As a former Spanish Colony liberally painted with French, African, American, Jamaican, Irish and Indigenous Taíno influences, the breadth of Cuba’s heritage is staggering. Important historical heirlooms – forts, palaces, hotels and colonial towns – dominate the Cuban landscape, and many of them are being faithfully restored. Rhythms and melodies are ubiquitous in this melting pot of African, European and Caribbean cultures. It’s like no other place on earth. Join us for an educational 7-day experience in this open-air classroom. Our Cuba Cruise, embarking from Montego Bay, Jamaica, gives you the chance to begin to explore Cuba.
What makes Cuba so unique is its warm, vibrant people, simultaneously welcoming, engaging and sincere, as complex and distinctive as the dense percussion and exultant vocals in their music. Cuba is home to survivors and improvisers, poets and dreamers, musicians and dancers…the people of Cuba have kept the country and its effervescent, seductive culture alive for centuries. Our Cuba Cruise is an opportunity to meet and mingle with these people, to see their day-to-day lives in three dimensions, to ask questions. Cuba remains a unique and paradisaical destination, a captivating anachronism, in a world that seems to become ever-more globalized. We invite you to share it with the people of Cuba and to learn everything you can about this unique island nation.
Cuba Cruise by Celestyal Cruises is an exciting and comfortable way for your clients to experience and learn about the history, landscapes and culture of the real Cuba. Departing from Montego Bay, our 7-night all-inclusive, People-to-People program to Cuba offers unique, interactive experiences both on board and ashore that will inspire inquisitive minds.
Discover the the incredible magic of Cuba as we visit the less-traveled ports of Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, including an overnight stay in the vibrant capital of Havana. On board the intimate 960-guest Celestyal Crystal, your clients will delight in impeccable service, authentic local cuisine, fabulous Cuban nightlife and the warm hospitality of the Celestyal Cruises brand.
Day 1: Arrive in Montego Bay (Jamaica)
Independent arrivals to the cruise terminal. Boarding is between 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm. (Ship sails at 8:00 pm). Please meet your Flo Tours Group Leader in the ship’s conference room for Orientation and Program Welcome at 5:30 pm. This very important briefing will cover our exclusive Flo Tours program of People-to-People activities, OFAC regulations and the cruise itinerary. The soft drink beverage package and all shipboard gratuities are included in your Flo Tours program.
AFTERNOON (45 MINUTES): EMBARKATION BRIEFING (ORIENTATION)
Jorge G. Arocha is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Havana, the oldest university in Cuba and one of the first in the Americas. The University of Havana was founded in 1728 and counts past and present national leaders among its illustrious Cuban alumni. Professor Arocha will sail with us for the entire cruise and will be available to answer any questions you may have about Cuban culture and history, both fascinating and incredibly rich. During this briefing, Professor Arocha will welcome all people-to-people program participants on board. He will then take you through the week’s culturally enriching program.
EVENING (45 MINUTES): “CUBAN HISTORY: VISUAL ARTS IN CUBA” TALK
Cuba is a country with a very diverse culture and the visual arts are no exception. In recent years, a number of distinctive trends have emerged in Cuban visual arts with references to themes and characters based on the Afro-Cuban culture. Professor Jorge G. Arocha invites you to an insightful presentation on board, during which you will have the opportunity to participate in discussions on manifestations of the rich cultural heritage of the country.
EVENING (45 MINUTES): DANCE LIKE A CUBAN: IT’S SALSA TIME!
Cuba is the birthplace of many dances such as Cha-Cha, Son, Danzon, Danzonete, Mambo, Rumba, Salsa, Bolero and many others, all are a celebration of Cuban life and music. Salsa dancing originated in New York in the mid-1970’s. It evolved from earlier Cuban dance forms, such as Cha-Cha-Cha and Mambo and incorporated elements of both swing dancing and disco, which jostled for space on the dance floor with Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean dances such as Guaguanco and Pachanga. Salsa dancers shift their weight with each step, keeping their upper bodies parallel to their feet as if unaffected by the movement of their hips. The Cuban Casino style of salsa dancing involves “up-and-down” shoulder movements and rhythmic twists of the torso. Its rhythms are insistent and infectious; they make it impossible to sit still, so don’t even try! Let our professional Cuban dance instructors take you through all the salsa steps you need to know during the first fifteen minutes of the class. Once you’ve learned the steps, you’ll have the next half-hour to put what you’ve learned into practice with the assistance of our instructors.
Day 2: Santiago
Arrive: 8:00 am / Depart 4:00 pm
Beautiful Santiago de Cuba is the second-largest city in Cuba and the capital of the province of Santiago de Cuba. Santiago is actually closer to the island of Hispaniola (home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti) than it is to Havana, thus a strong current of Afro-Caribbean culture sizzles through its “Avenidas” and alleyways. The Revolution started here, as did Bacardi Rum, salsa and son. Santiago’s rhythm is uniquely its own.
MORNING: “PANORAMIC SANTIAGO” TOUR
We will meet with Dr. Martha Cordie Jackson, a historian and the director of the African Cultural Center “Fernando Ortiz.” Following Dr. Jackson’s presentation we will enjoy a dance performance, and have a chance to speak with the performers afterwards. Next, we will visit three iconic locations. One is a memorial to Antonio Maceo, the “Bronze Titan,” who led two wars for independence before he was slain by Spanish bullets in 1896. The second is San Juan Hill, where Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders defeated the Spanish in 1898 after the USA entered the Cuban-Spanish-American War. Our third visit will be the Moncada Barracks, where Fidel and Raul Castro commenced their 1953 assault on the Batista Regime.
After our tour, you may return to the ship for lunch and relaxation, or you can opt to be dropped-off in the colonial central square of Santiago, home to the city’s cathedral, shops and privately-owned restaurants (called “Paladares”). After walking along the streets of this colonial gem, you can return to the ship on foot or by taxi.
AFTERNOON (45 MINUTES): CUBAN HISTORY “THE BIRTH OF THE NATION (1492-1898)” TALK
Professor Jorge G. Arocha takes you from the discovery of the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus through the Cuban-Spanish-American War in a fascinating presentation about the birth of the Cuban nation.
AFTERNOON (60 MINUTES): OUR CUBAN STAFF WANT TO MEET AND GREET YOU
Share time with our Cuban staff during your week together. Learn about what it’s like to grow up in Cuba, get firsthand insight into their daily lives and develop a real understanding of their culture, their history and their customs. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to know the people of Cuba and hear their stories. Most are comfortable speaking in English but are happy to help you practice your Spanish.
EVENING (60 MINUTES) – DANCE LIKE A CUBAN: IT’S RUMBA TIME!
Rumba is a group of rhythms, music and ballroom dance that originated in Cuba. The name “rumba” is derived from the Cuban-Spanish word “rumbo,” which means “party” or “spree” – Habaneros of African descent used the word as a synonym for party. Rumba is based on African music and dance traditions, namely Abakua and Yuka, and is also derived from the Coros de Clave, which originated in Spain. Cuban rumba comprises the three traditional forms of rumba: Yambu, Guaguanco and Columbia. Our Cuban dance instructors will take you through the steps during the first 15 minutes of class, and then they’ll turn you loose on the dance floor. Get ready to rumba!
Day 3: At Sea
MORNING (45 MINUTES): A TASTE OF CUBA: HOW “MIXING AND MATCHING” CREATES THE MOST MOUTHWATERING DISHES
Join us for a Cuban cooking lesson, one that gives you a chance to discover some of the many “gems” of Cuban Cuisine. You will learn how to take fresh ingredients and create incomparable tastes that burst with the flavors of Cuba. Our chef will show how Creole and Spanish cuisine blend to create the authentic, singular Cuban gastronomic experience. Simple, hearty and incredibly flavorful, you’ll learn what you need to try your hand at cooking these dishes at home.
MORNING (45 MINUTES): “CUBAN CIGARS – THE STORY BEHIND THE SMOKE” PRESENTATION
Cuba is known worldwide for its hand-rolled cigars. If you love cigars, this presentation gives you the opportunity to learn how the country’s beloved “Habanos” are produced! Christopher Columbus is generally credited with the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Three of Columbus’s crewmen on his 1492 journey to the New World are said to have encountered tobacco for the first time on the island of Hispaniola, then again on Cuba. This presentation will give you a comprehensive understanding of the origins of tobacco and how the Cuban cigar industry was born and developed.
AFTERNOON (90 MINUTES): DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT CUBA
Please join us for a full-length, informative documentary about Cuba.
AFTERNOON (45 MINUTES): POPULAR CUBAN CULTURE LECTURE: “EL AJIACO” TALK
This presentation is a general characterization of the Cuban culture, taking the Ajiaco as the main response to the question: What is the Cuban people? “Ajiaco” is the name of an Indian soup of the Taino population. It’s made with sweet potato, yucca root, plantains, corn and meat (beef and/or pork), and several other ingredients. It requires a lot of stock, as well as lemon juice and aji (like the chili, but softer). This is one of the staples of Cuban cuisine. As well, the dish is symbolic of Cuban culture – a diverse mix of different races, accents, religions, and myths of Cuba, all stewed together like the ingredients in the Ajiaco. Professor Arocha will also discuss the geography of Cuba, its national symbols (including the national bird of Cuba, the Tocororo), historical places in Havana and the Spanish spoken in Cuba.
AFTERNOON (45 MINUTES): “RUM DIARY – THE HISTORY OF RUM AND A TASTE OF THE MAGIC” TALK
Cuba is known as the Isle of Rum, thanks to her world-famous sugar cane, her delightful Caribbean climate, her fertile soil, and the unique knowledge of Cuban “Maestro Roneros” (master rum-makers). Cuban rum began as “tafia,” fermented nectar made with the island’s sugar cane and enjoyed by sailors and swashbucklers alike. With the introduction of copper stills in the 19th century, Maestro Roneros took their first shot at aging Cuban rum, and its quality improved immensely. Pedro Diago, the father of Cuban rum, had the idea of storing the “Aguardientes”, or Eaux-de-Vie, in pots and burying them to age. In the second half of the 19th century, the result of these developments was the introduction of lighter, more refined rum, “Ron Superior,” which was requested by the Spanish crown to serve to the Spanish court and to the “Elite of the Empire.” It was so popular that by 1860 Cuba was home to more than 1000 distilleries. Join us for a deeper look into the fascinating history of Cuba’s national drink, and for a taste of some of her finest rums.
AFTERNOON (60 MINUTES): MORE OF OUR CUBAN STAFF WANT TO MEET AND GREET YOU
Get together again with different members of our Cuban staff. Ask them about their experiences growing up and living in Cuba, and answer questions they might have about life in the USA. You should also feel free to ask them whatever questions you have after experiencing the real Cuba in vibrant Santiago de Cuba. Expect to make new friends and hear how they live, play, and work in Cuba.
EVENING (45 MINUTES): LET’S LEARN “CUBAN”
Join Professor Arocha for an in-depth discussion on what makes Cuba different from her Latin American neighbors. Whether it’s the Spanish spoken in Cuba, her literature, her music, her cuisine…Cuba is a singular place, and Professor Arocha will take you on a brief tour of what makes her unique, followed by a question and answer session.
EVENING (60 MINUTES): DANCE LIKE A REAL CUBAN: IT’S CHA CHA TIME!
Everybody loves to Cha Cha Cha! The Cha-Cha-Cha is a Cuban dance created in 1953 by Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrin. The Cha-Cha-Cha is a fast ballroom dance similar to the Mambo – it follows a rhythmic pattern based upon a quick three-step movement, Cha-Cha-Cha. Let us give a bit of the history of Cuban Terpsichore and teach you how to dance an authentic Cha-Cha-Cha!
Day 4: Havana
From all over the city of Havana one perceives a rumor of trees and conversations, of plenitude and freshness. As the Caribbean’s largest and most vivacious city, Havana’s romantic atmosphere and boundless energy are legendary. “Anything is possible in Havana,” wrote British novelist Graham Greene of Cuba’s magical capital. One of the world’s great urban centers, this tough but elegant tropical metropolis is a cosmopolitan cocktail of stirring monuments and festive music. It has few cultural equals.
Habaneros love their city, and it’s easy to see why. Amid the sweet blue waters of the sparkling Caribbean, over five centuries of history have helped shape one of the Hispanic world’s most electric and culturally unique societies. A stomping ground for pirates, a fortified slave port for the Spanish and a gambling capital for the American Mafia, Havana has survived it all. The city has given the world mambo and salsa, mural paintings, Cohiba cigars, Havana Club Rum…Havana is the heart of Cuba, and it beats with unstoppable, celebratory passion.
MORNING (45 MINUTES): THE HISTORY OF HAVANA
We begin our immersion in miraculous Havana with a presentation on board the ship by a historian or architect from the city. There will be time for questions and discussion with our speaker.
MORNING: “THE REAL TASTE OF HAVANA” TOUR
Old Havana and its fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Join us on this tour to experience the majesty of colonial Havana. The city was founded in 1519 by the Spanish, and by the 17th century it had become one of the Caribbean’s main centers for ship-building and provisioning. The old city center comprises a breathtaking mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards. Come meander along the narrow streets of this fascinating city with our expert guide, who will regale you with tales of this magical city’s storied history.
We begin with a walking tour of the historical center of Old Havana (“Habana Vieja”), where we’ll see the Arms Square, the Royal Forces Castle, Saint Fransis of Assisi Square, the Cathedral Square and the Old Square. We’ll visit a graphics workshop, and see local artists at work – you’ll also have a chance to interact with them. Afterwards you can either return to the ship for lunch or discover one of the many private restaurants (“Paladares”) in Old Havana.
AFTERNOON: “MORE OF AUTHENTIC HAVANA” TOUR
We begin our afternoon with a guided bus tour through the 19th and 20th century transformation of Havana into its modern iteration. We will pass by “Paseo del Prado” (the Promenade), the Grande Teatro de Havana and the Capital Building. We will visit the Plaza de la Revolucion, where May Day political marches and Papal masses have taken place. There’ll be time to take photos at the Jose Marti Memorial and at the National Library.
This segment of the excursion traces how Havana grew from the underprivileged sections within its walls, such as Centro Habana and Chinatown, to include the middle class and wealthy neighborhoods, such as Vedado, Nuevo Vedado, Miramar and the International Business Centre, beyond its walls. We’ll see the famed Escalinata (stairway) and the Alma Mater Statue at the University of Havana, La Rampa entertainment zone, the Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor and the Habana Libre Hotel (formerly Havana Hilton) and the famed Nacional Hotel. You’ll also have a chance to purchase authentic Cuban souvenirs and gifts from self-employed artists, craftsmen and vendors at San Jose Market.
The evening is left open for you to experience Havana’s famous night life. Return to the ship for dinner, or sample more of the high quality restaurant scene in Habana Vieja, Centro and Vedado. Join others from the ship at a pre-booked electrifying performance of Opera de La Calle (Opera of the Streets), a nostalgic 50’s style Buena Vista Social Club Show, or the iconic Tropicana Cabaret Show. Enjoy on your own clubs featuring jazz, salsa, regeton, and trovador. Check whether the acclaimed national ballet, symphony and modern dance groups are performing that night. Within steps of the ship in the Basilica de San Francisco, you might find Camarata Romeu in concert, the all women chamber orchestra featured in a PBS documentary.
Optional tours can be pre-booked before cruise (at additional cost).
Day 5: Havana
MORNING (45 MINUTES): “CUBA’S UNCONVENTIONAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS” TALK
Start Day 5 with an introduction to the unique instruments that make Cuban music so distinctive and infectious. Professor Arocha and one of our Cuban musicians will demonstrate a number of traditional Cuban instruments, including bongos, the claves and the tres, Cuba’s famed three-string guitar.
MORNING (90 MINUTES): PERFORMANCE – AFRO-CUBAN MUSIC AND DANCE
It’s morning in Havana. N’Sila Che Che is a performance of Afro-Cuban music and dance on board the Celestyal Crystal by a group of local artists from the Municipal Museum of Regla who are believers in the three dominant strains of Afro-Cuban religion in Havana: Santeria, Palo Monte and Abakua. The performance will be introduced by Dr. Raisa Fornaguera de la Pena, director of the Municipal museum. After the performance, feel free to disembark and continue exploring Havana enjoying its cuisine and people and meeting the Habaneras and Habaneros on your own and return to the ship for lunch.
AFTERNOON: “MORE OF REAL HAVANA” TOUR
After lunch, take some time to familiarize yourself with the modern history of Cuba at the Museum of the Revolution, housed in the former Presidential Palace. Then stroll along the cobblestone streets of Old Havana or see impressive classical and modern art at the Museum of Fine Arts.
EVENING (30 MINUTES): “CUBAN FLORA AND FAUNA” TALK
Cuba is home to 7000 species of plants (half of them endemic), and the country’s fauna is incredible featuring 35 mammal species (24 endemic), 350 bird species (23 endemic), 121 reptiles (103 endemic) and 48 types of amphibian (42 endemic), including the bee hummingbird, the butterfly bat and the Cuban crocodile. Many of these unique plants and animals make their homes in the country’s approximate 3,400 square kilometers of national conservation areas. Join Professor Arocha for a lively presentation about Cuba’s unique ecosystem and its residents.
EVENING (60 MINUTES): DANCE LIKE A CUBAN: NOW YOU CAN!
Come join us for a potpourri of Cuban dances and live Cuban music! Are you ready to Cha-Cha-Cha, Mambo and Salsa? Give it a whirl under the guidance of our expert Cuban dance instructors. Our authentic Cuban band will make it impossible for you to stay away from the dance floor.
Day 6: Punta Frances On The Isle of Youth
ARRIVE: 1:00 PM / DEPART 6:00 PM
Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, is a palm-fringed oasis of sugar-sand and clear water amidst banana fields, orange groves and tobacco plantations. We anchor off the island and transfer to the beach. This is a glorious beach of pure white sand surrounded by crystal clear warm waters – perfect for snorkeling. Enjoy a day at the beach in the sunshine, listen to music, look for shells or just explore. Today you’ll have a day to discover Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, and her natural wonders at your own pace.
AFTERNOON (60 MINUTES): NATURE & ADVENTURE
In the beginning everything was like this…. Privileged by nature, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) is unparalleled in its natural beauty and is ideal for exploration. A jewel within the Canarreos Archipelago, this island of singular attractiveness is considered one of the best for snorkelling due to its virgin beaches and beautiful shallow untouched coral formations with an amazing variety of fish.
Day 7: Cienfuegos
ARRIVE: 8:00 AM / DEPART: 3:00 PM
Cienfuegos, “The Pearl of the South,” was founded in 1819. Situated on the Caribbean coast of southern-central Cuba at the heart of the country’s sugar cane, mango, tobacco and coffee production area, the town first developed in the neoclassical style – it became more eclectic as it grew but still retained a harmonious overall towns-cape.
MORNING: “SEE THE BEST OF CIENFUEGOS” TOUR
Our first stop is the University of Cienfuegos, where we’ll have a rare opportunity to interact with the university’s dynamic and engaging professors – they are looking forward to sharing insights about their city with you, both its storied history and its future. We’ll then visit the Plaza de Armas, the traditional central square of Cienfuegos, and the magnificent Teatro Thomas Terry. Built between 1887 and 1889 to honor Venezuelan industrialist Tomas Terry, this 950-seat opera house and theater is decorated with marble and hand-carved Cuban hardwoods. Don’t forget to look up for a view of the theater’s ceiling frescoes. We will also visit the Graphic Society of Cienfuegos, where we’ll view prints and meet with the artists who offer programs for children with special needs., You may either conclude your visit seeing the unique architecture of the Palacio de Valle and return to the ship for lunch or stay in the Plaza de Armas to savor a meal in a local Paladar and explore Cienfuegos on your own.
AFTERNOON (45 MINUTES): “CUBAN HISTORY – THE MUSICALITY OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE” TALK
Professor Arocha will give a presentation about the musicality of the Cuban people. Bolero, Cha-Cha-Cha, Guajiras, Mambo, Rumba, Sones, Trova…how can one island produce so much music, so much dance, all of it beloved the world over? Professor Arocha will discuss the African and European influences in Cuban music and how this vibrant music has become so central to Cuban life.
AFTERNOON AFTER DEPARTURE (60 MINUTES): OPEN DISCUSSION OF YOUR PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXPERIENCE
This is an opportunity to ask questions and reflect on your experience in Cuba with Professor Arocha, with our Cuban crew and with any of the American staff accompanying you.
EVENING (45 MINUTES) – MAKE YOUR OWN CUBAN COCKTAIL
Try a real mojito, and then learn the history of this fabulous and refreshing cocktail. Some historians believe the African slaves who worked in the Cuban sugar cane fields during the 19th century were instrumental in the cocktail’s origin – guarapo, the sugar cane juice often used in mojitos, was a popular drink amongst the slaves, who came up with the name of this sweet nectar. Our Cuban mixologists will teach you how to make the best Cuban cocktails while taking you through the rituals, stories and urban myths behind these drinks.
EVENING (60 MINUTES): DANCE LIKE A CUBAN
Our final Cuban dance party! Come join us for a real fiesta! You’ll have a chance to use everything you’ve learned about Cha-Cha-Cha, Mambo, Salsa…expect a late night.
Day 8: Montego Bay
Disembark in Montego Bay at 8:00 am.