Cienfuegos to Havana


Caption: Video courtesy of Program Participant Mark Dickinson

Summary

It has never been so easy to go back in time to a place rooted in culture and history. Where the people are as warm and welcoming as the climate. Cruise through Cuba during 8 days aboard our two great vessels on a people to people program that allows you to step back in time to a country that been closed to Americans for half a century. You'll explore the western part of the island nation famous for its culture, music, warm people and art.

Itinerary

DAY 1: Friday | Havana - Cienfuegos

Arrive in Havana, where you will be met and assisted by a member of our team. Our People to People program begins immediately with a panoramic sightseeing tour of this exciting city, including a stop at the Plaza de la Revolucion. Enjoy a welcome lunch at La Barraca Restaurant, located in Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which specializes in Cuban cuisine and offers breathtaking views of the Bay of Havana. Remain at the hotel for an engrossing lecture and discussion about Havana's peculiar architectural style with well-known architect Pedro Vasquez. Following the lecture, we will depart Havana by bus for Cienfuegos. Upon arrival in the evening, we will board the ship and participate in a boat drill and welcome briefing. Dinner onboard and overnight in port.

DAY 2: Saturday | Cienfuegos - Trinidad/Casilda

Disembark this morning for our sightseeing tour of Cienfuegos, also known as the Pearl of the South. Founded by French settlers, Cienfuegos boasts a unique architecture and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk around the city center and admire outstanding examples of French neoclassical architecture from the 19th Century. We will visit a local farmer's market to converse with local farmers about organic food production in Cuba, followed by a concert performed by the singers of the Chorus of Cienfuegos. Depart Cienfuegos by bus for the meticulously well-preserved Spanish colonial city of Trinidad. With its rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces and plazas, it is sometimes referred to as the "Museum City of Cuba." We will visit a scale model of the city, followed by a discussion with a local architect about “UNESCO Trinidad” and the city's unique architecture. After lunch at El Dorado paladar, we will take a sightseeing walk of Trinidad. Visit the studio of Lazaro Niebla, a very unique woodcarver, before driving to Casilda to meet the ship. Dinner on board and overnight at sea.

DAY 3: Sunday | Day at Sea

Today we will spend the day at sea, as we sail to the Bay of Singuanea.

DAY 4: Monday | Isla Juventud

Until 1977, the island was called the Isle of Pines. In 1978 Fidel Castro turned the island into one grand Communist school for students from around the world and thus the Island of Youth. Disembark in Marina Colony to visit the Presidio Modelo, an abandoned panopticon prison where both Fidel and Raul Castro were imprisoned from 1953-1955, followed by a panoramic sightseeing drive of the capital city of Nueva Gerona. Visit the maternity ward of a local hospital, where we will discuss the Cuban health system with the patients, doctors, and nurses. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before returning to embark the ship for an overnight sailing to Maria La Gorda.

DAY 5: Tuesday | Maria La Gorda

This morning, we disembark in Maria La Gorda, where we will visit the local school to meet the Cuban children and their teachers, and discuss the differences and levels of the Cuban and American educational systems, particularly in the rural areas of the country. Visit the headquarters of Guanahacabibes National Park, one of the country's largest nature reserves on the westernmost tip of the island. The peninsula is one of the last refuges of aboriginals fleeing from the Spanish conquistadors and also holds some 140 archaeological sites linked to life of aboriginals known as Guanahatabeyes. We will meet with a Cuban environmentalist to discuss the effort invested in protecting and conserving the park, before embarking the ship. Lunch, dinner, and overnight on board as we sail to Havana.

DAY 6: Wednesday | Havana

Today we disembark in the afternoon for a walking exploration through Havana Vieja, or Old Havana. Witness a mixture of beautiful old baroque and neo-classical monuments, arcades and private balconies. Engage in discussion with the local guide about USA and Cuba relations in light of recent political changes. We will stop for a cocktail on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Ambos Mundos, followed by dinner at Café Del Oriente. End the night in Café Taberna, where we will experience the wonderful salsa music of a Buena Vista Social Club style performance. Return to the ship for overnight in Sierra Maestra Port.

DAY 7: Thursday| Havana

Disembark in the early morning for an excursion to Fusterlandia, the studio of artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster. The brightly colored mermaids, roofs, walls, benches, and doorways were greatly inspired by Gaudi in Barcelona and Brancusi in Rome, but most of all by Picasso and Dubuffet. Continue our sightseeing tour of Havana Vieja and Centro Havana. For an enhanced sightseeing experience, flag down a uniquely decorated local “bicitaxi,” or bicycle taxi. Visit a ration store “bodega” to discuss day to day life in Cuba and this particular way of shopping for subsidized groceries and food. Stop at a local restaurant for lunch, followed by an exchange with the owner of the restaurant or his wife on the topic of being a private entrepreneur. Take a scenic drive in vintage American cars to Finca Vigia, beloved home of Ernest Hemingway where he lived for 21 years and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Upon our return from Finca Vigia, we will board the ship for a farewell dinner and overnight in port.

DAY 8: Friday | Havana

Disembark and transfer to the airport for short return flight.



NOTE: This itinerary may be subject to change as a result of weather and other factors not in our control. Our vessels have been granted the longest stays of any cruise boats in the port of Havana. Since space at the dock itself is severely limited, this itinerary might involve a combination of having to tender in to shore, as well as docking at one of only two piers.

Highlights

People-to-People interaction and meaningful exchanges with locals

Meals onboard, at local restaurants and a salsa lesson or two

Old Havana and the renovation of its historic architecture

Guanahacabibes National Park and its 140 archeological sites

Trinidad, the meticulously well-preserved Spanish colonial city

Cienfuegos, the Pearl of the South, with it's cluster of Neoclassical structures

No packing & unpacking to change hotels

Includes all meals from arrival in Cuba to breakfast on day of departure, mandatory Cuban medical insurance and transportation as per itinerary