Beep Beep, Beep Beep, Beep Beep
I swiped my phone screen to turn off my alarm. It was 5:30am on Sunday, April 23rd, 2017. This is the moment I had been waiting for the past 5 months. My Empress of the Seas sailing was heading into Havana, Cuba for the very first time. I fumbled around my dark interior cabin to keep from waking my family and in the matter of 10 minutes I was showered, grabbed my camera gear and was heading out the door.
My mind was racing and battling my tired body as I walked up the stairs from Deck 7 to Deck 11. Once I got up to Deck 11, I was surprised that there were about 10 people already up on deck since we were originally supposed to be in port at 7am. Most of the people were hanging out in the deck chairs and hammocks so I was able to set up my tripod front and center. It was still pitch black outside with a bright shining star (I later found out that was Saturn supposedly) next to a beautiful, crescent shaped moon. You could see the slight outline of the coastline off in the far distance.
I sat down next to my tripod for about 15 minutes to allow a little time to pass. More and more people started to fill in around me as the sky started to fill with hues of orange and red from the sunrise. When I stepped back up to my camera there was this beautiful shade of color that brought life to the Cuba coastline while still catching a glimpse of the beautiful moon. I think I took about 30 shots trying to get just the right color combination for a photo.
As the sun started to rise we noticed the ship had stopped moving. There was definitely a part of my brain that was panicking just a little bit and drawing to the worst conclusions possible. We waited about 15 minutes when we noticed a small boat coming out to us from the horizon. Apparently, that was our go head and we started sailing into the port. The sun had finally risen into the sky, illuminating the city in all its glory.
As we pulled through, you could see the beautiful Malecon seaway. There you could see the brightly colored classic cars of yesteryear cruising down the streets. There were fisherman waving and a few other citizens starting to gather to watch our ship sail in. You could hear some of the Cubans yelling welcome and waving back to the cruise passengers waving as we sailed by. As we arrived at the Terminal Sierra Maestra, the Capital Building was centered into our sights. We inched closer and closer into our spot in the port on the other side of the MSC Opera.
Once we stopped, there was an electric feeling that swarmed throughout the crowds on the top deck. This is the moment that we had built up to the past 4 days with live Cuban music, onboard educational seminars and Cuban delicacies in the dining facilities. We knew the rest of the world has been able to sail and travel here for years. Now, it is our turn!