Recently opened to American travel, the island of Cuba is a beautiful cruise destination filled with colorful architecture, a storied history, and remarkable traditions.
But whether you’re planning to tour the grand fortresses, hike a national park, or enjoy authentic food and fun with the locals when you’re cruising to Cuba, you’ll need to know the special laws and regulations of Cuba before you disembark.
In this post, we’ll give you a brief overview of what the Cuban Embassy requires and introduce you to some of the best things to see and do on the island.
How to Cruise to Cuba
Let’s get cruisin’!
Do You Need a Passport?
Yes. The Cuban government requires U.S. travelers have a valid passport to enter Cuba.Â You must have had a passport for six months prior to travel. A driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport card is not accepted in place of a passport.
Do You Need a Cuban Visa?
Yes. All passengers need a Cuban Visa. While there are several types of Cuban Visas, the best visa for cruise passengers is the People-to-People Programs Visa. Many cruiseÂ liners help theirÂ guests get them.
TheÂ People-to-People programs are one of the easiest ways to get approved to visit Cuba. It was created for tourists to have an educational experience with the locals.
However, these regulations require that guests have a full schedule of activities planned where they can engage in educational interactions with the Cuban people.
Shore Excursions Make It Easier to Qualify
An easy way to do this is by contacting a shore excursion company. Your cruise company can help you with this.
Cruise companies regularly work with particular shore excursion and tour companies and are used to doing this for U.S. travelers. For more details, check with your selected cruise company.
How to Self-Certify
You can also self-certify. If you choose to self-certify, you must prove you are participating in a full schedule of cultural or educational activities with the Cuban people.
If you self-certify, you must also document all your educational activities in a journal.Â
How to Shop When You’re Visiting Cuba
You can go shopping in Cuba. However, visitors to Cuba can only purchase items for personal consumption. This means they can’t buy items that they plan on bringing back to the states to sell for profit. Your items must fit in your baggage.
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While the country does not have a limit to what you can bring back, your items will be subject to the validÂ U.S. customs value limits on tax and duty exemptions for the merchandise imported.
Can You Use Credit Cards or Cash?
It’s best to use cash in Cuba. You will need to exchange your money at the cruise terminal or a bank for Cuban currency called Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
If your cruise has an overnight stay in a hotel, you can change currency in most hotels.
While the U.S. government permits cruisers to use their credit and debit cards in the country of Cuba, most U.S. banks don’t work with Cuban banks. So, your credit cards may not work. Bear in mind, most merchants in Cuba work on a cash-only basis. Now for the fun!
Things to Do in Cuba for an Authentic Cuban Vacation
While there will be many onboard activities to do on your cruise ship, there’s nothing like experiencing the traditions on land!
1. Smoke a Cuban Cigar
When vacationing in Cuba, it’s a must to experience real Cuban cigar. You can find them in many stores and for under $1 on the streets of Havana.
You’ll notice the difference in taste when you smoke a Cuban Cigar. Many cigars come right off the tobacco farms.
2. Experience a Real Mojito
You might have had a good mojito in America. But it will never match a fresh mojito from Cuba. In most establishments, you can get them for $2 each.
3. Take a Drive in a Classic Car in Havana
You’ll see classic cars all over the streets of Cuba. When you get a taxi, it’s highly likely it will be a classic American car from the ’50s.
Take an hour tour of the city and visit the museums, ride through the Square, and see all the colorful grand architecture everywhere.
4. Take a Dip in a Cenote
Dip your toes in a Cuban cenote. They are like sinkholes that contain groundwater. It’s a great way to cool downÂ on a hot afternoon.
There are only a few places in the world that have cenotes. And Cuba is one of them. And Cuban people love to swim in them.
5. Dance, Dance, Dance
Cuban people appreciate live music. And they love to dance to it. Many bars in Havana feature live music.
And the dancing often carries out into the streets. Join in the fun with the locals while you dance and laughÂ the night away under the stars.
6. Grab Cuban Rum and Head to the Beach
Cuba is known for their tasty rum. Most locals prefer Havana Club rum. And it’s served in most drinking establishments. If you want the true local experience, try Cuban Rum in a box.
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You can find it in many cafeterias, stores, and shops in Cuban cities. You can pick up a small box, the size of a juice box, for around fifty cents in a nearby shop.
After you’ve got your Cuban Rum, head to the beach and catch the waves, some sun, or the sunset.
7. Disco in a Cave
In Trinidad, you can party late into the night at the club Disco Ayala. The club is located inside a real cave!
It’s one of the most awesome things to experience in Cuba. Enjoy performances by acrobats, fire dancers, and more!
8. Ride a Bull Through a Tobacco Field in Vinales
In Western Cuba in Vinales, you’ll find many tobacco fields. That’s where they harvest the tobacco for those delicious Cuban cigars. You’ll also find great places to hike and caves to explore in this region.
Ride through the fields on a horse or a bull. And make sure to take plenty of pictures!
9. Walk the Cobblestone Streets of Trinidad
Check out the stunning Spanish colonial town of Trinidad. Here’s you’ll discover a UNESCO world heritage site in the older side of town.
Walk the cobblestone streets and take in the breathtaking sights. Around every corner, you’ll find a beautiful shot waiting to be photographed.
10. Visit Topes de Collantes National Park
Topes de Collantes National Park is situated on the outskirts of Trinidad in the Escambray Mountains range. This beautiful national park is home to a huge nature preserve.
Hike through coffee plantations. Explore rushing waterfalls. Go horseback riding. Or go on an ecological walk. Guests can travel through the park by horse or take a large 4×4 vehicle.
Final Thoughts On Cruising to Cuba
When you’re cruising to Cuba, the world is your oyster. Cruise travel to Cuba has never been this easy!
Enjoy nature, view unique architecture, and enjoy the flavors of an island unlike any other.
Looking for great cruise tips or cruise deals to the island of Cuba and beyond? Explore our website for specials on a number of cruise lines like Carnival, Princess Cruises, Virgin, Norwegian, and more.