Good Morning Everyone!
I hope you enjoyed the change up last week when I decided to write a narrative instead of a review post of the inaugural sailing into Cuba. My goal with this site is to make you feel like you are there through my words, photos and video. I hope that it inspires you to ask questions and give it a try for yourself.
Today’s post will be a review of the walking tour I did through Royal Caribbean. As most of you know I do not typically use cruiseline excursions but since there was a lot of guidelines that had to be followed for this cruise, this is the tour I opted for. I put together a 10 minute overview video of this tour on YouTube as you will see above. That is honestly going to do more than words ever could in describing it. Cuba is just one of those places that sparkle better through photos than words.
We started the day in the Boleros lounge to meet up for our tour. Once our group was ready we disembarked and had to go through customs. This was about a 20 minute ordeal waiting in line followed by a security checkpoint as well. After the checkpoint there are a few little gift shops and an area for currency exchange. Down the stairs is the exit for the terminal where we crossed the street to Plaza de San Francisco. Highlights of places that we saw included:
- Plaza de San Francisco
- Plaza de Armas
- Plaza Vieja
- Capital Area
As much as I was not looking forward to being in a group of people exploring, this actually wasn’t too bad. It isn’t too strict. I definitely wandered a bit to take photos and it was at a slow enough pace where I could easily catch up if I needed to. I loved that this tour took you down some of the side streets in the beginning when we were walking. Those are the areas where you start to see more real culture and unexpected great photo opportunities. The walking portion was about 90 minutes. We then boarded a bus by the Malecon to go to a restaurant. The tour guided continued to point out statues and historical information along the way.
Our restaurant stop was a pleasant surprise because it was not noted in the description of the tour. At this stop we had samples of mojitos, Cuban coffee, rum and cigars. Keep in mind when I booked this tour it was $49 per person. Between the sightseeing and this pleasant little stop, this was definitely worth the money. After our stop at the restaurant we were headed to a store for people to purchase rum and cigars. The first two places were closed (we found this problem quite a bit since it was Sunday).
While we hunted for a shop via bus we were able to see into the deep streets of real Havana. You are reminded that there is more to this country than the beautiful architecture and classic cars in Old Havana. There are crumbling buildings and unsanitary leaving conditions like you will find in any Caribbean country. Remember this is a Communist country and a lot of the citizens live in poverty. I think this is a part of Cuba that you do need to see.
They decided to take us back to the port area for a shop. As we rode back to the port we drove past the Capital area. We did not get out to take photos here so if that is important to you, you made need to go back after. We were dropped back off at the Malecon near the Plaza de Armas. The port is only about a 2-3 block walk from there.
In conclusion, I think these are going to be the best takeaways and tips:
- Take the 8:30am tour (or earliest available). I liked getting my grasp on the area so I could go wander later.
- Mobility Issues. If you have trouble walking or are in a wheelchair, this would not be the tour for you. A lot of the streets are cobble and uneven. There is a 3 hour bus tour that would probably suit your needs much better.
- Exchange Your Money. We were told to wait until after the tour but since it was Sunday, we ran into some trouble with this. We were told hotels could exchange but found out that wasn’t the case near the Plaza de Armas hotel. Based on the amount of time it took people to go through customs, you should have enough time to go quickly exchange your money.
- Be Considerate. There are other people on this tour with you. Stopping to take some photos is fine. However running into shops and holding up your group is not. You will have plenty of time after this tour to walk around. Enjoy what you paid for first!
- Water. Don’t worry about bring a ton of bottled water in your backpack. We received one in Boleros, one on the bus and one at the restaurant!
I hope you all enjoy the video. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns!