• Cuba

Overview

For decades, Cuba has been a mystery for many U.S. travelers, but now, with open borders, you will be able to experience a country unlike any other. This picturesque island nation is still developing, but already rich with culture & character. Its architecture, scenic beaches, bays & mountains, its world-class rum, as well as its vibrant music & art scene continue to amaze visitors.  Perhaps the country’s most notable quality is its people. The sense of warm & welcoming community they create is born from the perseverance & creativity of Cubans.  Whether you enjoy white sandy beaches & crystal clear waters, antique cars, or the mid-1900s history, you will quickly be entranced by the whimsy, charm & paradox that is Cuba. 

Highlights

  • Castillo de Jagua – Dating back to 1745, this fortress was built to protect the city against invasions from the actual pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Dance Lessons – Learn authentic Latin dance moves with the help of Cuban dance instructors.
  • Culinary Lessons – Create your own Cuban culinary experience as Cuban chefs teach how to stir up some Creole & Spanish fusion.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Montego Bay

Once on board the ship, you’ll have a short embarkation/orientation briefing (approximately 45 minutes). After a warm welcome aboard, learn about the week’s exciting & stimulating itinerary. 
 
This evening you may enjoy one of the fun & fascinating onboard activities or community discussions. Choose from a presentation about “Visual Arts in Cuba” (approximately 45 minutes) during which the audience will be allowed to participate in conversations about Cuba’s rich cultural heritage. Or instead, you may want to break in your dancing shoes as Cuban dance instructors introduce you to the art of salsa (approximately 45 minutes).  Once you've mastered the steps, take the next 30 minutes to put your skills to use on the dance floor.
 
This afternoon/evening, the ship departs Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Day 2: Santiago de Cuba

Wake up to the morning arrival in Santiago de Cuba, a coastal town on the southern side of Cuba. Actually closer to the island of Hispaniola (Domincan Republic & Haiti) than Havana, Santiago is home to a strong current of Afro-Caribbean culture.  You’ll notice the unique heritage & vibe as you stroll through Santiado’s "avenidas" & alleyways.
 
Today, you will set off for your panoramic tour of Santiago beginning with a presentation on Santiago history. After the lecture, take in a dance performance followed by a Q&A with the artists. Next you’ll have the chance to visit 3 of Santiago’s most well-known landmarks. First up is a memorial to Antonio Maceo, or the “Bronze Titan,” who was killed by the Spanish in 1896 after championing 2 wars of independence. Next is San Juan Hill, a battlefield of the Cuban-Spanish-American War, where Teddy Roosevelt & his rough riders defeated the Spanish in 1898. Third will be a visit to Moncada Barracks, where Fidel & Raul Castro launched their 1953 assault on the Batista regime.
 
After our tour, you may head back to ship for lunch & leisure time or be dropped off in Santiago’s colonial central square, home to restaurants (called paladares), shopping, & the city’s cathedral. You can return to ship by taxi or on foot. 
 
This afternoon, you may choose to participate in one of the onboard presentations or activities. Sit in on a presentation about the birth of the Cuban nation (1492 – 1898), where you will travel all the way back to the Christopher Columbus’s Caribbean discovery & Cuban developments through the Cuban-Spanish-American War. Or, enjoy a meet & greet with your Cuban ship staff; this is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the people of Cuba & hear their stories. You may choose to speak in English or take this time to practice your Spanish. 

This evening, as the ship departs Santiago de Cuba, it is Rumba time! With the help of Cuban dance instructors, learn the steps of this Latin dance before letting loose on the dance floor.

Day 3: At sea

While you cruise the day away, prepare for your Cuban adventures with films, presentations, & activities offered on board.  Start by selecting from 3 of the available morning presentations (each are approximately 45 minutes). Take a Cuban cooking class, where you will learn how to transform fresh ingredients into delicious Cuban/Spanish cuisine.  Cuban cigar lovers can treat themselves to a presentation on Cuba’s beloved “Habanos,” their origins, & production. Or, get an introduction to why Cuba’s music is so unique & contagious; hint: it’s in the instruments, like the famed three-string guitar!  

In the afternoon, watch a 90-minute documentary about Cuba before participating in your choice of exciting discussions, including a lecture of the diversity in Cuban culture (approximately 45 minutes), a history of rum plus tasting, (approximately 45 minutes) or a meet &greet with the Cuban staff (approximately 60 minutes).

Your day at sea doesn’t end there! This evening’s choice of activities include a discussion about the unique character of Cuba, & what makes it so different from its neighbors in Latin America (approximately 45 minutes). There is also a chance to dive into the history of Havana, Cuba’s capital city, led by a Cuban historian or architect (approximately 45 minutes). Or, put dancing shoes back on for the Cha Cha (approximately 60 minutes)! Before cutting a rug, get a bit of background on the Cuban Terpishore & the art of Cha Cha.  

Day 4: Havana

Today, arrive in Havana & immerse yourself in Cuban culture. Before heading into the city, begin the day with an onboard presentation from a local historian or architect (approximately 45 minutes). Come with any questions; there will be a Q&A with the speaker following the lecture.

Once disembarked, start with a tour of Old Havana (“Habana Vieja”). The area & its fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage site for their colonial history & architecture. On this walking tour, you’ll see the Cathedral Square, the Royal Forces Castle, Saint Francis of Assisi Square, & the Old Square, among others. During a stop a local graphics studio, watch & interact with the artisans at work.  After the tour, head back to the ship to relax & enjoy lunch or discover one of the Old Havana’s many paladres (restaurants).

In the afternoon, hop on your guided bus tour to learn more about Cuba’s 19th & 20th century history & how it became the Cuba it is today. Among the many highlights of the tour are the famous escalinata (stairway), the Habana Libre Hotel (formerly the Havana Hilton), Grande Teatro de Havana, the Promenade (or “Paseo del Prado”), the Nacional Hotel & the Capital Building.  You’ll also stop by the Plaza de la Revolucion, the site of Papal masses & May Day political marches. They’ll even be a photo opportunity at the National Library & the Josi Marti Memorial.  At San Jose Market, shop the local vendors at artisans for some authentic Cuban souvenirs. 
 
The evening is at your leisure. Enjoy dinner on the ship or experience Havana's famous night life. Consider booking one of the optional evening excursions to Havana's finest shows.

Day 5: Havana

Today is all about Cuban culture & history. Start your morning with & Afro-Cuban music & performance (approximately 90 minutes). Then, following lunch, head to the Museum of the Revolution to learn even more about Cuba’s modern history or stop by Museum of the Fine Arts to peruse artwork from a number of eras. The remainder of your afternoon at your leisure. Consider strolling down the old city’s beautiful cobblestone streets.

This evening, as the ship departs Havana, select your brand of fun from one of the onboard activities. Nature lovers may be interested in hearing a lively presentation about a Cuba’s diverse ecosystem as well as the animals & plants that call it home (approximately 30 minutes).  Alternatively, you can put all your new dancing skills to the test. Cha Cha, Rumba & Salsa the night away to live Cuban music. Lose your footing? Cuban dancers will be there to help you get your groove back (approximately 60 minutes).

Day 6: Maria La Gorda

Today, the ship docks at Maria La Gorda, a beachfront, scuba town, on the southwest coast of Cuba. Relax & take in the beautiful scenery at your own pace, or you may opt into an adventure excursion. Choose from a trip to the nature reserve, Cabo de San Antonio, a diving trip, or go snorkeling. 

Once back on the ship this afternoon, enjoy one of the following onboard activities or discussions.  You may want to supplement history lessons ashore with a presentation on the history of modern Cuba.  Hear the stories of revolution & regime change as you relive the political evolution of this small, but influential, nation (approximately 45 minutes). Or if you love Cuban cuisine &want to learn to make it yourself, participate in a Cuban cooking lesson with Cuban chefs.  With fresh ingredients & easy preparation strategies, you’ll be able to whip up a Cuban dish in no time. Come hungry, because you get to enjoy the spoils for your work! 
 
As the ship leaves Maria la Gorda this evening, keep yourself entertained with a Mambo lesson & dance session (approximately 60 minutes).

Day 7: Cienfuegos

This morning, disembark in Cienfuegos, a scenic town on the central-southern Coast of Cuba.  Start your day by getting to know some of the locals at an area cultural project.  Then, continue on to the central square, the Plaza del Armas, & stop by the splendid Teatro Thomas Terry. 

Afterwards, you’ll head to the Graphic Society of Cienfuegos, where area artists lead programs for special needs children.  Meet with some of artisans as well as view their work. Then, you can choose to visits the Palacio del Valle, an architectural marvel, stroll through the Plaza de Armas, explore Cienfuegos, or head back to the ship for lunch & leisure.

After lunch, you’ll have the chance to hear a presentation on the centrality of music in the Cuban culture. Learn about its African & European influences & how Cuban musicians have developed their unique sound. This afternoon, enjoy the following on board discussion.
 
As the ship departs Cienfuegos, take some time to reflect on your experience in Cuba & interactions with the Cuban people. Swap stories with your new sea-faring friends.  
 
This evening, while at sea, unwind by making your own Cuban cocktail (approximately 45 minutes). Take a sip of a real mojito, & then learn the history of this fresh & fruity cocktail.  While learning the rituals, stories & myths behind some of Cuba’s most popular drinks, let Cuban mixologists show you how to concoct your own boozy beverages. Or, instead, get in one last night of dancing at the Cuban dancy party (approximately 60 minutes).

Day 8: Montego Bay

Arrive back in Montego Bay, Jamaic to disembark.

Havana Add-ons

Tropicana Cabaret: The Tropicana Cabaret is an internationally renowned nightclub as well as the biggest in Havana. Reminiscent of Las Vegas extravaganzas or the famous Lido in 1950s Paris, 200 dancers & singers alongside a giant orchestra perform each night. Excursion price include welcome drink, cost of entrance, a preferred table, snacks, & ¼ of Havana Club rum bottle per person with a drink for mixing. 

Buena Vista Social Club Tribute: This spectacular tribute show is a true homage to the Buena Vista Social Club. Enjoy world-class performances by Grammy award winners & even some of the original members of the Social Club.  You’ll have a hard time staying seated. 

City Tour at Night with Dinner: See Old Havana by night as its large plaza &beautiful architecture are lit for evening fun. After the tour, & the ring cannons signal the close of Old Havana, head to one of the city’s famous restaurants for dinner.

Maria la Gorda Add-ons

Choose from a trip to the nature reserve, Cabo de San Antonio, a diving trip, or go snorkeling.