Sunday, March 5, 2017

Might be going to Cuba - May 2018

I have long wanted to go to Cuba and as a Canadian there are no restrictions on us travelling to that country BUT because I won't fly it has been virtually impossible - yes I know that you could get there by cruise ships but these sail from American home ports and to my knowledge I couldn't get off a cruise ship in Barbados - go to Cuba and then re-board another one in Barbados to get back to the US mainland.

Well that has all changed but the recent easing of restrictions for US citizens to visit that country.

The cruise ship industry saw the light and has received permission to sail to Cuba with certain conditions which technically don't apply to us Canadians - like the reason for visiting - educational and noting where and what you learned - but which the cruise ships are requiring of all passengers but there is little proof that is is been enforced by DHS officials but that could change.

Let's fast forward a little bit - I recently booked a 15 day Panama canal cruise on the new Norwegian Bliss which sails from Miami in May 2018 and had a brain fart the other week - if I am in Miami why not see if I can come in a few days early and do a Cuba cruise before boarding - most Cuba cruises are either from the Ft Lauderdale/Miami or Tampa ports so it seems fairly logically to do.

Norwegian would be my first choice as I have lots of perks with them - they offer a 4 day to Havana from Miami with an overnight in Havana - but they are only showing sailings until the end of 2017.

RCL has some offerings as well but nothing into next year.

Carnival has some 4 day day sailings from Tampa including one in May of next year - that one would work - I would spend a night in Tampa post cruise and then train it down to Miami for two night before boarding the Bliss - an alternate would be to head to Orlando for a day and take in Disney World and then train down to Miami - there are two trains a day to Miami so some options there.  Carnival isn't a preferred cruise line for me.

Will continue to check the cruise lines web sites for sailings and have my TA looking as well - they often get advance notice of bookings before they hit the public web sites.

What to expect in Cuba - despite what you hear - you are free to travel and take pictures except of military etc - this is true for many countries.

Yesterday I attended an outdoor adventure travel show and there was a booth on Cuba - had a lengthy chat with a very knowledge person about travel to Cuba.

Some things I learned and this pertains to Canadians.

1. Do you need a Visa? Canadian - No - but you will a tourist card. It will usually be set up for you by the cruise line.

2. Canadian money is accepted in Cuba - when you change it into Cuban $$$ there is no tax or transaction fee like on the US $$$. The exchange rate is based on the US$$$ so expect about a 30 -35 % exchange rate.

3. You are free to tour on your own and most people will welcome and help you see the country.

4. English is the second language so most will know some and most in the tourist industry are fluent.

5. You need proof of medical coverage and this is important to us Canadians - while your provincial health care card is proof - check and see if they will cover you in Cuba - apparently here in BC they won't - this could change over time as more people travel - if you have extended coverage - Blue Cross - Sun Life etc check and ensure that they cover you - otherwise you will need to purchase - you can't enter the country and likely not able to board the ship if you can't provide proof.

As travel to Cuba is continuing to evolve this information should be considered current as of the time of this post.

More to come at a later date.



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