Summary : Experience Cuba via a People-to-People program on a comprehensive land and sea expedition aboard the Panorama II. Cuba has long been endlessly fascinating to visitors. The country’s vibrant cultures, the beauty of its landscapes, its island natural history, and of course its political history have captured international attention for generations. On this People-to-People exploration, you’ll meet interesting Cubans and learn what the reality is behind the perceptions. Meet with people who are working to preserve the bountiful marine life that is some of the most remarkable anywhere.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Photography, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
Just-Released Offer 2018 Voyages for 2017 Rates
$9,500 to $11,500
Meet at Miami International Airport in the morning for your flight to Havana. On arrival, transfer to your historic hotel, the Hotel Nacional, located on the waterfront. Stay here for three nights. The Nacional, a Havana landmark, opened in 1930 and over the decades has hosted a remarkable number of entertainers, writers, athletes and world leaders. This afternoon, meet with the members of a Cuban percussion and dance group, and take in a stirring performance of their groundbreaking music and dance. Then ride in vintage 1950s cars to dinner at a local restaurant. (L,D)
Enjoy a full program of people-to-people visits lined up for these two days, with opportunities for you to choose among programs that interest you most. You’ll explore Old Havana on foot. It’s a World Heritage site, a trove of historic architecture, and center for Cuba’s arts and culture. See its great squares and meet with Cubans who are playing a vital role in preserving this area. Drive along the Malecón, the esplanade that runs along the waterfront. On your visits, you’ll meet with Cubans who are making a difference in their fields, and develop a rich understanding of life in Cuba. Get a perspective on Castro’s revolution at the city’s history museums. Visit art spaces. See Ernest Hemingway’s estate at Finca Vigía. Visit a cigar factory, and learn about environmental education projects at the Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez. Visit an auto workshop where classic American cars are restored. Enjoy several meals in some of Havana’s best private restaurants, which have developed a reputation for innovative cuisine. And on one evening hear the rhythms of Cuba at a private dinner, with the chance to meet the musicians—Cuba’s rich traditions have been celebrated all over the world. (B,L,D)
Have a final morning to explore Havana, with people-to-people visits. After lunch, drive to the beautiful city of Cienfuegos, on Cuba’s south coast. In the late afternoon, embark Panorama II, your home for the next seven nights, and have a welcome dinner aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
This morning drive from Cienfuegos to the Bay of Pigs, an ecologically important area that became known worldwide when the 1961 U.S.-backed invasion by Cuban exiles was rapidly and thoroughly defeated by the Cuban revolutionary government, whose forces were led by Fidel Castro. Visit the museum that recounts the history of the battle, with photographs and artifacts that include a Cuban fighter plane and vessels. Meet with people who will tell about what transpired and its meaning to Cubans. The bay lies along the Zapata Peninsula and the Zapata Swamp National Park, and you’ll have a chance to explore the area in search of its renowned birdlife, famously including the world’s smallest bird, the endemic bee hummingbird, along with the endemic Cuban trogon (Cuba’s national bird), La Sagra's flycatcher, Cuban green woodpecker and more. Meet with experts who will tell about the vitally important role the area plays in the area’s natural history—it has been compared to the Everglades. In the late afternoon, drive back to Cienfuegos and the ship. (B,L,D)
This beautiful key is home to diverse marine ecosystems and a local community that serves the primarily European and Canadian visitors who come for its snorkeling and diving. This morning your people-to-people visit is to the local clinic to discuss Cuba’s medical system with local doctors and nurses.
Visit a sea turtle breeding center and endangered species protection program. In the afternoon you’ll have a chance to snorkel or, at additional cost, dive on the coral reef, in the company of environmental guides and scientists. (B,L,D)
A UNESCO World Heritage site and Cuban national monument, Trinidad is a splendid and meticulously preserved colonial city, perhaps Cuba’s most beautiful. It occupies a spectacular setting on a hill overlooking the Caribbean, with a backdrop of green mountains. Founded in 1514 by the conquistador Diego Velázquez, it has rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces, and plazas. Seemingly every building has an intriguing history. This morning walk through the town with a representative of the Office of the City Historian, interacting with residents along the way. There will be stops for visits to local artists, to home studios; and to a museum that recounts the history of the failed 1960s rebellion in the nearby Escambray Mountains. The museum’s bell tower offers fine views over Trinidad. In the afternoon, see the Valley of the Sugar Mills, where local guides will explain sugar’s importance to Cuba’s history and you will see how the sugar barons lived. Alternatively, spend the day with a local specialist exploring the Topes de Collantes Natural Park in the Escambray mountains, with a short hike and a chance to see something of Cuba’s natural history, and explore Trinidad in the afternoon, meeting its residents. (B,L,D)
NOTE: The visit to the Gardens of the Queen is pending permission from Cuban officials, and this portion of the itinerary is subject to change.
Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) Marine Park is one of the crown jewels of the Caribbean—a place of transcendent importance to the marine ecology of Cuba and the world. Its significance is well recognized by Cubans, who have extended protection to large areas of the waters and cays, and by naturalists worldwide. Its coral reefs are among the finest in the world, and you’ll have two days to learn about this unique habitat, meeting with ecologists who are working to describe and preserve the “Gardens.” You’ll have chances to snorkel (included) or dive (additional cost) in these prolific waters to see some of the greatest diversity of corals, fish, and other creatures to be found anywhere. Join alongside Cuban dive experts and scientists who are working to preserve and protect this unique habitat. There will also be opportunities to walk on some of the islands in search of birds including ospreys, frigatebirds, spoonbills, pelicans, and many other seabirds, and to swim in the azure waters. (B,L,D)
In the early afternoon, arrive in Cienfuegos, Cuba’s “Pearl of the South” and a UNESCO World Heritage site, and spend the rest of the day exploring. Columbus is said to have been here in 1494, on his second voyage to the New World, and the area was subsequently a haven for pirates and smugglers. French settlers arrived in 1819, and the city retains a distinct liveliness and sophistication. Explore the town center on foot, visiting the Graphic Arts Workshop for discussions and exchanges with local artists. Among places of particular interest that we’ll see are the Government Palace (City Hall), San Lorenzo School, the Bishopric, the Ferrer Palace, the former lyceum, and some residential houses. You’ll have a people-to-people visit with musicians and singers, young and old, and enjoy a presentation and exchange with the internationally known, award-winning Cienfuegos Choir. Enjoy a farewell dinner aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Disembark this morning and transfer to the Cienfuegos airport for your flight to Miami.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
The Cuban government requires travel insurance (which covers at least medical expenses) to be compulsory for all travelers to Cuba. Proof of travel insurance will be requested at Havana airport by immigration officials. Travelers failing to produce a valid document will be required to purchase a new policy at the airport, for permission to enter Cuba.
Lindblad-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor:
On all departures, a certified photo instructor will be at your side and at your service to inspire and assist you. Take advantage of talks, presentations, slideshows and “laptop gallery” sharing events. All skill and interest levels are welcome; the instructors can meet you wherever you are on your journey. All you need to participate is a camera— point-and-shoot, smartphone, DSLR, whatever—and a sense of adventure. And you’re sure to return home with amazing photos.
Accommodations (three nights in hotel in Havana and seven nights aboard ship); meals indicated in itinerary; people-to-people visits; services of Lindblad Expeditions’ Leader, Naturalist staff and expert guides; use of Zodiacs, snorkeling equipment and wetsuits; entrance fees; port charges and service taxes. Subject to change without notice.
Air transportation; extensions; passport, visa, and immigration fees; meals not indicated; baggage/accident/travel protection plan; fee for diving; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages such as internet, laundry; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: Havana Capitol Building © Regien Paassen; Reef, Bicycle Taxi, Blue Classic Car © Sven-Olof Lindblad; Iguana © Kristin Hettermann