Cuba li­bre

The Car­ribbean hotspot

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

The largest is­land in the Caribbean, Cuba of­fers a heady mix of ex­pe­ri­ences: sun­bat­tered colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture, salsa beats drift­ing from ev­ery bar and al­ley, clas­sic cars, and rev­o­lu­tion, of course! Then there’s the so-called Cuban mar­riage of cof­fee, cigars and rum, and the hos­pitable, easy­go­ing Cubans them­selves.

All of this meant that there was a real swirl of an­tic­i­pa­tion for our

8am ar­rival as we crowded the deck of Hol­land Amer­ica’s MS Veen­dam to watch the ap­proach. With the sun glint­ing on the city’s sea­side prom­e­nade (the Malecón), fish­er­men, dog walk­ers and early-morn­ing jog­gers waved hap­pily at us.

The ship spends long enough in port that af­ter a day of sight­see­ing you can re­lax on board be­fore head­ing back into Ha­vana at night. Take in the old-style glam­our of the show­girls at the Trop­i­cana Club or go to Gran Teatro de La Ha­bana, home to the Cuban Na­tional Bal­let.

The added ap­peal of our Au­then­tic Cuba cruise is that you also get a sec­ond Cuban port of call: Cien­fue­gos, with its beau­ti­ful pas­tel-coloured neo­clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture and or­nately dec­o­rated Tomás Terry Theatre.

As MS Veen­dam is an Amer­i­can ship, US rules on vis­it­ing Cuba mean all day­time ex­cur­sions have to in­volve an ed­u­ca­tional, peo­ple-to-peo­ple el­e­ment, but these do of­fer some­thing unique.

There’s also a stop on the Caribbean is­land of Grand Cay­man for some sun, sea and sand on its seven-mile-long beach, as well as two days at sea, cruis­ing to and from Fort Lauderdale, which al­lows plenty of time to en­joy the ship with its teak prom­e­nade deck, wooden steamer chairs, el­e­gant atrium, Green­house Spa and mix of bars and restau­rants. To add to the cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence, a show­ing of

Buena Vista So­cial Club plays in the ship’s movie theatre and there’s also a rum-in­spired cock­tail list. As the hit song by Cuban-amer­i­can singer Camila Ca­bello so aptly puts it: ‘Half of my heart is (still) in Ha­vana, ooh na-na!’

Hol­land Amer­ica Line (hol­lan­damer­ica.co.uk) of­fers a 10-night Au­then­tic Cuba cruise on MS Veen­dam de­part­ing Fort Lauderdale on 4 Jan­uary 2019 from £2,149pp, in­clud­ing flights and a one-night pre-cruise ho­tel stay.

The large is­land is blessed with beau­ti­ful beaches Dis­cover Cuba’s larger-than-life cul­ture Xanadu Man­sion of­fers sweep­ing sea views Clas­sic Amer­i­can cars dot the vi­brant streets

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