So close, yet so far away. Until recently, this is how most Americans would describe Cuba. Only 90 miles from the American mainland, Cuba has been terra incognita to U.S. residents for over 50 years. But not anymore. You can now experience this beautiful Caribbean island and its vibrant capital, Havana, on your next cruise vacation.
American Travel to Cuba
You’re no doubt aware that the American government has enacted some special regulations for Americans traveling to Cuba. On our cruises to Havana, Carnival makes meeting those requirements really easy.
Our daytime excursions meet the people-to-people requirements that allow you to visit Cuba, but they’re more than just a rubber-stamp exercise. These excursions provide the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Cuban culture and learn about its history and people, while enjoying all the country has to offer.
Here are 10 truly unique activities that allow you to explore Havana and the surrounding area and meet Cubans where they live, work and play.
Cuban Culture and History
The unique history of Cuba has made it a destination unlike any other Caribbean island nation. See for yourself how its past has affected Cuba and the lives of its people.
1. Havana Community Art Projects
Two excursions, each visiting a different Havana neighborhood, let you experience the vibrancy of community art projects in the city. Visit the Muraleando collective, where you can meet local artists and dance to live music alongside residents. Or choose Fusterlandia to see an entire neighborhood turned into a mosaic playground.
2. Eat, Drink and Dance
Get a taste of everyday life on an excursion that introduces you to local food and drink. Sights & Sounds of Havana is a food-tasting event followed by a modern dance performance that blends the spirit of Spanish flamenco dance with Afro-Cuban rhythms and contemporary techniques.
3. “Cuban Marriage”
Local Flavors and Traditions centers on the art and tradition that go into the “Cuban marriage” of coffee, cigars and rum which are all part of the experience. Visit a privately-owned restaurant to enjoy excellent Cuban coffee while learning about the process of turning sugar cane into world-class rum and the art of cigar rolling.
4. Immersive Excursions
See 10 outstanding sites in and around Havana, including the Christopher Columbus cemetery, one of the largest cemetaries in the Caribbean, plus visit a Cuban community project, on a comprehensive, half-day excursion. Be sure to fuel up beforehand with an authentic Cuban lunch in this culturally rich city.
5. Outside Havana
Las Terrazas, a UNESCO-recognized biosphere deep in the heart of one of Cuba’s reforested valleys, provides a glimpse of what life outside Havana is like. Enjoy learning about Cuba’s oldest coffee plantation, visit artists’ studios, enjoy a local lunch and even swim in the San Juan River.
6. Colonial Past
Take a daytime trip which combines a visit to the well-preserved Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana with a walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or visit in the evening to experience the nightly cannon ceremony, a 400-year-old tradition commemorating the closing of the fortress walls to protect Havana during the early years of Spain’s rule over Cuba.
Cuban music is hugely popular and influential throughout the world. With roots in Spain and West Africa, Cuban music has melded with many other musical influences, changing and evolving into several distinct musical styles. After your full day of people-to-people activities, experience some of Cuba’s renowned music on Carnival’s nighttime excursions.
Spend an evening being entertained by cabaret-style shows at the Tropicana Cabaret, Cuba’s oldest nightclub, or at the famed Hotel Nacional. These elaborate shows are performed in truly flashy Cuban fashion, with costumes, dancers and live orchestras.
8. Buena Vista Social Club
Bask in the melodies of one of the most recognizable Cuban music groups, the Buena Vista Social Club. Visit the Havana Cafe to see some of Cuba’s best musicians recreate their legendary sound.
In the past, many Americans enjoyed visiting, and even living in Cuba. Reminisce about the past on these special excursions.
Perhaps the most famous American to live in Cuba was Ernest Hemingway. Visit some of his favorite Old Havana haunts, his home in the fishing village of San Francisco de Paula and Cojimar, the setting for “The Old Man and the Sea.”
10. American Cars
Another legacy of America’s influence is the large number of lovingly preserved old American cars. You can do more than just gaze at them in awe — enjoy a tour of Havana with your own personal driver and guide.
Don’t hesitate to book your Cuba cruise vacation. In addition to the sailings out of Tampa, Carnival will offer 17 new sailings to Cuba aboard Carnival Sensation in 2019. The five-day Cuba voyages will be the line’s first to operate round-trips from Miami and feature a day-long call in Havana as well as stops at popular Caribbean and Bahamian ports, including Grand Turk, Grand Cayman, Nassau, and the private destinations of Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays.
This isn’t just your average Caribbean island paradise. Its unique path into the 21st century makes it both an exotic and alluring travel destination. Walk the streets of Havana, immerse yourself in the culture of Cuba and marvel at the resiliency and good nature of the Cuban people. Carnival makes it easy.