Still under economic embargo from the US, Cuba is a free-spirited island with a completely unique atmosphere, as it’s unaffected by western globalisation. The cities are vibrant cultural hot spots, with revolutionary cafés, amazing musical venues and edgy art galleries.
Cuba is a natural paradise too. Not only does the island boast some stunning beaches, there’s also vast tracts of unspoilt rainforest, biodiverse nature reserves and dramatic craggy mountains. Whether you stick to the cities, get out into the wilderness or hit up the beach, you’ll love exploring this fascinating island.
Popular Ports in Cuba
One of the highlights of a Cuba cruise is a trip to the island’s iconic capital, Havana. The broad avenues are lined with colourful, grandiose buildings, and cool vintage cars often cruise by. Among the plazas and busy streets you’ll uncover layer upon layer of history, alongside a youthful, free-spirited energy.
Visit the thriving bar, Bodeguita del Medio, the birthplace of the mojito cocktail, to try one for yourself. The walls are lined with photos and signatures of celebrity guests who’ve visited through the ages, including the writer Ernest Hemingway.
This stunning town is known as Cuba’s ‘Pearl of the South’. It has a Parisian sophistication – perhaps because it was designed by French émigrés – which it blends with a distinctively Caribbean flavour. You’ll find everything from avenues of opulent palaces to lakes surrounded by tropical forest in this UNESCO-designated city.
Explore Parque José Martí, a stunning square in the heart of the city. It’s surrounded by Cienfuegos’ most iconic and lavish buildings, including the cathedral and cultural centre. The streets around it are also crammed with hip bars, boutiques and art galleries. Once you tire of sightseeing, visit nearby Rancho Luna Beach to relax on the white sand or swim in jacuzzi-warm waters.
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is another one of Cuba’s cultural hotspots. The city is closer to Haiti and the Dominican Republic than Havana, and is infused with feisty Afro-Caribbean spirit. The well-trodden streets reverberate with history – this is the city where Fidel Castro launched his famous revolution.
The city is rich in architectural gems. Visit the Museo de Ambiente Histórico Cubano, a museum located in the oldest house in Cuba, which has a simple façade, with fine lattice woodwork around the windows. The San Pedro de la Roca Castle is another must-visit location. This majestic UNESCO world heritage site occupies a promontory a few miles from the downtown area, and commands panoramic ocean views.
What are the best cruise ships for a Cuba cruise?
Make the most of your Cuba cruise by carefully selecting your ship. These two choices walk the line between luxury and affordability.
Marella Discovery 2
Sleek. Stylish. Sophisticated. Marella Discovery 2 pulls out all the stops, with its stunning restaurants and state of the art facilities. Challenge yourself by tackling the climbing wall, play a round of mini-golf or enjoy a family-friendly pool party. Children will love the kids’ club and teens’ hangout spot, leaving you free to pamper yourself at the luxurious spa. Enjoy a wide range of dining options, from spiced seafood dishes to tasty Italian pasta.
The MS Veendam is an opulent ship belonging to the Holland America Line. It houses museum-quality art and has an amazing programme of cultural activities based on the places you visit, including steel drum lessons. You’ll love lounging by the resort-style pool or letting your hair down at MIX, a compelling ‘mixture’ of drink and music. Le Cirque, a whimsical restaurant serving top-notch French cuisine, comes highly recommended.
Shore Excursion Ideas
Cuba offers so many things to do, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Here are three shore excursions leaving from the popular cruise port of Havana.
Cabaret Tropicana in classic cars
Have a quintessentially Cuban experience on this fantastic evening tour. You’ll be chauffeured in a classic car to one of Hemingway’s favourite bars, Sloppy Joe’s. Soak up the authentic atmosphere before cruising along the Malecon, an iconic seafront promenade.
You’ll pull up at the infamous Tropicana club, which is all about colour, glitz and glamour. Singers and dancers perform lively cabaret acts on an outdoor stage, fringed with tropical greenery. Let your hair down and enjoy a glass of Havana Club rum while you listen.
Guama, Taino Indian Village, crocodile farm and beach trip
There’s never a dull moment on this hassle-free tour of Cuba’s unique attractions. The first stop is the Montemar Great Natural Park, home to a profusion of birds and exotic plants. You’ll also see a replica Taino Indian Village, which replicates how the island’s indigenous inhabitants used to live.
The third stop is a crocodile breeding farm, built to save these sharp-toothed creatures from extinction. Last but not least, you’ll stop at Playa Larga, a stunning Caribbean beach. Enjoy a spot of lunch, a frozen cocktail or a swim in the sea for the remainder of the day.
Ernest Hemingway’s Havana
Bookworms will adore this excursion, which retraces the footsteps of literary giant Ernest Hemingway, who used to live and write in the city. Begin by driving to Cojimar, a quiet fishing village where Hemingway gained the inspiration to write ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ Visit the Finca Vigia, the house where the author once lived. Peek through the window to see how it’s been preserved exactly as he left it.
Back in Havana, you’ll visit two of the Hemingway’s favourite watering holes, including the iconic La Bodeguita and La Floridita, birthplace of the daiquiri.
Top ports of call in this destination
- Santiago de Cuba