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Cuba by Small Ship: Havana & the Southern Coast - 2018

Miami • Havana • Maria La Gorda • Isla de la Juventud • Trinidad • Cienfuegos
  • Old Havana
  • Trinidad Walking Tour
  • Cuban Culture
  • Maria La Gorda
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After nearly 60 years of restrictions, Americans are making up for lost time and flocking to Cuba in droves to rediscover its vibrant culture, complex history, and stunning natural beauty. Here is a way for you to experience it all in the most relaxed, convenient, and enriching way possible: on a unique adventure that blends small ship luxury cruising with in-depth sightseeing and authentic People-to-People cultural interactions. Of course you’ll explore the historic capital of Havana, with its diverse neighborhoods and monumental attractions. You’ll also visit the colonial gems of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And you’ll see a side of Cuba most visitors miss when we drop anchor in provincial Maria la Gorda and also visit the ecological paradise known as Isla de la Juventud. Our journey includes many revealing opportunities to meet with Cubans from all walks of life and learn about their customs, family life, art, music, politics, and more. And because your small ship, the four-star M/Y Harmony V, is your floating hotel, all you have to do is unpack once, relax, and wake up each morning with a new world at your doorstep.

Havana to Cienfuegos

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DAY 1:

Depart Home City for Miami, Florida

Your unforgettable Cuban adventure is about to begin but first, you’ll spend a night in Miami to relax and get acquainted with your fellow travelers.

DAY 2:

Fly from Miami to Cuba and begin exploring vibrant Havana

¡Bienvenidos a Habana! Welcome to Havana! Upon arrival we’ll clear customs and then enjoy a panoramic city tour featuring the Plaza de la Revolucíon, a large square flanked by memorials to the Cuban heroes José Martí, Camilo Cienfuegos, and Che Guevara.

Unforgettable Moment: After our city tour you’ll enjoy lunch at the legendary Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a national monument. Built in 1929, the hotel has a grand Moorish/Art Deco design and is still one of the most luxurious accommodations in Cuba, set right on the seaside Malecon and built on the old Santa Clara battlements. The hotel’s guest list reads like a Who’s Who of 20th-century politics, art, sports, commerce, and culture. In the hotel bar you will see photos of guests from Winston Churchill to Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra to John Wayne. You’ll learn about the hotel’s dramatic history: it was here that Lucky Luciano and other mobsters formed the organized crime syndicate known as “la Cosa Nostra,” and it was also here that Fidel Castro set up his aerial defense headquarters during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The underground bunkers still exist and are filled with memorabilia of those days.

Cultural Discovery: After our lunch we’ll enjoy a lecture on Havana’s eclectic, gracious architecture and efforts to restore it. Then, we’ll embark ship and settle in with a Welcome Dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 3:

Feel the pulse of Havana on a day of discovery

After breakfast we’ll board a motorcoach and travel to the Jaimanitas neighborhood to see a remarkable art installation. Cultural Discovery:  The vision of artist José Fuster was to create a kaleidoscopic art installation that sprawled across an entire neighborhood. Named “Fusterlandia” for its creator, the area is a surreal and eye-popping masterpiece of intricate mosaics, graffiti, sculpture, and painting. The works blend themes of everyday Cuban culture with homages to artists from Gaudi to Picasso to Dali and beyond, all interwoven with symbols and images evoking Santeria beliefs. You will learn how Fuster’s project inspired community pride and has helped to improve the lives of the residents. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy a walking tour (or perhaps ride by bicitaxi) to explore a bit of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unforgettable Moment:  When was the last time you rode in a 1957 Chevy? Or Cadillac? Or Dodge Nash? You just may do so today, for we’ll be boarding some vintage American cars to ride to Finca Vigia, the Cuban home of writer Ernest Hemingway. The Nobel-prize winner worked on some of his most famous novels here, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Walking around the house and peering inside, you will see rooms with period furnishings, including the writer’s study, with his typewriter perched on the desk as though he had just left the room seconds ago. Also on display here is his 38-foot fishing boat, Pilar.

The fun continues this evening when we enjoy dinner at the famous Café del Oriente near the Plaza de San Francisco in Old Havana. This classic eatery is one of the most elegant restaurants in town. Unforgettable Moment: Afterwards, it’s on to the Café Taberna, where you will take in the wonderful Cuban son music performed by members of the word-famous band the Buena Vista Social Club.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 4:

A relaxing day at sea

Today you can rest on deck, take in the Caribbean breezes, catch up on your reading, or play games with your cruise companions. A thoughtful lecture on US-Cuban relations will provide context for the discoveries yet to come.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 5:

A day of nature and nurture: Maria la Gorda school visit and outing to Guanahacabibes National Park

Today we'll call at the village of Maria la Gorda, located on the shores of Corrientes Bay. Cultural Discovery: We’ll head into town to call at a local primary school, where you can get a first-hand look at the Cuban education system and draw comparisons to our own.

Cultural Discovery: Corriente Bay’s rich underwater ecosystem attracts divers from around the world. Meet with a local naturalist at Guanahacabibes National Park, the largest of Cuba’s six nature reserves. In addition to butterflies and such bird species as the bee hummingbird and yellow-headed warbler, the park is home to a profusion of orchids and epiphytes. At the Meteorological Center, learn about forecasting Caribbean weather, and about major hurricanes that have hit Cuba. After a barbecue lunch on the beach, you’ll have time for some swimming or snorkeling.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 6:

Discover the romance and beauty of Isla de la Juventud, the “island of youth”

In 1978, Fidel Castro renamed Pine Island the “island of youth” based on his intention to create a giant communist university for students from all over the world. Though many students do come here to study and participate in environmental research, Castro’s vision never quite materialized. But the allure of the island persists, thanks to its lush ecosystems, pre-Columbian cultures, and many tales of hidden pirate booty. While here we will visit the Presidio Modelo, a panopticon prison (i.e., a round dwelling where inmates can always be observed) where Fidel and Raul Castro were both imprisoned. You’ll also get chance to visit a local medical facility and see the maternity ward — a fascinating entrée to the Cuban medical system. After lunch on board, the balance of the afternoon is free.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

Cruise the Caribbean before your evening in Trinidad

The day begins with time to relax on board. Later this afternoon, we’ll arrive in Casilda, the port for Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the center of Cuba’s prosperous sugar cane trade. You’ll get acquainted with it during a walking tour which includes a stop at a local B&B, where where owner Señora Lia Llorente talks with us about the changes in Cuban society that have inspired entrepreneurial businesses like hers. For dinner, we’ll visit the El Dorado, a paladar (privately owned restaurant), and enjoy some wonderful entertainment by local musicians, who will talk with us about the musical traditions of Trinidad.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 8:

A day of UNESCO treasures: Trinidad and Cienfuegos

Trinidad, "the museum city of Cuba," is an architectural gem of pastel stucco buildings with red roofs that line cobbled streets. The wealth and importance of Trinidad really took off in the 19th century when vast sugar cane plantations worked by slaves made Cuba the world's leader in "white gold," and sugar barons reigned supreme. Our walking tour takes us to the main square and the Palacio Cantero, a museum where you can envision the life of a wealthy colonial family. Cultural Discoveries: At the studio of Lazaro Niebla, you’ll admire a collection of unique woodcarvings and learn about the status of artists in Cuba.

From here we travel across the countryside to Cienfuegos. Founded in 1819 by the Spanish, Cienfuegos actually grew to prosperity under French settlers from Bordeaux and New Orleans, becoming a major trading port for sugar, tobacco, and coffee. The uniquely harmonious blend of historic architectural styles that resulted earned Cienfuegos a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. You’ll tour the graceful center city, and visit the Botanical Garden and Punta Gorda, a breezy peninsula where wealthy merchants built their mansions. Cultural Discovery: Learn how Cuban children are educated and trained in art and music when we call at the Beny More School of Art and talk with the talented students. Alternatively, you might attend a musical play performed by kids from the Colmenita de Cienfuegos. After lunch at a local restaurant and some city sightseeing, the day concludes with a performance by the Choir of Cienfuegos.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 9:

Disembark ship and transfer to Santa Clara for our flight back to Miami

Our adventure comes to a close today but you can prolong the fun by adding an additional night in Miami before heading home.

Included Meals:

Breakfast

Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary.

Note: That hotel ratings are based on the Hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.

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