limits island nation.
Ask anyone with a ticket to Cuba, and they'll tell you: now is the time to visit.
"We wanted to get down there before things really started to change, now that it's opened up for tourism," Barry Feld said just before boarding a Cuban charter flight at Tampa International Airport. "Many years ago we went to East Berlin before the wall was coming down in '89. We want to have that same experience of still being able to see things while they're relatively authentic."
With political and cultural forces pushing for normalized relations between the two countries, many Americans are getting to see Cuba for the very first time. TIA has offered charter flights to Cuba since 2011, but a formal ban on tourism is still in place. In order to qualify for the special visa required to travel to Cuba, Americans must declare one of 12 pre-approved reasons for travel.
The Feld family, who booked their trip through a travel agency, will tour numerous cultural and educational points of interest. Mikey Feld said he's excited to tour sites he's so far only been able to read about in history books.
"The Bay of Pigs and places like that. Seeing the places I've learned about in school will be really cool."
President Obama landed in Havana Sunday afternoon, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country since 1928. The president is scheduled to address the Cuban people on Tuesday in a formal speech.
He's also expected to be in the stands as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Cuban National team that day.
FOX 13's Scott Smith, Craig Patrick, and Merissa Lynn are in Cuba as well; stay with us for coverage over the next few days.