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EMOSEA

Tips for Cruising to Cuba?

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Hi, I'm new here. DH and I will be taking our second cruise on the Sunrise next Jan. I'm wondering if anyone has some tips for cruising to Cuba.

For the people-to-people requirement, can I book a couple experiences on AirBNB and one cruise excursion or no cruise excursions? 

Is it better to book the Tropicana from the cruise line or from their website in advance and get a taxi? 

Any other tips for Cuba would be great. Thank you 🙂 

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We are taking our first cruise to Cuba next month. I'm not sure about AirB&B. We have booked a private tour with I Love Cuba Photo Tours. It is a 7-8 hour tour which will satisfy the requirements for our stay. After that tour is complete, we are free to walk around and explore as we wish. I've read of people booking the Tropicana through either method. We are not doing that so I'm not sure what the benefits would be for either booking method. I would assume booking direct is cheaper. 

 

You can check out the Cuba board here on Cruise Critic for other tips and suggestions. 

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Booking your own excursions will be a lot cheaper.  And don't worry about the people-to-people thing -- nobody, including the cruise line, checks.  We booked a tour with Blexie (you can find him on TripAdvisor).  We had a 2 hour walking tour with an English-speaking guide, then we got into a 1955 Chevy with air-con and had a few more hours of sightseeing along with lunch at a privately-owned restaurant.  Since credit cards don't work in Cuba, they want to be paid in cash at the end of the tour.  And the tour was absolutely fascinating -- from where Hemingway bought his mojitos to where he bought his daiquiris to grand plazas.  Of course, you don't see anything dilapidated, and you get to cruise the Malecon.  Once back on the ship, we toasted the island with a Cuba Libre.

 

Cash is king in Cuba, and you have to exchange your money after you clear customs.  Your best bet is to buy either Euros or British pounds at your local bank and exchange those for the Cuban convertible peso.  The exchange fee is 3%, but there is an additional 10% tax if you change US currency.  On the way out, when you change back, there is another 3% fee and you get US dollars without the tax.  (It looks a little shady because the tellers have shoeboxes full of cash, but that's just how they do it.)  The Cuban government doesn't like citizens to have US dollars because they are accepted anywhere in the world; the Cuban peso is worthless anywhere except Cuba.

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I don't really understand what the fuss about currency exchange is because we are not big spenders, and usually just get very little amounts exchanged. I am not sure if going to the bank to get Canadian or Euros would be worth the trip for us because of this.

 

But FYI we were there in February, and...

 

USD converted to Cuban Currency

$150 got us $135 Cuban

 

Cuban Currency converted back to USD

$80 Cuban got us $77 USD

 

 

 

  

 

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I agree that there is more math involved than just that 10% fee for USA $$s.

You have to compare the exchange rate you get at your bank for buying euros and then changing the euros to CUCs to the amount you get for changing $$s to CUCs.

You may find that changing $$s gives you more CUCs because the bank's rate is not a great one!

 

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Is it better to book the Tropicana from the cruise line or from their website in advance and get a taxi? 
 

Booking the Tropicana through the cruise ship is much more expensive than booking on your own. Tickets can be purchased through their website..

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8 hours ago, EMOSEA said:

Is it better to book the Tropicana from the cruise line or from their website in advance and get a taxi? 

I have been wondering the same.....but I still have until next January to make an informed decision.  

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16 minutes ago, Sun Lover said:

What is the Tropicana show like?  What is the cost?

It is an extravagant musical cabaret show. Depending upon how close you want to sit, tickets are between $75and $95.  I believe a rum cocktail is included in that price. 

 A similar show, Cabaret Paresien, costs $40. 

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Just got back from Cuba on the Paradise.  We bought Tropicana tickets through their website for $85 (Premier) each.  Cab ride from the cruise ship was 60 CUC round trip.  As part of admission women receive a carnation and men receive a cigar.  We also received a bottle of rum (unopened - we took ours back to the ship), 2 cokes, an "appetizer" of peanuts and chocolate.  They also served sparkling wine.  It was an amazing show - upbeat, colorful, exciting.  We had a very good time.  Note that if you want to take pictures, there is a 5 CUC fee for it.

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Tips.....

 

Bring toilet paper or wipes wherever you go.  TP is very expensive for them and not readily available at each location. At the end of each day of touring I left behind in a restroom whatever was left in my bag as a “tip”.  

 

Restaurants/bars with table clothes are govt affiliated.  Those with no table clothes are not govt affiliated.  Those non govt locations are much less expensive.  Drinks often 1/2 the price.   

 

Currency exchange closes typically at 7 or 8 pm.  Check the times and plan accordingly if you plan to be out at night and your ship leaves in the evening.    

 

Hope these little tidbits help! 

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On 3/11/2019 at 9:26 AM, cpayne said:

 

Bring toilet paper or wipes wherever you go.  TP is very expensive for them and not readily available at each location. At the end of each day of touring I left behind in a restroom whatever was left in my bag as a “tip”.  

 

Sorry, but I am a little confused. What did you leave? Toilet paper? And who got that tip? The next person to use the stall? 

 

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I left behind all the toilet paper I had left in my bag at the end of each day.  It was a “tip” to the next person who used the stall if it had no TPand they hadn’t known to bring any with them OR a “tip” to the restroom owner in I provided a few of their next patrons with something they wouldn’t have to. TP is apparently very expensive in Cuba.  I didn’t say it was a generous tip.  Just a very small small tip. Then again if your the person that arrives in a stall that normally wouldn’t have any TP they may consider this a great tip!  😂

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15 hours ago, cpayne said:

I left behind all the toilet paper I had left in my bag at the end of each day.  It was a “tip” to the next person who used the stall if it had no TPand they hadn’t known to bring any with them OR a “tip” to the restroom owner in I provided a few of their next patrons with something they wouldn’t have to. TP is apparently very expensive in Cuba.  I didn’t say it was a generous tip.  Just a very small small tip. Then again if your the person that arrives in a stall that normally wouldn’t have any TP they may consider this a great tip!  😂

 

Thanks! I'll be sure to bring a couple rolls of TP and leave them behind. 

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I am sorry, but for some reason I just can't help chuckling at the idea of leaving someone tissue paper as a tip.

LOL,  may I assume you meant leaving a tip of tissue paper for the attendant to sell to the next customer?  Or, did you mean leaving paper for the next tourist who did not purchase any from the attendant on their way to the stall?

 

We were in Havana in February. My wife brought tissue paper with her that I bought after reading about it not being available in public toilets. My wife had to use the bathrooms while in an indoor market. There were ladies at a table outside of them selling paper. Much similar to some restrooms in Europe where bathroom attendants keet the paper stocked in the stalls and cleaned them. Usually the is a charge, otherwise a tip is expected.  

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At lest 50% of the restrooms we visited did NOT  have an attendant.  Some had paper in the stalls just as they would in the US.  Others did not.  I left behind my unused TP in either situation.  In the event there was NO paper and the next patron didn't have any with them this was a "tip" for them and saved them from an "unfortunate" situation.  If the bathroom did have TP and NO attendant I left it behind as a very slight way to help the establishment.  My understanding is TP is very expensive so I left behind what I had to help a few people the establishment would now not have to buy for.  If there was an attendant we also left a small $$ donation. 

 

Again I did say my leaving behind TP was a very small, small "tip".  Perhaps a better phrase would have been a good will gesture.  :) 

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