Are Azamara’s Chief Blogging Officer, Bonnie MacLaird, recently sailed aboard our first country-intensive voyage to Cuba. You can read more about that experience here. In this post, she shares a few of her travel tips for Cuba. You can connect with Bonnie in the Azamara forum on Cruise Critic.
Here are Bonnie’s top ten tips for traveling to Cuba.
1) Don’t worry about getting your travel visa in advance. It is super easy at the Miami port of embarkation. You fill out a very simple form to receive a visa on the spot. I checked the box “Full Day Azamara Program” which qualifies for the people-to-people educational exchange under which Azamara is licensed. There are other options to check, by why? Why would you want to be the only one with a different visa, thus calling attention to yourself? In the end it is the individual guest’s responsibility to meet the requirements because the Cuban officials aren’t monitoring your activities.
2) Don’t worry about obtaining spending money before arriving in Cuba. At every port there is literally an official exchange office located at the foot of the gangway, with tellers in uniforms and a fixed exchange rate for all currencies.
3) Don’t expect to use your credit cards in Cuba. None are accepted so plan to spend cash, and exchange only what you think you will need, as you need it.
4) That said, don’t expect to spend much money in Cuba. There are very few shopping opportunities aside from arts and crafts booths at every port. But every port has the same items on offer, so after you’ve seen them in the first or second port, you’ll probably have your fill. And, yes, you are allowed to bring home Cuban rum and Cuban cigars! The other unique item is Cuban art, though finding the good galleries can be a virtual treasure hunt!
5) Do not worry about selecting your onshore activities to correlate with the specific visa you have. As long as you’re interacting with the locals, seeing the sites, learning and sharing, you’ll be okay. No one is auditing your agenda.
6) Don’t expect to see oppressed people. They may not have the income or consumer goods that we are used to but their spirit, attitude, outlook and love of life are all very upbeat. Yes, they look forward to the day they are able to participate in the bigger world as an equal player, and can trade freely, improve their household income, and receive visas from other countries that allow them to travel worldwide like all other citizens of the world. But they welcome tourists to their island, and they welcome our currencies that help their economy.
7) Don’t expect to be connected to the Internet while on land. It is not readily available and if it is I’m told it is very expensive. There are a few parks in Havana where the Wifi is free, but I’m told it is slow. Plan to log on when you’re back onboard the ship, where you can purchase WiFi.
8) Do talk to as many individuals as you can. They are as curious about us as we are about them. Many an eye rounded when I responded I live in California. It’s not something they hear very often.
9) Do bring your camera, or smartphone because everything you see is photo-worthy: the architecture, the nature, the colors, the faces. Many people I met loved to be photographed. I simply asked “Puedo tomar una foto?” (Can I take a picture?) and everyone shook their heads yes. I tended to give one CUC each time I photographed an individual. And don’t forget the vintage cars…the car owners seem to love the attention! I highly recommend taking the complimentary “The Secrets of Smartphone Photography” class offered onboard. You’ll get many good tips, and a pamphlet to take with you.
10) Wear a hat and sunscreen! The sun is extremely strong at latitude 23°N! I saw many extremely sunburned cruise guests who ventured off for the day with no sun coverage, perhaps riding in the convertible vintage cars or sitting topside on the Hop On, Hop Off bus in Havana.
Are you ready to join us on a voyage to Cuba? Browse upcoming itineraries here. See you onboard!