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wordsjustfly

Oh please oh please tell me about Cuba!

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Posted (edited)

I'm a little excited as we begin to research and make plans to cruise to Cuba!!

 

This will be our fifth cruise with Norwegian Cruise line -  we've done Alaska, a few times, Caribbean, and Hawaii. 

 

We are contemplating on cruising to Cuba over Thanksgiving 2020. 

 

We got the travel books, and I have research lightly on cruise critic but I'm looking for people who've been there – can you tell me firsthand what it's like, what they loved and what they hated-  perhaps what not to miss and what's not important! 

 

Thanks! 

 

Marna 

Edited by wordsjustfly
Grammar

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I went to Havana with my sister on RCI in February.  Absolutely loved our tour through Blexie Tours.  Our guide Raoul was knowledgeable and very accommodating.  It was only the two of us so we could linger where we wanted and moved along when we didn't.  I was amazed at the architecture and of course the vehicles.  We were taken in a '55 Plymouth out to Fuesterlandia and to the International hotel that was built by the mob.  We unfortunately did not go back out in the evening since we were exhausted.  So on that note, I  would have loved a couple of days there.  The only other negative point is immigration, no one seemed particularly pleased we were there and the currency exchange.  There is a 13% charge to convert money both into CUC and back into USD, so you have to calculate closely what you think you will spend while there.  American credit cards are not accepted. 

 

One other thing I find annoying is that all of the cruise lines are charging premium $$ for the Cuba cruises and are using their ships that are ready to go to drydock for refurbishment.  They know we will pay it !   I do however definitely want to go back with my husband in the near future while it is still available.

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Just back from our Cuba cruise 2 weeks ago and had a absolute blast 

 

We cruised w MSC as they had a 2 day stop in Cuba....Did a private vintage car excursion for both days for only $130 CUC each day total for the 3 of us.....picked a car w AC and were def glad we did....it’s hot there 😓😓

 

Saw all the main sights...Christ statue, Malecon, Revolution square, Rum museum and went to Fusterlandia which was really cool...plus so many more sights each day 

 

Getting on n off the ship was super easy and the money exchange is right there when you get off....$1 US equals .87 CUC 

 

They have stores at the port and Rum and Cigars are the same price as in town....we bought at both places 

 

There’s also options right near the port for a Hop on Hop off bus for only $10 CUC pp  that’ll take you all over Havana or they have horses n buggies as well 

 

There’s a flea market near the port as well that we didn’t go to but others did and got amazing deals 

 

Felt very safe while there and def will plan another cruise to Cuba 

 

Also stopped at a few of the famous hotels like Hotel Nacional for Mojitos and Cuba libres 😜🍹🍹

 

Have Fun when you cruise there 

 

 

 

 

 

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Make sure you pick a sailing with early arrival day 1 and late departure day 2 so you get two days there.  History is extraordinary.  People are nice.  Food is delicious.  Old car tours are the best way to see alot.  Don't scrimp get 6 hours.  Dont book through cruiseline. 

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Posted (edited)

Went to Cuba over spring break and absolutely loved it.  We booked a private tour in a vintage car and they drove us through Havana to the other side of the island and we snorkeled in the Bay of Pigs, played around in a beautiful Cenote, visited a crocodile farm, and had a wonderful meal in a small restaurant (basically the back porch of someone's house)  in a smaller town.   The RCI cruise stayed overnight in Havana, so the next day, we just walked off the boat and walked around Old Havana: very easy to do on your own.

 

The food was sooooo good.   We were given the choice of entrees served family style, and we had a crab dish, a lobster dish, some fish and some pork.  The crab dish was not like anything I have ever had before, and one of the best things I have ever eaten (I didn't even know they had crab or lobster?!?).

 

Remember you can't use your charge cards, and can't spend money in anything government owned or operated (large hotels, more fancy restaurants), larger stores etc.  You can spend money on anything individually owned.   

 

Exchange rate is the same no matter where you convert your money.   We were able to use US dollars both in Old Havana and when we were in the interior with the exact same exchange rate.

 

Cuban people were friendly, welcoming and very helpful.    The city was beautiful in a almost side kind of way...like Venice you can feel how vital and grand it once was, but now it is a bit faded and tired.   The country side is beautiful too, but the people who farm their own land are using horse and ox pulled tools (like the Amish only not Amish).  Government farms have fancy tractors, but privately owned ones are harvesting by hand, and shocking crops like my grandparents did.

 

We bought a few souvenirs, a humidor that looks like the Cuban flag, a great leather purse, a few pictures, etc.   All the stuff was reasonably priced and you could deal on it.   You can get Cigars anywhere, but they are only legit if you buy them from certain dealers, where they are more expensive.

 

There is a rum "factory" very close to port, so you can go get some samples and grab some Havana rum very easily, also very affordably.

 

One of  the families we traveled with went into Old Havana for dinner and had a great dinner, we stayed on the boat, so I can't speak to the Cuban nightlife.  However, the family (mom dad and two young kids) had no problems walking around Old Havana at night.  Very safe feeling and easy to navigate.

 

I would love to go back to Cuba and spend some serious time, but am worried that it is going to be harder to do.  As it was back in March, we could go and stay in an AirBnB, but not in a hotel (government run).

 

 

 

 

Edited by FitchburgWIFamily

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We were there in March on RCI. We booked a private tour guide for 15 hours. Since we had a group of 10 people, we opted for an air conditioned van so we could all be together. We were very glad to have the AC as it was hot! When we booked, they asked our interests (e.g. history, art, sports, culture, food, etc.) and then we came up with an itinerary that appealed to us. We walked thru old Havana, visited a coffee shop for cuban coffees, drove thru much of the city (including the areas where residents live that were in much more disrepair than others), visited a cigar factory during the workday, had a delicious lunch at an outdoor restaurant, toured revolutionary square, the capital building, maritime museum, and walked around viewing the architecture. At night we went to a club and had dinner and danced. Since the ship docked overnight, we went out the next morning and bought souvenirs and had breakfast. 

 

We got lucky on the currency conversion. Our guide exchanged our money without the 13% penalty. We found everyone to be friendly and welcoming. People were curious about cruising and were fascinated by our photos of our cruise ship and Key West. The people don't have access to things we take for granted (like toilet paper and menstrual products). Bring your own toilet paper as for the most part there isn't any. 

 

Havana was stunning - part beautiful, part crumbling. Lovely, proud, desperately poor people. It was a wonderful sobering experience.

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To avoid the 10% extra charge to exchange US currency, we converted money to Canadian before we left home.

Private tour in a ‘58 convertible was wonderful! I preferred that to the walking tour we took after lunch.

There are some wonderful paladars within walking distance of the terminal for dinner and it is very safe to wander in Havana.

We chose to see Cabaret Parisien after dinner and I’m not sure if the show was not good or if we were just too tired after a long day, but we left early.

i loved the day we had and wished for more time to experience more of the country.

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54 minutes ago, Dar & Bob said:

I went to Havana with my sister on RCI in February.  Absolutely loved our tour through Blexie Tours.  Our guide Raoul was knowledgeable and very accommodating.  It was only the two of us so we could linger where we wanted and moved along when we didn't.  I was amazed at the architecture and of course the vehicles.  We were taken in a '55 Plymouth out to Fuesterlandia and to the International hotel that was built by the mob.  We unfortunately did not go back out in the evening since we were exhausted.  So on that note, I  would have loved a couple of days there.  The only other negative point is immigration, no one seemed particularly pleased we were there and the currency exchange.  There is a 13% charge to convert money both into CUC and back into USD, so you have to calculate closely what you think you will spend while there.  American credit cards are not accepted. 

 

One other thing I find annoying is that all of the cruise lines are charging premium $$ for the Cuba cruises and are using their ships that are ready to go to drydock for refurbishment.  They know we will pay it !   I do however definitely want to go back with my husband in the near future while it is still available.

 

My husband and I went to Cuba on NCL's Sun last Oct. (2018) and I agree with everything above about Raul and Tours by Blexie.  It's a great way to see Havana and Raul was an absolutely wonderful guide!  Highly recommend doing a private tour through Blexie as you get the most bang for your buck.

 

To us, Cuba was a "one and done" port.  As Dar and Bob (and I'm sure others whom I haven't read yet) have noted, the architecture and cars are big attractions.  Cuba is not like other cruise ports as the "only" thing to do is tour Havana.  The question is how you want to do it - through a cruise ship excursion or a private tour?

 

Our experience with the Cuban people's response to Americans differed from what Dar and Bob noted.  We did not feel unwelcome in any way.  We, too, did not go out in the evening because we were tired, but we never felt unsafe or had any problems. We were with Raul the entire day, too.

 

I'm sure you'll enjoy Cuba.  It is a very interesting country and I suggest doing a bit of historical research before your trip as you'll get more from the experience if you have a general understanding the Cuba's history.

 

Cyndy

Firstin87

 

 

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The only Cuban people I felt uncomfortable with were the immigration agents and some of the people prior to exiting to the street.   It wasn't like getting off the cruise ship in other ports, where the music is playing and there are smiles all around.  The rest of Havana was very pleasant and welcoming.   Just the initial impression was off putting 

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Thank you all for your responses they were super helpful. So exchange money to Canadian before we go. And we can’t purchase anything government owned. Can anyone explain that to me. I’ll go read more as well.

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We loved our cruise and 2 days in Havana. We took a private old car tour and an art museum Shore excursion through the ship.  Both were fantastic.

 

All the main tourist sites (and tour buses) are government owned.  Also the government has been cracking down on the private tour operators lately.  It is the US OFAC regulations that are the issue on where you spend your time and money.

 

Since you are talking about a cruise in November 2020, it is all likely to change even more by then.  The ports of call board for Cuba will be a good source of current information.

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On 5/31/2019 at 1:04 AM, wordsjustfly said:

 And we can’t purchase anything government owned. Can anyone explain that to me. 

 

Not spending money on goverment owed banks, restaurants, hotels, etc. is a US regulation:  we can go and spend money to support the Cuban people, but not to support the Cuban government.  

 

As to the converting to Canadian...make sure you do the math.  When I convert US to Canadian here, I don't get as good of an exchange rate as I see online in a currency calculator.  And when I convert back, I again lose a little money.    When tourists exchange money from any currency, they get CUC - Cuban Convertible Peso.  Cuba has two currencies, the tourist currency which is $1 CUC to $ 1 USD, and one that only native Cubans use which is CUP and is like...I don't know...25 or so to a dollar.  Doesn't matter..you can only use CUC.   Everyone from any currency pays a 3% penalty.  USD pay an additional 10%.

 

We converted $500.00 (for our tour, tips, our meal, some of our souvenirs, etc.)

 

So:  $500.00 USD is worth $500 CUC

- 13% for conversion + USD charge  =   $425

 

If I had converted to Canadian and back using an exchange rate found on line:

$500.00 USD to $676 Canadian

$676 Canadian to $499 CUC

-3% for conversion = $485

 

So if I got the best of all exchange rates, it would save my $60.00 on $500.USD. 

 

However at the Travelex currency conversion in my hometown bank, for my $500 USD I only get $600 CAD.

So I am only getting $430 in CUC...which for the $5.00 in savings is not worth it.

 

Hope this helps.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/31/2019 at 2:04 AM, wordsjustfly said:

Thank you all for your responses they were super helpful. So exchange money to Canadian before we go. And we can’t purchase anything government owned. Can anyone explain that to me. I’ll go read more as well.

I would personally just exchange whatever your countries currency is for the Cuban dollars. It's not worth the hassle of a couple of bucks to keep exchanging currencies.  

As far as the excursions; I would love to recommend someone to you who gave us the most amazing tour of Cuba.  We met a short distance from the port (pictures exchanged...I felt like a spy!)  He took us to so many places that were truly Cuban...from the ration book shopping at the Bodega in town to the store where he bought his toothpaste & toilet paper!!  And the local ferry was an experience I will never forget.

We had the most amazing 4 hours of walking thru Havana, then it was into a pink convertible for a tour of the countryside.  

Lunch was at a backyard restaurant (these are the places where the underground economy is working).  The food was wonderful, as were the drinks and the music.  And they took all currencies!

This guide left me with an incredible feeling for Cuba & it's people. 

 

Edited by Samstress

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Posted (edited)

"One other thing I find annoying is that all of the cruise lines are charging premium $$ for the Cuba cruises and are using their ships that are ready to go to drydock for refurbishment.  "  I have small children, so right now the thing preventing me from booking a cruise to cuba is that RC ships with nurseries aren't sailing to Cuba.  When I spoke to RC about another cruise, the RC agent stated that the problem is that the port of Havana is too shallow to accommodate more recently built cruise ships.  As the cruise lines bring in more new ships, I 'd expect eventually someone would put a newer ship in Havana if the port can accommodate it (that seemed to happen in the Baltics, where the ships all used to be older but now there are a bunch of newer ships on that route that can't all sail into stockholm directly) but I have no idea if the phone agent was telling me the truth.  

Edited by kitkat343

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Now Cuba is closed

 

Guests booked on cruises to Cuba through September 2, 2019 have two options:

• Sail the revised itinerary and receive a 50% refund of the cruise fare paid as well as a 50% future cruise credit valid through December 31, 2020.
• Cancel the booking and receive a full refund. If guests choose this option, we must be notified no later than June 11, 2019, midnight EST.

Sailings beyond September 2, 2019 will be automatically cancelled and refunds will be applied to the original form of payment. Guests impacted by these cancellations are offered a 20% discount off current cruise fares on any new voyages booked by August 5, 2019 for sailings no later than December 31, 2020.

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there are no more cruises to cuba  on ncl  or any other cruise line anymore

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I'll put it this way, you're not missing anything...other than a pin on the map.

 

My Highlights of Havana tour consisted of:

  • A derelict fort
  • A cemetery with no one I've ever heard of, and...
  • A parking lot (yes, just an actual, literal parking lot)

The loyal party member guiding the tour continually blamed 'hurricanes' for the condition of the buildings.  The streets reminded me of GTA, lots of people milling about and very few cars.

 

The Tropicana show was...weird, and sad.  You had to pay a license fee to take picture...no thanks.  Huge spectacle, but on close examination, the costumes are very worn, the designs repetitive.  And it was long, omg, it just kept going...  Sad because it's probably the best the whole island can produce, but doesn't even approach the quality of shows Disney stages 3-5 times a day.

 

Basically, the whole experience was a disappointing as expected.  The only thing with Cuba was...because Cuba!

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25 minutes ago, boatseller said:

I'll put it this way, you're not missing anything...other than a pin on the map.

 

My Highlights of Havana tour consisted of:

  • A derelict fort
  • A cemetery with no one I've ever heard of, and...
  • A parking lot (yes, just an actual, literal parking lot)

The loyal party member guiding the tour continually blamed 'hurricanes' for the condition of the buildings. 

Agree that the government run tours through the ship were not good.  But we also took a private tour and learned a lot about the country and the people.  

 

We thought the cemetery was interesting but went with a private guide because the ship tour decided to go to a flea market instead.  There is a lot of history in that parking lot - aka Revolutionary Square.

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