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Published: August 31st 2017
We boarded the Celestial Crystal in Jamaica for our seven day cruise around Cuba. We were pleasantly surprised to find our veranda cabin very comfortable and that the all inclusive dining and drinks on the ship were above our expectations. We departed from Montego Bay in the evening, our next day spent at sea allowing time to explore the ship. Our first port of call was Santiago de Cuba, included in our cruise were free excursions, these we learnt had been organised to allow Americans to tour Cuba on a "people to people" study tour the only way they were allowed to visit Cuba at this time. We visited the El Morro Castle a UNESCO world heritage site and the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery to witness the changing of the guard outside of Jose Marti's mausoleum and Fidel Castros resting place. At the beautiful town square Ron and I managed to have our first cuban beer on the roof top bar of a historic hotel before heading back to the ship.
The next day we arrived in Havana for an overnight stay, our included excursion took us to the historic military fortress located on the other side of the harbour as
well as a walking tour of the historic Old Havana stopping at El Floridata, one of Hemingway's favourite bars, for a daiquiri. We saw the Capitol building, the Museum of the Revolution, Central Park, the Theatre of Havana and the Revolution Square. In the afternoon Ron and I walked to a local market getting a little lost and soaked through in a tropical storm. As this was our only overnight port we ventured out with Jamaican friends to explore the city, we found a fabulous little bar "cafe Paris" playing amazing Cuban - African jazz, we finished the evening listening to a cuban band back at Floridata. Our second day in Havana was free of tours so we wandered the winding narrow streets in the morning before enjoying a cruise around old Havana in a 1938 Buick convertible in the afternoon. As the ship was not sailing until late we were able to enjoy sunset cocktails on another roof top bar overlooking Central Park listening to a latin band before bidding farwell to this amazing city.
After a relaxing day at sea we arrived Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World heritage site, known as the Pearl of the South. We stopped
at Marti Park Square to see the Triumph Arch, the Pure Conception Church and the theatre Tomas Terry built in 1890, now a national monument. We drove the Cienfuegos promenade by Jagua Bay to reach the Palacio de Valle built in 1913, we finished our tour with cocktails and dancing to a cuban band at the Nautical club overlooking the bay. All the ship crew and entertainment on board had been exceptional, we had also made some lovely Jamaican friends, we both agreed the cruise had been a fabulous way to experience Cuba.
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