We had a fantastic trip to Cuba and did the most amazing things during our 1,5 day stay.
We booked a cruise with Royal Caribbean because this is the only cruise which stays overnight in Havana. And this is what we did while we were in Cuba:
Here are the best things to know cruising to Cuba 2019:
A lot of information can be found about what kind of documents you need to enter Cuba on a cruise. It seriously is very confusing what you should believe and what is just old information.
Actually you only need a valid Passport with longer than 6 months to expire. That’s it. You will get a Tourist Card from your cruise line which you have to fill out with your name and your passport number. This Tourist Card will cost you $ 75 and will be charged directly from the cruise line.
There is absolutely no stress or anything you have to worry about entering Cuba.
It took about 45 minutes to leave the boat and to go through immigration, because 2,500 people are entering Havana at the same time. They check your passport, keep your tourist card and take a picture of you and then you are allowed to enter Cuba. That’s it, not bad at all.
You can exchange money (currency CUC) right there at the Port, there is almost no waiting time. If you have Euros exchange them, because they charge a 10 % fee for exchanging Dollars. Don’t ask me why. There are no ATM’s so it makes sense to exchange as much money as you need. Credit Cards are not accepted, only cash.
1,5 days in Cuba – Tour to Viñales:
The Royal Caribbean ‘Majesty of the Seas’ actually stays 1,5 days in Havana, and this is the reason why we booked this cruise.
We booked a trip on our own because it is so much cheaper and you can choose what you want to do. We wanted to go to Viñales, which is about a 2 hour drive from Havana, going into rural Cuba. This trip was booked with “Discover – Vinales” and here is the itinerary:
Drive to Viñales
8 am pick up at the cruise ship with a classic car ride to Viñales. It is actually an almost 3 hour car ride (some of the tours stop after an hour for a drink) but we drove thru in 2 hours. William seriously stepped on that gas pedal.
Hiking the mountains
After arrival we went on a 45 minute hike through the mountains, with a drinking stop on the way (Pina Colada, Mojito or coffee). You can see the mogotes, which are the beautiful green, almost mosslike covered limestone hills jutting out of the earth. They seem like something out of Jurassic Park.
Riding the horse
A horse ride to a tobacco farm was our next step on the tour. It takes about 30 minutes to get there and it wasn’t fun for the whole group, but we survived. The horses didn’t seem too happy but the ride was definitely worth doing so. It is also ok for beginners because the horses are pretty relaxed and just ride along in the group. So no worries if this will be your first horse ride ever.
We stopped at a barn, full with dried tobacco and the Tobacco Farmer showed us how to roll a cigar. You can smoke one right there and buy them cheaper at the farm than in a store in Havana. The cigars taste very good and it is a fun thing to do, unfortunately we didn’t get a Mojito here.
We were getting hungry because it was already 3 pm, so we were heading towards an organic farm with the most amazing food. We were served plates and plates of food which we didn’t order they just brought it out. Chicken, beef, salads, vegetables, beans, rice – we tried it all and everything tasted great. This is not all the food you can see on the picture, they didn’t stop bringing plates of food out. And they made us fresh mango juice. So delicious.
We couldn’t sit that long and enjoy lunch because it was already getting late and there was so much more to do. So we hopped into our classic car to drive to the prehistoric mural. The mural is from 1961 and not really prehistoric but an attraction. And you can have more drinks at the bar right there.
After the short stop at the mural it was getting close to 5 pm already and we were still not done with our tour. We hopped into the car again and after a short drive we arrived at the Indian cave, which is pretty amazing to see. About one hundred steps bring you down to a river where you can get into a boat. The captain points out rock formations that look like animals, I wasn’t super excited for this but it was actually really cool! I am glad we stopped. There was a spot to grind your own sugar cane for a cocktail and an actor dressed as a native Cuban on the way in, a little market where you can buy all sorts of handmade souvenirs, t-shirts and of course rum and cigars.
Our last stop was a Zip-lining tour but we cancelled it, as it was getting too late to get back to Havana and we were pretty exhausted. This was already a long day with lots of impressions and activities, so we called it a day.
Our classic car driver William is a one of a kind driver and brought as back in record time of 2 hours. He and Dior, our tour guide, are amazing people. They did everything for us and we had a great time spending the day with them. Fabulous people.
Although we were pretty exhausted when we returned to Havana, we had some energy left over to go for a drink. There are numerous bars pretty close to the terminal where you can sit outside and just enjoy the music and the dancing. And it is nice to get a Havana by night feeling too.
Walking through Havana
The next morning we left the ship at 8 am. They only check your passport and immigration goes pretty fast, there is almost no wait. We decided to go on a walking tour through Old Havana on our own. Guided walking tours are also available, or car rides with the classic cars but actually you see more if you walk on your own. We explored some markets and bought hand made cigar holders, a pretty ring and a leather hand bag for very little money. Another market sold old books and posters which were pretty cute, but we decided on a couple of T-Shirts and of course a bottle of Rum.
You are allowed 50 cigars and 2 bottles of Rum per person to bring back on the ship with you.
We had enough time to walk through Old Havana and to see most of the attractions there. So lucky that we decided to book the Viñales tour as it was so much more interesting than just seeing Havana. And we heard that the organized tours which you can buy on the ship weren’t that exciting and so expensive compared to our tour.
How to book this tour
So if you are thinking about going to Cuba – book a tour to Viñales. We had such a great time. Here is the link: http://www.discover-vinales.com
For three people the whole trip to Viñales cost us 440 $. Not included is the tip for our driver William and our guide Dior. Of course you can adjust the tour to whatever you want to do and not to zip lining, or not do the horseback riding. It is all up to you. I booked it all and it was a little too much for us.
If you are not scared driving fast, ask for William. If you are looking for a well educated, cool and smart guide (his English is perfect) then ask for Dior. No regrets here.
But don’t think too long if you want to visit Cuba, because it is already starting to get crowded.
Please share my post on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram if you like it. Thank you.
If you are interested in cruises, here is the link to the Norwegian Cruise with the Getaway we did 2 years ago. This was a pretty amazing trip too. https://colorfuldesigner.com/first-time-cruisers-on-norwegian-getaway/
And if you like what you are reading, leave your e-mail address here and you will receive my weekly Newsletter:
[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″][/contact-form]