One of the more exciting moments of an 11-day expedition was boarding a 150-foot motor-sailor, the Panorama II, for a one-week cruise off Cuba’s southwest coast.
Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic has chartered the Greek ship for its initial Cuba sea journeys, so our trip not only carried a twist of history — few Americans had explored these waters since the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 — but also a learned staff of lecturers and photographers. They led our group to meet Cubans and experience cultural highlights and sights unseen by most Americans in more than five decades.
We were 35 passengers and a crew of eight when we floated away, on the evening of Day Four, from Cienfuegos, a major Cuban port on the opposite side of the island from Havana, where we had spent our first three nights.
We were bound for Puerto de Casilda, port for Trinidad; the Cuban island of Juventud, formerly known as the isle of Pines, and Playa Giron, the port at the mouth of the Bay of Pigs.
Fifty-five years after the failed invasion, we arrived in Playa Giron for a visit to a museum that tells Cuba’s version of the battle.
But first, half of our group, all bird watchers, left the ship at daybreak for a woodsy walk at Bermejas in the Zapata Swamp National Park, with a local bird and natural history expert.