Cuba Cultural Adventure

From Havana to Cienfuegos Aboard the Panorama

Cuba Cultural Adventure route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $4899  
Length: 8 days
Arrive: Havana, Cuba
Depart: Cienfuegos, Cuba
Lodging: 7 nights aboard a 48-guest sail cruiser
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
Activity: Small Ship Cruising, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: 7-night cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours
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Highlights

  • Lively Havana with its incredible museums, colorful architecture, nightlife, and history
  • People to people interactions with local Cubans
  • The limestone island of Cayo Largo and it's sea turtle hatchery


Loved it! Our tour guide was the best! We saw lots, enjoyed staff and fellow travelers.Carolyn A.—Kirkland, WA

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Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Take a step back in time, to Cuba, a place rooted in culture and history, where the people are as warm and welcoming as the climate. We'll enjoy fascinating cultural exchanges with friendly people of all walks of life, from artisans and fishing folk to environmentalists and community organizers, who will tell first-hand stories of life on the island. Traveling by three-masted sail cruiser allows us the opportunity to experience diverse corners of this multifaceted country, unpacking our bags just one time and with the comfort of a nice place to rest our head each night, without the hassle of long drives between stops.

In Havana, musicians gather on almost every corner and you'll hear the heartbeat of the city pulse with bongos, maracas, and guitars as a vintage '51 Ford or '47 Hudson rolls past down the street. Along the southern coast, explore beautifully preserved colonial architecture in the towns of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, set against white sand beaches on the turquoise Caribbean Sea. And in the sparsely populated Guanahacabibes Peninsula, the most western tip of Cuba, natural wonders abound in its 172 species of birds and miles of coral reef. Be prepared for an amazing, eye-opening experience of this intriguing nation.

Itinerary

Day 1 (Saturday)
Miami / Havana

Depart the U.S. from Miami on a short flight to Havana, where you are met and taken on a short bus tour en route to the city center. We'll stop at a neighborhood paladar (privately-owned restaurant) for lunch and have a chance for an exchange with talented artists and craftsmen who live nearby as well as the entrepreneur who owns the restaurant. We’ll then board the Panorama which is docked directly in front of Old Havana and where our luggage will already be waiting for us in our cabins. After you've settled in, you're welcome to relax onboard or enjoy an optional visit to the Fine Arts Museum, before we all head out together for our people-to-people activities. You visit “Hammel,” a cultural art project where large bright Afro-Cuban murals line the walls along the street, and then have some time to explore "La Habana Vieja" or Old Havana at your leisure. Old Havana was founded by the Spaniards in 1519 in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is the core of the original city. The area contains interesting architecture, much of which has been restored by the Cuban Government. This evening we’ll once again eat onshore at the El Guajirito restaurant and participate in an exchange with several Grammy winning members of the famous Buena Vista Social Club program. Overnight onboard the S/C Panorama.

Day 2 (Sunday)
Havana

After breakfast, we depart by bus for a day excursion to the province of Artemisa, where we visit the UNESCO–designated Biosphere Reserve region and small eco-community of Las Terrazas in the mountainous area of Sierra del Rosario. We begin by visiting the houses and studios of local Cuban artists, taking in the spectacular and unique Cuban art. We stop by a senior center, engaging with people there before we head off to visit Maria, a woman who makes exceptional coffee from her own home! After lunch in a home kitchen, we'll learn some delectable secrets of Cuban Cuisine from the cook. During the visits there will be lots of time to meet with locals and learn more about life in this planned community situated in the middle of a nature reserve. Upon returning to Havana there will be time to explore more of the old town and its plazas on your own, however please note that most shops tend to be closed on Sunday. Dinner onboard the S/C Panorama.

Day 3 (Monday)
Havana

After breakfast, we'll have a people-to-people exchange with musicians and performers of the Havana Compas Dance Group. Then we visit the Quisicuaba Community, located in Los Sitios neighborhood of Havana Centro Cuba, to learn about Afro Cuban culture. The name of this project, "Quisicuaba," comes partly from the name of free blacks who originally came from the southern part of the Angolan Basin in the 16th century. The goal of the project is to restore the traditional folk culture by taking into consideration the cultural, spiritual, and material needs of the people who live there. Here you can discuss how African religions and traditions influence the culture of Cuba. Return to the S/C Panorama for lunch and departure from Havana's beautiful bay with gorgeous views of the city as we make our way west toward Maria La Gorda. We'll have a cocktail and discussion on "Everyday life in Cuba" before dinner.

Day 4 (Tuesday)
Maria La Gorda

We arrive in Maria La Gorda and begin our day's activities in La Bajada, where we meet with a specialist at the Guanahacabibes National Park, one of the country’s largest nature reserves. After exploring Guanahacabibes, we'll stop by a community school to talk to its teachers and students. At a Meteorological Center we'll learn about forecasting weather, weather patterns, and storms and hurricanes that have left their mark in Cuba. Then we head to a “Honey House” to discuss beekeeping and honey production. Lunch will be either on the beach or onboard. We’ll depart early afternoon as we sail for Cayo Largo.

Day 5 (Wednesday)
Cayo Largo

The island of Cayo Largo is comprised of limestone, formed over millions of years from the remains of marine organisms, much like the ones that form coral reefs. We begin our Cayo Largo adventure with an engaging discussion with an expert on Cuban culture before heading to a local clinic, where we will meet with a Cuban doctor to learn about the medical system here. Moving onto the marine-focused part of our day, a diving and conservation specialist will give a presentation on the preservation of the coral reefs and virgin keys of Cuba. We visit a sea turtle breeding center and the Avalon Fly fishing center, where we will learn more about the local wildlife. We’ll then sail the short distance to the white sand beaches of Cayo Rico Virgin Key, where we’ll snorkel at a coral reef and enjoy a late lunch on the beach. Tonight we set sail for Trinidad and should arrive not long after dinner. With luck we should arrive early enough so that those who still have the energy after the very full day can consider going into town on their own.

Day 6 (Thursday)
Trinidad

This morning we awake in Trinidad, a meticulously well-preserved Spanish colonial city, with rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces, and plazas, Trinidad is sometimes referred to as the “museum city of Cuba.” We begin the day with a walk through town, escorted by an architect from Office of the City Historian, visiting with residents along the way. There will be stops for visits to Museum Romantico, and to local artist studios to view their art and learn about its relation to the Cuban community and culture. At a gallery of young female artists, we'll talk to artists who are attempting to bring awareness to gender stereotypes in Cuban society through art. We’ll tour a local bed and breakfast to discuss entrepreneurs creating businesses in an environment that has just recently been opened to such initiatives. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant in the Plaza Major and then you're free to enjoy Trinidad at your leisure before returning to the ship, where you’ll enjoy the Captain’s dinner as we depart for Cienfuegos.

Day 7 (Friday)
Cienfuegos

Enjoy breakfast onboard before disembarking for our visit to Cienfuegos, known as the "Pearl of the South." Located about 150 miles from Havana on the southern tip of Cuba, this city is the only one in Cuba to be founded by French settlers. In 2005 the historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Among buildings of particular interest are the Government Palace (City Hall), San Lorenzo School, the Bishopric, the Ferrer Palace, the former lyceum, and some residential houses. Cienfuegos is the first and outstanding example of an architectural ensemble representing the new ideas of modernity, hygiene, and order in urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th century. We walk the historic city center with a specialist, wandering through a farmer's market and supermarket, then make our way to a special performance by the Choir of Cienfuegos. We'll have a chance to talk with the choir members post-performance. After a typical Cuban barbeque lunch at a local restaurant we will participate in a salsa lesson. We will finish our day onboard and celebrate a Cuba Night with our fellow passengers.

Day 8 (Saturday)
Cienfuegos / Depart

In the morning after breakfast, we disembark and transfer to the airport in Cienfuegos for the return flight home via Miami.


Note

This program is being operated by Group IST, which has been issued a license (#CT-2013-301894-1) by the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), authorizing them to organize and operate People to People programs to Cuba.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

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What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated as a Level 1, ‘easiest’, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Some of the daily excursions will involve a fair amount of being on your feet—often walking over rough ground and sometimes uphill. Accommodations are aboard the 177-foot motor-sailer Panorama. Mobility is essential, as small boats and tenders are occasionally used for disembarkation and re-embarkation. Additionally, many streets in Cuba are made of rough cobblestones, and the sidewalks are in various stages of disrepair.

About Travel to Cuba
We are very excited to be able to offer a travel experience in Cuba. It is a fascinating country of warm and welcoming people, and the pulse of Latin music can be heard almost everywhere. The fact that not only the cars but virtually all technology has been frozen in the mid-1950's adds to the allure and enchantment. Having said that, the Cuban travel experience is most definitely not for everyone.

As of the time of writing this web page, independent solo travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens is not legal unless you get specific permission from the U.S. government. Currently the easiest route for Americans to legally visit Cuba is to join a group tour run under a “People to People” license issued to the tour operator. This trip is organized and run by Group IST, who owns this license, and is operated in conjunction with Variety Voyages, who own and operate the yacht Panorama. Thus, this is not a Wilderness Travel operated trip, nor is the departure exclusive to Wilderness Travel clients.

The People-to-People exchanges, upon which the U.S. government permission has been granted, are highly structured, but they have many advantages. They allow you to travel legally and directly from Miami on a charter flight, which is included in the price of the trip along with your visas. You must, however, sign a promise to fully participate in all of the programs (e.g. no opting out for a day to roam on your own). The exchanges involve discussions, performances, and question and answer periods in a variety of locations, from restaurants to artists’ studios. These programs can be fascinating and more often than not provide the biggest highlights of the trip, but they also make for full days. The main threads of the exchanges are oriented around the arts, due to Cuba’s vibrant musical and artistic scene, as well as including meetings with some of Cuba’s emerging entrepreneurs. There is a bit of additional time each afternoon and on many evenings for you to explore on your own. Overall, this trip offers a very nice mix of destinations and experiences.

We have chosen to offer a boat based adventure aboard the 24 cabin Panorama rather than a hotel based trip for many reasons, including the fact that in Cuba there are currently very few good hotels that offer more than 3 star service. Traveling on a yacht provides a comfortable home away from home that allows you to unpack just once during your trip, yet you enjoy several destinations throughout Cuba as well as having the wonderful cultural experiences that you would have on a hotel based trip. In Havana, the boat is docked right downtown next to the Malecon in easy walking distance to the best parts of the city. Each day you’ll have at least one meal onshore, so you will have the chance to taste local Cuban cuisine, but remember that privately owned restaurants are just recently making an appearance and the food remains fairly basic. Cubans themselves do not have the disposable income to be able to eat in restaurants, so there is not much of a cultural aspect to the restaurant experience. By taking the rest of your meals aboard ship, you can enjoy the best of both worlds (be forewarned, however,  that even aboard the ship they can run out of certain fresh items because they are constrained by what is available in the markets).

As romantic as traveling by yacht is to many, it is not for everyone. While the cabins aboard the Panorama are fairly good-sized when compared to other yachts, they are small if compared to a modern hotel room or even cabins found on a larger cruise ship. They do have en suite bathrooms and individually controlled air conditioning, a luxury only certain hotels in Cuba currently offer. Passengers sensitive to motion sickness should consider bringing medication for the two days that have longer stretches at sea. The boat is in good shape and manned by a welcoming and very professional crew, but it is not brand new (built 1993 and completely refurbished 2009). The captain loves to use the sails and its sails are easily and quickly set via electrical winches. It is a motor-sailer, however, and as such continues to use its motors while under sail. If the wind is not coming from an advantageous direction they may not raise the sails at all. Please remember that unusual weather is more likely to affect a boat based trip. The captain will always have the final ruling on whether landings are possible at out of the way stops where tenders are necessary to ferry passengers ashore. Finally, visitors to Cuba (whether on boat based or hotel based tours) have to understand that all tour arrangements within the country are controlled by a central government agency, and last minute itinerary changes as well as assorted bureaucratic delays are commonplace.

If you are still reading, then you are likely a perfect person for this trip! Bring your spirit of adventure, your willingness to go with the flow, and get ready to enjoy a quirky, fascinating, and very fun experience. The time to visit Cuba is most definitely now, before the country fully opens to the outside world.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures

2015
Dec 12-19, 2015  * Panorama II

Dec 19-26, 2015  Panorama II
Dec 19-26, 2015  SOLD OUT
Dec 26, 2015-Jan 2, 2016  Panorama
Dec 26, 2015-Jan 2, 2016  * Panorama II
2016
Jan 2- 9, 2016  * Panorama
Jan 2- 9, 2016  Panorama II
Jan 9-16, 2016  Panorama
Jan 9-16, 2016  * Panorama II
Jan 16-23, 2016  Panorama II
Jan 16-23, 2016  SOLD OUT
Jan 23-30, 2016  Panorama
Jan 23-30, 2016  * Panorama II
Jan 30-Feb 6, 2016  SOLD OUT
Jan 30-Feb 6, 2016  Panorama II
Feb 6-13, 2016  Panorama
Feb 6-13, 2016  * Panorama II
Feb 13-20, 2016  Panorama II
Feb 13-20, 2016  * Panorama
Feb 20-27, 2016  Panorama
Feb 20-27, 2016  * Panorama II
Feb 27-Mar 5, 2016  * Panorama
Feb 27-Mar 5, 2016  Panorama II
Mar 5-12, 2016  * Panorama II
Mar 5-12, 2016  SOLD OUT
Mar 12-19, 2016  Panorama II
Mar 12-19, 2016  SOLD OUT
Mar 19-26, 2016  Panorama
Mar 19-26, 2016  * Panorama II
Mar 26-Apr 2, 2016  * Panorama
Mar 26-Apr 2, 2016  Panorama II
Apr 2- 9, 2016  Panorama
Apr 9-16, 2016  SOLD OUT
Apr 16-23, 2016  Panorama
Apr 23-30, 2016  * Panorama

*Reverse itinerary, Cienfuegos to Havana

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Category C $4,899
Category B $5,499
Category A $5,999
Single supplement: $800 (Category C)
Single supplement: $900 (Category B)
Single supplement: $1000 (Category A)
Visa processing cost: $75
Holiday surcharge (Dec 19 & 26 departures): $150
Port taxes: $395
Miami/Cuba roundtrip flights: $599

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 25% of trip cost
70 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $100 per person
120-91 days prior to departure: $250 per person
90-61 days prior to departure: $500 per person
60-31 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
30 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Accommodation in double or twin cabins with private bath and air conditioning
  • Land excursions and cultural exchanges
  • All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
  • Regular coffee, tea and drinking water free all day
  • Use of fishing and snorkeling equipment (subject to availability)
  • Multilingual Cruise Escort
  • Naturalist lectures and guiding

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

Charter flights between Miami and Cuba, Cuba visa processing costs, Port taxes, beverages (except those mentioned above), crew tips, passenger personal expenses.

Please note that WiFi is not available onboard the Panorama.

Arrival & Departure Information

Arrival & Meeting Place
Miami, Florida
Miami International Airport
Day 1 of trip by 7:00am (for Havana to Cienfuegos departures) and by 9:00am (for Cienfuegos to Havana departures)

For this program, we suggest you arrive to the Miami Airport one day before the trip begins. There is a group flight arranged for Day 1 of the trip which is scheduled to leave Miami mid-morning (although is sometimes delayed). All travelers must be ready to check in for the group flight 3 hours prior to departure which is why we suggest an overnight at the Miami International Airport Hotel so that you are ready to check in early on Day 1.

Departure
Miami, Florida
Miami International Airport
Day 8 of trip

Although the trip ends on Day 8, the group flight from Cuba back to Miami does not return to Miami until the afternoon.  Again, we recommend booking an overnight at the Miami International Hotel and connecting home on the morning of the next day, or if you want to book your departure from Miami on Day 8, make sure it is not before 6:00pm.  

Keep in mind that these group flights to and from Cuba are subject to delay in both directions and we prefer to err on the side of caution when making connections.

 

The cost of forced overnights are not included in the trip price. You will get the best rate by booking directly at the Miami International Airport website.

Expedition Details

PASSPORT
A valid passport is required for traveling on this trip.  Be sure to check the expiration date.  Your passport must be valid for six months after the conclusion of your trip.  It is a good idea to carry photocopies of your passport photo page in case your passport is lost or as an additional piece of identification, as well as two extra passport photos.

VISA
A visa is required for US Citizens traveling to Cuba.  Please call for details.

MEDICAL
We recommend checking the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov should you have any international health concerns.

INOCULATIONS
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before your trip.

<em>Panorama</em>

Panorama

Days 1 to 7 (7 nights)

The 50-guest Panorama yacht is a three-masted motor sailer with cabins located on three decks. Upper or Main Deck cabins have windows, ...
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<em>Panorama II</em>

Panorama II

Days 1 to 7 (7 nights)

Launched in 2004, the Panorama II is a state-of-the-art, two-masted motorsailer that accommodates up to 49 passengers in 25 cabins. All ...
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Client Comments

Loved it! Our tour guide was the best! We saw lots, enjoyed staff and fellow travelers. Carolyn A., Kirkland, WA This was a trip of a lifetime! Enjoying Cuba before the inevitable changes occur was like anticipating a party before you know who might be coming. Mary L M., Sanibel, FL The Program Manager was extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and experienced. He adapted the program day to day with great excursions, programs, and meals. Ronald F., Evansville, IN Overall a great trip and we're glad we took it before major changes hit Cuba. Robert R., Central Point, OR
We really loved this experience. I am so glad we were able to sail around Cuba and see it as it is today. I am sure tourism will leave its mark soon enough and the OLD Cuba will change. Leslie R., Central Point, OR I really enjoyed myself and felt like I got a good introduction to the ‘forbidden island.’ Maggie G., Tupper Lake, NY What an opportunity to visit Cuba before it gets remade! Daniel D., Colorado Spr., CO