Because of scheduling with the Cuban port authorities, this small ship cruise features four itineraries that vary slightly in the length and number of days in each port. All visit the same five ports, except for the March 24, 2018 itinerary, which does not call at Maria la Gorda, the tropical port at the western end of Cuba.
March 9 & April 20, 2018 departures:
16 days, includes 5 ports of call and 5 days at sea, with 15 nights’ accommodation aboard the 4-star plus M/V Victory I.
February 22, 2018 departure:
16 days, includes 5 ports of call and 6 days at sea, with one day less in Havana than the 3/9/18 and 4/20/18 itineraries. Includes 15 nights’ accommodation aboard the 4-star plus M/V Victory I.
February 8, 2018 departure:
15 days, includes 5 ports of call and 5 days at sea, with 14 nights’ accommodation aboard the 4-star plus M/V Victory I.
March 24, 2018 departure:
15 days, includes 4 ports of call and 4 days at sea (does not include Maria la Gorda), with 14 nights’ accommodation aboard the 4-star plus M/V Victory I
Please see individual itineraries for the number of days in each port of call. Ports of call feature guided excursions and Cultural Discoveries, as well as free time.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LEVEL — MODERATE:
Most onshore sightseeing will be via air-conditioned motorcoaches with guides, as well as walking tours. The infrastructure in Cuba is variable, and most places you visit are not handicap accessible. There will be walking on unpaved or cobbled streets and steps, some of which are not in good repair. As such, this trip is not suitable for those who require a wheelchair. You should be in relatively good health and able to walk unassisted for at least a mile in order to fully and safely enjoy this trip..
The focus of this Cuba vacation involves the history and architectural heritage of Cuba and cultural interactions with the Cuban people, giving you insight into the island's arts, communities, culture, history, and politics. Cuba is considered a developing country and visitors can expect to encounter some poverty, although much less than in many countries..
YOUR FLIGHT FROM CUBA:
Your flight from Miami to Santiago de Cuba will be via charter flight. Charter flight tickets will not be included in your final documents from Vantage Deluxe World Travel, but will be provided in Miami before departing. Note that luggage restrictions apply on your charter flight: Checked bag plus carry on is restricted to 44 pounds total weight.
CURRENCY: Cuba has two currencies: the convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (pesos Cubanos.) Prices may be listed twice on menus and the like, and the words “peso” and “dollar” are used interchangeably. CUCs (convertible pesos) have a much higher value than the Cuban peso. When using CUCs, make sure that you do not receive your change in Cuban pesos. U.S. dollars are not widely accepted in stores and are difficult for the average Cuban to exchange, though you may find some shops willing to accept them. For simplicity, we recommend using CUCs.
Exchanging Money: Money can be changed at hotels, banks or exchange booths known as Casas de Cambio (CADECA). You'll find CADECAs in airports and business/shopping districts. They are typically open during regular American banking hours on weekdays and Saturdays.
How much to bring? We suggest bringing $700-$800 per person in U.S. cash; bring even more if you plan to do a lot of shopping. This suggestion is more than you are likely to need, but you might be unable to access additional funds once you are in Cuba, so it is better to bring too much rather than too little. U.S. dollars are accepted for exchange into the Cuban “convertible pesos” (CUC) at the hotels we’ll be staying at or at official exchange locations as needed. You can exchange money as you see fit on the fly, and when you leave Cuba you can exchange your leftover CUCs back into dollars at the airport. They will be exchanged at the same rate you paid for them, but a service fee will be deducted.
Most credit or debit cards issued by U.S. financial institutions can’t be used in Cuba—please rely on cash.
Although violent crime is extremely low in Cuba, please only carry enough cash for one day. As always, leave valuable documents, passport, credit cards, and most of your cash in the safe in your room. Hotel room safes have an approximate charge of 2 CUCs daily.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I need a passport to travel to Cuba?
Yes — and it must be valid for at least six months after your scheduled departure to Cuba. If your passport is nearing expiration, it is wise to renew it well in advance of your journey.
Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba
Yes. The visa cost is included in the price of your trip. The Cuban visa is more like a tourist card than a stamp in your passport. After you reserve your trip, send us two photocopies of the information page of your passport (the one your photo is on), so that we may initiate the visa application process. We will give you your visa (along with documents for your flight) in Miami before your departure to Cienfuegos. On arrival in Cuba, officials will collect the first half of the card. The other half is collected when you depart the country. your passport photo page in order to initiate the visa application process.
Will I have trouble on future travels if I have a Cuban stamp in my passport?
No. In general, Cuban officials will not stamp the passports of US citizens.
I was born in Cuba but have US citizenship. Can I still join your program?
Yes. Please advise your Vantage travel consultant when you book your trip. There is an additional supplement for a visa for Cuban-born participants. If you have previously applied for a visa and had it rejected, or if you think your application will be rejected, we strongly discourage you from joining this program because you will be subject to all cancellation fees. For more information regarding reservation policies, please read our Terms and Conditions.
What other documents will I need for my trip?
• Tickets for the included round-trip charter flights between Miami and Cienfuegos
• A copy of the letter of authorization that allows you to travel to Cuba under Vantage's license
• We will give you both documents in Miami. As specified in our license, you are required to retain all records regarding your activities on this trip to Cuba for a period of five years and provide them to OFAC if they request them.
What type of currency does Cuba use?
There are two official currencies in Cuba: the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which is used for foreign visitors, and the Cuban Peso (CUP), which is only used by local Cubans. Foreign visitors must use CUCs for all purchases made in Cuba. It is important to bring an adequate amount of US dollars with you to exchange into CUCs. How much you bring is up to you, but we recommend you bring at least USD $700-$800 per person.
Can I make purchases with US dollars?
No. US dollars have not been accepted in Cuba since 2004 and cannot be used for purchases. Dollars must be converted into CUCs.
Can I obtain CUCs before I depart?
No; Cuban currency is not part of the international currency exchange. Also, make sure that you convert your leftover CUCs before departing Cuba, unless you plan to keep them as souvenirs.
Where can I get CUCs in Cuba?
You may exchange US dollars for CUCs at banks, hotels, or currency exchange booths known as Casas de Cambio (CADECA) and found in airports and business/shopping districts. Do not exchange currency on the street under any circumstances. Not only is it illegal, but there are scams designed to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers.
Can I use credit or debit cards in Cuba?
No. Credit card and debit cards are not accepted in Cuba.
Are traveler's checks accepted in Cuba?
No. We do not recommend using traveler's checks, as they cannot be insured and are also not widely accepted.
What are the tipping guidelines in Cuba?
Cuba is a difficult place to make a living, and although tipping is expected, it is by no means mandatory. Some tips are included in your program price, but we suggest leaving the housekeeping staff one CUC per night in your hotel room and a tip of 10-15% in CUCs for your server for non-included meals. Musicians in bars and restaurants depend on your tips, so if you enjoy their performances, we encourage you to tip them.
Tips to your Cuban guide and driver are not included in your program price. The following amounts are intended as guidelines only; tipping is always at your discretion. (Though expressed here in US dollars, tips should always be in CUCs, except for your Vantage Tour Director.)
U.S. $6-$9 per person, per day
U.S. $3-$4 per person, per day
Vantage Tour Director:
U.S. $8-$10 per person, per day (This tip only should be in US dollars.)
Will I have Internet access in Cuba?
There is Internet connectivity in Cuba, but the speed is slower than what you're used to. In rural areas, there may be no connectivity at all. Most hotels in major cities do have either an Internet café or business center where you can access the web for a fee. Expect to pay $10-$15 per hour for what may be unreliable service and slow connection speeds.
Can I use my US cell phone or tablet in Cuba?
No. Foreign cell phones do not work in Cuba, and service for smart phones and tablets is not available. If you really must call the US, plan to call from your hotel at a rate of approximately $2.50 per minute. It's good practice to ask about the rates before you place a call. Otherwise, you can buy a phone card in denominations of $10 to $20 (for an average per-minute rate of $2.40) that can be used at blue Etesca phone boxes that are found throughout the world. To call the US from Cuba, dial 1, followed by the area code and number. If you are unable to connect, dial 119-1, followed by the area code and number.
What's the weather like?
The weather in Cuba is semi-subtropical and general warm year round, but trade winds often temper the heat. The wet season is usually from May-October, and the dry season is from November-April.
What's the food like in Cuba?
Cuban cuisine is largely limited by the lack of resources available. As a result, the primary staples of Cuban cuisine are rice, beans, chicken, pork, plantains, and root vegetables. If you have special dietary requests, please advise your Program Manager or better still, your Vantage tour consultant when making reservations, and we will do everything possible to accommodate you. We cannot guarantee to accommodate special diets because of the lack of available ingredients.
Do I need to bring an electrical adapter or converter?
We recommend you bring both. The most common voltage in Cuba is 110V (as it is in the US), but some hotels use 220V. To prevent damage to your appliances, you should bring a 110/220V voltage converter. Cuba also uses several different outlet types, some of which can accommodate standard US two- or three-pronged plugs, but some of which cannot. Therefore, we recommend you bring a universal adapter that includes all plug options.
Is Cuba safe?
Cuba is considered safer than many of its Caribbean and Latin neighbors, but certain common sense precautions should be taken. You should never lose sight of your luggage unless you give it to a hotel porter or your bus driver. We strongly recommended that you use your hotel safe to store valuables. We also recommend bringing a money belt or a small neck pouch for your cash. When not using your camera, always keep it in your pocket, in a case attached to your belt, or hanging on a strap around your neck. There are pickpockets and purse snatchers, so be aware of your belongings and the things around you. In general, Cuba is a very safe country, and you will be well cared for by your Vantage Tour Director and local English-speaking Cuban guide. Come with a flexible attitude, a spirit of adventure, and good will toward the people you meet, and this will be a wonderful experience like no other.
What kinds of souvenirs may I bring home?
Technically, you may only bring home items categorized as art (which includes handcrafts and handmade clothing), music, or books. If you buy original works of art or antiques valued above $50, you need to provide a tax receipt and stamp. The traditional "souvenirs," such as t-shirts, magnets, and touristy items may present issues when you go through US Customs.
Can I bring back Cuban cigars or rum?
Current U.S. Customs regulation allow a limited amount of Cuban cigars or rum for personal use. For the latest information, consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/36/~/importing-cuban-cigars.