Cruising Cuba for the first time, exploring cities and seacoast: Fifth blog by David G. Molyneaux (first, cars and artists // second, Havana people-to-people // third, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad // fourth, dancing at Juventud )
Isla de la Juventud, Cuba
After a calm winter’s night at anchor on Cuba’s remote Siguanea Bay, 35 American travelers on the 150-foot motor-sailor Panorama II awakened before dawn and collected their snorkeling gear, prepared for a ride on a local boat to a dock on the southwest corner of Isla de la Juventud (formerly Isle of Pines).
On this day, the schedule, as arranged with and approved by top tourism officials in Havana, was not to be.
Communication about changing procedures is not an attribute of central government in Cuba, a country known for breakdowns in plans and mechanics, and disincentives for individual decision-making.
Military guards in charge of the island docks had received no written instructions from Havana (though an approving word would filter down for Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic trips in weeks that followed).
So, no local boat would be coming to tender us from our ship to shore as the sun began to rise.
Ever resourceful, expedition guides attempted alternative transportation, rolling out zodiacs that belonged to our chartered Greek vessel. Alas, the zodiac engines quit, and some passengers were rescued by the same local boat that had not been allowed to tender us ashore.
(Failure of the Greek ship’s zodiacs upset the Lindblad expedition team, as Lindblad is well known for its outstanding equipment. For the following week’s trip, the ship’s zodiacs were working well, reported a Lindblad spokesperson.)