Since travel to Cuba from the USA has opened up, many of the cruise travelers served by CruiseCompete have experienced this country via cruise ship. Here are some of the reasons they felt this was an experience not to miss.
1. It’s Not What You Expect. If your image of Cuba includes massive pictures of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara on every corner, and a cowed citizenry surrounded by soldiers, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Soldiers and police are very sparse and, while you can find pictures of Fidel displayed, they’re far from ubiquitous. Cuba is all about surprises, large and small. The strange logic of communism may mean your waiter has a Ph.D. in engineering and the 1952 Plymouth with the Hyundai diesel engine (that’s your taxi) cost the owner $55,000.
2. Cool Vintage Classic Cars. You don’t have to be a car enthusiast or know a Ford Fairlane from a Chevy Nova to enjoy seeing hundreds of shiny, beautifully restored hunks of 50’s Detroit metal. For about $35 an hour, you and three friends can ride in a classic convertible for a top-down tour of Havana with a knowledgeable guide.
3. Mecca of the World for Cigars and Rum. Cuba is of course the holy land for cigars. Tour a cigar factory and learn about a process developed over centuries and buy some to bring home. (Yes, you legally can bring home up to 100 cigars up to $800 in value of your favorite Cohibas and Romeo Y Julietas per person traveling.) You can also sample some of the Caribbean’s best rum, produced by the sugar cane that is cultivated all over the island. Bottles start at about $5.
4. Meet the People. You’ll find very few true-believers in the communist revolution–just some highly educated, very open, friendly people resigned to their government’s actions and trying to get by day-to-day.
5. Old Havana. Cruise ships dock right downtown in old Havana. You’ll be a short walk from gorgeous colonial architecture, plazas, parks and towering forts. You’ll also find great bars, (like the Hemingway haunt and birthplace of the Daiquiri, the Floridita) as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants. The $10 fresh lobster tails are highly recommended.
6. Great Music. Live music is everywhere. Wherever you turn, there seems to be another trio of three old men, dressed alike in either all white or all black, who have been honing their craft seemingly since birth. (Yes, they’ll play Guantanamera if you tip them.) You can also find larger bands with as many as a dozen pieces including some amazing horn sections, blasting out salsa and other native rhythms.
7. Gangster History. Before there was Castro, there was Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. Walk in their footsteps at the beautiful Hotel Nacional- and while you’re there, have a cigar and a mojito.
Many of the cruise lines offer itineraries to Cuba, and they range from a trip that’s short and sweet to one that is a true cruise vacation event.