Cuba Cultural Adventure

From Havana to Cienfuegos Aboard the Panorama

Cuba Cultural Adventure route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $4999  
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

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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. 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 an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.

2016 Cruise Collection Brochure

We’ve searched the world to find the finest small ships and most active adventures, from Greenland to New Zealand to the great rivers of Europe.

Download our online digital brochure to view on your computer or mobile device, or as a PDF! Or request a printed copy to be sent by mail, or by calling 800-368-2794.

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated by Wilderness Travel as a Level 1, easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Some excursions involve a fair amount of standing and walking—often over rough ground and sometimes uphill. Mobility is essential, as small boats and tenders are occasionally used for disembarkation and re-embarkation and the streets of Cuba are often made of rough cobblestones and the sidewalks are in various stages of disrepair.

With a few trips under our belt at the time of writing, we have found that Cuba absolutely lives up to its allure as a fascinating country lost in a time warp that has left it back in the mid-1950s. Economically, the people have hard lives – it can take 4-6 months to save enough money to buy a new pair of shoes – but they enjoy the safety net of free medical care, free education all the way through university (the country enjoys 99% literacy!), and virtually no crime of any sort. Because of this, they are masters of repairing anything – they rely on shoes and cars that have been handed down and rebuilt over and over again. The country presents so many dichotomies. It’s one of the sleepiest places imaginable and yet music is in the air and you feel the streets pulse with life and friendliness.

The big question, of course, is what is the best way to explore Cuba. Some Americans choose to visit it independently by going illegally through Mexico. They gain flexibility in their itinerary, but also a fair amount of anxiety and usually end up doing little more than hanging out in Havana or at a beach resort. This trip takes advantage of the legal alternative, participating in a people-to-people exchange. Interestingly, its biggest negative is also its greatest strength. The demands of US government’s rules are strict and make for a program of extremely full days, which limits the time that you otherwise might have spent whiling away the day at a sidewalk café or roaming the streets on your own. Having said that, however, the exchanges allow you to get to know a wide variety of Cubans engaged in opening new businesses, creating music and art, or working as physicians and teachers in clinics and schools (these are the five major threads followed on this trip). Having the chance to meet them and discuss the differences between their lives and ours is not only fascinating but also fun, AND it would be virtually impossible to duplicate such an experience on your own.

Does doing it by boat help or hinder the experience? Everyone is different, but we feel there is a very good case to made for using private yacht. Not only does it provide a beautiful home that moves around with you and thus allows you to unpack once for the entire trip, it also allows you to avoid long bus drives on windy roads, as well as Cuba’s somewhat basic hotels, most of which offer no air conditioning. While in Havana, your location could not be better as you are docked right next to the Malecon in the heart of Old Havana. You do have free time on most evenings to explore on your own, but admittedly after our full days ashore, many will decide to head off to bed or simply relax in one of the boat’s lounges or on its ample and romantic deck space. In addition to visiting the major highlights of Cuba including the 2 ½ days we have to explore Havana, the boat does takes us off-the-beaten-path, most notably to Guanahacabices National Park and Cayo Largo.  Each day we eat at least one meal on shore and experience the best of present day Cuban cuisine, but by being able to return to the ship for the remaining meals we enjoy the best of both worlds. Finally, there is a camaraderie which develops among the passengers, which is noticeably different from a hotel-based trip and adds to the experience as friendships develop.

Above all, we suggest that THE TIME TO GO IS NOW. We urge you to do it this year and as of the time of this writing there was still space on several of these trips aboard the Panorama. Join us!

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures

2015
Dec 19-26, 2015  SOLD OUT

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

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Category C $4,999
Category B $5,429
Category A $5,869
Single supplement: $1369 (Category C)
Single supplement: $1659 (Category B)
Single supplement: $1869 (Category A)
Port taxes: $375

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.

Deck Plan

 

Category C: Lower Deck - 2 Lower Beds or 1 Double Bed Cabin
The Category C cabins are located on the Lower Deck and have portholes. The cabins are air-conditioned and fitted with TV, telephone, hairdryers, mini-fridge, central music, and public address system and safe boxes. The fully equipped bathrooms are finished with marble.

Category B: Lower Deck - 2 Lower Beds
The Category B cabins are located on the Lower Deck and have portholes. The cabins are air-conditioned and fitted with TV, telephone, hairdryers, mini-fridge, central music, and public address system and safe boxes. The fully equipped bathrooms are finished with marble.

Category A: Upper Deck or Main Deck - 2 Lower Beds or 1 Double Bed Cabin
The Category A cabins are located on the Upper Deck or on the Main Deck and have large windows enabling a breathtaking view or the areas you are cruising in. The cabins are air-conditioned and fitted with TV, telephone, hairdryers, mini-fridge, central music, and public address system and safe boxes. The fully equipped bathrooms are finished with marble.

 

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
  • Charter flights between Miami and Cuba
  • Cuba visa processing

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

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.

Panorama

The 50-guest Panorama yacht is a three-masted motor sailer with cabins located on three decks. Upper or Main Deck cabins have windows, while cabins on the Lower Deck have portholes. All cabins have individually controlled air conditioning. As is typical on yachts, the cabins are not as big as those on larger cruise ships, but all are comfortable and feature en suite bathrooms. Life on board often centers around the delightful outdoor spaces, including the sun deck and an aft deck leading to the bar. In the evening, relax in the ship’s welcoming lounge or the library. The swimming platform on the stern makes water access easy when weather and anchorage conditions permit.