Why Visit Cuba

Once a distant dream for Americans, travel to Cuba is now an exciting possibility. Closed for a half-century, the door is opening as relations between the U.S. and our Caribbean neighbor normalize. The insatiably curious can’t help but wonder – “What’s behind the door?” Now is the time to go and find out on Taucks Cuba cruises!


Cuba is vastly rich in history, culture, natural beauty and the spirit of its people. With a beaming smile and a heartfelt “Bienvenidos,” Cubanos proudly invite folks from around the world to experience their homeland. The romance of Havana’s Malecón at sunset… the time warp sensation felt as those celebrated Chevys from the 1950s (“Yank Tanks”) cruise by… the allure of Trinidad’s historic center, one of the best-preserved colonial towns in the Americas… not just the hills but the street corners, restaurants, cities, towns and villages alive with the sound of music... the spectacular bay of Cienfuegos, shimmering in the sun… and everywhere, the incredibly lovely Cuban people, hospitable hosts eager to share their nation’s treasures with all who sail into Cuba’s ports of call…


CUBA IN A NUTSHELL

Havana

Practically a stone’s throw away from Key West, Cuba is a multicultural country with a population of between 11 and 12 million. The Taíno were the primary indigenous inhabitants, settling on the island long before the Europeans arrived in the late 1400s. A Spanish colony for centuries, Cuba fought for its freedom from 1895 to 1898, achieving formal independence in 1902 after several years of U.S. military occupation. Although the new nation’s economy flourished in the ensuing decades, corruption plagued the government. Led by Fidel Castro, his brother Raúl and Ché Guevara, the Cuban Revolution resulted in the eventual overthrow of Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959. Fidel Castro assumed power of the new socialist state and was president for 30+ years. Raúl Castro succeeded him as president in 2008 and is Cuba’s current head of state.


Throughout the country, Cuba’s colonial and revolutionary past beckons. Habana Vieja (“Old Havana”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to many architectural gems and glorious squares connected by cobblestone lanes. Also in Old Havana, the Museum of the Revolution (previously, the Presidential Palace) displays a chronological history from pre-Columbian times to the modern-day era. Southeast of Havana, the coastal town of Trinidad entices with its picturesque charm. Founded in 1514, it’s one of the oldest cities in Cuba and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors here may feel as if they’ve time traveled to the 18th or 19th century as they wander the streets, gazing at the colorful buildings and mansions of former sugar planters, opulence of a bygone era. Farther east along the coast, Santiago de Cuba is regarded by the Cuban people as second only to Havana in historical importance for this city is the birthplace of the Revolution and the final resting place of José Martí, Cuba’s most illustrious patriot of the late 1800s, and Fidel Castro.


Music is an integral part of Cuban culture. Street musicians seem to be on every corner, wowing passersby with their talent. Toes tap, heads bob, and before too long, someone starts to dance. Cuban-style music and dance, infused with an irresistible blend of African and European cultures, are intoxicating and rejuvenating. Salsa – choreographed exuberance! – is one of the most popular dances in Cuba. Others include the sensual Bolero, Cha Cha Chá, Cuban Contradanza or Habanera (“dance of Havana”) as well as Santería, Yuka, and Abakuá, religious forms of dancing brought to the New World by African slaves.


Art has taken to the streets in Cuba, too. In community art projects, trash has become treasure; sculptures crafted from discarded items adorn once-drab barrios and eye-popping murals cover what used to be dreary, unpainted walls. The artists involved in these projects have given back to fellow Cubanos in a big way, unifying and strengthening their communities by transforming the mundane into superb works of art.


Baseball

It’s said that baseball is as American as apple pie. Well, in Cuba, it’s as Cuban as tres leches cake. Cuba has been sharing America’s passion – some might call obsession! – for the game since the 1860s. Ardent fans stream into stadiums around the country to root for their home teams like Granma, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus and the Metropolitanos whose Estadio Latinoamericano seats 55,000. Baseball is considered the national sport of Cuba; as in America, players – such as legendary Hall of Famer Martín Dihigo, El Inmortal (“The Immortal”) – are idolized. Kids play the game in the streets while aficionados talk it daily at Parque Central’s Esquina Caliente (“Hot Corner”) in the capital. Undoubtedly, béisbol mania is alive and well in Cuba!


One of the greatest joys of travel is genuinely connecting with the locals. Perhaps nowhere is the chance to make this happen more possible than in Cuba on a Tauck “People-to-People” trip. The warm Cuban people love Americans and are as curious about us as we are of them. Generally, Cubanos are very friendly, courteous and well informed. (Cuba’s literacy rate ranks among the highest in the world.) They love a good chat and are happy to discuss all sorts of topics with visitors who are respectful of differing viewpoints and ideas. Travel in Cuba is a golden opportunity to rub elbows with the congenial folks who live there… to savor the spicy goodness of ropa vieja with locals in a cozy paladar… listen to an agricultural worker talk about his job on a tobacco farm… discuss For Whom the Bell Tolls with a bartender in El Floridita while drinking a Papa Doble, a potent daiquiri named for Ernest Hemingway… watch in wonder as an artist in Trinidad paints in her studio… or engage in a heated debate with fanatical baseball enthusiasts. The possibilities to fall in love with the Cuban people are endless!

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NATURAL TREASURES

Cuba, “the Pearl of the Antilles,” is a jewel. Although a bit smaller than Pennsylvania, it’s a paradise blessed with amazing biodiversity, offering something for everyone on land and offshore. The island country boasts over 300 beaches, some of which are arguably the best in the Caribbean – if not the world; Playa Ancón, on Cuba’s southern coast near the town of Trinidad, is an unspoiled oasis; at Playa Paraiso, sun-drenched, sugar white sand meets the crystal clear, turquoise loveliness of a calm sea. Ashore, hikers take to the mountains. Cuba has several ranges including its largest and highest, the lush, rugged Sierra Maestra. (This chain is also of great historical import for it is here that Fidel Castro and his rebel army set up their headquarters during the Revolution.) And down in the Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the scenery is equally impressive, as steep hills called mogotes dot the landscape.

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SELECTED UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN CUBA

  • Old Havana and Its Fortification System
  • Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios
  • San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba
  • Desembarco del Granma National Park
  • Viñales Valley
  • Urban Historic Center of Cienfuegos
  • Historic Center of Camagüey

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Cuba

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WHAT TO EXPECT IN CUBA WITH TAUCK

  • Escorted travel accompanied by a professional Tauck Cruise Director and experienced local Cuban guides, all fluent in both English and Spanish
  • People-to-People educational exchange in various locations in Cuba
  • Exclusive Tauck Experiences exploring Cuban daily life, history and culture, and fostering meaningful cultural connections with the Cuban people
  • Discovering Cuba’s inimitable capital city, Havana, including the Museum of the Revolution, Revolution Square, and its nearly 500-year-old historic heart, Habana Viejo (Old Havana)
  • An opportunity to explore the mangroves of Punta Frances on Isla de la Juventud – a natural reserve only accessible by sea – with a local naturalist
  • Viewing a remarkable cluster of Neoclassical structures in Cienfuegos, known as Cuba’s “Pearl of the South”
  • Visiting Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs, site of the 1961 attempted invasion of Cuba, and a museum chronicling the history of the event
  • Meeting artists in their studios in the vibrant city of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Discovering the Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley) near Trinidad
  • Exploring the centuries-old city of Santiago de Cuba, considered the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s – including a visit to Santa Ifigenia Cemetery and the tombs of José Marti and Fidel Castro, and interaction with local artists involved in the city’s prominent musical scene

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