Summary : To explore Cuba’s many facets, enjoy an extraordinary people-to-people visit to Cuba that introduces you to Cubans who make a difference in their fields, that allows you to meet the friendly and always interesting residents, and that will leave you with a rich and rewarding understanding of this multifaceted country. It’s a fascinating time to be there, when Cuba is on the cusp of undergoing significant and rapid change. Gain an understanding of Cuba’s history and present through extensive people-to-people visits in the great cities of Havana, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos. Visit the Bay of Pigs, where exiles landed in 1961 in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, and also learn of its important natural history. Using the highly comfortable ship Harmony V as a base, explore some of the places on Cuba’s superb southern coast, including some seldom-visited places on this trip of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Photography, Snorkeling
$999,999,999 to $0
Meet at Miami International Airport in the morning for your flight to Havana. On arrival, transfer to the city for lunch. 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. Check in to your historic hotel, the Hotel Nacional, located on the waterfront, where you will stay 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. Later, ride in vintage 1950s cars to dinner at a local restaurant.
Meals: 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, listen to 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.
Meals: 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 the ship, your home for the next seven nights, and have a welcome dinner aboard the ship.
Meals: 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.
Meals: 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 visit the Office of the City Historian, and walk through the town, interacting with residents along the way. There will be stops for visits to local artists, to home studios, and to the municipal museum. 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.
Meals: B, L, D
A day at sea gives you the chance to have talks by the staff about Cuba, work on your photographs with the Lindblad-National Geographic photo instructor on board, and reflect on the things you’ve seen.
Meals: B, L, D
The Isle of Youth, formerly known as the Isle of Pines, is a large island off the south coast of the main island of Cuba. It occupies an important role in Cuban history as the place where Fidel and Raúl Castro and others were imprisoned, and also where many people considered “social undesirables” were at one time exiled. It is today a friendly place, which because of its relative isolation from the rest of Cuba gets very few outside visitors—the presence of foreign travelers gets heads to turn. Anchoring at Siguanea Bay, drive about 40 minutes to the island’s main city, called Nueva Gerona. Visit a maternity hospital to learn about the care that mothers receive, and the art school on the central plaza. Stroll the "Boulevard," lined with local shops, meeting with local residents and seeing cultural performances as you go. After lunch, visit the Presidio Modelo, the prison where Fidel and Raúl Castro and 23 other revolutionaries were confined between 1953 and 1955, following their failed attack on the Moncada barracks near Santiago de Cuba. The area where the revolutionaries were confined is now a museum with interesting exhibits, and the ruins of the large, circular buildings where other prisoners were held are extremely evocative. Return to the ship, with a brief stop if time permits at the Hotel El Colony, improbably opened as a Hilton in 1958 and reportedly financed by the Mafia.
Meals: B, L, D
This beautiful key is home to diverse marine ecosystems and a small local community that serves the primarily European and Canadian visitors who come here. This morning enjoy a people-to-people visit to the local clinic to discuss Cuba’s medical system with local doctors and nurses. You’ll visit a sea turtle breeding center and endangered species protection program. You’ll also have a chance to explore the island’s marine world by swimming or snorkeling.
Meals: B, L, D
Today you'll explore Cienfuegos, Cuba’s “Pearl of the South” and a UNESCO World Heritage site. 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 colonial Cienfuegos on foot. Among places of particular interest that you’ll see are the Government Palace (City Hall), the Teatro Thomas Terry, and the beautiful main square, Plaza Martí. Continue to the Benny Moré School of Art, named after the great Cuban singer and bandleader who came from this region. It is a lively school where young people get a strong education in the performing arts. Meet teachers and students, and see performances. After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll have a chance to visit Pepito Tey, a village where sugar used to be processed. On a people-to-people visit that gives excellent insight into Cuban agriculture and rural life, meet with a local historian who will tell you about efforts to bring new employment to the former sugar cane workers who live here. Return to Cienfuegos for a moving children’s performance of "Cucarachita Martina," a children’s tale known to all Cubans. Go to a Cienfuegos rooftop for sunset drinks, before returning to the ship for a farewell dinner.
Meals: B, L, D
Disembark this morning and transfer to 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, 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