A Twenty-Two Hour Day To End A Fantastic Trip

Even though I’m seriously not a fan of early mornings, I was on deck before the sun came up, determined not to miss our cruise ship’s arrival in Havana. As a reward, I got to see this.

El Morro at sunrise.

Havana skyline before full light.

The cruise ship traveled slowly toward Havana Bay, as the sky gradually lightened.

A massive yacht left the harbour as our ship approached. While Hubby admired the yacht’s sleek lines, I fretted that it was headed into our path.

Although our ship’s engines were cut, it still had some forward momentum and the yacht crossed way too close for my comfort.

No wake as we wait for the pilot boat.

A fisherman in his teeny-tiny boat checks out our gigantic ship.

The sun rises above Castillo del Morro.

The sun’s arrival brought Havana’s colourful skyline to life. Modern Havana.

New blends with old.

Old Havana

Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, on the harbour’s east side.

Castillo del Morro lighthouse

The Battery of the Twelve Apostles

Castillo del Morro

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña

Hubby couldn’t resist another photo of the Christ statue.

The Malecon runs along the harbour’s west side.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Approaching Terminal Sierra Maestra.

The pilot boat’s job is almost done.

One last look at the mouth of Havana Bay.

Terminal Sierra Maestra

Skyline shots from deck nine.

Statue of Mercury, the god of commerce, on domed roof of the Produce Exchange building.

An underwater tunnel connects Havana’s east and west sides at the mouth of the bay. Each time we took it, I had to pretend we weren’t in a tunnel built almost sixty years ago, with forty feet of water above us. Our bus to Varadero couldn’t cross that half-mile of darkness fast enough for me.

Pit stop at Peñón del Fraile.

Royal Palm trees are native to the island, and we saw vast valleys of them.

Matanzas is situated between Varadero and Havana.

It’s known as the City of Bridges

We arrived at the Varadero airport at 12:30. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 6:40, and we couldn’t even check our luggage until 3:30, giving us lots of time to kill. The check-in area only had six chairs and, of course, they were all taken. During our search for something to eat, we found three tables with chairs and, yay, two chairs were available. Nothing to eat, but at least we could sit.

I stretched my legs quite often, but Hubby refused to budge from those chairs. Three long hours later, we checked our luggage and headed to security. The immigration wickets empty directly into the screening area – which was complete chaos. With no defined queue lines; people just herded into the general area closest to where they’d exited immigration. Naturally, our ‘line’ moved the slowest.

After clearing security, we went directly to find food. It’s almost comical, but mostly annoying, how every vendor in the airport would accept US dollars (we’d cashed in our CUCs), but not one of them could make change. If we wanted it, we paid extra.

The departure screens didn’t show a gate number for our flight, and there wasn’t anyone from Transat to direct us. About 6:00, long after we should’ve already boarded, a gate was finally assigned. With all the noisy pandemonium around us, we couldn’t hear the announcements, and it was only by chance that I noticed people queueing up at an unmarked side door, near our assigned gate. I convinced Hubby we needed to check it out and, sure enough, it was our flight departing. Don’t know what would’ve happened if I hadn’t spotted that lineup.

We arrived in Vancouver at midnight and breezed through the self-check customs. The city had just been hit with a substantial snowfall, and we shivered in the dark, waiting for the hotel shuttle.

I checked in while Hubby retrieved our suitcase from our snow-covered car. By the time we’d thawed out my pjs and got to bed, it was 1:30. With the time change, that made it twenty-two hours since we’d awoken that morning.

Some final thoughts on the trip:

Cuba should improve the way it welcomes tourists. We crossed through Havana’s immigration six times and twice at Varadero’s airport. Each time, I was treated with varying degrees of unfriendly suspicion, which occasionally bordered on hostile. Those experiences left me feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome. Only the immigration personnel at Santiago de Cuba went out of their way to greet us with smiles and friendliness. I understand that entering another country is a privilege, not a right, and custom personnel have an important job to do, but if Cuba intends to encourage tourism, less mistrust and more civility would go a long way.

If you want the beach, drinks and sun experience, Mexico is probably a cheaper and easier destination. But if you’re interested in learning about Cuba’s tumultuous history of genocide, slavery, invasions and counter-invasions, replete with centuries of revolution, and combine that with incredible architecture, along with the sun, sand and scenery, Cuba is a must-see. And we’re so happy we went.

If you love vintage cars, join me next Monday to discover the old beauties of Cuba.

Contemplations On An At-Sea Day

With our week-long cruise reaching its end, we only had one last at-sea day to relax and enjoy our surroundings. A ship or boat occasionally appeared to break up the endless horizon.

Mid-morning, Dr. Jorge Arocha, a professor of philosophy at the University of Havana, gave an entertaining presentation on The musicality of the Cuban people and unusual Cuban musical instruments. Dr. Arocha discussed the importance of music and dancing to the Cuban people, and described some of the African and European influences on Cuban musicality. A band member, whose name I can’t remember, demonstrated some unique Cuban music and instruments.

A shekere, originating from West Africa, is a dried gourd filled with beads.

A guiro is also a gourd, played with a scraper.

Double-headed Batá drums.

Son is a Cuban musical style with its own distinctive beat.

Fruit and veggie carvings on display in the buffet.

The Latin Souls, a local Havana band, entertained us throughout the cruise.

After lunch, cruise director Danny introduced the Canadian Renfrew Highland Pipe and Drums Band. With the Cuban Government’s permission, the band played in public plazas at each port of call, and they gave a special performance for us that day.

Flag bearers

The members came from all over Canada.

They performed a touching rendition of Amazing Grace. I think bagpipes sound hauntingly beautiful, and Amazing Grace is a powerfully emotional song. Hearing the two together, especially while grieving for my mom, left me in tears.

That afternoon, we watched a documentary on Cuba. It spoke of the Cuban people’s many challenges and their growth throughout the years, which left me contemplating all I’d learned during my visit.

Based on little more than ignorance, I’d gone to Cuba with preconceived ideas. I assumed it was a deprived country, suffering under oppressive Communist rule, and I expected to find the people downtrodden and impoverished. Mostly, I was wrong.

While Cubans certainly aren’t rolling in money and have few material possessions, their wealth is defined in other ways. Cuba is culturally rich and architecturally superb, with unbelievably luxuriant landscapes. Cubans take pride in their arts and culture, and their high literacy rates. They aren’t defined by communism; they’re indomitable and adaptable despite communism. They’re proud, passionate people, who show affection easily and often. Cheek pressed to cheek with air kisses, and exuberant hugs, are common greetings. Cubans love their sports and are as obsessed with baseball as we are with hockey.

Basically, Cubans, young and old, dress much like we do. Some modest, some more chic.

This fine fellow reminds me of a musician from days gone by.

Popular North American logos might be missing from their clothing, but the younger generation dress as fashionably as their American counterparts. Hair styles are also every bit as current.

Not once did anyone push communist ideals on us. Politics were only mentioned on tours and during Dr. Arocha’s lectures, strictly as an explanatory topic. I kind of almost understand why the “little people” may have loved Fidel Castro. He gave them free healthcare, free education, jobs, essential food, and places to live. It came at a cost to their basic freedoms, but for those who had nothing, they came to accept those sacrifices.

I can also see why the vast majority, especially the wealthy, intensely hated Castro. He took everything away from them. Not only their material possessions, but also their hopes and dreams. If they were fortunate, they escaped the island with what little they could take with them. Anyone opposing Castro’s government often found themselves imprisoned, tortured or killed. Like Fulgencio Batista before him, Castro was a brutal dictator who ruled with an iron fist.

Life is slowly improving for Cubans. Although they still have little disposable income, they can go into business for themselves, own property, and have more of the basic freedoms we take for granted, such as limited access to the internet.

After that enlightening documentary, Dr. Arocha did a presentation called Cuban cigars: the story behind the smoke. I left Hubby to learn about the country’s beloved “Habanos”, while I went to our cabin to pack our suitcases.

Another dramatic, cloudy sunset.

Because our beach day got cancelled, Celestyal Cruises gave us an on-board credit that just happened to cover the complete cost of our photo package, including a DVD on Havana. A serendipitous bit of luck.

The evening entertainment, Revolucion, a love story at the time of the revolution, was excellent. It told the poignant tale of a Cuban and an American who fell in love just before the revolution that severed ties between those two countries. And how, as elderly people, they found their way back to each other, thanks the current thawing in relations.

The talented young Cuban cast.

Fitbit says we covered a paltry 5.91 kilometers that day.

Next Monday I’ll share our last day in Cuba, including photos taken from Havana Bay. Click here for next post.

Santiago de Cuba, Take Two

After a stimulating morning touring the city of Santiago de Cuba, we were ready to kick back and relax in the balmy Cuban sun aboard the Celestyal Crystal. It’s always fun to search the surrounding skyline, in hopes of spotting places we’d just visited.

We could only pick out the twin spires of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

The government boat, waiting to escort our cruise ship out of the harbour, was a sad reminder our visit to Santiago was soon coming to an end.

Tourists aren’t allowed to take Cuban pesos out of the country, and we worried about finding an exchange at the airport, so after lunch we went to the cruise terminal’s money exchange to cash out our CUCs.

I wish we’d had time to wander around the attractive pier next to the terminal.

Several people were fishing off the pier. And interesting to note, most of them only used a line with no pole.

And we’re off into the sparkling sunshine.

Sierra Maestra Mountains

The escort boat meets the pilot-boat.

Some stylish houses along the bay.

Up on the bluff, overlooking the entrance to Santiago Bay, stands a bronze statue of Frank Pais. A contemporary of Castro, and a commander of the Revolutionary Movement by time he was twenty, Frank Pais was mysteriously assassinated in Santiago, at the young age of twenty-three.

Many shoreline homes are modest and even slightly decrepit.

That last photo intrigued me into enlarging it to get a closer look at that little captured moment in time. It appears to be three generations of a family gathered on the porch of a very rundown home, yet they’re all smiling and happy just to be together.

Approaching Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca.

I don’t know if this is part of El Morro Castle or if it’s the remains of a military battery. Would be fun to explore it.

Seeing El Morro Castle close-up from the water, makes me wish even more that I’d had the time to thoroughly check it out when we were there that morning.

My writer’s imagination came to life when I saw these mysterious caves at the base of the fortress. I wonder where they go?

The only thing better than a castle is a castle with a lighthouse. I love lighthouses.

One last goodbye glimpse of Santiago de Cuba and Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca.

Fluffy clouds above the Sierra Maestras, and sunshine on a blue sea. Idyllic.

The waters of the Caribbean always amaze me. Gorgeous azure and turquoise in the shallows, and an incredible deep navy when out to sea.

As the afternoon wore on, clouds thickened in the sky. At one point, the sun broke through to bathe these small hills in bright light.

Foreshadowing a dramatic sunset.

A distant sighting of the infamous Guantanamo Bay.

The sunset lived up to expectations.

Right to its breathtaking end.

This is Danny, the cruise director. Besides being a super friendly, outgoing fellow, Danny, who’s from Romania, is also fluent in at least seven or eight languages. I was so impressed with how he transitions flawlessly back and forth between all those different tongues. I’m barely fluent in my own native language, never mind attempting any other ones.

The evening show, Afro-Cuba – forkloric traditions of the afro-Cubans, told the spellbinding story of the African kidnappings and arrival on the island as slaves, and their transition through the years to where they are as Cuban citizens today.

We walked 9.86 kilometers that day, according to Fitbit.

Next Monday, I’ll share my sea day contemplations of Cuba. Click here for next post.

Historic Santiago de Cuba

Our warm welcome at Santiago de Cuba was a pleasant surprise after the rigorous immigration procedures in Havana. We were greeted at the door of a bright, little building where we simply approached smiling clerks seated at open tables to have our passports and visas checked.

The first stop, on our Panoramic Santiago tour, was the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia. One of the most important cemeteries in Cuba, it’s the final resting place of many historical figures, including José Martí, Carlos Manuel Céspedes, Fidel Castro, and Emilio Bacardi Y Moreau, of Bacardi Rum fame.

With much pomp and ceremony, the guards at José Martí’s imposing hexagonal mausoleum are changed every thirty minutes. Because we opted not to pay the five CUC photo-taking fee, we didn’t get any pictures. Being short, I could barely see the goose-stepping guards through the massive crowd.

After climbing the granite steps of the mausoleum, we looked down at Martí’s wooden casket, draped in a Cuban flag.

Fidel Castro’s monument is modest in comparison. A large boulder simply bears a plaque saying Fidel.

While in line to photograph Fidel’s monument (which is free to take), I surreptitiously snapped a few more.

José Martí’s mausoleum

La Barrita de Ron Havana Club is a tourist bar attached to the Santiago Rum factory, which was the Bacardi Rum factory before being expropriated by the Castro government. Along with rum tasting, entertainment and high-end cigars are also offered.

Santiago de Cuba’s humble streets, viewed from my bus window.

Broke my heart to see this poor little bird’s cage attached to an outside wall, with no way to escape the sunshine.

Santiago’s Plaza de la Revolucion.

Monument to Antonio Maceo y Grajales. General Maceo was a principal figure in the Cuban struggle for independence.

These twenty-three large machetes symbolize the fight of machete-wielding Cuban Mambís (mulatto revolutionaries).

Cuba’s National flag and Revolutionary flag.

Teatro Heredia Conference Center, with a depiction of Juan Almeida Bosque, a Cuban politician and commander of insurgent forces.

Loma de San Juan is where the final battle of the Spanish-Cuban-American War was fought. Next to the memorial marker stands the Tomb of the Unknown Mambí.

That’s quite the mint twig in my mojito, at the scenic El Morro Restaurant.

Known as El Morro Castle (same as the fortress in Havana), this military fortress’s official name is Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca. El morro means ‘bluff’ or ‘headland’ in Spanish.

At the entrance, we were asked to pay 5 CUC or have our cameras confiscated. Hubby and I had our cameras tucked away, so didn’t pay or hand them over.

Built in 1638 to protect the Bay of Santiago from pillaging pirates, the fort was converted into a prison by the Spaniards in the 1800s. I could’ve spent hours exploring all the nooks and crannies, but we were hustled through quite quickly.

Fortress view of Santiago’s coastline, with the Sierra Maestra in the background.

The moat

Outside, vendors sell everything from artwork to clothing to cheap cigars.

In our entire week in Cuba, sadly, this is the closest we came to seeing a beach.

These little places remind me of mobile homes, only cuter.

These ones look like huge shipping containers.

Santiago de Cuba is a city of motorbikes. Everywhere, motorbikes. Some are even used as taxis.

Everyone wears helmets, and looks as if flip-flops are also acceptable.

Many riders had bandanas over their faces, I’m assuming to avoid breathing exhaust fumes.

Céspedes Park is the main square of Santiago de Cuba. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was the revolutionary hero who later became President of the Republic of Cuba.

Ayuntamiento (city hall), built in 1950, where Fidel Castro gave his first public speech in January 1959, after overthrowing the Batista government.

The Casa Granda Hotel

The Metropolitan Cathedral. Restored in 2015, some parts of the cathedral are more than four hundred years old.

It’s compulsory for young Cuban men over sixteen to do two years of military service. Women may voluntarily join.

Museum Casa de Diego Velázquez is the oldest building in Cuba. The mansion, built in 1522, was the official residence of Diego Velazquez, a Spanish conqueror and the island’s first Governor.

Santiago de Cuba has many colourful buildings.

The Communist Party Building.

Back at the Celestyal Crystal.

I’ll wrap up our day in Santiago de Cuba on Monday. Click here for that post.



Went To Jamaica – Didn’t See A Beach!

Montego Bay sparkled brilliantly, the morning our cruise ship arrived in Jamaica.

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The few photos I captured from the window of our swiftly moving tour bus are a bit blurry, but show the houses in Jamaica are more similar in style to our North American ones, than they are to neighbouring Cuba.

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The Jamaica Swamp Safari Village where parts of the James Bond movie, Live and Let Die were filmed.


Established in 1769, Falmouth, a former slave port in the parish of Trelawny, is the best preserved Georgian town in the Caribbean. Water Square, in Falmouth’s historic downtown, derives its name from a stone reservoir that once stood in the middle of the square. When the reservoir was built in 1798, Falmouth became Jamaica’s first town with running water.


Given time alone to explore, Hubby and I wandered down Duke Street, which is narrow and busy.

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William Knibb Memorial Church


Falmouth Post Office, on Market Street


According its plaque, the Trelawny Parish Courthouse was built in 1815, then destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1926.


Albert George Flea Market, Upper Harbour Street


Historic downtown

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Clever use of water bottles to hold down the tarps at this flea market.

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St. Peter’s Anglican Church

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First time I’ve seen drums used by a church choir.


Trelawny Parish is the birthplace of Olympic great, Usain Bolt.


There’s so many unfinished houses because it can take up to three generations to acquire enough money to build them. Some homes looked almost complete, others seemed as if they’d been abandoned for a long time.

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As we entered the wealthier Parish of St. James, the homes grew increasing finer.

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Situated high on a hill overlooking St. James Parish, the Greenwood Great House, originally owned by the wealthy Barrett family (relatives of English poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning), looks much the same as it did when it was built over 200 years ago. The unassuming exterior doesn’t reveal that it’s one of the finest antique museums in the Caribbean.

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Its interior, however, retains the elegant atmosphere of the 19th century. There’s quite the collection of musical instruments, all in working condition.

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These two instruments are called polyphones. The music, played on discs, is enchanting and speaks of days gone by.

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Many windows have stunning views of the Caribbean.

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I saw at least two large rooms used for dining.

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There are several smaller parlours and sitting rooms.

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This Victorian love seat is designed so legs wouldn’t accidentally touch during courting.


The bedrooms are massive enough to contain more than one full-sized bed.

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The back deck offers an impressive 180 degree panoramic view of the Caribbean. It’s so expansive the curvature of the earth is discernible.

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Even as I marveled at the grandeur of it all, I was acutely aware that this opulent lifestyle was achieved, in large part, on the backs of slaves. The guide sharply brought this into focus with her story about slaves whistling as they carried food trays from the outdoor kitchen to the dining room. They were instructed to whistle because a slave couldn’t whistle and eat food from the trays at the same time!

This interesting gadget is an original beer dispenser.


On our way back to Montego Bay, traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl and we saw lots of cars parked along the highway. The bus driver nonchalantly informed us there was a car accident and people had gathered to watch. I was shocked and horrified to see at least thirty people, maybe more, crowded together at the side of the road, ghoulishly watching as emergency responders worked on the victims of a very serious accident. Apparently in Jamaica, this morbid behavior is a common form of entertainment.

Known for taking pictures of signs that catch my fancy or tickle my funny bone, I found no shortage of worthy subjects that day. From names of businesses in Falmouth:

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To various signs around the small town:

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Apparently being of Christian faith is important enough to advertise.


At Greenwood Great House:


The highway offered an abundance of photo ops, too. One sign I didn’t capture said, “Speed kills. So kill your speed.”

(Less Corruption = More Investments = More Jobs)

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There’s also lots of advice to parents.


(Take The Time: Respect Your Child)



Our guide had earlier explained that schooling is very expensive; therefore, illiteracy is high in Jamaica. That might account for one sign that said, “Take the time: Read to your child.”

This sign was posted at the exit of the cruise terminal. The cruise ship was docked only few yards away and we walked.


The Caribbean waters shone a lovely turquoise in the afternoon sunlight.


Tequila Sunrise and Cranberry Juice.


The evening show, Cirque Fantastic, showcased the acrobatic talents of the entertainment team. They excelled, despite some turbulent movements of the ship.

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Fitbit clocked us at 7.74 kilometers.

Friday, we’ll explore historic Santiago de Cuba. Click here for next post.

Cienfuegos – Eclectic Architecture and Fishing Pelicans

The Celestyal Crystal arrived in Cienfuegos, in southwestern Cuba, at 7:00 am, just in time for a glorious sunrise.


Our group met at 8:00 for the Cienfuegos city tour. Cienfuegos was originally inhabited by Taino indigenous people before being founded by French colonists in 1819. Bright and modern, “The Pearl of the South” is one of the cleanest cities in Cuba.

Our tour started at Boulevard Paseo del Prado. This long tree-lined boulevard has a central paving-stone strip flanked by benches. It crosses the entire city, about two kilometers in length.

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Benny Moré, a Cuban musical icon, was a talented singer and songwriter.


We then took Cienfuegos Boulevard, one of the most frequented places in the city. El Boulevard is only open to pedestrian traffic, and it reminds me somewhat of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica with its mix of services, stores, restaurants and street entertainers.

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Hotel la Union


Parque José Martí (former Plaza Armas) is the traditional central square of Cienfuegos.

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Arco de Triunfo, the only existing Arch of Triumph in Cuba.


The Palacio de Gobierno, where the provincial government operates.


Cathedral de la Purism Concepcion (The Cathedral of the Most Pure Conception)


Officially called Teatro de Cienfuegos, Teatro Tomás Terry is the only building we entered.


Like many places we visited in Cuba, there’s a fee for taking photos. Not knowing whether it’d be worth it, we opted not to pay the 5 CUC fee (approx. $6.75). Turns out, the theatre’s interior is far more impressive than its exterior. It’s beautifully designed, with superb fresco ceilings and original wooden chairs. Hubby snapped this pic of the lobby prior to entering.


Colegio San Lorenzo stands next to the theatre.


The public is allowed to climb to the dome-shaped cupola of the Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Duarte (formerly the Palacio de Ferrer) for spectacular views of Cienfuegos.

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Bar Meson el Palatino


Several small museums and galleries line the square, and we peeked into a few of them.

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Street views from my bus window.

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While parts of Cienfuegos are decidedly rundown, I got the impression the city is more prosperous and in better general shape than Havana. The Punta Gorda, a preferred location of the wealthy on the southern side of the city, has many choice properties and great views of the bay.


These homes, small by our standards, are impeccably kept.

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The somewhat gaudy and eclectic Palacio de Valle is a top landmark in Cienfuegos. Today it’s used for cultural events. It also has a restaurant and bar.

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Zoomed-in shot of Celestyal Crystal from Punta Gorda.


We stopped for drinks and entertainment at Club Cienfuegos.

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It used to be an exclusive yacht club, and many boats still moor nearby.


Not sure of this rum drink’s ingredients, but it was tasty and refreshing.


The Cuban band performing that day (didn’t catch their name) spoke of touring in British Columbia and then played a song they’d composed about our hometown. The Russian couple up dancing had quite the Cuban moves.


Celestyal Crystal from Club Cienfuegos.


Next door is the popular Palacio Azul Hotel.

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Back onboard the cruise ship, we spotted several landmarks we’d visited earlier that day.

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Palacio de Gobierno


Teatro Tomás Terry


Casa de Cultura


Palacio Azul Hotel and Club Cienfuegos

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Picturesque views along the harbour.

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While taking photographs, we noticed a couple of pelicans feeding right beside the ship.

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Their kamikaze fishing style is amazing.

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A wily seagull buddied up with this pelican, hoping to share (or perhaps steal) its meal.

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We became so entranced with these antics we missed Dr. Arocha’s documentary on Cuba. Disappointing, but the show taking place on the water was very entertaining. As the ship left Cienfuegos later that afternoon, I grabbed a spot in the bow on deck five to watch the scenery.


Remarkable how these houses are situated right on the edge of the water, considering the rise and fall of the tides.

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Castillo de Jagua can be seen in this photo. The fortress was built in 1742 to protect the Bay of Jagua from the real pirates of the Caribbean.


I’m always happy to spot a lighthouse. The Guamuhaya Mountains (also known as Sierra del Escambray) are in the background.


Both evening cocktails, a Mojito and Party on the Beach, earned top yummy marks.


The evening show was Azucar – the traditions of Cuba.

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Fitbit says we covered 9.94 kilometers that day.

Monday’s post will be about our stop in Jamaica. Hope you’ll join me, Mon. Click here for next post.

Beach Day Becomes Sea Day

Hubby’s early-to-rise habit allows him to experience many beautiful sunrises. Cuba was no exception.

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We were supposed to have a beach day at Punta Frances on La Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth), but apparently Cuban authorities have concerns about damage to the coral reefs so they’ve prohibited cruise ship access to the island. I was slightly disappointed to have our only beach experience canceled; however, I totally understand the need to protect that fragile environment.

So Day Two became an at-sea day. Hubby and I used the time to get acquainted with the ship. By today’s standards, the Celestyal Crystal is quite small, with a 1200 passenger capacity. Although the aging ship isn’t terribly fancy, it has all the important requirements, including a friendly and helpful staff.

Our small, yet functional inside cabin on deck four.

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We always took the stairs to get around. Lots of stairs, both inside and out.

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Deck five’s Thalassa Terrace Bar, aft outside, is a good place to relax with a drink while soaking in the sea air and sunshine. It’s also the location of the only hot tub. We didn’t partake, but plenty of others did.


A few pieces of artwork decorate the area.

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The photo store, duty-free store and reception are located mid-ship on deck five.

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Reception area artwork.

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The ship’s promenade encircles deck five.


Deck five forward is a quiet spot to watch the scenery go by, as long as you don’t mind a stiff sea breeze.

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Service was great and so was the food at the a la carte Olympus Restaurant on deck five. Special shout-out to our waiter, Lobo. He always remembered us and was wonderful at anticipating our needs.


We don’t drink much alcohol, but this cruise came with a drink package, so we had fun trying new cocktails. I often questioned the knowledgeable young bartender in the Eros Lounge, on deck eight, about the various ingredients. He was such a good sport, listing off drink after drink until I found one I wanted to try. He’d always give me a smile and a wink when I thanked him.



Muses Lounge, also on deck eight, is used for various daily activities, as well as the nightly entertainment. We found the seating arrangements too maze-like, making it difficult getting to and from the seats when the place is busy.

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There’s a larger a la carte restaurant and a casino on deck eight, but we didn’t try them.

Mornings, a waffle/pancake station is set up by the Helios Bar, on deck nine. Didn’t take long before the chef started preparing my daily waffle as soon as he saw me approach.


The little saltwater pool on deck nine.


The Leda Buffet, deck nine aft, has a fair assortment of tasty food and usually the selections are kept replenished. Incredible desserts!

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One of the kitchen staff made these impressive statues.

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The back terrace off the buffet is a great place to eat a relaxing breakfast, enjoy a cappuccino, or take in the sunset.

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Loungers are located on Zeus Deck, which is mid-ship deck ten. You can look down at the pool and Helios Bar from there.


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There’s dancing every evening at Horizons Bar, deck ten aft.

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All the usual daytime entertainment is offered, but we preferred to hang around outside. We usually attended Dr. Jorge Arocha’s presentations on Cuba, though. Dr. Arocha is a professor of philosophy at the University of Havana, and his lectures are informative, entertaining and often humourous.

That morning’s presentation was Cuban culture: “El ajiaco”. Dr. Arocha used ajiaco (an indigenous Cuban soup made with many ingredients) to characterize the Cuban people: a diverse combination of races, religions, and practices, all mixed together like the ingredients in the ajiaco.

After lunch, we relaxed on deck nine’s back terrace. A variety of weather patterns were briskly rolling through, and it even showered for about five minutes. We found the cross-current movement of clouds quite fascinating. Sometimes the sun broke through to sparkle on small patches of water.


Joe Cool bunny, the only towel art we got.


Later that afternoon, we listened to The Cuban landscape in the 20th century lecture. Dr. Arocha started with Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Caribbean, then discussed the Cuban-Spanish-American wars. He finished with the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and the rise of Fidel Castro’s communism. Fascinating insight to Cuba’s turbulent history.

Clouds obliterated the sunset.


The Latin Souls, a talented Havana band, play in Muses Lounge before the evening show.


My drink of the night, and my favourite of the trip, was a cranberry mojito. So very tasty!


The evening show was Welcome to Cabaret – the world of musicals. The team did an admirable job entertaining us.

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Fitbit says we covered 7.22 kilometers despite being confined to the ship all day.

On Friday, I’ll share our day in Cienfuegos, the “pearl of the south”. Click here for next post.