CRUISING TO HAVANA, CUBA
Cruising to Cuba is like finding a land from long ago. It’s been a forbidden fruit to Americans who have known it most through old movies. The people are warm, inviting and proud. The food is fresh and delicious. The architecture spans centuries with buildings finding new uses as time passes. The crafts are age-old and the artistry is beautiful. Traditional clothing appeals to your senses and the dancing is mesmerizing.
We’ve compiled 10 tips for making your cruise to Havana more enjoyable:
Tip #1: Best time to visit winter and spring. They are the coolest months and have the least amount of rain. Hurricanes, usually in late summer through late fall, don’t often hit Cuba. When they do, they normally strike the south coast rather than Havana in the north.
Tip #2: Current passports are required. Residents of many countries, including Americans, also need a visa which will be purchased through the cruise line. The cost (currently $75) will be added to your cruise cost or shipboard cabin account and will be provided to you at embarkation or during your cruise.
Tip #4: Get up early so you can be up on deck before your ship starts to enter the narrow harbor. You’ll view the city on the starboard side and the 16th century fortress, Morro Castle, on the port side.
Tip #3: No U.S. credit cards or debit cards, and no ATMs. Estimate how much cash you may want for tipping, beverages, snacks or lunch, taxis and souvenirs. Once you’re off the ship, you’ll need to exchange your cash for Cuban Convertible Pesos (“CUC”) at the cruise terminal or in a bank or currency exchange office.
Tip #4: American cell phones won’t work in Cuba. It would have to be unlocked and you’d have to buy a SIM card. Canadian cell phones will work, but check on fees before you leave home.
Tip #5: You’ll find available restrooms, but there’s a good chance they won’t have toilet paper. Be sure to bring tissues with you.
Tip #6: Stop by La Bodeguita del Medio, the bar most famous for Ernest Hemingway stopping by for mojitos. Enjoy the music and a quick mojito. Or relax over one with lunch. It’s crowded and fun. Bring a Sharpie marker because part of the fun is leaving your mark on the bar’s wall.
Tip #7: Bring some small, inexpensive gifts such as toiletries, reading glasses along with small toys and craft/school supplies for kids. These can be dropped off a church, given to people you meet around the city and to your tour guide and drivers. It’s not necessary to do this, but they are appreciated. These do NOT replace giving a monetary gratuity when appropriate.
Tip #8: Take lots of photos. But don’t take photos of police or military personnel.
Tip #9: Get a ride. Riding in the vintage “classic” cars is fun. Particularly if you are old enough that you’ll appreciate the throwback to a time when you rode in those same cars as a child or used to drive them. The yellow three-wheeled “coco taxis” are a lot of fun for a short ride. Be sure to negotiate rates before your ride. It’s illegal to ride in an unlicensed taxi so be sure you’re setting yourself up for a legal and safe ride.
Tip #10: One of Cuba’s many attributes is the contradictions of old and new interwoven which can be intriguing. Modern technology mixing with age old devices is just one example. Don’t spend so much time on what all you can see in a day that you don’t end up really seeing and experiencing what’s around you each moment.
Are you ready for your Cuba cruise adventure? We can help you determine what ship is the best fit for you or your group, and help you to plan your trip to an island filled with a great culture and partially locked in time.