Although the Republic of Cuba only returned to cruise itineraries in 2016 when Carnival Cruise Line’s MV Adonia made its historic trip to Havana, this year Global Ports estimates that more than 500,000 cruise passengers will visit the Caribbean’s largest island.
Teeming with architectural treasures, stunning museums, great food and friendly people, Cuba and its historic capital Havana are currently on the itineraries of every major cruise line – and since the local tourist infrastructure remains fairly basic, the best way to visit this safe and friendly country south of the Florida Keys is by ship.
Sailing into the port of Cuba’s capital city, passengers get panoramic views of the old town and the two 16th and 18th-century forts guarding the harbour entrance.
From Sierra Maestra terminal in Habana Vieja it’s a ten-minute walk to the Plaza de San Francisco, one of the city’s four main squares.
This lively city is also the gateway for a range of shore excursions, including vintage car tours to visit the old streets of Havana, plus trips to see Cuba’s cigar and rum factories.
NEED TO KNOW
MasterCard is not accepted in Cuba and Visa cards will not work if they have been issued by a US bank. Passengers should travel with plenty of cash changed into the local peso convertible CUC currency, which is used by tourists. Cuba also has the peso Cubano (CUP), but this is only used by locals.
Havana is generally very safe, but passengers should avoid the jineteros – men who will try to change money or sell them something. Ignore them and walk on.
Shopping wise, the Métropole Centre, next to Casino Gardens, has 80 high-end boutiques to browse.
WHAT WE LOVE
Cultural treasures: Havana’s historic old town, La Habana Vieja is jam-packed with architectural gems, including elegant 20th-century mansions in the El Vedado district and the stunningly ornate Gran Teatro; opened in 1915 it is now home to the Cuban National Ballet.
Historic nightlife: From writer Ernest Hemingway’s famous bar El Floridita, where the daiquiri was invented in the 1920s, to the Tropicana Club, where greats including Nat King Cole and Carmen Miranda have performed, there’s plenty of historic nightlife to enjoy in Havana.
Rum and cigars: Several cigar factories, including the Partagás factory and La Corona, welcome visitors who can take a tour and then buy some of the goods. Havana also has a rum museum where visitors can learn all about the country’s most famous beverage.
Eclectic museums: Finca Vigía is the country house where author Ernest
Hemingway lived from 1939 until 1960, while history buffs should take a tour of the Revolution museum where they can learn all about Cuba’s struggle against the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.
Fine fortresses: Fascinating museums and panoramic views are on offer at Havana’s three historic fortresses, which were built between the 16th and 18th centuries to repel pirates.
- Novelty: Cuba is a new cruise destination, so make this a USP when selling
- Havana has oodles of character, with history buffs sure to find something to suit their tastes
- Havana has an upbeat nightlight and party-lovers will not be short of choice