Santiago de Cuba is distinctively different from Havana and Cienfuegos and our Santiago de Cuba Cruise Excursion will reflect that. It is a very dynamic city and has a full history from the slave trade to Haitian exiles to San Juan Hill and the Spanish/Cuban/American war. Yes, that is how the Cubans refer to the war that catapulted Teddy Roosevelt into the White House.
We enter Santiago de Cuba via a narrow straits protected by El Morro Castle. Be sure to be on deck when we arrive, there is a lot to see. Here is a shot looking off the stern of the ship as we sail into port. You can see El Morro Castle on the hill to the left. Imagine being a vessel attempting to enter the bay with that defense!
Santiago de Cuba receives a lot of oil for the refineries and large cargo ships are always docked here. We are fortunate to have our own dock to experience this great city. Here is the Customs office so it does take a while to get off the ship.
We will get on a bus and head back up the bay to El Morro Castle (Castillo de San Pedro de la Rocca). Well managed and restored we can walk the grounds and look out at a landscape that has not changed in hundreds of years.
There is so much to see here, words can’t even describe it so I’ll leave it to you. Just be sure to bring your camera on your Santiago de Cuba Cruise Excursion!!!
On the walk from where the buses park to the fort entrance you will find many vendors selling a wide variety of souvenirs. Beware of buying any cigars here though as the chance of getting bootleg cigars is just about a 100% certainty. Trust me, I tried and lost, but I did have the cigar roller make me one of his own cigars. That was worth it.
Now we head back through town on our Santiago de Cuba Cruise Excursion. The architecture covers the full range here, not as colonial as Cienfuegos or Havana though but really fun to check out. Here’s the Dominoes house, still can’t quite figure out what the plan was but I love the look and color.
Here’s a Moorish style building that appears to be the gathering place for a complex of apartments.
And this corner building took best advantage possible of that sliver of land between the train tracks and the road!
We will head up to San Juan Hill where the Rough Riders fought. It is so amazing to be able to set foot on this hill and get a much better understanding of the battle that took place here. Living history and you have to love the ferris wheel in the background. Everywhere you look, you see these juxtapositions.
After spending not nearly enough time here, we will go into town to experience a performance by a local troupe. Each excursion will vary in what you will see but here is an example. Very Afro-Cuban and moving experience in a small theater with the dancers dancing among us. So beautiful.
Let’s have lunch and some liquid refreshment! Each time we went to Santiago de Cuba, we ate a different paladar, this time on our cruise excursion it was Ire a Santiago, a family run restaurant on the second story of their home. We started off with fresh fruit, so tasty and refreshing.
There was a guitarist and singer serenading us as we looked out over the city, just beautiful as the ocean breezes cooled us down just a bit…
And then the full meal came, dish after dish after dish, we helped ourselves with more than enough food to go around. What a feast and oh so good! I could eat here every day.
Here’s the owners with Ms. Cruising to Cuba, this wonderful restaurant will remain in our hearts forever.
The bus will drop us off in the town square and then we have time to explore. There are some great shops just off the square to get paper mache art and paintings so be sure to check them out. This is a very active town with a vibrant nightlife scene, here’s the El Encanto.
And La California…
If you want to pick up some real Cuban Cigars, the larger hotels are sometimes a good bet as their reputation is at stake. We have had good luck but made sure what we bought was official.
There is a movie theater in town with a group of Cuban men waiting for it to open. I love how they dress and of course they were enamored with Ms Cruising to Cuba..
Time for the end of our Santiago de Cuba Cruise Excursion. We will head back to the ship and one last piece of advice. If this is your last port, you can exchange your Cuban currency back to dollars right at the port. And if you want to spend it instead, there is a book vendor and numerous other sellers of sculpture and art ready to relieve you of your last Cuban CUCs (Cuban Convertible Peso). If you don’t change it back or use it here, there is little if any chance you will be able to change it outside of Cuba, except of course if you plan to return or have a friend you can exchange them with.
When you are back on the ship take time to look back on shore, there is so much activity in the late afternoon and if you are an old car buff like me, get your camera out, some fun shots will make it all worthwhile.
When the ship heads out into the bay, be sure to be up on deck. There is quite a bit of maneuvering to turn the ship around and so much to see as the ship heads back out in the Caribbean. Goodbye Santiago de Cuba and another Cuba cruise excursion!
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.