ABC11's Steve Daniels preparing for travel to Cuba for historic Pope visit

As Pope Francis embarks on his historic trip to the Americas, ABC-11 is making the journey to Cuba with American Catholics. Steve Daniels gives us a behind the scenes look at three months of planning.

Steve Daniels Image
Thursday, September 17, 2015
You need a special visa to visit Cuba.
You need a special visa to visit Cuba.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- I've been on pins and needles for the past few weeks, waiting and wondering if the Cuban government would grant our request for journalist visas to cover Pope Francis. In July, we applied for visas through the Cuban Embassy in Washington. Our application went to the foreign ministry in Havana for vetting and approval. When our visas arrived a few days ago, we knew we could pack our bags.

A trip to Cuba requires more than government approval for journalists. It also requires substantial planning. You cannot book airline tickets online, as you would for any other destination in the world. You must buy tickets through one of several air charter companies operating flights to Havana.

My planning also involved securing satellite facilities for our live reports, finding and hiring a fixer to work as a guide, trying to get a good deal on a hotel and a lot of research about Cuba and Pope Francis.

My last trip to Cuba was in 1996, during the "Special Period", a time of economic crisis in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of economic help from Eastern Europe. I am curious to see how life has changed for Cubans and how the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana is translating on the streets.

A festival poster from my last trip to Cuba.

It is always a great thrill to cover news in a foreign country, especially in Latin America. I have a life-long love affair with the region. I speak Spanish and I have done investigative reporting in places like Colombia, Venezuela, the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Mexico and I am always looking for an excuse to vacation in Latin America.

Plane ticket to Cuba

I hope you will join me for our eye-opening journey to Cuba. I will be reporting on-air and online beginning Friday at 5 p.m.

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