Tour Operators Cuba, Iran among new offerings in Times Journeys program By Johanna Jainchill / November 30, 2014 Share 1 -- NEW YORK — Times Journeys, the New York Times’ travel program, has expanded its offerings to include 29 itineraries that visit 36 countries on seven continents.New itineraries for 2015 include places identified as having “troubled pasts,” such as Cuba, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Iran. Times Journeys launched in 2012 with primarily cruise product. Earlier this year, it expanded to include 21 land-based tours.All Times Journeys trips include insight from New York Times experts, primarily former and current Times reporters, into the events and history that brought the destinations to worldwide attention.The Times works with tour operators including Abercrombie & Kent, Academic Travel Abroad and Mountain Travel Sobek, to develop customized Times Journeys itineraries. In a press conference here with several Times journalists who will be hosting 2015 trips, the reporters explained that they would be offering tour participants years of reporting experience that has given them uncommon access to people and places in these countries. “What we are offering is all of our stories over decades,” said Elaine Sciolino, speaking via Skype from Paris. Sciolino, who is hosting a trip to Iran called Tales From Persia, was on the plane that brought the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini back to Iran in 1979 and has been reporting about the country ever since. “We are not travel guides,” she said. “What we have to say is, ‘This is where they fired shots into this hotel, and we were there.’”Richard Bernstein, host of a March itinerary titled "A Taste of the Orient: Discover China," was one of the first American journalists to be stationed in the People’s Republic of China, in 1972, and he opened the Times’ bureau there in 1980. Sue Jaeger, manager of small group journeys for Abercrombie & Kent, said that the journalists offer complementary perspectives to those of the company’s own local expert guides. “The guides live in these communities and can speak as locals, while the journalists can speak as visitors who have unique access as journalists,” she said. Other experts include Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters such as John Burns, Jeffrey Gettleman, Serge Schmemann and David Shipler.Times Journeys will be offered in six distinct trip styles: Activities & Sports includes hiking the mountains of Patagonia; Food & Wine focuses on Italian or Provencal cuisine; Arts & Culture offers immersion in subjects such as Irish opera and photography in Morocco; History & Context includes trips to China, Cuba and Iran; Science & Nature offers visits to Antarctica and Africa; and Politics & Perspective includes trips to Ireland, with a focus on the Northern Ireland peace process.