Cuba: A Timeless Voyage

Posted May 1st, 2017

Though Cuba is only 90 miles from the United States, it has long been considered one of the most distant destinations on the planet. Off-limits to most Americans for over a half-century, it’s now open to select travelers and today, this unspoiled, uncommon Caribbean jewel is closer than ever before — just a cruise away!

Legendary nightlife. Pulsating music. Distinct cuisine. Unique culture. Classic architecture. This is Havana, Cuba. And right now, you can be among the first travelers to explore a place where yesterday lives today.

Can't Miss Cuba

Cuba’s history-rich capital Havana looks like something out of an old postcard and hums with an energy unlike any other city in the world. Many cruises offer an overnight stay in Havana, so you’ll have ample time to explore Casco Viejo, or Old Town. More than 3,000 buildings populate this UNESCO World Heritage Site; a 500 year-old Caribbean time capsule and a living, breathing cultural exchange that’s home to two million.

The only way to see Cuba is with a native, and our experts will connect you with authentic local guides so you can explore Cuba from the inside.

Cuba's town squares bustle with activity and history.
Cuba's town squares bustle with activity and history.

You’ll interact with the locals—artists, musicians, business owners, families and more—that make up the colorful cultural fabric of Cuban society. Once you taste the incredible food, hear the incomparable rhythms, see the iconic classic cars and meet the island people you’ll immediately fall in love with this island and all its charm.

Insider TipGetting around is easy; you can walk most places and easily get around by taxi or “Coco-taxi”--Cuba's version of Thailand's tuk-tuks--which are inexpensive and lots of fun.

When off the ship, Cruise Insider recommends these authentic Cuban insider experiences:

  • Fans of Ernest Hemingway can sip a daiquiri at one of his favorite bars, El Floridita, hang out at his famous haunt, La Bodeguita del Medio, or visit Cojimar, the fishing village that inspired the Old Man and the Sea.

  • Take a ride in a vintage American classic car. Nothing beats a ride along the Malecon—the road that hugs the sea along Havana's Northern edge—in an original 1955 Chevy Bel-Air convertible.

  • Stroll along the evocative Malecón, the quintessentially Cuban thoroughfare and get lost among the Baroque facades and colonial cobblestone alleys.

  • Visit the Havana Cathedral and bask in the glory of magnificent neoclassical, baroque and Spanish colonial architecture.

  • Take in the majestic beauty of Revolution Square, the Avenida de los Presidentes and the Malecón waterfront where Cuba’s history, politics and culture collide.

  • Schedule a private tour of one of Havana’s oldest cigar factories for an insider look at the birthplace of these world-famous cigars and the centuries-old process of how they’re made.

  • Walk over to the Marti Monument, Havana's tallest landmark, to see fantastic views of the city from 350 ft. above Havana.

  • The lighthouse of El Morro—the fortress—is the iconic symbol of the city and boasts some of the best views of Havana, especially at sunset.

  • Havana's most beautiful colonial building—the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales—is a masterpiece of 18th century architecture and is one of the best museums in Cuba.

  • Partake of the cafecito ritual at Café Marina.

  • Dance to live salsa at the famed Cabaret Tropicana Night Club.

  • Catch a Latin jazz act at Jazz Café.

Insider TipEvery December is the International Jazz Festival, a vibrant festival of culture, music and art. Imagine relaxing by the ocean enjoying the faint smoky scent of habanos (cigars) while enjoying smooth island sounds as the sunset steams into the sea.

Before You Go

It’s only natural to have a few questions — traveling to Cuba is a little different than visiting other destinations due to special government rules and regulations. For instance, unlike some other destinations, you must cruise with a valid passport. There are other things to know too, but that’s where Cruise Insider comes in. Our experts know all the details and explain everything to you to ensure you travel comfortably and your Cuba trip goes smoothly from the moment you book to the moment you’re back home.

Insider TipIf you’re planning on going ashore in Cuba, you must meet one of the U.S. government’s 12 categories of authorized travel. Don’t worry, all Cruise Insider recommended shore excursions meet the U.S. government requirements so you can enjoy Cuba safely and stress free.

Remember that Americans cannot use U.S. credit cards or travelers cheques in Cuba, so bring enough cash to cover your expenses. Cuba has two different currencies, but most tourists will only use the CUC (convertible pesos). If you do carry cash, exchange it in smaller denominations and carry small bills including some coins, as many bathrooms expect a small 'donation' as you leave.

To avoid taking a huge hit on every U.S. dollar you change, bring Euros or Canadian Dollars, which have much more favorable exchange rates.

Some things to do and know prior to your trip to Cuba:

  • Learn about local cuisine and create a “must try” list of top foodie finds:
    • Pork burgers (Hamburguesa de cerdo)
    • Coconut Pie ("Pie" de Coco)
    • Guava Milkshake (Batidos de Guayaba)
  • Drink only mineral water, even to brush your teeth. Never drink from a tap. Buy Ciego Montero mineral water, an inexpensive local bottled water that’s safe to drink.
  • Many of the smaller charter flights to the U.S. run on an irregular schedule, so don't be surprised if you get to the airport and find your flight has been moved 1 hour earlier.
  • Havana sits right below the Tropic of Cancer so the sun is very strong. Bring sunscreen and use it often or you’ll end up sunburnt.
  • During Summer and Fall—when the rains start—bring insect repellent with you, as it is hard to find on the island.
  • In general, public bathrooms are in pretty bad shape, so it may be wise to bring your own toilet tissue, handy wipes and hand sanitizer with you, in case of emergency.
  • Finding name brands or in Cuba can be difficult, so bring all important medicines that you might need along with you.
  • Bring power bars or snacks—these come in handy to tide you over between meals. And it’s especially hard to find options for vegetarians, so plan accordingly.
Insider TipIf you need a good pharmacy in Havana, the best one is the international pharmacy in the lobby level of the Hotel Habana LIbre (formerly the Havana Hilton, opened by Conrad Hilton himself in 1958.)

Choose Your Cruise

There are a variety of cruise options to choose from, depending on how you like to explore new destinations. From all-inclusive small-ship luxury to more family-friendly mega-ships, a cruise to Cuba has never been more accessible or more affordable.

We’ve curated some of our very favorite Cuba voyages here, but for a full list of sailings or for more information about experiencing Cuba on a luxury cruise, speak to a Cruise Insider expert at (877) 734-6858.

Click here to view our Cuba sailings.

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