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Today is Santiago de Cuba, the last port that is not part of the regular Cuban cruises. We got off the yacht at around 8:30 and walked through a building where they stamped our passports and x-rayed our bags. Then we went into the currency exchange to buy CUCs. A peso is €.87 or US$1.10.   

 

We finally boarded the bus at around 9:00 for the complimentary tour that is compulsory for US citizens. Very comfortable bus and knowledgeable guide, although her accent, at times, was difficult. Saw historic sites, including Cuba’s major cemetery where Fidel is entombed in a large boulder. Made it just in time for the changing of the guard ceremony. Back to SeaDream, which is docked, for lunch at 2:00. Sailing at 5:00 today and tomorrow is our 4th sea day. 

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Perfect sea day. Calm seas and clear skies. And the Wi-Fi is working just fine. Received a notification from AT&T that our international plan doesn’t work here, but we could still get service with roaming charges. Not sure if that applies on shore, though. 

 

We didn’t see a lot of Cubans using cell phones yesterday, but I noticed Wi-Fi routers in the streets. Did see quite a few pay phones in the city. Personally, I’m enjoying being incommunicado for a bit. 

 

As usual, there is the regular upkeep work being done around the yacht. Fresh varnish here and there. They are taking advantage of empty staterooms to do some painting, as well. 

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Thanks for the update Trapper.  We were long time AT&T customers and signed up for their $60 per month Passport Plan on our World Cruise.  It rarely worked on  my phone at all and Lois's phone had no service of any kind.  Others onboard were using phones as normal.  When asked who they used almost all had T-Mobile.  When we got home we changed to T-Mobile.  Has worked great overseas and no extra charge.  Great 55+ plan for two lines unlimited everything.  It really cranked me to pay extra for no service overseas.  Anyway, good to hear wi-fi is working better.  No excuses for not posting more stuff.  Pictures if you got 'em.  🍸

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Hey, Jim. Our phone plan is $10 per instrument for any 24-hour period it is used in many, many countries. No use-no pay. Cuba, however, is not one of those countries (no surprise there). 

 

It is now 4:30 and we’ve been stopped to permit water toys and swimming. 2800 meters deep. Pool is 1.5. Feel safer when I can touch bottom. 

 

We have had dinner on deck every night so far and will continue until it becomes impossible. 

 

Tomorrow is Casilda, Trinidad, Cuba. We will be coming back here on Tuesday on the second leg of our cruise. It would be nice if we don’t have to do the compulsory tour again. The alternate tour is only $69 and meets the requirements for Americans, but involves suspension bridges, which I won’t do. 

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As I understand it, there's 1 internet provider in Cuba. You can purchase cards to access the internet in 2 hour increments. don't forget to log out, just like the ship. 

 

I don't think overseas phones will work in Cuba.  you can buy a local sim card, but you can't do much more than make local calls as I understand it. 

 

WhatsApp messenger works when you have wifi. 

 

FecebookMessenger might also work via Cuban Wifi. 

 

 

Thanks again for the updates!

 

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Special treat tonight. Because of extra calm seas and only 60 passengers, dinner was served around the pool. A very nice evening. 

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You haven't changed a bit..  Dinner by the pool sounds great.  Much easier for the crew to have all in one place.  

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Special treat tonight. Because of extra calm seas and only 60 passengers, dinner was served around the pool. A very nice evening. 

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Wonderful tour today in Trinidad. Knowledgeable guides who spoke English with very little accent. Highlight was a visit to a music school run by a husband and wife who train children who would not have the means to go to another school. Teenagers who sang and played instruments so beautifully. It was very moving. 

 

Back to to the yacht for lunch and we are now dockside on a gorgeous afternoon. And then on to Cienfuegos to greet new and old friends. 

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Thank you for these updates.  We board on March 4 in Cienfuegos so are very much looking forward to your reports as this week unfolds.

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On 1/31/2019 at 6:09 PM, Commodore Tim said:

Will do, "Trapper"!

So great to hear we'll be seeing Christof, Tomasz and Matthew again in a few days!

Tell Chef Tomasz we'll be requesting his Polish specialties again (for my wife) this trip!

Ciao!

Tim

 

HI Tim! :D I do love having Tomasz make the pierogie. Miss you guys! <3 Mom and I are doing the crossing again this year in April. Enjoy Cuba!

Maria :)

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Trapper, just curious.  What time zones are you using around Cuba.  Do they line up with our time zones?

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Wonderful tour today in Trinidad. Knowledgeable guides who spoke English with very little accent. Highlight was a visit to a music school run by a husband and wife who train children who would not have the means to go to another school. Teenagers who sang and played instruments so beautifully. It was very moving. 

 

Back to to the yacht for lunch and we are now dockside on a gorgeous afternoon. And then on to Cienfuegos to greet new and old friends. 

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Leave it to SeaDream. The Super Bowl was on the projection screen in the lounge last night while cocktails were at the pool. Matt had to do his shore talk twice to get everybody. 

 

Today we we had a short bus/walking tour of Cienfuegos, returning for lunch. Now we are sitting under an umbrella at the pool, watching the new passengers come aboard. About 105 passengers this trip with 87 repeaters. 

 

Change in itinerary. Dock in Juvedad is under repair so we can’t tender in, so we are doing an overnight at Cayo Largo. Not sure how long this will be in effect. 

 

Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time. 

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Ok Trapper, nap time is over.  No hangover lasts THAT long...... Your fans want an update.  How's the new bunch?  Better than the old bunch?  Unless you are in a Cuban jail, it is time for an update...🍸

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Trap. It's been 5 days. Your anxious audience awaits more updates.

The Tiki countdown clock is at 3 weeks therefore we need more stimuli.  

Cheers

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26 minutes ago, Tiki_Man said:

Trap. It's been 5 days. Your anxious audience awaits more updates.

The Tiki countdown clock is at 3 weeks therefore we need more stimuli.  

Cheers

I heard, in a round about way, that Trapper has tried but cannot log into Cruise Critic for some reason.  I suspect he has lots to tell when he gets back to "civilization".  🍸

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Jim. Thanks for the update.  I am sure Trap's info will be Ho Hum worthy.  We shall await the wonders of the internet with glass in hand as we prep for wine lunches at our favorite location on SeaDream.

Cheers

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16 hours ago, Tiki_Man said:

Jim. Thanks for the update.  I am sure Trap's info will be Ho Hum worthy.  We shall await the wonders of the internet with glass in hand as we prep for wine lunches at our favorite location on SeaDream.

Cheers

Haha, tough duty.  But someone has to do it...🍸

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Haven't turned on my computer yet, so I'm writing on Zimmy's.  Just got home.  Lots to write about.  We may be snowed in tomorrow, so I will have plenty of time.  Quite a shock being in Havana and Chicago the same day.

Your Man in Havana, Trapper Zimmy

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Glad you made it home safely and we are looking forward to your stories.😎

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Now, where was I?  BTW, my lack of communication was not, I repeat, not a wifi issue.  For some reason, Cruise Critic kept bouncing me around whenever I tried to sign in.  Extremely frustrating.  I'm sure you all believed that either Zimmy and I were taken prisoner, or that we decided to buy an old car and become taxi drivers.  Thanks, Jim, for letting everyone know we were safe.

 

So, our first stop on the second voyage was a return to Trinidad.  Because we had already been there and had taken the compulsory tour, we could go into town on our own.  On our first visit, Zimmy had seen a painting in a very nice art gallery that she decided she wanted.  Found the gallery, after it took some time to get our bearings, but the door was closed.  We knocked and someone came to let us in.  Gallery owned by a very nice young couple, and we bought the painting.  We understood that original art works could only be taken out of the country if we had an export certificate.  They didn't know anything about this, but Zimmy was undaunted.  As I kissed our CUCs goodbye, expecting the painting to be confiscated at the airport, the owner rolled the painting and wrapped it for transit.

 

Having accomplished our mission, we went to a bar to get drinks.  As it happened, several people from the tour were in the bar and we learned they would soon be taking the bus back to the yacht.  We saw the same guide we had a couple of days earlier and she let us hitch a ride with the tour.  Back at the yacht we enjoyed lunch and an afternoon in the sun on deck.  Dinner again was topside, as it was just about every other night.  When dinner was moved to the dining room, the Zimmys still managed to dine al fresco.  Thank you, Nicola.

 

On Wednesday, we visited Cayo Largo.  Because Isla de Juventud had been cancelled because their pier had not yet been repaired from the hurricane, this was going to be an over-nighter.  We took the compulsory tour, which took us to a sea turtle rescue center.  Apparently, several hotels were built on beaches that the turtles had been using for nesting.  The rescue center now goes to these beaches, gathers the eggs, and brings them back to an incubation area.  When the eggs hatch, the turtles are put in little pools, moving to progressively larger pools as they grow.  After about a year they are then tagged and taken out to sea.  According to the guide, the relocation is very successful.  We then visited an adjacent medical center where doctors, nurses and a dentist work.  We saw the exam room, the treatment room, x-ray equipment, etc.  If surgery is necessary, patients are flown off the island, but intermediate care is available here.  Fortunately, none of our group needed their services.  Oh, this was interesting.  Several times when we got off the ship we were greeted by medical personnel who took our temperature.  Did not have to turn my head and cough, though.

 

Cayo Largo would be the location for the Splash.  It has the most gorgeous beach, with soft, fine white sand.  Because the sand is so white, it is actually cool when you walk through it.  We went back to the ship, though, since we were planning to spend the following day at the beach.

 

Surprise!  The Splash was not going to happen.  Even though everything was okayed from a year and a half earlier right up to the morning of the Splash, the Minister of the Environment decided that we could not bring food or drink from the ship.  Instead, we could buy lunch and drinks from the stand on the beach.  Zimmy and I went to the beach and stayed about an hour, and then came back to the ship, which was sailing at around 4pm.  A modified Splash (meaning the officers didn't have to stand in the pool to serve the caviar) and barbecue would occur on our sea day.  On this day, though, SeaDream arranged for free drinks at the beach stand.

 

Lesson to be learned - everything is well planned until the Cuban officials decide it isn't.

 

More later.  Have to get some work done.

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WORK!?, to quote Maynard G Krebs....🍸  Thanks for the update.  Would you visit Cuba again?

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That's a good question, Jim.  Right now I'd say it was a one and done.  On the other hand, if the embargo ever gets lifted, it will be an entirely different country.  I'd compare it to Viet Nam.  We were there in 2008, and signs were up at China Beach advertising the fact that big resorts were coming.  Well, they are now there and China Beach is supposed to be a wonderful vacation destination.  The Cuban beaches are beautiful.  It is a short flight with only a 1 hour time difference for us.  We'll see.

 

And "Maynard" eventually went to work on a cruise ship.

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Trapper, thank you for the updates.  They are most appreciated.  We are on the March 4 (Cienfuegos-Havana) sailing and have some specific questions that I hope you won't mind entertaining.  In no particular order, they are:

 

1.  Are any kind of health documents required for entry into Cuba?  I'm not aware of any but wondering what you heard from those boarding in Cienfuegos.  I know that your experience might have been different since you entered the country on SeaDream.

 

2.  What did you do about visas?  I understand that visas are required and can either be obtained in advance on line or by purchasing them at the US departure airport.  Any thoughts or did you hear anything worth passing along from fellow passengers?

 

3.  How did you obtain CUC's?  I read that there is a 10% tax for changing USD into CUC's .  Is there an easy and legal way around that?  Are credit cards of any use in Cuba?

 

4.  Regarding the compulsory tour, are all passengers required to take the same tour?  Or are there multiple tours with a choice available?  Must we comply with this requirement in Trinidad?  Or can we take a tour elsewhere if we prefer?

 

5.  You mention insurance in one of your posts.  I understand that our airfare includes the Cuba health insurance required for entry into the country.  Should we expect to be required to purchase insurance a second time once on board?  Or was there an opportunity for passengers to demonstrate that they had already purchased the required insurance.

 

Finally, is there anything else you can think of that would be helpful for first time Cuba travelers to know prior to departure?  Many thanks in advance for any information or guidance that you can provide.

Edited by ctbjr1309

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