Hey friends! Happy 2019!
Can you believe how fast 2018 went? Yikes. They say every year older you get, the faster time goes… not cool with that. ESPECIALLY because I turn 30 this year.
But anyways, we ended 2018 and started 2019 on such a fun and relaxing note— CRUISIN’ TO CUBA!
John and I have always wanted to go to Cuba… well, at least since it’s been opened back up— so we were determined to get there some how and soon, before it all started to change! It got a little harder to get there this year, but we found a way! John’s parents also wanted to go, so they came with us!
We have never gone anywhere during winter break, so this whole idea was very exciting. Another time to travel?! WOO HOO! I was about it…. And then Christmas came and I was:
1. Exhausted from working ridiculous hours and
2. Exhausted from all of the fun (but exhausting) Christmas festivities.
So, long story short I was so excited that we decided to take a cruise to Cuba, instead of trying to do it like we normally would… because that would have been, well… exhausting. ;)
We went on the Norweigan Cruise Line and it was SO NICE! The staff was amazing, so friendly and literally the hardest workers I have ever seen. It was just so nice not having to worry about anything. The food was great, the service impeccable, the boat was beautiful, and the rooms were very— quaint! Lol
We left from Miami, Florida and sailed overnight to Cuba. We actually spent New Years Eve and New Years Day in Cuba which was really interesting because they don’t really celebrate it like we do! Everything was pretty quiet and a lot of places were closed, but we still had the best time. It was actually kind of nice and perfect for photo ops!
Before leaving, I had not planned much of anything… (what else is new?)… but I HAD looked up a convertible tour company and found one that looked good— and was open… a lot of them were closed for the holiday. A quick email later and our booking was confirmed!
Upon arrival, Michel, was waiting for us with a sign and my name on it. He was so warm and friendly, and immediately started telling us about his amazing country.
He walked us to his bright red convertible and introduced us to Maykel, our driver. We loved that Michel had a driver, because he was able to really focus on telling us all about Cuba. They drove us around the city and I couldn’t help but admire all of the 1950’s cars, including the one we were in! It seriously felt like we had stepped back in time. They were everywhere and so beautiful. Even the taxis were old colorful cars… wish they still made them like that! When the world cut off trade with Cuba, the Cuban mechanics had to make things work without extra parts… they say the mechanics here are magic. I believe it!
Our first stop was the huge Jesus statue overlooking Havana. We walked and talked, and learned some awesome facts and history about the city and country. It was so interesting hearing Michel’s view on the history and turmoil between the states and Cuba. My favorite thing he said was the famous quote “there’s your side, my side, and the truth.”… so true! He even showed us one of the missiles that had been pointed at the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. CRAZY!
Our tour continued through the colorful streets of Havana, driving around with the wind blowing in our hair…. “(and in my mind I was singing “Havana oh na na” the whole time haha!!!). We stopped at the Capital, because— duh, it was picture time! Michel was snapping pics the whole time too, and sent them to me a week later. They were so good and I loved the candid nature of them all!
We drove around a little more and then headed to a cigar and rum shop. This was easily John’s favorite part of the trip and I swear he bought the whole cigar store. It was so interesting to see all of the choices, because obviously we still can’t get them in the states. Michel also taught John the proper way to light and enjoy a cigar— too cool!
We made another pitstop at the Floridita bar, to see where Ernest Hemingway hung out. The place was PACKED. We could barely get in the door it was so busy. Everyone in the bar was drinking Hemingway’s signature drink. It looked delicious, but seeing as I couldn’t even move, we didn’t stay too long… although it was really cool!
Our tour ended at a traditional cuban restaurant called Draquecitos. We said our goodbyes to Michel and Maykel and had a traditional Cuban lunch, complete with a Cuban beer and a tiny taste of Cuban Rum. We signed the walls and headed back out to explore. We walked around even more, took a ton of pictures and then stopped for a mojito! The mojito originated there, so there were amazing— of course!
The next day, John and I did what we do best— which is getting lost in the streets of wherever we are. John actually has the most amazing sense of direction, so we are never actually lost— (I don’t know how he does it). I, of course, have to use maps.me (an app that allows you to download places before you go and then it uses your gps— not data— so you don’t get charged and you don’t have to be connected to wifi) for back up purposes. Lol. I always test him on where we are, and he’s somehow always right. (eye roll)
So, we usually walk and explore and take photos and then end up getting so tired that we have to stop and get a coffee or a drink or some food… and then we walk some more!
We stopped at Cafe el Escorial and grabbed an Americano and people watched. This is one of the most well known coffee places, and is in the cutest little piazza.
((In this piazza we also took a bunch of pictures, by setting my DSLR camera in a planter… more on this to come. I think I am going to write a blog about how I take and edit our travel photos while we are away! Would y’all like that?!))
We explored some more, walked around by the capital, but most things were closed for the New Year.
Overall, our short time in Cuba was so much fun— and so very interesting! If you’re looking for a relaxing, yet adventurous trip, taking the cruise is the perfect way to get both. We loved every second. If you have a chance to go, definitely get a hold of Michel for a tour! His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is here! He was so knowledgeable and we loved our tour!
THINGS TO KNOW:
Credit cards, debit cards, any kind of card will not work in Cuba. If you are going, be sure to take enough cash to exchange for your whole trip! Our dollar is basically equal to their dollar (CUC), but there is a pretty hefty fee to convert USA $ to the CUC. The exhange rate is more favorable to Canadian dollars or to Euros… so if you can, exchange at home and bring all Canadian dollars to exchange to CUC in Cuba. Definitely not ideal to have to convert your money back and forth so many times, but you gotta do what you gotta do!… and of course we procrastinated until the day before and couldn’t get Canadian dollars or Euros in time before we lefts, so we had to eat about $40 every $300 to switch USA $ to CUC. Not terrible, but not great.
You do need a Visa to get into Cuba. It costs about $75 per person. You can get one through the cruise line or here.
If you get hungry easily, bring snacks because there aren’t any convenient markets around! If you’re like us and walk a lot and start getting hangry before your next meal, bring some protein bars, or almonds to tide you over!
We didn’t see one mosquito, but according to the CDC there is Zika in Cuba, soooo put your bug spray on. We use this kind and it’s literally like a shield and no bugs come close. I usually get eaten alive, but this type is travel size and amazing … Shop it HERE.
Hope this helps! Literally this was the easiest trip ever… mostly because it was a cruise… but also because the Cuban people were so nice, accommodating, and kind. I highly recommend going before it becomes like all the other tourist traps! It is still so authentic and stuck back in the 50s. Happy traveling!!
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