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10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Oakland, California
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10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Having just returned from Havana (a stop on the Norwegian Sun cruise line) I wanted to share some insights about what to expect.

1. you do NOT need to book a tour from the Norwegian Sun cruise ship. In fact you will be ripped off! They make it seem like you must book with them or get stuck on the ship. Not so. We lucked out when a friend recommended a US-based tour operator (Vaya Travels - http://www.vayatravelstocuba.com/) who have lots of connections in Cuba. Our tour was very personal, it included a 3 hour tour in a vintage car, guided tout of the Art museum, walk around old town, lunch, dinner, and a night club where Cuban singer Haila was performing. It was brilliant, and cost less than one of the Norwegian tours on its own (while it was actually about 5 of them all stitched together!).

2. take currency other than US dollars (we took Euros) since you avoid the tax they put on USA $ (you can order Euros from any USA bank)

3. If you have a non-USA ATM card take it (you can use it, you cannot use a USA ATM card)

4. Give your left-over CUC money (Cuban money for tourists) to your guide - s/he will appreciate it more than you will if you were to change it back! And always tip them and invite them to join you for drinks, lunch or dinner

5. Get small change (coins) asap so you can give them to the toilet attendants (they have attendants at the art museum and at night clubs), and also to people who check your coats/bags (art museum) and people on the street who pose for a photo, etc.

6. Pack mosquito repellent, wipes and toilet paper - these you will need! And bottled water.

7. Only drink bottled water (unless you're used to the Cuban water then you're ok)

8. Ice is ok in the good restaurants (you can ask if it is filtered), and the rum is divine!

9. It takes time to get off the cruise ship (if you arrive by ship) so get a ticket to get off the boat as soon as possible. Norwegian starts to give out tickets about an hour before the first person is allowed of. Our group was number 3 and we were able to meet our guide an hour after the boat docked. Later groups (there are over 20 groups typically) will mean a much later start.

10. Don't turn your cell phone to roaming or take off airplane mode until you LEAVE the ship - the ship's internet will kick in and you will get a charge on your room without realizing it!

I hope this helps - Have a great trip!

7 replies to this topic
Dartmouth, Canada
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1. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Glad you had a good trip, people on cruises don't have to have any tours, ship arranged or otherwise, people can just go around on their own, most people from the US find no benefit from changing US$ to other currency before going to Cuba

Norfolk, VA
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2. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Glad to see an advocate for cruise passengers not booking excursions with the cruise line. And glad you enjoyed your trip.

Regarding #10, don't take your phone off airplane mode in Cuba, whether on the ship or off, unless you want a whopper roaming bill. That is, unless you have a wifi card and are at a wifi park.

Also, I agree with @1. " no benefit from changing US$ to other currency before going to Cuba." You paid exchange fees twice. I spent 12 nights in Cuba in April and found no valid reason to exchange for another currency prior to departure. I exchanged USD as I went and came home with leftover USD.

Sounds like you had a great tour. It sounds really diverse and a 3 hour tour in a classic car must have been awesome!

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3. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Thank you for your update. wE are looking forward to this same excursion June 25. The only question I have, was the language spoken by the guide. Is english understandable? Could you also share the name of the guide you had?

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

I'm jealous - Haila is my favourite Cuban singer.

Panama City, Panama
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5. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Haila sat in the row in front of me at the premiere of the film “El Benny”.

Edited: 07 June 2018, 08:13
Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

I'm jealous of you also Beardo

Oakland, California
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7. Re: 10 tIps for visiting Havana Cuba (via cruise ship)

Yes, you're correct that you can walk around and do a "self tour" in Cuba without needing a tour guide. We opted for the guide and were happy to have done so since we gained lots of insights into the school/education system, their food supply and home life, as well as being taken to inside where people live, and assisted with taxis to places outside of the city center. Plus at night in the club it was reassuring to have a local with us (our club was off the beaten track and we were 2 of only 4 non-Cubans that night). We also got to see Santeria ritual in the park. Most fascinating.

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