I’ve been fascinated by Cuba for a long time, so I’m happy to share this post written in partnership with Thomson.
Of all the Caribbean islands, Cuba is perhaps the most intriguing. Thanks to a rich revolutionary history and unique culture, it’s no wonder 3 million visitors flock to see the island every year. A surprising number come by cruise.
The tourism industry in Cuba has really only taken off again on scale since the late 1990s, when the country opened its gates to both external tourism and foreign money. Now US visitors are able to spend freely in the country, cruise companies are adding this paradise destination to their itinerary. It’s easy to see why. It is after all, the island that Christopher Columbus described as “enchantingly beautiful” some 500 years ago.
The island’s south side is in the most part a spectacular coastline of palm trees, white sandy coves, clear blue waters and coral reefs. Many cruises stop at Casilda, a pretty seaside resort in the Trinidad province. As well as having some beautiful beaches (including nearby Playa Ancon), the village is a good base to explore city of Trinidad, which is just 7 kilometres inland. Like stepping back through time, walking through Trinidad’s streets is a perfect reminder of the island’s colonial past.
Cienfuegos is another destination well worth exploring. This city, known as the Pearl of the South, is Cuba at it’s stereotypical best; spot American 50s style cars and colonial architecture, including the slightly downtrodden but very beautiful Palacio de Valle.
Top of everyone’s list, however, is Havana. Bright, bustling, busy and big, Havana is a love it or hate it kind of place, with most tourists very much of the former persuasion. The energy of the communities here is apparent in the hustling of the markets and the live music that fills the streets. Wander around the oldest square, Plaza De Armas, pore over the history of Cuba’s leaders at the Museo De La Revolucion and if you have time, take a drive down Malecon. The Malecon is a 8km long road next to the sea, lined with the classic Cuban architecture.
Cruises in Cuba may also stop off at beauty spots such as the Isle of Youth bay and numerous smaller towns, but you may well find it is the cities that are the most impressive. As opposed to most Caribbean cruises, an ocean vacation in The Americas offers a lot more than simply relaxation and the usual tourist hot spots. It offers the chance to see parts of this amazing country that have been, for the most part, hidden from view for a long time.