Located just 90 miles from the US, Cuba seems close, yet just a few years ago it was impossible for Americans to visit. Now that the restrictions are lifted, many still pay high prices for a glimpse of the mysterious land with classic cars and hand-rolled cigars. But the scenario changed when cruise lines decided to tap into the emerging tourism market in Cuba.
Traveling to Cuba is more affordable and American-friendly if you cruise with one of these cruise lines:
1. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
NCL offers a 4-day Cuba and Bahamas Cruise on the Sky from Miami on the Norwegian Sky. Cruisers are in for a round trip cruise from Miami, an overnight stay in Havana and a stop at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas.
Norwegian Sky leaves Miami on Mondays at 5 pm and arrives in Havana the next morning at 8 am. You get just over 24-hours to visit Havana and leave for Great Stirrup Cay at 5 pm on Wednesday.
You’ll find time to take the three and a half hour tour of Havana on an American Classic car, also known as almendrones by the locals. Explore the Baroque and neoclassical style buildings in Old Havana as the car cruises through the cobblestone streets. NCL recommends guided tours to The Vinales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This is a must-visit place for anyone interested in discovering unique landscape, tobacco plantations, and village lifestyle.
Go to NCL to check out sailing dates, prices, and availability.
2. Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara has 4-night, 7-night, 9-night and 10-night cruises from Miami to Cuba from November 2017 to November 2018. There are not many sailing dates. The 10-day Cuba Intensive Voyage on the mid-size Azamara Journey ship would give you the opportunity to see more of Cuba.
The Voyage 10-day cruise offers two nights in Havana, time in Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and onto Labadee, Haiti for a few hours. This cruise will give you plenty of time to explore the 900 historic buildings, a salsa club, cigar factories and to take a walk at the Malecon to enjoy the Cuban sunset.
3. Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean offers options for sailings in 2018 from a few ports of embarkation in Florida. Empress of the Seas set sail from Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Majesty of the Seas has a 4-night cruise leaving from Port Canaveral to Havana.
The cruise from Port Canaveral is suitable for those looking for plenty of time at sea and a day in Havana. It is also ideal for anyone looking to combine an Orlando theme parks vacation with a relaxing cruise to Havana. The ship arrives in Havana at 8 am and departs on the same day at 8 pm, just enough time to visit Old Havana and enjoy a cafecito at a local café.
4. Carnival Cruise Line
There is the 4, 5, 6 and 8-day cruise to Cuba from Tampa on the Carnival Paradise. The 6-day cruise includes a day in Grand Cayman and an overnight stay in Havana. But if you just want to visit Havana, take the 4-day tour. It will give you ample time to check out the classic cars, historic sites and try the local rum.
Carnival also recommends the following tours besides the must-do Old Havana tour:
1. 4-hour In Hemingway’s Footsteps – where you’ll follow Hemingway’s footsteps and visit the fishing village that inspired him to write “The Old Man and the Sea.” This tour is not suitable for guests with limited mobility.
2. Tropicana Cabaret – enjoy the show and live music at Cuba’s largest nightclub. Guests must be over 16.
3. Local flavors and traditions of Havana – explore Cuban coffee, cigar, and rum in this 4 ½ hour tour.
5. Pearl Sea Cruises
Pearl Sea Cruises’ Cuba Cultural Voyage is the ultimate Cuban cruise to take if you’re looking for an immersion of Cuban culture. This 10 nights 11 days’ cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale. The itinerary is enticing – bringing cruises from Old Havana city sights to the mountainside villages and more.
The cruise docks in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Casilda, El Cobre and Santiago de Cuba, a total of five major tourist destinations.
Pearl Sea Cruises to Cuba is not a leisure cruise. Expect lots of learning and exploration time with an intimate group of 200 passengers.
Azamara and Pearl Sea Cruises’ itineraries are more expensive than those offered by Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL.
Before you book a Cuban cruise, you must know the following
1. You must bring your passport, and it must be valid for six months after your trip.
2. You need a Cuba Tourist visa. The good news is most cruise lines will facilitate the tourist visa for their guests at $75 per person.
3. All American cruisers must complete a travel affidavit and must print out at least two copies per guest.
4. All shore excursions must be booked at least 48 hours before sailing. According to Norwegian Cruise Line, you must have enough variety of tours and excursions to meet the requirements of people to people exchanges.
5. Cuba uses two currencies – the CUP (Cuban peso) or moneda nacional is for the locals and foreigners must use the Cuban convertible peso (CUC$) which can be exchanged in Cuba.
Have you been to Cuba?