Monday, May 20, 2019

Why You Should Be Cruising to Cuba NOW

I just returned from a 4-night cruise aboard the NorwegianSun that included an overnight stay in Havana, Cuba. Some people have no interest in going to Cuba. Maybe they don't agree with the politics or aren't going because they think the regulations and required documentation are complicated (they’re not). Maybe they think it will be oppressive and there’s nothing to do there (that’s so far from the truth). My visit to Cuba was interesting and insightful and I recommend you consider it asap…before regulations and legislation change and you won’t have that opportunity!

When you travel to Cuba you are visiting a truly authentic destination.  Due to decades of political isolation, Cuba has remained largely undiscovered, particularly by Americans. Although Europeans and Canadians have traveled openly to Cuba for years, the country has never experienced a tourist boom. You can stroll the streets with locals instead of hordes of tourists. There are no street vendors hawking t-shirts and the island is still untainted by a Starbucks and golden arches on every other corner.  There aren’t many other cruising destinations that can boast the same.

My husband said a walk through the streets of Havana is like stepping into the world’s largest “classic car show.” That’s because shortly after coming to power in 1959, Fidel Castro banned imports on both foreign cars and car parts. One of the inevitable effects of this policy was the standstill of Cuba's cars population. However, Cuban entrepreneurs realized there was money to be made in offering vintage car tours. Americans love them! Today, the economic significance of these old cars to a family cannot be overstated. What was once the “family car” has become the family’s source of income.

Havana’s colorful architecture is a product of its historical growth and therefore, one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the world. With influences of French neoclassical, Art Deco, Spanish Moorish and colonial baroque, Cuba’s colorful eclectic facades are a photographer’s dream. Old Havana is full of narrow streets, grand squares and magnificent civic buildings, some beautifully restored, others in a state of near total neglect. In 1982 Havana’s Old Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This means that the United Nations recognized the cultural and historical significance of this part of Havana and provided the funds needed for restoration work.

Cuban rum and Cuban cigars are known around the world for their superior quality but are items we can’t buy in the States due to the embargo. Conversely, American cruisers to Havana can purchase and bring back both for personal consumption. Many of my fellow cruisers were doing just that! Havana Club rum is the most popular brand and is sold in every restaurant and bar across the island. I wouldn’t try it straight up but I have to say, in a Mojito, the drink of choice in Cuba, it was delicious and refreshing. I did however pass on smoking the cigar!

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