Summary : Journey from French-influenced Cienfuegos to Havana aboard the Panorama for a distinct look at this enigmatic island as it stands poised on the brink of historic transformation. Marvel at the expanse of shoreline claimed by this vast land mass, the Caribbean’s largest island—mountains sloping down to tropical jungles, rich wetlands and fruited plains...sunny inlets and ports long used for exporting Cuba’s abundance of fruit, sugar and coveted tobaccos. From the French influences in the architecture and culture you’ll experience in Cienfuegos to the Spanish colonial splendor of Trinidad and the raw excitement of politically polarizing but uniquely romantic Havana, your experience in Cuba will feel complete! In addition to a walking tour of 500-year-old Trinidad, cruise around the island’s Western crescent, stop on the island of Cayo Largo, home to a sea turtle breeding center, the remote western Guanahacibes Peninsula and venture into the Viñales Valley. Other highlights of this people-to-people itinerary include learning about Cuban sports, medicine and mass communication, dance lessons, local choir and theater performances, pottery workshops, visits to museums, and calling on artists in their studios.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling
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Your Cuba people-to-people travel program begins in Miami with welcome drinks and a briefing on what to expect the following morning and while in Cuba. Spend tonight at the Miami Airport Marriott.
Board your charter flight to Cuba. Meet your driver and guide, and depart for the Bay of Pigs — Playa Giron. During this drive through the countryside, your guide begins to brief you on the history and culture of this enigmatic island. Stop for lunch in a local paladar, a privately owned restaurant, before continuing to the Playa Giron Museum. Here you can survey a brief history of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and see military equipment from the period. Continue to Cienfuegos for a seaside dinner. Overnight at Hotel Jagua or similar. (L,D)
Travel to Trinidad, an architectural jewel proclaimed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Red tiled roofs atop pastel stucco structures line the cobbled streets. This port city reflects its 16th century past and founding by Conquistadors. Eighteenth century smugglers and pirates made frequent calls here or even used this port as their base of operations in the Caribbean. The wealth and importance of Trinidad continued into the 19th century, when sugar barons reigned. Experience the community like a local, visiting with shop owners and sampling local fare as you walk through the colonial heart of the city and call on artists in their studios. Stop at either the Museum Romantico or the Architecture Museum. En route to the port town of Casilda, board the Panorama, take advantage of a stop at a local look-out to photograph stunning vistas. After embarking, the Panorama sets off for Cienfuegos. (B,L,D)
Begin your day at the farmer’s market, where locals come to purchase produce for their daily meals. Enjoy a walking tour of Cienfuegos’ city center, where wide avenues lead to the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along the way, a local specialist discusses the significance of buildings such as Government Palace (City Hall), San Lorenzo School, the Bishopric, Ferrer Palace and the former lyceum. Discover the transformative power of art in the lives of ordinary Cubans while visiting a graphic arts workshop. After lunch, try out your dance skills — or learn new ones — during a Salsa lesson. Enjoy a performance by the Cienfuegos Choir, where you’re invited to join the choir for songs in the spirit of musical exchange. Tonight dinner is onboard the ship as you sail for Juventud Island. (B,L,D)
Spend a day exploring Cuba’s second largest island, Juventud – the Isle of Youth. This island has a distinct history colored by the presence of Aboriginal Indians, Christopher Columbus, who landed here in 1494, and even pirates, but it is most famous for its role in Cuba’s revolution. Stroll the streets around Nueva Gerona’s Parque Central, mingling with students and street vendors. At the now-abandoned Presidio Modelo, learn about former prisoners Fidel and Raul Castro, who were imprisoned here for 19 months. This is where Fidel penned much of his text History Will Absolve Me. (B,L,D)
Explore Maria La Gorda, on the Bahía de Corrientes, beginning in La Bajada. Call on a local school, mingling with students and learning about the country's education system. Guest may even share songs with the children. Meet with a local naturalist at Guanahacabibes National Park, the largest of Cuba’s six nature reserves. This UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve is some to butterflies and birdlife such as endemic bee hummingbird and yellow-headed warbler. Plus, Guanahacabibes is home to a large profusion of orchids and epiphytes, a total of 16 species, some indigenous and some recently discovered. Enjoy a nature hike, or return to the beach before lunch. The rest of the afternoon is free to snorkel or enjoy the surroundings. As the Panorama sails for Havana, tonight stay in the Guanahacabibes Reserve at Hotel Maria la Gorda. (B,L,D)
Wind your way into the Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dotted with limestone mogotes and fertile tobacco fields. Mingle with locals on the wide avenues in the charming town of Viñales for a taste of daily life in the countryside. Sample the homegrown vegetables grown at an organic farm while meeting the family who is responsible for the land. Stop at a tobacco farm to learn about the processes and history of Cuban cigars. Continue on to Havana, where we re-board the Panorama, which is docked near Old Havana. (B,L,D)
Stroll through the atmospheric squares of Old Havana, calling on artists in their studios. These parks and plazas are popular with locals who frequent the stalls selling books along the edges of the park while musicians fill the air with sound. See Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway kept a room for years. The hotel served as a refuge for writing such works as For Whom the Bell Tolls and as a base for frequenting his favorite bars. You have a moment to see the room where Hemingway worked if you wish before sampling a mojito at the rooftop bar. After lunch at a favorite paladar, head to Condes de Villanueva to see the art of cigar rolling. Enjoy sampling Cuba’s famed rum varieties at the Rum Museum before returning to the ship for dinner. Tonight, head to Café Taberna, home to the Buena Vista Social Club revue. (B,L,D)
Learn about art and dance in the lives of Cubans elite and ordinary citizens. At Habana Compass Dance, a private school of dance, attend rehearsals and meet the director. Pay homage to Ernest Hemingway while discussing his work with Cuban Hemingway specialists at his former home, Finca Vigia, preserved as it was on the day of his death. Travelers can only peer through the open windows of this museum, but the inside is arranged almost as if the home was waiting for him to return with guests. Hemingway’s fishing boat, El Pilar, is still on the grounds. Stop to chat with the owner, Jolanda, and farmers at a sustainable garden which supplies one of Cuba’s best private restaurants – Il Divino – where you have lunch. The surrounding garden and restaurant serves meals to seniors and functions as an after-school center for the employees’ children. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore Havana before saying good-bye to Cuba at a Captain’s farewell dinner onboard. Ready for more fun? Join an optional excursion to the famed Tropicana (at your own expense). (B,L,D)
Disembark the Panorama after breakfast and transfer to the Jose Marti Airport for your charter flight to Miami, where you connect with flights home. (B)
Itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes. Specific hotel accommodations in Cuba cannot be to guaranteed in advance as availability is controlled by the Cuban government.
The Cuban government requires that all foreign visitors have medical insurance that covers you while there. You have been enrolled in a Cuban medical insurance plan with up to $25,000 in coverage per person for sickness or accident that occurs in Cuba and up to $7,000 for repatriation. There are certain limitations and conditions pertaining to injuries caused by certain acts. The cost of additional medical care is the responsibility of the traveler. The coverage begins at the moment you arrive in Cuba and ends at the moment when you exit Cuba.
Accommodations as per the itinerary; services of English-speaking local guides; meals as specified in itinerary; transfers and luggage handling when taking group flights unless otherwise specified; Cuban government mandated medical insurance; gratuities to porters, day guides, and waiters for included meals. Subject to change without notice.
All airfare, including in-country airfare; transfers and luggage handling unless taking group flights or otherwise specified; travel protection plan; passport and visa fees; all taxes and reciprocity fees; optional excursions; gratuities except as noted above; items of a personal nature, such as equipment rentals, laundry, phone calls, alcoholic beverages, camera fees, etc.; ticketing fees; ship or air fuel surcharges may apply.
Photo Credit: © International Expeditions