The Carribbean hotspot
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