For decades, Cuba has been many of American’s most coveted destination — the beautiful time-capsule country has always been so far out reach, visiting only seemed possible in a dream. However, with regulations recently changing we’ve found it’s not only possible to visit Cuba, but it’s actually easy and affordable!
With Holland America, Americans — and travelers from all over the world! — now have the opportunity to explore this island stopped in time effortlessly.
The Easiest Way for Americans to Visit Cuba
When I learned of Holland America’s Cuba cruise I was immediately excited; the thought of going through the visa approval process always seemed daunting, but the process of obtaining the visa through the cruise line was shockingly simple and straightforward. I didn’t have to arrange my own paperwork, and allowing Holland America to take care of it all ensures everything is done right.
There was also the question of how I would qualify for a tourist visa — after all, the options for Americans are limited. Thankfully, the cruise’s organized day tours qualify for the United States’ “People-to-People” visa requirement. In short, attempting to legally (and correctly) complete this process on my own would have likely been a headache had Holland America not taken it off my hands.
Because the cruise departs from Florida’s Ft. Lauderdale port, U.S. citizens and foreign travelers alike abide by the same U.S. regulations — this includes a 6 hour (minimum) “People-to-People” experience. Fortunately, the cruise’s tour options all fulfill this requirement and are so colorful and immersive anyone would want to do them anyway!
Just after we pulled into Havana, we embarked on our American Classic Car tour by way of an awesome blue Chevy Deluxe. The tour itself was an all-in-one package full of history, dancing, and plenty of photo ops! Of course you’ll want to explore on your own for a bit, which you can do plenty of by taxi or walking around the Old Town area just steps from the port. You’re allowed to bring back cigars and one bottle of rum, so be sure to do your shopping here!
The following day the ship docks in Cienfuegos, where you can visit the botanical gardens, enjoy dance lessons, or take a day trip out to the colorful city of Trinidad as we did! The guided tour was highly informational, though it was talking to the overly friendly locals that really brought this cobblestone old town to life.
The cruise also makes a final stop at Georgetown, Grand Cayman — the seaside city known for its plentiful stingrays! Coast through stunning turquoise waters until you reach the sandbars called home to more stingrays than I could ever count. You can swim with them, hold them and even give them kisses.
On Board Holland America’s Veendam
Even at sea, you’ll get a taste of Cuban culture before you even step foot on land; listen in on informative talks for every port, which cover everything from what to expect of your destinations to Cuban slang lessons to nightly story-times that tell of Cuban tales and history. Not only are Cuban-inspired dishes expertly executed and served daily, but there are also near-daily cooking demonstrations that demonstrate how to cook the chef’s Cuban cuisine yourself.
Choosing a cruise to Cuba means you won’t have to lug your suitcase around and you’ll only have to unpack once — even though you’ll get to experience two different cities in Cuba! With 7-day Cuban cruises starting at just $759, it’s easily one of the most affordable ways to visit this gorgeous country.
It’s also worth noting that the crew onboard is exceptionally warm and happy; it is very obvious the staff is like family, and treats the guests as such too.
Future Planning for Cuba
Holland America’s Veendam ship will sail to Cuba this Fall of 2018, as well as Fall of 2019. Next January and March of 2019, the Veendam will also sail multi-national expeditions — both to include Cienfuegos as a stop. If I had one piece of advice at the end of all of this, it would be to take advantage of this opportunity now as there’s no way of knowing if or when US regulations will change!