Cruising Cuba for the first time, exploring cities and seacoast: Second blog by David G. Molyneaux (first, cars and artists)
If you are traveling to Cuba, not so much to rest on vacation as to experience the island’s people and culture, your best bet is to choose an expedition by one of the more reputable outfits known for its guides and lecturers.
Your trip may — or may not — be the most cushy, and your beach time surely will be limited. But you will gain some understanding about today’s Cuba, a country on the Caribbean's largest island that has been closed to most U.S. citizens for more than half a century.
Besides, you are the traveler Cuba is hoping to entice as the country rebuilds its way into a prime travel destination.
Less than one hour by plane from Miami
Tourism already is the Cuban economy’s number one industry, and that's before the onslaught of American travelers anticipated during the months to come, many on cruise ships that now have received government permits through October 2017.
If your expedition is like mine, you will encounter some Cuban government propaganda and some extra paperwork to get into the country, then honest, optimistic feelings from the people who live there. The dozens of folks I talked with all hope that Americans will arrive with some interest in their lives, some money to spend, and no plans to take over their country.
My Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic tour to Cuba — three nights in Havana at the venerable, impressive but outdated Nacional Hotel and seven nights cruising on the cozy 150-foot Panorama II — was described in brochures and communications as a people-to-people tour, as spelled out in a contract with the Cuban government.
That’s what we did. We met, listened to and/or watched talented Cubans speak, entertain and show off their homes, businesses and artistic creations. Local experts, learned lecturers, and outstanding photographers led us to fascinating people, artists and artwork, musicians, and glimpses of life only an hour's plane ride south of Miami.
We met Cubans from all walks of life.