For decades, writers, artists, and travelers from across the globe have been seduced and charmed by Cuba’s sun-drenched beaches, food and music, rums, and cigars. However accessing and experiencing the island’s vibrant culture hasn’t always been easy. But that’s quickly changing, especially now that a number of cruise lines are sailing to the island, delighting cruisers everywhere with a travel experience that’s not to be missed!
What to Expect
With all this excitement, it’s important to know that visiting Cuba is a bit different than sailing to other islands in the Caribbean. The country is the largest island in the Caribbean and has nine UNESCO world heritage sites. That's more than the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Jamaica and Puerto Rico combined. Plus, Cuba's mix of an urban experience and sunny getaway give it a dynamic other islands don't have. Unlike most islands in the Caribbean, life in Cuba has been slower in opening up to travelers, allowing it to retain nearly all of its old world vibe.
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Keep in mind that requirements differ for travelers from the U.S. and Canada when cruising to Cuba. Meeting these requirements for all travelers is quite easy and the cruise lines have measures in place to make sure all travelers have completed the necessary paperwork before entering the country.
Additionally, the Cuban government does require all guests have a Cuban visa. The cruise lines make this an easy process for guests by using a “tourist card” that can be purchased directly from the cruise line for a nominal fee. Your travel professional can assist with this.
Getting to Know Cuba
Cuba has a distinct culture, with food, music, and architecture that are celebrated around the world. It also has pristine beaches, extraordinary diving and snorkeling spots, beautiful natural landscapes, a wonderful colonial architectural legacy and a dynamic history. Culturally and technologically speaking, much of Cuba retains its 1950’s era vibe as revolutions and political turmoil led to a series of trade embargos with the U.S.
Now is an ideal time to visit the island before it loses its special nostalgia. Depending on your ship itinerary and the availability on onshore excursions, you might be able to tour cities like Havana, Trinidad and Santiago – each of which features a mélange of the new and old. Visitors will enjoy a step back in time with an architectural tour of Havana, a city that appears straight out of the 1950s. A walk through Revolution Square and its surrounding cobblestone streets lined with vintage cars will provide plenty photographic moments
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Do spend some time at one of Cuba’s picturesque white sand beaches. They are quite idyllic and less crowded than those of other Caribbean islands. If you have a taste for the exotic, a tour of an authentic Cuban cigar or rum factory will teach you all about the country’s fabled history in creating each.
Don’t pass up a chance to visit the National Museum of Fine Arts to view a vast collection of Cuban art spanning multiple styles and time periods. This will help paint a broader picture of Cuba as a whole, and you’ll enjoy a break from the Cuban heat! Also take an opportunity to walk along the fortified walls of the Morro Castle, a former Spanish military complex that now features museum exhibits and one of the finest views of downtown Havana; and stroll the lively streets of the city at night for a totally different Cuban experience. Night clubs are filled with live music and make great spots for enjoying a refreshing cocktail or two.
Don’t forget, you can purchase items in Cuba to bring home. Yes, even rum and Cuban cigars!
Cruise lines that include Cuba on some of their itineraries include Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Oceania Cruises, and Viking Ocean Cruises.
Keep in mind that your local travel professional is the best place to start planning your cruise to Cuba as they can help you find the perfect itinerary that will introduce you to all of Cuba’s timeless beauty.