Monday, May 23, 2016

Cruising to Cuba

Cuba may only be 90 miles from Florida but up until recently it was as difficult for an American to visit there, as it would be to visit the moon!  The embargo placed on Cuba by the United States in 1962 actually made it illegal for Americans to visit the island; no
American tourist should be contributing to Cuba’s economy!  Fast forward to today. Although the embargo has not yet been totally lifted, it has been modified, allowing restricted visitation by American citizens.

CarnivalCruise Line has already commenced sailings to Cuba aboard its new Fathom brand focusing on “voluntourism”. And Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean, recently indicated that the cruise line could move into the Cuban market as early as late July. I find this all very exciting and would like to book myself on a cruise to Cuba sooner, rather than later.  Here’s why:

It seems that time has stopped in Cuba… somewhere in the 1950’s! It’s not just the old American cars in the streets (although I must admit that’s something I want to see). Instead, it’s the simple fact that tourism has somehow largely bypassed the Caribbean’s largest island. Let’s face it, once tourists start flocking to an area in droves it becomes more and more commercialized and ultimately these places lose their authenticity charm! It's only a matter of time before all American-imposed travel barriers fall and millions will venture to Cuba via a quick flight from Miami. I want to get there before that happens!

The architecture in Cuba is amazing! 16th century Spanish settlers adapted their native style of architecture to the climate found in Cuba, resulting in buildings painted in lovely pastels designed with grand covered porches, iron bars over window frames to allow the breeze in and multi color glass panes. Photographs show an eclectic assortment of colonial, baroque, neogothic, neoclassical, art deco, modern and post-modern architectural styles. I’d love to be let loose with my own camera!

Cuba is home to nine UNESCO world heritage sites; places that are of special cultural or physical significance. For example, Havana’s Old Town, also known as La Habana Vieja, is one of the most historically significant cities in the Americas. Another site worthy of a visit is San Pedro de la Roca Castle in Santiago de Cuba.  It is one of the most complete and well-preserved Spanish-American defense fortifications and a stunning visual fort that protected the port of Santiago.
Music and dance have always been a way of life in Cuba; the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of son, salsa, cha-cha and rumba. Cuban music has been described as the marriage between the African drum and the Spanish guitar. The island has produced dance music that has traveled all over the world. I’d love to visit those small venues found in every town to immerse myself in its pulsating and intoxicating rhythms of the island!
For some, cruising Cuba is about bragging rights!  No, not me…well, maybe a little! Lets face it, going to an island “where no man has gone before” is pretty neat!  Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but going to an island where it was actually illegal to set foot on for over 40 years makes for a very special cruise vacation!

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