The climate in Cuba is tropical and moderated by trade winds. Cuba’s dry season typically lasts from December through mid-April. Temperatures average 71 °F in December, 69 °F in January, 70 °F in February and 72 °F in March. Weather in Cuba can get cool at night from December through February, so be sure to pack a sweater or light jacket.
Journey between French-influenced Cienfuegos and Havana aboard the 48-guest Panorama on International Expeditions’ Cuba Voyage for a distinct look at this enigmatic island as it stands poised on the brink of historic transformation. Marvel at the expanse of shoreline claimed by this vast land mass, the Caribbean’s largest island — mountains sloping down to tropical jungles, rich wetlands and fruited plains...sunny inlets and ports long used for exporting Cuba’s abundance of fruit, sugar and coveted tobaccos.
From the French influences in the architecture and culture you’ll experience in Cienfuegos to the Spanish colonial splendor of Trinidad and the raw excitement of politically polarizing but uniquely romantic Havana your experience in Cuba will feel complete! In addition to a walking tour of 500-year-old Trinidad, as we cruise around the island’s Western crescent, we stop on the island of Cayo Largo, home to a sea turtle breeding center, the remote western Guanahacibes Peninsula and venture into the planned ecocommunity of Las Terrazas. Other highlights of this people-to-people itinerary include learning about Cuban sports, medicine and mass communication, dance lessons, local choir and theater performances, pottery workshops, visits to museums, and calling on artists in their studios.
A Panoramic View of Cuba
Enjoy seven nights aboard one the gracious yacht Panorama. Each outside cabin features air-conditioning, TV and marble-finished en suite facilities. Life on board often centers around the delightful outdoor spaces, including the sun deck and an aft deck leading to the bar.
Along with a Cuban guide and locals experts in the areas we explore, accompanying your Cuba cruise is an accomplished, knowledgeable IE Expedition Leader. Guiding several of the trips is Bolivar Sanchez. While many of our guests have raved about Boli's strong leadership and humor in the Galapagos Islands, Boli has worked with our groups in Cuba for the past three years, leading more than 10 journeys. In addition to his deep knowledge of Earth science, adding greatly to your understanding of the island’s nature, Boli is well-versed in Cuba's history, politics and culture.
Cuba Voyage Ship, Panorama - Sundeck
Celebration in Havana
Plaza Mayor, Trinidad, Cuba
Lounge on the sun deck in Cuba
Cuba Voyage Itinerary
Our Cuba people-to-people travel program begins in Miami with welcome drinks and a briefing on what to expect the following morning and while in Cuba. Spend tonight at the Miami Airport Marriott.
Miami / Arrive Cuba / Cienfuegos
Board your flight to Cuba. Meet your driver and guide, and depart for Cienfuegos. During this drive through the countryside, your guide begins to brief you on the history and culture of this enigmatic island. Enjoy a performance by an orchestra or the Cienfuegos Choir, where we’re invited to join the choir for songs in the spirit of musical exchange. Discover the transformative power of art in the lives of ordinary Cubans while visiting a graphic arts workshop. Overnight at Hotel Jagua or similar. (L,D)
Cienfuegos / Bay of Pigs / Embarkation
Begin our day at the farmer’s market, where locals come to purchase produce for their daily meals. Enjoy a walking tour of Cienfuegos’ city center, where wide avenues lead to the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along the way, a local specialist discusses the significance of buildings such as Government Palace (City Hall), San Lorenzo School, the Bishopric, Ferrer Palace and the former lyceum. Set out for the Bay of Pigs — Playa Giron. Stop for lunch in a local paladar, a privately owned restaurant, before continuing to the Playa Giron Museum. Here you can survey a brief history of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and see military equipment from the period. Return to Cienfuegos and embark Panorama, which sets sail toward Trinidad. (B,L,D)
Travel to Trinidad, an architectural jewel proclaimed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Red tiled roofs atop pastel stucco structures line the cobbled streets. This port city reflects its 16th century past and founding by Conquistadors. Eighteenth century smugglers and pirates made frequent calls here or even used this port as their base of operations in the Caribbean. The wealth and importance of Trinidad continued into the 19th century, when sugar barons reigned. Experience the community like a local, visiting with shop owners and sampling local fare as we walk through the colonial heart of the city and calling on artists in their studios. Stop at the Museo Palacia Cantero before time at leisure to explore the city on your own. Tonight dinner is onboard our ship as we begin sailing for Juventud Island. (B,L,D)
Day at Sea
As Panorama continues toward Juventud Island, enjoy informative discussions with your Cuban guide as well as educational lectures and games. (B,L,D)
Spend a day exploring Cuba’s second largest island, Juventud – the Isle of Youth. This island has a distinct history colored by the presence of Aboriginal Indians, Christopher Columbus, who landed here in 1494, and even pirates, but it is most famous for its role in Cuba’s revolution. Stroll the streets around Nueva Gerona’s Parque Central, mingling with students and street vendors. At the now-abandoned Presidio Modelo, learn about former prisoners Fidel and Raul Castro, who were imprisoned here for 19 months. This is where Fidel penned much of his text History Will Absolve Me. (B,L,D)
Maria La Gorda
Explore Maria La Gorda, on the Bahía de Corrientes, beginning in La Bajada. Call on a local school, mingling with students and learning about the country's education system. Guest may even share songs with the children. Meet with a local naturalist at Guanahacabibes National Park, the largest of Cuba’s six nature reserves. This UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve is home to butterflies and birdlife such as endemic bee hummingbird and yellow-headed warbler. Plus, Guanahacabibes is home to a large profusion of orchids and epiphytes, a total of 16 species, some indigenous and some recently discovered. Enjoy a nature hike, or return to the beach before lunch. The rest of the afternoon is free to snorkel or enjoy the surroundings. As the Panorama sails for Havana, tonight we stay in the Guanahacabibes Reserve at Hotel Maria la Gorda. (B,L,D)
Maria La Gorda / Viñales Valley / Havana
Wind our way into the Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dotted with limestone mogotes and fertile tobacco fields. Mingle with locals on the wide avenues in the charming town of Viñales for a taste of daily life in the countryside. Sample the homegrown vegetables grown at an organic farm while meeting the family who is responsible for the land. Stop at a tobacco farm to learn about the processes and history of Cuban cigars. Pay homage to Ernest Hemingway while discussing his work with Cuban Hemingway specialists at his former home, Finca Vigia, preserved as it was on the day of his death. Travelers can only peer through the open windows of this museum, but the inside is arranged almost as if the home was waiting for him to return with guests. Hemingway’s fishing boat, El Pilar, is still on the grounds. Continue on to Havana, where we re-board the Panorama, which is docked near Old Havana. Tonight, we head to Café Taberna, home to the Buena Vista Social Club revue. (B,L,D)
Head to the outskirts of Havana to the interesting neighborhood of Jaministas. It was here where he grew up that distinguished artist Jose Fuster launched a community beautification project. The entire neighborhood is a living canvas and our conversations with both residents and local artists focus on the transformative power of art in the lives of ordinary Cubans. Stroll through the atmospheric squares of Old Havana, calling on artists in their studios as we pass. These parks and plazas are popular with locals who frequent the stalls selling books along the edges of the park while musicians fill the air with sound. See Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway kept a room for years. The hotel served as a refuge for writing such works as For Whom the Bell Tolls and as a base for frequenting his favorite bars. See the famed classic cars of Cuba at a local garage, learning how Cubans keep these classics on the road despite limited resources. At Habana Compass Dance, a private school of dance, we attend rehearsals and meet the director. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore Havana before saying good-bye to Cuba at a Captain’s farewell dinner onboard. Ready for more fun? We’ve arranged an optional excursion to the famed Tropicana (at your own expense). (B,L,D)
Havana / Miami
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the Jose Marti Airport for our flight to Miami, where you connect with flights home. (B)
Things to Know
What kind of weather can I expect on my Cuba cruise?
What kind of currency is used in Cuba?
The US dollar is not accepted in Cuba and you cannot use credit cards tied to US banks (despite press announcements that you may soon be able to use your credit cards). You may use Visa and MasterCard on the Panorama.
Off ship, you must pay for items you purchase in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). Be be aware that you are taxed heavily when you convert your US dollars into CUCs.
The airport will have an exchange bank and converting your money there is very convenient. If you exchange $100 US dollars you will get back about 87 CUCs after all the taxes and fees are deducted. At the airport, when you leave the country, you can exchange any extra CUCs back into dollars. All dollars should be in good condition, clean with no tears or writing, dated post 2000 and no larger than $50’s.
Can I exchange money onboard the Panorama during my Cuba cruise?
Money cannot be exchanged while onboard the Panorama; however, you will be able to use Visa and MasterCard while aboard the ship only.
What is People-to-People Cuba Travel?
Without a doubt, the most popular question International Expeditions’ Travel Planners receive has to do with the definition of people-to-people Cuba travel. What is it? What does it mean? How will this impact my experience in Cuba?
The people-to-people initiative allows Americans to travel to Cuba. Every program includes a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities, including interactions with Cuba’s musicians, artists, naturalists and new generation of entrepreneurs. As the name suggests, International Expeditions’ people-to-people travel means that our itinerary focuses on cultural exchanges that will be as educational for the Cubans we encounter as they will be for you! IE’s itinerary allows participants to visit a wide scope of organizations, institutions and community projects, which will provide a deeper understanding of Cuban culture through people and places that the average tourist rarely sees.
We have many people who call regarding our programs that want to arrange an individual trip or custom program; however, while not impossible, keep the following things in mind:
- International Expeditions’ Cuba travel license dictates that all groups must be accompanied by both an IE representative AND a Cuban guide. This requirement is not waived based on group size.
- People-to-people travel is not tourist-oriented. There is no time allotted to skip an activity in favor of shopping or to wander the streets of a colonial city. IE included a full-schedule of engaging activities.
Have other questions about legal travel to Cuba? Our Travel Planners are happy to chat anytime.
The 48-guest Panorama yacht is a three-masted motor sailer with cabins located on three decks. Upper or Main Deck cabins have windows, while cabins on the Lower Deck have portholes. All cabins have individually controlled air conditioning and feature en suite bathrooms. Life on board often centers around the delightful outdoor spaces, including the sun deck and an aft deck leading to the bar. In the evening, relax in the ship’s welcoming lounge or the library. The swimming platform on the stern makes water access easy when weather and anchorage conditions permit.
A true native Galapagos Naturalist, guide Bolivar Sanchez is an expert in Earth science. He developed a strong interest in wildlife and the outdoors as a small boy, and has been learning as much as possible ever since. For the past 18 years he has worked as a certified naturalist and Galapagos travel guide in Galapagos National Park, sharing his knowledge of the flora and fauna with guests of his beautiful homeland. His great personality and wonderful sense of humor make him a joy to travel with. Boli's other interests include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.