Coming into Havana via Cruise ship leading up to your Havana Cuba Cruise Excursion is an amazing experience in so many ways. If you are on the starboard side of the vessel, you will get a full view of the dock to port and the skyline of Old Havana as well as the Malecon, the road that parallels the bay.
From the time you leave the Terminal Sierra Maestra in the Port of Havana, your Havana Cuba Cruise Excursion will offer you experiences and sights you have never seen. You will either begin by crossing the street into Old Havana for a walking tour or getting on a bus to visit areas outside of Old Havana. Let’s start the tour.
Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this has allowed for the magnificent colonial buildings to be properly restored. Everywhere you look from the Old Havana squares…
to Hotel Ambos Mundos, you constantly find your eyes moving skyward to take in all of this beauty.
One of my favorite sights was the Cuban and American flags flying side by side, after so many years apart. I just stood and watched as the wind unfurled their fabrics.
We visited an artisanal print shop, El Taller Experimental del Grafica where artists are taught both technique and given free reign to produce a vast range of print based art.
We spoke with both the teachers and artists and fell in love with a Monoprint that we purchased directly from the artist to bring home with us. Entitled “I Love You”, it is both an abstract stone litho with a multimedia take that truly sold me. A ’57 Chevy with an American flag, how could I pass this by?
There is also a shop upstairs (the stairway is to the left as you leave). A full range of art, from small to large prints awaits your purchase. Do note that when you return to the ship, Cuban Customs will charge a small tax, about 3% for you to be allowed to take it back on board. I even enjoyed that interaction, even though I paid a small fee.
It may be time to have some lunch at one of the numerous paladars or restaurants nearby. We ate at La Bodeguita del Medeo which also happens to be Ernest Hemingway’s favorite Mojito bar.
There was a fine band playing when we arrived. Sol Y Son, they seemed to be the house band, a quintet with a lead singer whose voice you have to hear to believe. Full energy band playing Cuban classics with the addition of an amazing flautist. We got a table right in front of the band to soak it all up. And of course I bought their CD, a brilliant move as each time I listen to it, I relive the moment.
The meal was beyond generous with Cuban rice and beans, a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce and cabbage, grilled veggies, shrimp, fish and beef and potatoes. All with a couple of thirst quenching Mojitos, this was just what we had hoped for!!
We were also able to take a bus Havana Cuba Cruise Excursion during our 2 days in Havana. The first place we went to was Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolucion). This is the political and administrative center of Havana and two of the government buildings have large scale sculptures of both Che Guevera and Fidel Castro.
The square is vast in size to accommodate political rallies and events. While we were there it was empty but there were about 2 dozen classic ’50’s cars used as taxis, all for rent to take you anywhere you want to go. If you are a fan of that era of American car greatness, you will be beside yourself taking photos and getting up close to these beauties. Take a ride in this convertible!!
And what excursion would be worth its weight without a trip to a cemetery? Here’s the entrance to Havana’s Colon Cemetery.
We were there on May 17, the anniversary of the tragic death of Firemen who fought to extinguish a blaze in Havana. The monument, Mausoleo de los Bomberos is some 75 feet tall with face sculptures of each fireman on the 4 base walls.
The heat at midday here is oppressive, there is essentially no shade and the marble reflects the heat and light so be prepared. Just nearby is the tomb of the Floridita bartender who has legend has it, developed the daiquiri and the Papa Doble, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink. Word on the street it that Ernest footed the bill for his tomb.
Hungry and thirsty, let’s head to lunch. There are numerous places to eat in Havana so you just don’t know where you will end up. Ours was a strange experience. We pulled up to a building that appeared to be an office structure and entered the elevator. The guide pushed 31 and guess what, we went up to the top floor where this once in a lifetime restaurant experience awaited us. The view was a shock, floor to ceiling windows all around and our table looked out over the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
We started off with an appetizer plate of prosciutto and bread with cornichons and peppers. Never did I expect to have this in Havana but it was superb.
Then of course we ordered the lobster which we have found is offered in many paladars and restaurants in Havana. The waters off Havana are flush with sea life, every meal we ate had either fish or lobster. This dish came with an cabbage/tomato salad and mashed sweet potato and casava. What a lobster too!!
After lunch, we took a tour of the city and ended up at an Afro-Cuban artists colony, Callejon de Hamel.
We were treated to a tour of the grounds which is situated right in a residential area in Havana. There was an African dance and drum performance for us and there was art everywhere you looked from the upper walls…
to the ground level spaces.
I particularly loved this section of “artified” embedded bathtubs.
After this, the bus took us back to the terminal but we headed back into Havana for more sightseeing and of course a drink at Cafe Taberna.
Everything is so close to the port, we just continued strolling in this city that had been denied to us for so long. We could have stayed on but the ship was getting ready to leave so one last photo was in order for Ms. Cruising to Cuba. I couldn’t resist taking this one, just a block or two from the ship.
Every tour will surely be different but we wanted to give you a sample of what we experienced. Make this great Havana Cuba Cruise Excursion one you will remember forever and be sure to be hungry and bring your camera with you!!
And we have a list of some suggested books on Cuba that will make your experience more meaningful. having a deeper understanding of past and present Cuba will open your eyes and hearts to this wonderful and enigmatic island. Click on our Books For Your Cuba Cruise page.
Whether you are Cruising to Cuba on board Royal Caribbean, Fathom, Oceania, Norwegian, Azamara, Viking or Carnival be sure to work an Havana Cuba Cruise Excursion into your plans!