Want to travel to Cuba? Keep these things in mind

Next week, Cuba comes off the U.S. government's official State Sponsors of Terrorism list, in a move expected to jumpstart the path to normal relations.

But if you're thinking of rearranging your summer travel plans, the island 90 miles off Florida might still be a world away, reports CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg.

Cuba has enjoyed brisk international tourism for decades, but business is picking up.

After President Obama acted to remove certain travel restrictions last December, more Americans are looking to see what they've been missing out on for half a century.

"It's close and you have gorgeous beaches, but you also have history. Forts dating back to the 1600s... but all the recent history that's so interesting as well," Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said.

After 14 years of trying to banish the Cuban travel ban in Congress, Flake is seeing brighter skies.

"With scheduled air service coming soon, it's really going to blow it open, and that's a good thing," Flake said.

But on this island nation where many cars predate the embargo, Cubans may have trouble meeting demand.

"We're hearing a lot of planning. I think right now it's still early days," MasterCard general counsel Tim Murphy said.

MasterCard recently allowed service on the island, along with American Express, so Americans can start swiping -- if you can find a terminal.

"We think it is going to take a little bit of time for the kind of large-scale tourism that you're talking about to open up because so much of the infrastructure still needs to be built and developed," Murphy said.

That includes more reliable financial systems, better roads and most of all -- a lot more places to stay.

With roughly 60,000 rooms on the island, many of Cuba's residents are renting space in their own homes with more than 1,000 listings on Airbnb.

Until more hotels can be developed, the country remains ripe for the cruise lines, which are already floating hotels. And they have quietly charted 11 viable harbors.

But despite last month's handshake between Mr. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, and a deal brokered and then blessed by none other than the pope, being a traditional tourist in Cuba is still illegal for Americans.

"It has never, technically, been illegal to travel to Cuba, it's just been illegal to spend money in Cuba," Flake said. "But it's impossible to travel to Cuba because as soon as you arrive, you pay some kind of airport fee or something else and so you've violated the ban."

Getting around that ban means bringing something of value to the country, like the Minnesota Orchestra did last week when they became the first American orchestra to perform since the president moved to normalize relations.

Whether you play an instrument or not, Americans must qualify in one of 12 categories to be licensed for travel, which includes family visits, religious or educational activities and humanitarian projects.

"We've introduced the Freedom to Travel Act, which would just say, let's get rid of this façade and allow any American to travel to Cuba for any purpose," Flake said.

But even with travel restrictions in place, Flake said the first scheduled commercial flights in more than 50 years aren't far off.

"I would be very surprised if, by the end of this year, you don't have a couple of airlines with scheduled air service," he said.

While you're fastening your seat belt, keep in mind two things:

The U.S. still has to negotiate bilateral agreements with Cuba to allow regularly scheduled flights, and every major American airline has told CBS News they will file to fly the route from multiple U.S. destinations.

As for hotel chains, their chief executives have not been eager to talk about their business plans for Cuba, because a number of them still have claims against the Cuban government dating back to when the embargo began. They have no realistic expectations for a money settlement, but it's not money they're after; they want their claims to be settled for land, upon which they will then start building their hotels.