¡Bienvenido a Cuba! From the cultural sites to the delightful bites, there is something for everyone in this sunny, Caribbean locale. The recent changes to U.S.-Cuba travel policy have made it so that more Americans can experience Cuba for themselves. Cruising with Holland America Line is a great way to take advantage of this opportunity, as we make it easy and convenient to dive beneath the surface of this culturally rich destination. If you are booked or considering a cruise to Cuba, here is a list of frequently asked questions to help you navigate your travels with Holland America Line.
How will recent announcements on U.S. Cuba policy changes impact cruises to Cuba?
Guests who made their booking on or after June 16, 2017, will no longer be permitted to engage in “self- guided” people-to-people travel. Instead, guests disembarking in Cuba must participate in group people-to-people programs sponsored either by Holland America Line or a third-party U.S. sponsoring organization and do not qualify for the other authorized categories of travel to Cuba. Guests who booked their cruise prior to June 16, 2017, may continue to travel under the self-guided people-to-people program.
Will all guests be required to have a passport to travel to Cuba?
Yes, all guests (including international guests) will be required to have a passport. Guests cannot travel to Cuba with a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport card. Passports must be valid for six months after their travel to Cuba.
Will guests be required to have a visa to enter Cuba?
All guests are required to obtain a visa in order to enter Cuba. The type of visa that a guest will need will depend on certain factors, including the reason for travel to Cuba. Most guests will be able to enter Cuba utilizing a “Tarjeta Turistica” (or “tourist card”) visa. Guests will purchase the “Tarjeta Turistica” from Holland America at a cost of $75 per person. This fee will be added to your onboard account. Holland America Line will distribute this visa during embarkation and guests will be responsible for providing their visa to the Cuban authorities upon arrival in Cuba. If a guest loses their visa, they will be able to purchase a new visa onboard at an additional cost of $75.
How do the people-to-people programs work?
People-to-people programs are a permitted category for U.S. guests to visit Cuba. These programs must include a full-time schedule of activities that will create educational interactions between guests and the Cuban people. Activities can include EXC Tours (shore excursions) offered by Holland America Line. We have many exciting tours in Havana and Cienfuegos.
Holland America Line offers shore excursion programs that fully comply with all the requirements for people-to-people programs. In planning activities ashore, guests should keep in mind that people-to-people activities must be fulfilled before guests can engage in free time. Evening shore excursions offered by Holland America Line do not currently comply with the people-to-people guidelines and cannot be considered to be part of the required full schedule of activities.
If my cruise stays in Cuba overnight, do I have to engage in people-to-people activities both days?
Yes. For Day 2, any guest who wishes to get off the ship will need to participate in a people-to-people activity/shore excursion. They cannot rely on the prior day’s people-to-people activities for the next day. For those sailings that depart at noon on Day 2, guests wishing to get off the ship will need to participate in 2-3 hours of people-to-people activities.
How much free time is there?
After completion of a full-time schedule of people-to-people activities, guests are free to explore as they wish.
What are guests allowed to bring back from Cuba?
Guests are generally authorized to bring into the United States merchandise acquired in Cuba for personal use and/or consumption as accompanied baggage including Cuban cigars and rum. While there is no limit on the value of the goods that may be brought back from Cuba for personal use, goods brought back to the United States from Cuba as accompanied baggage are subject to the normal customs value limits on duty and tax exemptions for merchandise imported.
What currencies are accepted in Cuba?
There are two types of currencies in Cuba: CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) and CUP (Cuban Peso). The CUC is the currency used by tourists while the CUP is used by locals. Guests can exchange money to convertible pesos (CUC) at the terminal in Havana, as well as in hotels, banks and exchange offices. Guests are highly encouraged to carry enough cash for the day when disembarking the ship. Guests cannot exchange CUC back to the U.S. Dollar (USD) once in the U.S. so all remaining currency should be changed back to USD prior to leaving the last Cuban port.
What about using credit & debit cards in Cuba?
While U.S. guests are now technically allowed to use U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba where they are accepted, most U.S. banks have not yet finalized arrangements for credit card transactions in Cuba and most places do not accept credit cards. Please check with your card provider to determine if they have established access in Cuba. It is recommended that guests bring cash and do not rely on credit cards.
For more information about travel to Cuba, take a look at Holland America Line’s full Cuba Q & A.