Cuba Cruises Flourish

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Group IST's Havana to Cienfuegos 8-day itinerary features unique excursions where guests can rub shoulders with local citizens.
Group IST’s offers an 8-day Havana to Cienfuegos itinerary.

Cuba is located just 90 miles south of the United States, but due to stringent travel restrictions the island has been out of reach for most Americans until now. The United States government recently eased travel restrictions to Cuba allowing travel providers to offer Americans even more opportunities to explore the once isolated island. Here, we highlight some of the sailings to Cuba.

Havana to Cienfuegos
Group IST recently announced new sail dates for its 8-day people-to-people cruise of Cuba beginning December 2015. The 100-passenger (women only) Panorama and Panorama II small ship cruises sailing the Havana to Cienfuegos itinerary take guests from the bustling streets of Cuba’s capital, Havana, to the city of Cienfuegos on the island’s southern coast. An onboard interpretor accompanies guests on each cruise to aide in communication between American tourists and the Cuban citizens. Guests will have plenty of opportunities to engage with local historians, artists, and preservationists, as well as religious leaders, educators, and musicians during shore excursions to museums, private art galleries, and community centers, as well as concerts, schools, and religious and ecological centers.

Guests fly to Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) in Havana from Miami International Airport (MIA), then set out for a panoramic bus tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana), where they’ll taste local delicacies for lunch at a paladar restaurant followed by a musical fiesta on board with entertainment by the Cuban trio Carpe Diem. The following days are filled with trips to Patragas Cigar Factory, Cuba’s largest cigar factory; Finca El Divino, a restaurant serving food produced through Cuba’s urban farming initiative; and Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s former home in Havana. There are also visits to Los Laurelos, a local restaurant featuring fine cuisine and salsa dancing; the Graphic Arts Workshop in Cienfuegos; and a farmer’s market. In Maria La Gorda, a province located on the western tip of Cuba, guests tour the community of La Bajada; visit a local school to meet the children and their teachers to discuss the Cuban and USA education systems; and explore Guanahacabibes National Park, one of the country’s largest nature reserves. Guests also make a pit stop in Trinidad to soak up the Spanish colonial city’s culture through tours of churches and plazas. Departures are available now through April 2016. Rates start at $4,899 pp and include all meals from arrival in Cuba to breakfast on the day of departure, plus mandatory Cuban medical insurance and transportation as per itinerary. For more information, visit groupist.com/cuba.

Guests on Central Holidays and Celestyal Cruises' Cruise Around Cuba itinerary have the opportunity to dance with Havana’s Danza Chevere troop.
Central Holidays and Celestyal Cruises’ offer the all-inclusive Cruise Around Cuba itinerary.

Havana to Santiago de Cuba
Central Holidays
, together with Celestyal Cruises, has launched a 9-day people-to-people cruise aboard Celestyal Crystal. This new all-inclusive Cruise Around Cuba itinerary explores the Caribbean’s rich cultures, delicious cuisines and unique locales in Old Havana, Maria La Gorda, and Cienfuegos, as well as Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The first port of call in Old Havana takes guests on a guided walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site’s plazas, arts center, and historic colonial buildings. Guests are also introduced to a local architect who shares the city’s preservation and ongoing restoration plans. After an onboard dinner, guests head back out to the city for a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Arte Corte community project, and they participate in a traditional Cuban dance class led by Havana’s Danza Chevere troop. Shore excursions in Maria La Gorda include a visit to the International Diving School and free time to spend at the beach. In Cienfuegos, guests enjoy a private performance by the Choir of Cienfuegos; view a collection of colorful murals painted by Trazos Libres Project artists; and dine at Club Cienfuegos, a restaurant featuring traditional Cuban food and coastal views. History comes alive in Santiago de Cuba with a guided tour of the Moncada Barracks (the location of the first attack during the Cuban Revolution) and a trip to the Society of Tumba Francesca de la Caridad del Oriente, a musical institution whose origins trace back more than 140 years. While in Santiago de Cuba, guests also meet with the group’s president and watch a Tumba Francesca (an Afro-Cuban dance, song, and drumming) performance.

As a bonus, guests spend one day in Montego Bay where they can shop and tour the Greenwood Great House, a former sugar plantation dating back to 1831; and Falmouth, a well-preserved Georgian town. Rates start at $2,999 pp dbl including roundtrip airfare between Miami and Havana, all meals as outlined in the itinerary, a Cuban visa, and Cuban health insurance. Guests who book by Sept. 30, 2015 receive $150 worth of savings off Ocean View staterooms on departures from December 2015 through April 2016. For more information, call (800) 539-7098 or visit latinamerica-vacations.com.