Cruises to Cuba - Havana Cuba Cruise Travel Tips
With nearly fifty trips to Cuba under my belt over several years, you have come to the right place for your Havana Cuba cruise travel tips. I started traveling to Cuba before Cuba was a hotspot. Sí sí seńores, before the Rolling Stones, Obama, and even Beyoncé and JayZee traveled to Havana, Cuba, I was adventuring across Cuba leading tours, researching for my book, Cubicle to Cuba, and leaving no stone unturned.
Although there are many ways to travel to Cuba from the United States, I would like to highlight cruises to Cuba and these three easy Havana Cuba cruise travel tips and things to do while you are there.
Havana Cuba Cruise Travel Tips
Many people ask me for my top three cruise travel tips for Cuba. Unlike Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and other Caribbean ports, these are worth paying attention to with great detail.
Cash is KING
Because of the U.S. Embargo (Bloqueo in Spanish), there are NO U.S. debit or credit cards accepted. You will need to bring all the cash that you need with you. You will change your cash whether USD, Euro, Canadian dollars, or other into the tourist money called Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC for short. The exchange rate is the same across the island. You can conveniently exchange your foreign currency in bills to CUC upon disembarkation. Please note that USD is subject to a 10% surcharge or what I like to say is a "jerk tax." Any currency exchange is subject to 3%. So, if you bring USD you are subject o 13%; thus, you receive 87 CUC for $100 or 0.87 CUC for every $1.00. I suggest about $150-$200 per person per day. This is because you will want to take back Cuban cigars (100 per person duty-free), rum (1 liter per person duty-free), and coffee as well as souvenirs ($800 total spending duty-free). Plus, don't forget to tip accordingly about 10 CUC for your guide on a group tour (25 CUC per person if more private), 3-5 CUC for your tour driver, 10% at any bar/restaurant, 10% of taxi fare, and 0.25 CUC for each bathroom.
Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer
Ok, bathrooms are a bit different in Cuba. Although social services such as healthcare and education are free for all Cubans, bathrooms are not. You will find an attendant outside most bathrooms with a small basket to drop in 0.25 CUC or what I call the pee pee coin (shown above). This will allow you 2-3 squares of Cuban toilet paper and entrance into the baño. However, you most likely will not have a toilet seat. So, be prepared to hover. Also, please don't throw the TP in the toilet. The plumbing in Cuba is weak on its best day. Please throw the paper in the basket beside the toilet. Most bathrooms with have a sink with running water, but no hand towels nor soap. That's why hand sanitizer is so important.
You must pack your patience when you cruise to Cuba. There is NO New York minute in Cuba. The once forbidden island is on island time to another level. Be prepared to wait in line to go through passport control at the terminal, once again at security, and even to change your money. Take a deep breath. When you leave the terminal, remember that everything whether a lunch, coffee, or cigar stop takes time. Appreciate the moment and when you are waiting, enjoy yourself by ordering a mojito. It makes the time pass more pleasantly.
Things to Do in Havana's Port on a Cruise to Cuba
Walk the 4 Principal Squares of Old Havana
When you arrive at the Havana cruise terminal, you are arriving at a one-of-a-kind port where within 50 steps you will be walking in a UNESCO heritage site. The first square you will come across is Plaza de San Francisco de Asis. Each square has its own feel and propose. I would suggest you walk from this square to Plaza Vieja (Old Square) to Cathedral Square and end at Plaza de Armas. You will definitely need to gauge enough time for stopping for Cuban coffee, shopping, and of course a mojito along the way.
Ride in a Classic American Car
There is no souvenir that beats riding in an American classic convertible in Havana, Cuba. The best place to catch one is at Plaza de Armas, San Fransico Square, or around the Capitol. Always agree to a price, which is typically by the hour 40-50 CUC for the ride not per person. Enjoy the wind blowing through your hair. I think Ponce de Leon missed the mark because I feel the Fountain of Youth is located in Havana, Cuba. Nothing makes you feel more like a kid again than riding in a convertible around La Habana. (Remember a 10% tip would be appropriate for your ride.)
Enjoy the Essence of Old Havana: music, drinks, and paladares
My favorite street to people-watch, enjoy music, drink an authentic Cuban cocktail, or dance is Obispo Street (Bishop Street). This is very close to the port. Follow it from the water past Plaza de Armas and Ambos Mundos Hotel all the way to Hemingway's La Floridita Bar and the Capitol building. You will stumble upon nearly a dozen live musical performances and many paladares (private restaurants) to take a load off and eat dinner.
Before You Cruise to Cuba Read These Posts as well as Cuba Book, Cubicle to Cuba
Be well-informed by reading these Cuba travel posts & Cuba book Cubicle to Cuba:
- Falling in Love with Cuba - Why You Should Travel to Cuba NOW!
- Five Things You Don't Know About Cuba But Should
- 4 Ways You Can Travel to Cuba in 2018
- Cruise to Cuba with Me Out of Tampa or Miami!
- Grab a copy of Cuba Book, Cubicle to Cuba