Until 1962, Havana was one of the most popular Caribbean destinations. And while today most Americans have never been to Cuba’s capital city, its name still evokes a set of specific images.
From candy-colored vintage cars to smiling musicians playing familiar tropical tunes to cigar-smoking and rum-sipping locals on the famous seaside Malecón, it’s no wonder that for the first half of the century Havana was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean.”
There’s a reason these have become the visual symbols of Cuba’s capital city, but with these six EXC Tours, Holland America Line is giving guests the chance to dive deeper into the culture of the pearl of the Caribbean!
Driving through Havana there is no shortage of art and music, with Cuban artists representing some of the best visual and auditory visionaries in the world. With this EXC Tour, guests will travel beyond the art galleries to see the innovative artists who call Havana home. Guests will visit the Bellas Artes Fine Arts Museum to learn more about Cuban art and styles from an art expert working at the museum. Then, travel to the neighborhood of artist Jose Fuster, who has turned his community into a mosaic playground with every inch of whimsical fantasy inspired by the works of Gaudí and Picasso. After exploring Fuster’s creations, guests will visit the Muraleando community project where local residents have used the arts to improve their impoverished neighborhood. Centered around a 100-year-old water tank, Muraleando offers art, dance and music classes to the children of the community.
During this shore excursion, guests will discover the places that made author Ernest Hemingway fall in love with Cuba. First, guests will travel by bus to Hemingway’s former home, Finca Vigia, and learn about the author’s attachment to Cuba and its people. Guests will then explore the fishing town of Cojimar, which served as inspiration for the novel “The Old Man and the Sea.” There guests will taste a cocktail named in honor of the Pilar’s first mate here. Then heading back to Old Havana, the EXC Tour will take guests to the Plaza de Armas. This is the center of town and is where Papa Hemingway resided when he first moved to Cuba. From the cobblestone streets of Old Havana to the shores of Cojimar, locals like to think that the spirit of Papa Hemingway still lingers in the Cuban air.
Cruisers will have two chances to discover life in the Cuban countryside with a journey to the UNESCO-recognized biosphere area of Las Terrazas, which was developed as part of Cuba’s Green Revolution in the 1960s. Guests will explore the ruins of Cuba’s oldest coffee plantation at Cafetal Buenavista before descending into the heart of the Las Terrazas community. At Terrazas, guests will interact with the doctors who rely on the flora and fauna of Las Terrazas to provide alternative medicines. Learn more about life in this small community at the Museo de Polo Montanez. Visit the vibrant Las Terrazas artist community with its open workshops and enjoy a cup of Maria’s famous coffee. After a morning of cultural exploration, guests will have a chance to relax in the natural pools of the San Juan River.
On this EXC Tour, guests will experience a meeting of the ages as you travel in ’60s style through Havana’s modern neighborhoods. This two-hour joyride in an America classic vehicle shows guests the sights of Havana. Begin with a transfer to the Plaza de la Revolucion, where pastel-colored classic Fords, Chevys and Oldsmobiles greet you with bright chrome smiles that belong to a different era. Guests will feel the breeze in their hair as they ride along the Malecón and through the Vedado and Miramar districts, seeing some of the city’s most famous hotels and embassies. Your English-speaking guide provides narrative and translation along the way. Enjoy free time at the Almacenes San José market to interact with the local souvenir vendors and take you’re your very own piece of Cuban memorabilia.
For the comprehensive “Havana” experience, our “Best of Havana” EXC Tour is for you! With this EXC tour, guests will enjoy the best Havana has to offer, interacting with local Habañeros on this full-day tour that features the Top 10 things to see and do in Havana as well as a delicious lunch. Learn the legend behind El Cristo and explore the well-preserved Fortress de San Carlos de la Cabana. A panoramic drive whisks guests along the Malecón, past the famous Hotel Nacional and the U.S. Embassy. See the Plaza de la Revolucion and visit one of the largest cemeteries in the Caribbean before stopping at Parque Central. There guests will get to snap some photographs of some of Havana’s most iconic architecture, including the Capitol and El Gran Teatro. After seeing the sites, guests will enjoy lunch, with a choice of traditional Cuban favorites, followed by dessert at a popular local restaurant. The tour ends with a visit to Old Havana’s most active squares — the Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de Armas.
Interested in booking one of these EXC Tours for your Cuba cruise on Veendam or ready to learn more about these EXC Tours? Our helpful and user-friendly EXC Tours guide has all of the information to get you exploring Havana!