Cuba is officially open to Americans! (About time, we say). We’ve got a full People to People licence, so you can travel with confidence.. While the boat sails straight from Havana to Maria La Gorda, we’ll take a more interesting route: a drive through the spectacular UNESCO Viñales Valley.. This trip includes a visit to a local school in San Juan del Valle. You can meet Cuban children and learn a little about education differences between Cuba and the US.. While bigger cruise liners have to moor out at sea and commute into shore via tender, we’ll drop anchor in the middle of port towns like Cienfuegos or Maria la Gorda. You can hop on or off the boat as you please.
Glide along the Caribbean’s perfect blue waters on an 8-day cruise in Cuba. The timeworn island bears its age well thanks to an intriguing blend of charming colonial cities, bohemian artistic communities and stunning natural splendour. Stroll past the pastel-coloured houses of Trinidad, stop for a swim at Maria La Gorda, dance the salsa in Old Havana, and visit a tobacco farm to see how Cuba’s world-famous cigars are made. With miles of pristine coastline to be discovered, dive in to this unforgettable Caribbean adventure.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 6 Lunches Included: 7
Arrive in Havana
Welcome to Cuba. You will be met and assisted by GIST Cuba Team. Our People to People program begins immediately with a panoramic sightseeing tour of this exciting city, including a stop at the Plaza de la Revolucion. Enjoy a welcome lunch at La Barraca Restaurant, located in Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which specializes in Cuban cuisine and offers breathtaking views of the Bay of Havana. Remain at the hotel for an engrossing lecture with well-known architect Pedro Vasquez. Following the lecture, we continue to the pier for embarkation on the Panorama, followed by a boat drill and welcome briefing. Dinner onboard and overnight in Sierra Maestra Port- Old Havana.
After breakfast, disembark for a walking exploration through Havana Vieja, or Old Havana, and Centro Havana. Witness a mixture of beautiful old baroque and neo-classical monuments, arcades and private balconies. For an enhanced sightseeing experience, flag down a uniquely decorated local “bicitaxi,” or bicycle taxi. We will stop at a local restaurant for lunch, followed by a scenic drive in vintage American cars to Finca Vigia, beloved home of Ernest Hemingway where he lived for 21 years and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Upon our return from Finca Vigia, enjoy some free time before we make our way to Café El Mercurio for dinner, and then to the Café Taberna to experience the wonderful salsa music of the Buena Vista Social Club style performance. Overnight in Sierra Maestra Port- Old Havana.
Depart early in the morning by bus for the Vinales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Pinar del Rio Province of Cuba. Encircled by mountains, its landscape is interspersed with dramatic rocky outcrops. Traditional techniques are still in use for agricultural production, particularly of tobacco. Visit a tobacco plantation where you will learn about the production of those world famous Cuban cigars. After lunch at an organic restaurant, we'll visit an organic farm to hear about how the climate and fertile soil have contributed to the success of organic farming in the region. Depart the Vinales and drive to Maria La Gorda. Check in to the Hotel Maria La Gorda or similar for dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Maria la Gorda
After breakfast, we disembark in Maria La Gorda, where we will visit a local school to meet the Cuban children and their teachers, and discuss the differences and levels of the Cuban and American educational systems, particularly in the rural areas of the country. Visit the headquarters of Guanahacabibes National Park, one of the country's largest nature reserves on the westernmost tip of the island. The peninsula is one of the last refuges of aboriginals fleeing from the Spanish conquistadors and also holds some 140 archeological sites linked to life of aboriginals known as Guanahatabeyes. Time-permitting, we will venture into the park to meet with the naturalists and locals, followed by free time for swimming, snorkeling and a BBQ lunch in Maria La Gorda before embarking the Panorama. Dinner and overnight onboard as we sail to the Island of Youth-Isla de la Juventud.
Until 1977, the island was called the Isle of Pines. In 1978 Fidel Castro turned the island into one grand Communist school for students from around the world and thus the Island of Youth. Disembark in Marina Colony for a panoramic sightseeing drive of the capital city of Nueva Gerona. Visit the Presidio Modelo, an abandoned panopticon prison where both Fidel and Raul Castro were imprisoned from 1953-1955. Enjoy lunch in a paladar before visiting an art school and the maternity ward of a local hospital, if available. There will be some free time for independent exploration and enjoyment around Nueva Gerona’s grand boulevard before returning to embark the ship. Overnight at sea to Casilda.
Today we visit Trinidad, a meticulously well-preserved Spanish colonial city. With its rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces and plazas, it is sometimes referred to as the "Museum City of Cuba." Lunch will be served onboard before disembarkation in the afternoon. We will walk through the 500 year old colonial city and visit a scale model of the city. Stop at the Romantic Museum located in the old palace of the Count Brunet, or Palacio Cantero, the Trinidad General Municipal Museum. Visit the studio of Lazaro Niebla, a very unique woodcarver. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before returning to the Panorama for an overnight sailing to Cienfuegos.
Enjoy breakfast onboard before disembarking for our visit to Cienfuegos, founded by French settlers and thus with a unique architecture. Cienfuegos is also known as the Pearl of the South and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the graphic arts workshop and the Benny More School of Art. Walk around the city center and admire outstanding examples of French neo classical architecture from the 19th Century. We will stop at a local farmer’s market before having lunch at a local restaurant. A special treat will be a concert by the singers of the Chorus of Cienfuegos, or string quartet. Overnight in port.
Disembark in Cienfuegos
Disembarkation and group transfer by bus to Havana airport.