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Cruising Cuba: A Cultural Gem (Westbound)

11 days with Tauck   Rating: Deluxe

Click for Dates and Prices Day 1 Arrive Miami
Trip begins: 4:00 PM, InterContinental Miami. Travelers flying to Miami should plan to arrive at Miami International Airport by 2:00 PM, and take a Yellow Taxi from the airport to InterContinental Miami (for an average fee of USD $20 plus tip, which will be reimbursed by your Tauck Director). Gather this afternoon at the hotel for a Tauck Director briefing about tomorrow morning's included flight to Santiago de Cuba and the start of your educational exchange trip to Cuba, followed by a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel. (D)

Day 2 Welcome to Santiago de Cuba / Embark ship
Fly this morning from Miami to Antonio Maceo International Airport in Santiago de Cuba, the country's second-largest city - and, to many, its second most important - behind Havana. Dating back to a village established by Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez in 1515, it has enjoyed a long and colorful history, serving as the capital of Spanish Colonial Cuba throughout much of the 16th century, and later as the birthplace of the 1950s Cuban Revolution. The city is also known for its thriving cultural life, with strong Afro-Cubano influences and a significant role in Cuban musical genres including son, salsa and trova. Music seems to be everywhere here, in the hometown of many famed Cuban musicians including Compay Segundo and other members of the "Buena Vista Social Club." Your People-to-People discoveries today include meeting some of the city's local musicians. Explore Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, the final resting place of many noted Cubans, including 19th-century revolutionary José Marti and Fidel Castro, whose tombs are guarded by a regularly changing contingent of Cuban soldiers. Experience Parque Cespedes, a vibrant square set on the site of the city's original settlement, adjacent to its oldest existing home, now a museum. And get a close-up look at the Cuban Revolution with a visit to the site considered its birthplace - Moncada Barracks, where young brothers Fidel and Raul Castro led an ill-fated attack on a government barracks in 1956; bullet holes have been preserved on the exterior of the building, which today is a school, museum and historic site. Next, visit Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca (also known as Castillo del Morro) - an iconic stone citadel that has guarded Santiago's harbor from pirates and other threats since its completion in 1700, after more than 60 years of construction - where you'll enjoy a sunset champagne toast. Then continue on to the dock and board Le Ponant for the start of your cruise; attend a welcome reception and dinner onboard the ship tonight. (D)

Day 3 Cruising Cuba's Coastal Waters
Spend a relaxing day at sea aboard Le Ponant as she sails westward along Cuba's southern coast, bound for the port of Casilda for a visit to Trinidad. Enjoy the ship's amenities as well as a range of onboard activities, including lectures and commentary from your Tauck Directors. (B, L, D)

Day 4 Casilda & Trinidad
After cruising the entire morning and into the afternoon, the ship docks today at the port of Casilda for a visit to the city of Trinidad - although founded early in the 16th century, its fortunes rose and fell in step with those of the sugar cane industry that prospered in this region between the late 18th and 19th centuries. Both the city itself and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley) - which you'll explore tomorrow - have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Join your local guide this afternoon for a walking tour of Trinidad's historic center, whose squares, plazas and cobblestone streets reflect the past wealth of the sugar industry - especially the Plaza Mayor, flanked by the Palacio Brunet, emblematic of the city's golden age, and the neoclassical-style Palacio Cantero, home to its municipal history museum today - and engage in People-to-People interaction with some of this vibrant city's local artists in their studios. Return to Le Ponant, docked overnight in Casilda, for dinner onboard this evening. (B, L, D)

Day 5 Trinidad & the Sugar Mill Valley
Disembark the ship in Casilda this morning and travel outside Trinidad to the Valle de los Ingenios - the Sugar Mill Valley - to explore its three interconnected valleys where over 50 sugar cane mills once operated, supported by the forced labor of more than 30,000 slaves who worked in the mills or in the plantations surrounding them. This vast UNESCO site conserves the ruins of many sugar mills, where you'll see traces of barracones (slave quarters) and other structures at plantations like Manaca Iznaga, with its preserved owner's house and 147-foot bell tower built in 1816, or San Isidro de los Destiladeros. Le Ponant departs Casilda this evening and sets sail for Cienfuegos. (B, L, D)

Day 6 Cienfuegos or Playa Girón on the Bay of Pigs
Le Ponant arrives this morning in Cienfuegos on Cuba's southern coast, dubbed the "Pearl of the South." Founded in 1819 by French and Spanish immigrants and known as a haunt of pirates and privateers in its early days, Cienfuegos - whose name translates to "one hundred fires" - became wealthy as a trading port during the 19th century; no other city in the Caribbean can lay claim to as large a collection of Neoclassical buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, you have a choice of activities. You can stay in town and explore Cienfuegos' historic center - named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the finest existing example of early 19th-century Spanish Enlightenment urban planning - on a walking tour with our local guide, then visit the local LA UNEAC social project for People-to-People interaction with members of the community. Or you can join us on an excursion to Playa Girón on the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), which served as a landing site for the unsuccessful invasion by CIA-sponsored Cuban exiles attempting to overthrow the Castro government in April, 1961; visit the Museo Girón, which chronicles the invasion. Return to Le Ponant for dinner tonight as your cruise continues. (B, L, D)

Day 7 Punta Francés on La Isla de la Juventud
Le Ponant arrives early morning at Parque Nacional Marino de Punta Francés (Punta Francés Marine National Park) on La Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth), a tear-shaped island about 60 miles off Cuba's southern coast. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, the island's coves, caves and beaches saw many skirmishes between Spanish ships and privateers like Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake... and oft-told tales of pirate booty. In the 20th century, the island was the site of a prison of the Battista regime - Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were both held there after a failed revolutionary attack in the 1950s - and later a post-revolution Communist university established by Castro in the 1970s. Today, the island is one of Cuba's hidden gems, highly popular with divers, possessing a wealth of natural beauty and protected wildlife, but little development. At Punta Francés Marine National Park on the island's southern coast - accessible only by sea - you'll join a local naturalist for an excursion through the mangroves, and have an opportunity to practice some snorkeling before returning to the ship for dinner onboard. (B, L, D)

Day 8 Day at Sea
Enjoy all the amenities your ship has to offer on an entire day at sea, as Le Ponant sails westward from La Isla de la Juventud, then northward around the western tip of Cuba, bound for the capital city, Havana. (B, L, D)

Day 9 Havana & Hemingway's Cuba
Your 7-night Cuba cruise ends this morning as Le Ponant sails into Havana, Cuba's capital city, where you'll disembark and bid adios to your captain and crew. Stop at El Morro ("The Rock," a.k.a. Morro Castle), the iconic stone fortress that has guarded Havana's harbor since the 16th century, en route to Finca Vigia ("Lookout Farm") in San Francisco de Paula. American novelist Ernest Hemingway made his winter home here from 1939 to 1960, which he shared with third wife Martha Gellhorn, and later with fourth wife Mary Welsh. On a walk around the preserved house (which cannot be entered, but can be viewed through windows and doors) and grounds, you'll see the author's 9,000-volume library and his yacht, Pilar, and talk with a docent about Hemingway's life here. Continue along the coast to the little fishing village of Cojimar - the community whose people and way of life inspired Hemingway to write The Old Man and the Sea - where you'll see a memorial to "Ernesto," have lunch at a paladar, and engage in a People-to-People exchange at a fishermen's cooperative. Return to Havana and check into your hotel, before dinner with entertainment this evening. (B, L, D)

Day 10 Historic Havana, Cigars & Revolution
Today's People-to-People exchange in Havana begins on a guided walking tour through Habana Vieja - the city's nearly 500-year-old heart, now a pedestrian-only UNESCO World Heritage Site - with a local expert to discuss the city's architecture and historic restoration efforts, and how Cuban citizens are playing an important role in preserving and revitalizing the area. Visit a local Havana cigar factory for a firsthand look at the production of one of Cuba's most popular exports: traditional hand-rolled Havana cigars. After lunch at a local paladar, head over to what was once Cuba's Presidential Palace, which now houses Havana's Museum of the Revolution. Join your local guide for a tour of the museum's exhibits focusing on the Cuban Revolution of the late 1950s. Stop at Plaza de la Revolución, with its memorial tower honoring 19th-century patriot José Martí, and huge metalwork portraits of national heroes Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Stop at Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square), with its memorial tower honoring 19th-century patriot José Martí, and huge metalwork portraits of national heroes Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, before returning to your hotel for tonight's farewell reception and dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 11 Journey Home
Depart the Meliá Cohiba this morning for Havana's José Marti International Airport and your return flight to Miami International Airport. Trip ends: 2:00 PM, Miami International Airport. (B)
All This Included
New for 2018 - Tauck's 11-Day People-to-People Cuba Cruise! Since 2012, under a license granted by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, our People-to-People educational exchange trips to Cuba have brought Tauck travelers together with the people of Cuba to share thoughts and insights and connect with their rich cultural heritage. Now, in 2018, we're proud to launch Cruising Cuba: A Cultural Gem - an 11-day / 10-night People-to-People cruise journey throughout Cuba, featuring a seven-night cruise aboard the three-masted yacht Le Ponant, calling on Cuba's coastal gems between Santiago de Cuba and Havana, and including immersive experiences in the Cuban culture through People-to-People activities. Your trip begins and ends in Miami, and includes an overnight in Miami prior to a flight to Santiago de Cuba. In Santiago de Cuba, explore the birthplace of the 1950s Cuban Revolution; visit Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, with the tombs of José Marti and Fidel Castro; and meet local artists who keep the Afro-Cuban culture alive through music and dance. Interact with local artists in their studios in the vibrant city of Trinidad, a UNESCO heritage site, and explore the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley). Discover Cienfuegos, Cuba's "Pearl of the South," and its Neoclassical architecture, or visit Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs, site of the attempted 1961 invasion of Cuba. Sail to Punta Francés on the Isla de la Juventud - a nature reserve only accessible by sea - to explore the mangroves with a local naturalist. In Havana, spend two nights at a premium hotel in the Cuban capital, exploring Habana Vieja, the Museum of the Revolution and Revolution Square. Follow author Ernest Hemingway's footsteps in Cuba... visiting Finca Vigia, his former winter home outside Havana, and Cojimar, a fishing village that inspired The Old Man and the Sea. Talk with students, artists, preservationists, musicians, community leaders, agricultural workers, baseball players and more... dine at privately run paladares, meet Cuban families, and interact with Cubans and their culture... all on this unforgettable Cuba cruise!
  • All gratuities to Tauck Director, ship staff and local guides included
  • Tauck's private shore excursions and distinctive inclusions valued at $3,650
  • Flights from Miami to Havana and from Santiago de Cuba to Miami
  • Seven-night cruise from Santiago de Cuba to Havana aboard the popular three-masted schooner Le Ponant with only 60 guests aboard
  • "People-to-People" educational exchange throughout your cruise, fostering meaningful cultural connections with Cubans and their culture
  • Escorted travel throughout your People-to-People trip in Cuba, accompanied by a Tauck Director and experienced local Cuban guides, fluent in English & Spanish
  • Two nights in Havana at a premium hotel in the Cuban capital, exploring Habana Vieja, the Museum of the Revolution, Revolution Square and more
  • Following novelist Ernest's Hemingway's footsteps in Cuba with visits to Finca Vigia, his longtime home, and Cojimar, which inspired The Old Man and the Sea
  • Calling on Punta Francés on Isla de la Juventud - an island nature reserve only accessible by sea - to explore the mangroves with a local naturalist
  • Choice of discovering Cienfuegos, Cuba's "Pearl of the South"; or visiting Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs, site of the attempted 1961 invasion of Cuba
  • Interacting with local artists in their studios in Trinidad, a UNESCO heritage site, and an excursion to the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley)
  • Exploring Santiago de Cuba - birthplace of the 1950s Cuban Revolution - with visits to Santa Ifigenia Cemetery and the tombs of José Marti and Fidel Castro
  • Meeting local artists in Santiago de Cuba who keep the Afro-Cuban culture alive
  • Aboard ship - alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available throughout the day aboard ship including house wines and spirits; premium spirits and wines are available at extra cost.
  • 27 meals (9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 10 dinners) on land and at sea for an authentic taste of regional cuisine
  • Airport transfers upon arrival and departure as noted
  • Service charges, applicable fuel surcharges, taxes and porterage
  • 7-night Cuba cruise aboard Le Ponant
  • Airfare between Miami and Cuba; overnight in Miami
  • In Santiago de Cuba, exploring the birthplace of the 1950s Cuban Revolution and meeting local Afro-Cuban musicians and dancers
  • Interacting with artists in Trinidad or Sugar Mill Valley excursion
  • Visits to Cienfuegos or Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs
  • Exploring the mangroves with a local naturalist at the Punta Frances nature reserve on Isla de la Juventud
  • 2-night premium hotel stay in Havana
  • Visits to Habana Vieja and the Museum of the Revolution
  • Following Ernest's Hemingway's footsteps in Cuba with visits to Finca Vigia and the fishing village of Cojimar
Miami: InterContinental Miami
Cruising: Aboard Le Ponant
Havana: Meliá Cohiba
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.