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.

Traveling to Cuba by Cruise
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 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. Currently, based on my research, 3 cruise companies sail to Cuba: Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. They all depart from Miami, Tampa and Port Canaveral. The port for Cuba will be Havana, which docks in Old Havana. 

2. 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. Choose this itinerary if this is not your first time to Cuba.

Travel to Cuba for tourist reasons is not permitted. You must be there for a purpose as per your visa. Call the cruise company directly to confirm about the visa. You must travel under one of the 12 permitted licenses. You will probably have to pay an extra fee. See the links in number 1. 

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. Of course, cruise excursions 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 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. If you do book through an agent, confirm that you can communicate directly with the cruise line about traveling to Cuba. Buen viaje!

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This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

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