Sunday, March 25, 2018

Intro to...Traveling to Cuba: Part 2

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Disclaimer:  This article is written as a personal narrative based on personal experiences from the perspective of a US citizen. It is not intended as legal, official or professional information. MC Photo and Travel, dba MC Enterprises does not assume responsibility for any persons using this information as the sole source for planning a trip to Cuba.

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Our Cruise to Cuba
Currently, there are no cruises sailing from USA ports to Cuba. It is our hope this policy is changed soon. It's an amazing experience.
This information is intended for readers who are US citizens and is solely based on the author's personal experience

Norwegian Sky, docked in Havana, Cuba

There are 15 municipalities in Havana, Cuba. Cruise ships, currently not sailing from the United States, normally dock in Old Havana (Havana Vieja). The area is a curiosity because it seems as if it was abandoned and left to decay after the Revolution of 1959. The numerous old cars from that era add to the mystery. Some buildings are being preserved and the area is a World UNESCO Heritage Site. 

1. When I sailed in 2017, 3 cruise companies were sailing to Cuba: Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. They departed from Miami, Tampa and Port Canaveral. The port for Cuba will be Havana, which docks in Old Havana. Check the US Department of State website for the latest information regarding cruises to Cuba.

2. You can travel by airplane unless there is a restriction for safety and/or health concerns. Consult with a knowledgeable and reputable travel consultant who will give you truthful advice in your best interest regarding lodging. (When and if cruising resumes, choose an itinerary that has an overnight in Havana, if your main purpose is to visit Cuba. However, there are sailings that have Havana as a one day stop, just like any other port.).

Travel to Cuba for tourist reasons is not permitted. You must be there for a purpose as per your visa. You must travel under one of the 12 permitted licenses.

4.  Technically, you must have an itinerary to visit Cuba, but it can be self-made. Plan to visit places of interest for the entire time you are in port. Normally, cruise excursions would make this easy. I booked an evening walking tour through the cruise line. Tours are also for sale as you disembark, after you clear customs and exchange money. But, I planned my own activities and I was engaged the entire time I was off the ship.

Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro

5. Activities that I did in order to engage in people-to-people activities included a horse-drawn city tour, visiting a cigar shop, speaking with the locals at the flea market, enjoying the Coche Mambi (the 1910 presidential rail car), a gallery and other spots around Old Havana, including the famous Havana Club.

Coche Mambi rail car

6. Running joke: Ernest Hemingway, who did live in Cuba for about 7 years in the 1930's, apparently ate, slept and visited every location in and around the old Havana area. Every tourist attraction has a plaque that proclaims that ol' Ernie was there. 

Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway lived for 7 years

Do your research. If you use a travel agent, ask if he or she knows the latest information about visas, some of them do not arrange visas. When cruising resumes, make sure you will be able to communicate directly with the cruise line about traveling to Cuba. Buen viaje!

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All photos and text copyright Marcia Crayton, All Rights Reserved, 2020