Tag Archives: cuba

Visit Cuba by Ship!

Havana Street Scene
PHOTO: Haimark Line wants to launch cruises from Miami to Cuba in February. (Courtesy of David Cogswell)

The relaxation of rules about travel by Americans to Cuba has brought a stampede of curious travelers to the island nation. This is good for travelers, and hopefully, good for Cubans as well. One issue facing tourists (and tour companies), though, is a dearth of hotel space, especially in the smaller communities popular with “People-to-People” tours.

Cuba 3Two companies, though, are set to solve that problem by offering cruises to Cuba. Carnival Cruises was the first to obtain licenses (from the US authorities), and plans to begin offering cruises to Cuba under its fathom brand beginning in May 2016.  The fathom brand was created to offer cruises to the Dominican Republic, where passengers can engage in volunteer activities. The Cuba cruises would incorporate fully immersive People-to-People educational tours, focusing on artistic, educational and cultural exchange. Seven-night cruises aboard the 710-passenger Adonia begin at $2,990 per person, and deposits are being accepted now for next year’s cruises.

Photo of the Saint Laurent courtesy of Haimark Line.
Photo of the Saint Laurent courtesy of Haimark Line.

Another option for visiting Cuba by water is via Haimark Cruises, a small but fast-growing cruise company.  Passengers aboard the 210-passenger MS Saint Laurent will enjoy nine-night all-inclusive cruises departing from Miami, beginning February 10, 2016. The itinerary, dubbed “Cuba 360°; A Circumnavigation of the Cultures of Cuba,” offers an approved People-to-People exchange program with visits to Havana for 2 nights, plus stops in Maria La Gorda, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt and Holguin. Fares for the cruises begin at $4,599 per person, and include all onboard accommodations, meals and beverages, as well as the land-based cultural excursions and tips for local guides and drivers. 

One advantage the cruises will offer is that, like escorted tours, all of the permissions needed for Americans to visit Cuba will be taken care of by the cruise companies. But, for those who are willing to jump through the official hoops themselves, a new option for visiting Cuba will be a European-style ferry service set to begin operating this November. Florida-based United Caribbean Lines is set to launch ferry service to Cuba from Miami and Tampa, beginning in November 2015. Ferries will have cabins and hotel amenities, and can accommodate around 2,000 passengers. Voyages will depart Florida in late afternoon, arriving in Havana the next morning, with return trips to Florida later that day.

Cuba: People to People (2015-16) with Abercrombie & Kent

Cuba: People to People (2015-16)

Cuba 5

Embark on an unforgettable, enriching Cuba program, with full days of meaningful interactions and people-to-people connections, which reveal the spirit of this fascinating, culturally rich island nation long off-limits to American travelers.

  • Immerse yourself in Cuban culture, exploring its architecture, agriculture, music and dining during intimate, one-on-one experiences with residents
  • Discover Cuba’s and America’s great shared passion, baseball, at a game where you meet and engage with the players, and even have the opportunity to play a few innings with them
  • Engage in a stimulating discussion of the history of U.S.-Cuba relations with a former Cuban Foreign Services Scholar in Havana
  • Join a local architect for an education walk through Havana, discussing its historic styles, ongoing restoration efforts and their impact on the community
  • Explore Las Terrazas eco-community, and learn about Cuba’s environmental commitments at this unique UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • Gain insight into Cuba’s well regarded public health care system during an informal-yet-engaging conversation with a local physician; discuss everything from physician training to research and production during an exchange of issues on the subject
  • Meet with local musicians during a private Buena Vista Social Club-style concert and cultural discussion



Arrive at Miami International Airport, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. Meet your accompanying Abercrombie & Kent Program Director and fellow guests at your reception and briefing this evening.

Day 2: HAVANA, CUBA / Experiencing a Paladar

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the Miami International Airport and check in at the dedicated A&K counter for your short charter flight to Cuba. Upon arrival at José Martí International Airport in Havana, complete immigration and customs formalities and meet your local Cuban guide. Embark on an informative tour of Havana’s historic and culturally rich neighborhoods. After lunch, check in to your Havana hotel. This evening, sit down to dinner in a private paladar (family-run restaurant), a unique, welcoming Cuban enterprise.   |   Meals: B L D

Day 3: HAVANA / Immersive Experiences

Havana Street Detail
Havana, Cuba

Today’s introduction to historic Havana begins with a brief presentation by a former Cuban Foreign Services Scholar, during which you are immersed in the history of Cuba-U.S. relations, from the colonial era to the present day. Take part in a thought-provoking question and answer session. Visit a day-care center, where you meet the teachers and get to know the students. Then, take part in an interactive cooking experience at a local paladar. Its owners share their passion for Cuban cuisine and discuss what is involved in running a private business in Cuba — an opportunity that, historically, was all but unheard of. After lunch, walk through the on-site botanical farm, as owners discuss their ongoing efforts to educate and enthuse children about organic farming. Continue to Finca La Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s former home, where The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls were penned. As you look through the windows and open doors of this remarkably preserved home, visualize the author’s life during the more than 20 years he lived there. |   Meals: B L D

Day 4: HAVANA / Spiritual Center

This morning, stroll through Old Havana with a local architect, discussing the challenges and successes of city reconstruction projects, all the while absorbing the vibrant, extraordinary architecture that surrounds you. After lunch, witness the storied Colon Cemetery. Founded in 1876, it is the site of more than 800,000 graves and one million interments. Under the guidance of a local specialist, gain insight into the cemetery’s history and its significance to the local community and pilgrims. Early this evening, transfer to the historic Hotel Nacional

Historic Hotel Nacional
Historic Hotel Nacional

for a narrative on its fascinating history. Considered a national monument, the hotel was built in 1930 and overlooks the Malecón (seaside promenade) and Havana Harbor. Over the years, the Nacional has hosted many international dignitaries and well-known entertainers, as evidenced by the photographic memorabilia displayed throughout the hotel. Here, enjoy a private concert of Buena Vista Social Club-style music, sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music. Then, engage in a post-performance discussion with musicians — a great opportunity to learn about the impact music has had on Cuban culture and the ways in which it has influenced music in the United States and beyond. Later, take a tour by traditional “Yank tank” (vintage car) en route to dinner.  |   Meals: B L D

Day 5: HAVANA / Cuba’s Capital

Cuba LifeThis morning at your hotel, meet a local physician and engage in a talk on Cuba’s well-regarded public health care system, followed by an illuminating question and answer session. Then, visit the Muraleando Neighborhood Community project, meeting members and seeing firsthand the art projects and significant restorations that are underway. In the afternoon, join an Afro-Cuban religions specialist at Casa de Africa, who reveals the country’s religious roots and how religion is practiced in contemporary Cuba. Later, meet a local salsa teacher to talk about the history of this native rhythm and the importance of dance in Cuban life, followed by a lesson under your instructor’s attentive eye.   |   Meals: B L D

Day 6: LAS TERRAZAS / Art & Nature

Today, visit Las Terrazas community, just 45 minutes outside of Havana. At this pioneering eco-village — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — interact with resident specialists, learning about its rare,

Las Terrazas
Las Terrazas, Cuba

endemic biodiversity and life amid the self-sustaining enclave. Engage with members of the local farming community during a reforestation discussion, which explores the positive impact of the ecological movement and the ways in which environmental efforts are similar or different to those practiced in the U.S. Also, visit a coffee plantation with a specialist and meet its staff to learn about the economic role of the coffee industry and its impact on Cuban society. Return to Havana in the afternoon, stopping at the whimsical studio of José Fuster, a renowned Cuban painter and ceramicist. Take part in a discussion about the artist’s work and the role the arts play in contemporary Cuba. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.  |   Meals: B L

Day 7: CIENFUEGOS / Architectural Marvels

Depart early from Havana. Arrive in Cienfuegos, the “Pearl of the South,” so-called for its stunningly beautiful bay. Set out on an informative city tour through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a stop at the Teatro Tomas Terry. Meanwhile, take the opportunity to talk with your local guide about Cuban life, be it about the two currencies used or the cost of living on the island. Take a stroll down the Paseo del Prado, the longest tree-lined boulevard in Cuba. After lunch, enjoy an orchestral performance at the Colonial Museum. Then, head to Cayo Santa Maria. |   Meals: B L D

Day 8: CAIBARIÉN & REMEDIOS / Cuban Industries Up Close

In Caibarién this morning, visit La Imprenta — a local print shop — where you meet with the shop manager and employees and discuss their experiences working with antique presses, which are still used to this day. During a visit to the nearby Sugar Museum, housed in the historically significant Marcelo Salado Azucarera (Sugar Mill), participate in a discussion with museum employees on the role the sugar industry played in Cuba’s history. Then, board an old steam train (formerly used to transport sugar cane to the factory), and travel to El Curujey for a traditional, authentic Cuban farm lunch. See a typical farmhouse as well as a demonstration of palm climbing, followed by a discussion with your host about what life is like on a farm in Cuba.

San Juan de los Remedios, Cuba
San Juan de los Remedios, Cuba

In Remedios, take a ride by bicitaxi (also known as a pedicab or rickshaw) through the town and into the bustling main square. Join the bicitaxi owners at a local coffee shop, gaining insight into their day-to-day routines and the ways in which they maintain their vehicles. Later, at the Remedios Tour Center, meet with the tour historian to discuss the town’s history and work of the parish priest who began community projects for all ages. Return to your hotel for dinner. |   Meals: B L D

Day 9: SANTA CLARA / Cuba’s Vibrant Arts

Drive to Santa Clara, stopping at the local stadium, where you engage in a shared pastime with Cuban residents: baseball. During the event, youmeet and talk with the players about sports in Cuban life, with the opportunity to play a few innings together. Cuban BaseballUpon arrival in Santa Clara, proceed to the Casa de la Cultura, where members of the Cuban musical group Melodias Antillanas performtraditional music on antique instruments. Hear a concert of Cuban classics, followed by a talk about traditional music and its role in local culture. Here, you also meet withmembers of a senior citizen community center, who perform a traditional Danzon dance, with an opportunity for you to join in. Its members also share engaging stories about Cuban life and social decorum. After lunch, tour Santa Clara, briefly stopping at the Che Guevara Memorial. Return to your hotel for a farewell dinner. |   Meals: B L D


Transfer to the airport to board your return flight to Miami.

Meals: B

Limited to 24 guests
Days: 10  |  From: $5,695

For more information call Susan Hickman: 626 449-3220 or E-Mail: Susan@distantlands.com