2018 TIMELESS CUBA

Oceania


TIMELESS CUBA: Sailing to Cuba with Oceania Cruises is a journey into the extraordinary. With more time to explore this captivating island, there are countless opportunities for cultural and historical discoveries.

* Explore the Baroque and neoclassical monuments, romantic courtyards and enchanting plazas of Old Havana, protected by its UNESCO World Heritage status
* Admire the neoclassical beauty and fine French stained glass windows of the Catedral de la Purísima Concepción in Cienfuegos
* Visit the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a looming fortress that once protected Santiago de Cuba from pirates and is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its architectural and historical significance


It is only a short 7-night cruise; Oceania is now offering several Cuba trips in 2018, but this is the only one that fits into the rest of the schedule, and isn't padded with un-interesting ports.

Day 1, Wednesday, Oct 3 – Miami (6PM)
It's unusual to start a cruise mid-week but that is the result of major rescheduling for the SIRENA this fall. This morning it is that early flight to Miami again that I've used before successfully. Schedule the shuttle about 4:45.

United UA 1641Houston - Miami7:35AM - 11:00AM2:25

Arrive in Miami, find the Oceania rep, and (transfer pre-booked) embark on the SIRENA - the twin to the REGATTA. My “Cell/stable stall/stateroom” is #4041, deck 4, starboard, far forward and just 165-square-feet but at least it is very Slightly more conveniently located than on that Panama (and Amazon to come) cruise. Hopefully I'll get onboard in time for a buffet lunch. We have the usual pre-departure rigmarole routine and then we head south.

Day 2, Thursday, Oct 4 – Havana (9AM-
Day 3, Friday, Oct 5 – Havana (-7PM)
The door to Cuba’s soul, Havana captivates with its larger-than-life culture, sultry rhythms and weathered beauty. Take a relaxing stroll along the evocative Malecón, the quintessentially Cuban thoroughfare and get lost among the Baroque facades and colonial cobblestone alleys of Old Havana. Visit the grandiose Capitolio Nacional and explore the world-class Cuban art collection at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which showcases everything from colonial-era paintings to countless masterpieces from Cuba’s famed Vanguard Period. Enjoy memorable explorations such as touring one of Havana’s venerable old cigar factories for an inside look at the birthplace of these world-famous cigars and the centuries-old process of how they are made. Sip a daiquiri at Hemingway’s favorite haunt, El Floridita, happen upon a live jazz group and simply savor an unforgettable moment in this unique corner of the world.

EXCURSIONS
THURS AM(HAV-010) The Old Colonial Havana3 ½ hours
THURS PM(HAV-009) An EVENING Stroll IN Colonia Havana3 ½ hours
FRI AM(HAV-012) The History of Defending Havana3 ½ hours / lunch
alternate: (HAV-001) Ultimate Highlights Of Havana - Old & New3 hours

(HAV-010) The Old Colonial Havana 3 ½ hours
Havana, founded in 1519 by the Spanish crown, became one of the Caribbean's main centers for ship-building by the 17th century. Today, it is a metropolis with approximately 2.1 million residents that invites guests to discover a complex mosaic of colors and rhythms, an interesting mix of Baroque, neo-classical and Renaissance architecture, and a wonderful assortment of cuisine to delight the senses. Before departing the pier, you will see the historic Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, created in the 16th century when Spanish galleons stopped by at the harbor on their passage through the Indies to Spain. The plaza underwent a full restoration in the late 1990s and is most significant for its uneven cobblestones and the white marble Fuente de los Leones (Fountain of Lions) carved by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Gaggini in 1836.

Then you will continue on to Havana’s Old Square. This architecturally eclectic square, where Cuban baroque meets Gaudí-inspired art nouveau was first built in 1559 and was originally named Plaza Nueva (New Square). The square was initially used for military exercises but later served as an open-air marketplace, where you can now also see bars, restaurants and cafes. The square has its own micro-brewery, the Angela Landa primary school, a beautiful fenced-in fountain and, on its west side, some of Havana's finest stained-glass windows. Plaza Vieja has had various uses, the last of which was an underground parking lot, but when the city of Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, the square was restored to the historic plaza it is today.

While in Old Square, you will be able to admire the restored colonial buildings from the 17, 18 and 19th centuries and take in the many attractions popular to both Cubans and visitors, like street performances and visual arts. Later on, you will walk down Teniente Rey Street, where you will be able to interact with artists, entrepreneurs, and local experts to learn about the growth of this colonial city in modern times. You will have the opportunity to see historical buildings, art studios and craft markets. Afterwards, you will return to the pier.

Please note: This tour involves walking for the full duration of the tour, mostly in asphalt and cobblestone, and may include a few steps at the paladares. Rain gear and/or an umbrella is recommended.

(HAV-009) An EVENING Stroll IN Colonia Havana 3 ½ hours
Discover Colonial Havana at night and enjoy one of the oldest and most famous bars from around the world in Havana. Before departing the pier, you will see the historic Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, created in the 16th century when Spanish galleons stopped by at the harbor on their passage through the Indies to Spain. The plaza underwent a full restoration in the late 1990s and is most significant for its uneven cobblestones and the white marble Fuente de los Leones (Fountain of Lions) carved by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Gaggini in 1836.

Then you will continue on to Havana’s Old Square. This architecturally eclectic square, where Cuban baroque meets Gaudí-inspired art nouveau was first built in 1559 and was originally named Plaza Nueva (New Square). The square was initially used for military exercises but later served as an open-air marketplace, where you can now also see bars, restaurants and cafes. The square has its own micro-brewery, the Angela Landa primary school, a beautiful fenced-in fountain and, on its west side, some of Havana's finest stained-glass windows. Plaza Vieja has had various uses, the last of which was an underground parking lot, but when the city of Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, the square was restored to the historic plaza it is today. While in Old Square, you will have some free time to walk around and take pictures.

Your last stop of the walking tour will be at Cathedral Square, the last of the main squares to be created in one of Old Havana’s most beautiful spots. Originally named Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square) because of its muddy terrain, it later became one of the city’s most important squares after it was drained and paved and wealthy families moved into the area and began building their mansions there. The square’s main attraction is a Cathedral, notable for its two unequal towers and its framed theatrical baroque façade designed by Italian architect Francesco Borromini. Known as one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, the building was finished in 1787 when the diocese of Havana was created and the church became a cathedral.

Later on, you will take a short panoramic bus tour through the rest of Old Havana. Your final stop for the night will be at the historical Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which re-opened in 2013 after being closed for 48 years. Many say that the well-known Sloppy Joe sandwich is an American staple, while others argue that it came originally from Cuba. According to some, the name of the bar comes from their staple sandwich made with ropa vieja (shredded meat), which literally translates to “old clothes.” And like anyone who has ever enjoyed a sloppy joe knows, the sandwich can get a bit messy when eating, hence the “sloppy”. Also, many of the bar’s English-speaking customers nicknamed the owner, Jose Garcia, Joe. The bar was frequented by many famous figures like the American novelist Ernest Hemingway, the Australian-born actor Errol Flynn and the English novelist Graham Greene. After an enjoyable evening and lively Moo-Sick (music?) at Sloppy Joe’s, you will return to the pier.

Please note: This tour involves some walking, about 15 minutes, mostly in asphalt and cobblestone. Guests are advised to bring their camera.

NEXT (2nd) DAY OPTION:

(HAV-012) The History of Defending Havana 3 ½ hours / lunch
At the entrance of Havana harbor stands El Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, built by the Spanish in 1589 and completed in 1640 to protect the city from buccaneers and pirates. In 1762, the castle was captured by the British under Sir George Pocock. Discover the military architecture of Havana from the XVI to XIX century on a visit to this historical fort. On your way to the castle, you will also have the opportunity to see other examples of colonial military architecture, like The Castle of the Royal Forces and La Punta Castle.

Just like El Morro Castle, The Castle of the Royal Forces was built to defend Havana from invasion from pirates or a rival European power. The Castle of the Royal Force now houses a pottery museum, a café, and a small gift shop. It is the main architectural feature of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana, and remains a poignant reminder of Cuba’s rich history. History tells that La Punta Castle was linked with El Morro Castle via an iron chain during times of uncertainty. In the case of an attack, this chain was tightened up and enemy ships were prevented from entering the bay. After seeing the castles you will have some free time to take pictures and enjoy the most beautiful views of Colonial and Modern Havana.

Later you will go to Cojimar, a fishing village with a great significance. Cojimar is the district where Hemingway docked his boat El Pilar. Not only did he use the town as a base for fishing, but Cojimar was the background for one of his most famous works, The Old Man and the Sea. The ‘old man’ in the title is reputedly his guide Gregorio Fuentes, a Cojimar local. Next, it’s off to lunch in "Café Ajiaco", where you will be able to enjoy authentic Cuban cuisine. After your meal, you will return to the pier.

Please note: This tour involves some walking, mostly in asphalt and cobblestone. The lighthouse at El Morro Castle has a long staircase. The corridors and rooms are very narrow, and there is no lift in the museum. Guests are advised to bring a camera, wear flat/comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Rain gear is recommended

If the above is not available: (HAV-001) Ultimate Highlights Of Havana - Old & New 3 hours
Discover the remarkable history of Havana, Cuba through its massive buildings and notable structures dating back to the 15th century. Colonial Life and modern times are all part of this unforgettable tour of Cuba’s capital, Havana. After departing from the pier, ride through Old Havana where you will have the opportunity to learn about some of the most iconic sites and the history of this charming municipality. You will have a chance to see age-old buildings such as the Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula, one of Havana's most charming churches, fully restored in 2000 and now used as a concert hall. Among the most significant buildings here, you will also see Train Central Station, the main railway terminal in Havana and the largest train station in Cuba, considered a national monument for its architectural and historical values.

At the entrance of Havana Harbor stands El Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, built by the Spanish in 1589 and completed in 1640 to protect the city from buccaneers and pirates. In 1762, the castle was captured by the British under Sir George Pocock. Discover the military architecture of Havana from the 16th to 19th century on a visit to this historical fort.

On your way to El Cristo de La Habana, you will see another military fortress originally built to fill a weakness in the city's defenses – Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña.

Then witness the majestic representation of El Cristo de La Habana, only four decades old, which forms part of the landscape that characterizes the entrance to the Havana harbor. Standing at 65 feet tall, weighing 320 tons, consisting of 67 different pieces, and made of white Carrara marble, the monument was built in Italy by Cuban artist Jilma Madera, and inaugurated on December 25, 1958. History tells that the artist did not use a model as her inspiration but was inspired by what she felt was the definition of masculine beauty. However, legends say that she was inspired by the physique of an old lover.

On your way to the city’s famous Malecón seafront, one of the city's most meaningful and essential Cuban main roads, you will pass through the Túnel de La Habana (Havana’s Tunnel), which links the historic forts on the eastern bank with the ornate Spanish architecture in Old Havana.

From Havana Vieja to the atmospheric streets of Vedado in a comfortable air-conditioned bus you will get a view of the Nacional Hotel, the American Embassy, the University of Havana, the Christopher Columbus Cemetery and the famous corners, parks and plazas of this striking city.

Discover historical sites like the Civic Square, which was later, renamed the Revolution Square in 1959. You will also walk through the University of Havana, located in the Vedado district of Havana. This is oldest university in Cuba, founded in 1728 and one of the first to be founded in the Americas.

Our guide and expert on Cuban architecture will demonstrate the transition from Colonial to Modern times in this panoramic view of the city.

On your way back to the pier you will drive by the Green Tile House, Miramar, the Business Center, and palm tree-lined Fifth Avenue, considered one of the most beautiful avenues in Havana and initially called Avenida de las Américas, here, you will feel the pulse of the emerging economy. You’ll continue on through the Fifth Avenue Tunnel, which connects the Calzada Street, in Vedado, to the Santa Ana River in Santa Fe. The origin of this famous avenue goes back to the early 20th century as a result of the immigration of Havana’s wealthy classes to the west beyond the opening of the Almendares River.

Note: This tour involves minimal walking, mostly on asphalt. The tour has a few stops around the city. Guests are advised to bring their cameras.

Day 4, Saturday, Oct 6 – Cruising the Caribbean Sea – Just #1 of 2

Day 5, Sunday, Oct 7 – Cienfuegos (7AM – 4PM)
Situated in a beautiful bay in the heart of Cuba’s fertile agricultural region on the southern coast, Cienfuegos will quietly charm you with its French spirit, tranquil seaside setting and neoclassical architecture. Known as La Perla del Sur (the Pearl of the South), Cienfuegos was originally founded by French settlers and its city center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Rich in educationally engaging diversions, its historic center features well-preserved 19th-century structures, gorgeous plazas and a layout inspired by the Spanish Enlightenment. Discover the ornate and eclectic Palacio de Valle and take in the stunning views as you explore Punta Gorda, the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset. Step back in time at Teatro Terry with a performance by local artists or discover nearby Trinidad, a remarkably well-preserved colonial town recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and anchored by its impressive Plaza Mayor, an open-air museum of Spanish colonial architecture.

(CFG-005) Guama Giron (OS) 6 ¾ hours Lunch
Experience the natural wonders of southern Cuba by visiting a forested national park where Cuban crocodiles are bred in captivity and a crystal-clear lagoon teeming with brightly colored tropical fish. After departing from the pier, you will enjoy a relaxing drive throughout the countryside to Playa Girón, a small beach named for a pirate that lost his life here in the early 1600s. Nearby you will find Ciénaga de Zapata National Park and its informative Guama Tourist Center.

It is a great place to learn about the vast biodiversity within the surrounding mangrove forests, keys and barrier reefs. The center is constructed in a style using natural materials that emulates buildings built by the Taino, the indigenous people of Cuba.

The park’s protected ecosystem is home to countless birds, including Cuba’s national bird El Tocororo, and a large population of Cuban crocodiles. This critically endangered reptilian species is bred here for release into the wild and to protect its genetic purity.

More natural wonders await you at the Fish Cave, a deep lagoon called a cenote. It is filled with tropical fish that enter from the bay through a subterranean tunnel. The crystal-clear waters are especially popular for snorkeling. For a historical perspective of the area, you will visit the Girón Beach Museum on the infamous Bay of Pigs. As the exhibits depict, it was here in 1961 that U.S.-aided Cuban exiles failed in their attempt to invade Cuba. Lunch follows, after which you will return to the pier.

Day 6, Monday, Oct 8 – Santiago de Cuba (12PM 1- 6PM)
A tropical and energetic cultural epicenter, Santiago de Cuba is the country’s second largest city and has played an instrumental role in the evolution of Cuban music, literature and architecture. Wedged between the looming Sierra Maestra mountain range and the aquamarine Caribbean Sea, the city offers a plethora of rich heritage and cultural diversions amidst a dramatic backdrop. Discover the city’s fascinating history at Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca and the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, where Cuban hero José Martí and Emilio Bacardí Moreau of the famed rum dynasty are both buried. Countless musicians have emerged from Santiago de Cuba including Miguel Matamoros of Trío Matamoros and Sindo Garay, and many say the heart of this thriving city lives in its music scene.

(SCU-001) Colonial Santiago 3 ½ hours
Explore the highlights in and around Santiago de Cuba, including famed San Juan Hill, a 17th-century stone fortress and a park that has become the city’s social epicenter. After departing from the pier, you will enjoy a leisurely drive through vibrant Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city. Ethnically diverse, culturally rich and historically important, the city nestles in a valley at the base of the Sierra Maestra mountain range.

For a deeper understanding of the country’s history, you will visit nearby San Juan Hill, where a decisive battle was won during the Spanish-American War in 1898, effectively ending the Spanish rule of Cuba. American forces including Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and African-American Buffalo Soldiers fought here, as did Cuban troops whose contributions are memorialized with plaques and monuments on San Juan Hill. A ceiba known as the Peace Tree marks the spot where the Spanish officially surrendered.

Your next stop will be Santiago de Cuba’s historical center, a district full of beautiful colonial architecture. At its heart is Céspedes Park, one of the city’s most popular gathering areas. Other highlights nearby include the venerable Hotel Casa Granda, the balconied city hall and the beautifully restored Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba. Before returning to the pier, you will also tour the 17th-century San Pedro de la Roca Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site overlooking Santiago de Cuba Bay. The complex has been heralded as the best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture.

Day 7, Tuesday, Oct 9 – Cruising the Atlantic #2 of 2

Day 8, Wednesday, Oct 10 – Miami (8AM)
Arrive Miami and if not sick from the Cuban food, disembark and head home. There is a nice morning flight but just in case, I had to chose a later flight - and got stuck with this.

United UA 2073Miami – IAH6:50P – 8:45P2:55

SIRENA


For this Oceania Cruise, the ship is the SIRENA, sister ship to the REGATTA from 2016, and the INSIGNIA from the LAX-CANAL-MIAMI trip earlier this year and I will be on it again on the AMAZON trip in less than a month. It carries 684 cattle.

C2-Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom –My “Cell/stable stall/stateroom” is #4041, deck 4, starboard, far forward. The 165-square-foot “Deluxe Ocean View Staterooms are similar to the Regatta and Insignia, but smaller; the size difference (from 216 on the Regatta) is the lack of the veranda. At least it does have a fairly decent view window - larger than the usual porthole. Each stateroom includes a refrigerated mini-bar, and a bathroom with a shower.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom Amenities
* Refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water replenished daily
* Complimentary 24-hour room service
* Wireless internet access

DINING – same as on the Regatta and the Insignia

Terrace Café --- The Terrace Café is inviting any time of day-- dine inside or alfresco at one of the shaded teak tables on the terrace. Open with buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Waves Grill ---- Casual dining on all-American favorites. Waves Grill offers an (not-so) extensive luncheon menu. Watch the chefs grill burgers, tangy barbecue to order in the open galley, accompanying them with side dishes like fresh salads and crispy, fries. Open for limited breakfast, then lunch and afternoon dining only ~11AM – 4PM.

THE SHIP SPECS
* Length: 593.7 feet
* Beam: 83.5 feet
* Cruising Speed: 18 knots
* Guest Decks: 9 of 16
* Cattle Capacity: 684
* Staff Size: 386

OCEANIA (and others?) CRUISES:
Cruise 1 – 2016 Western Caribbean – Caribbean Charisma --- REGATTA, 684 cattle
Cruise 2 – 2016 Eastern Caribbean – Heart of the Caribbean --- RIVIERA, 1250 cattle

Cruise 3 - 2018 Jan Seaswept Breezes --- RIVIERA, 1250 cattle
Cruise 4 - 2018 APR Seaside Sojourn --- MARINA, 1250 cattle
Cruise 5 – 2018 JUN LAX - Miami – East Meets West --- INSIGNIA, 684 cattle
Cruise 6 - 2018 OCT Cuba (8 days) --- SIRENA, 684 cattle
Cruise 7 - 2018 NOV Amazon (26 days) --- SIRENA, 684 cattle

Cruise 8 - 2019 JAN Reefs and Ruins (11 days) --- RIVIERA, 1250 cattle
Cruise 9 - 2020 FEB Allure of the Islands (13 days) --- RIVIERA
Cruise 10 - 2021 to be determined