Explore Cuba by land and sea in this 13-day tour. From the cane fields and rum that fuel salsa dancing to beautiful bays and beaches and magnificent colonial architecture, Cuba enthrals with its exuberant culture. Yet this island nation has long struggled to find its place in the world. Its complex history – from invasion, colonial slavery and genocide to populist revolution and a difficult relationship with its superpower neighbour – has not helped. But nor has this detracted from the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people themselves, who have kept their country alive through sheer ingenuity.
A melting pot of Afro-Caribbean cultures, in Cuban music, literature, architecture and politics
Colonial architecture, from the French to Spanish missionaries
The intriguing political history of this controversial island nation
The evocative and inescapable rhythms of the Salsa and the lilting strings of son musicians
Touring by land and sea, with seven-nights onboard the high-tech 68-metre yacht, Variety Voyager
Old and new Havana: from Hemingway’s haunts to cruising the streets in classic cars from a bygone era
Cienfuegos, the ‘pearl of the south’: classic cars and colonial architecture
The colourful Spanish settlement of Trinidad
The crystal-clear seas and amazing underwater life in the coral reefs of Maria la Gorda and the Isla de Juventud, site of much activity in the revolutionary years
Cuba’s national heroes, from José Martí to Fidel Castro
Days 1–4: Explore Havana’s history, architecture and unique, vibrant culture.
Days 5–6: Spend a day with Che at Santa Clara and visit colonial Cienfuegos. Embark on the Variety Voyager.
Days 7-10: Cruise along the coastline and islands of Cuba, visiting Trinidad’s Collantes National Park, historic Juventud Island, formerly the Isle of Pines, and explore the history and archaeology of western Cuba.
Day 11-12: In Havana, visit the National Museum of Fine Art and Fusterlandia – the studio of artist Rodriquez Fuster, experience the salsa end enjoy Havana’s cuisine.
Day 13: Departure.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Please contact our consultants regarding flight information to Havana for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday 3 March: Arrive Havana
The suggested flight with Aeromexico arrives this evening at c.10:45pm. Overnight Havana
Monday 4 March: Havana & Hemingway
In the late morning we meet our fellow tour participants in the lobby of the hotel, before tour leader Stephen Wilkinson takes us on a walking tour through some of Havana’s lesser known quarters. After a break for lunch, we travel to Finca Vigia, on the outskirts of Havana. Here Hemingway settled down in 1939 and stayed for much of his life, writing, marlin-fishing and falling in love. This evening we gather for a briefing and dinner in the hotel restaurant. Overnight Havana (B, D)
Tuesday 5 March: Colonial Havana
Havana’s historic centre is a World Cultural Heritage site. This morning we embark on a walking tour with a local architect through the alleys and squares of Old Havana, including the Plaza de Armas and el Templete, a monument commemorating the foundation of Havana in 1519. At the Palace of the Generals, a Baroque edifice of 1770’s, we explore the City Museum, which outlines important events from Cuban history. Nearby is the Cathedral of San Cristobal also from the 1770’s. Plaza Vieja was originally laid out in 1559 and has the most varied architecture of Havana’s squares, ranging from Baroque to Gaudí-inspired modernism. Lunch is in a local restaurant. This afternoon we call into the Hotel Ambos Mundos where the author Ernest Hemingway wrote his celebrated novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, in Room 511. After a tour of the Gran Teatro de la Habana, one of Havana’s most beautiful architectural works, we stop and visit the city’s camera obscura, located atop the historic Gómez Vila building, a singular gift from the Spanish city of Cadiz, offering good views over Havana. Overnight Havana (B, L)
Wednesday 6 March: Modern Havana, History, Politics and Architecture
Our tour of modern Havana commences with a visit to the Maqueta de la Habana in Miramar, for a talk on the development of the Cuban capital and its architectural and social history. Afterwards, we travel in a fleet of iconic classic American cars along the Malecón, or sea front, a popular gathering place for locals. We visit the Hotel Riviera, built by the Mafia as a gambling mecca in the 1950s, and stop in at the US Embassy and the Maine monument to learn about Cuba’s complex historical relationship with the United States. After a cocktail at the History Bar of the Hotel Nacional we visit the Parque Maceo and enjoy lunch in a restaurant with balcony views of the sea. Later on, we visit the Cristo de la Habana statue, created by the esteemed sculptress Rita Longa. From the statue there are also views of the city. Towards the end of the day we visit the José Martí museum, where we learn about Cuba’s ‘apostle of Independence.’ Overnight Havana (B, L)
Thursday 7 March: A day with Che
We depart Havana this morning and travel to the inland town of Santa Clara, indelibly linked to one of Cuba’s most celebrated revolutionaries, Ernesto Che Guevara. After a coffee break at a coffee farm en route, we visit the Che Guevara memorial, completed in 1997 with the transfer of Che Guevara’s remains from Bolivia to Santa Clara. As well as the mausoleum, there is a small museum, documenting aspects of the revolutionary’s life and death. We then visit the armoured military train which Che Guevara derailed and captured at Santa Clara, thereby marking the victory of the rebels over the Batista regime. We continue to Cienfuegos, a port city that still retains significant French colonial architecture. On a brief orientation walk in in Cienfuegos we visit the Parque Martí and other sites. Overnight Cienfuegos (B)
Friday 8 March: Cienfuegos & Embarkation
This morning we explore some of the historical and architectural highlights of Cienfuegos. The colonial French architecture has earned the town a World Heritage listing and we visit some of the grand buildings, including the Palacio del Valle and the Tomás Terry theatre, where Caruso sang. After lunch at a private, family-run restaurant (known locally as a Paladar), overlooking the sea, we board the Variety Voyager and settle into our cabins and life at sea. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Saturday 9 March: Cruise to Trinidad
The ship docks in Trinidad this morning, where we disembark and take an excursion with a local guide into Topes De Collantes National Park. A walk of approximately six kilometres along well-made paths takes us through the forest and past waterfalls and natural pools for bathing. Coffee is grown in the area and we may be able to stop at a Campesino (farmer’s house) and enjoy a brew from hand-picked coffee beans, freshly ground and roasted on wood-burning stoves. We return to the ship in the afternoon. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Sunday 10 March: At Sea
We spend the majority of the day at sea, enjoying views of Cuba’s coastline. In the late afternoon we arrive at the picturesque Bay of Singuanea, where we spend the night. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Monday 11 March: Juventud Island
Until 1977, the island was called the Isle of Pines. In 1978 Fidel Castro turned the island into one grand Communist school for students from around the world and it became the Island of Youth. We disembark and visit the Presidio Modelo, an abandoned panopticon prison where both Fidel and Raul Castro were imprisoned from 1953-1955. After lunch we visit an art school and the maternity ward of a local hospital before free time to explore Nueva Gerona’s grand boulevard. We return to the ship and sail overnight to María La Gorda. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Tuesday 12 March: Maria La Gorda
After breakfast, we disembark in María La Gorda and visit the local school to meet the Cuban children and their teachers, to discuss the differences between the Cuban and American educational systems – particularly in the rural areas of the country. We visit Guanahacabibes National Park on the westernmost tip of the island. The peninsula is one of the last refuges of the aboriginals known as Guanahatabeyes who fled from the Spanish conquistadors and has some 140 archaeological sites. This afternoon we meet the locals and enjoy a swim in the sea. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Wednesday 13 March: Havana
The ship docks in Havana this morning, where we visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes for a guided tour of the museum’s comprehensive collection of Cuban art. A Chinatown in Cuba may seem somewhat out of place, but Havana in once had one of the largest Chinese communities in Latin America, dating back to the mid-19th century, when indentured workers were brought in to work in the sugar cane fields. We enjoy lunch in one of the colourful restaurants before some free time to stroll through old Havana. This evening we make our way to Café El Mercurio for dinner, and then to the Café Taberna to experience some wonderful salsa, in the style of the Buena Vista Social Club, the 1999 documentary which bought Cuban salsa to the world. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Thursday 14 March: Havana
This morning we visit Fusterlandia, the studio of artist José Rodriguez Fuster. Inspired by Gaudí in Barcelona and Brancusi in Rome, but most of all by Picasso and Dubuffet, the artist has turned his neighbourhood into a street art extravaganza using intricate, colourful tile work. Enjoy a rum tasting before lunch at La Barraca Restaurant, located in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which specializes in Cuban cuisine and offers breathtaking views of the Bay of Havana. After lunch well-known architect Pedro Vasquez will give a lecture. We return to the Voyager for the Captain’s Farewell Dinner and our final night on board in Sierra Maestra Port. Overnight Variety Voyager (B, L, D)
Friday 15 March: Depart Havana
Our cruise concludes after breakfast with disembarkation at 9.00am. There will be a mornings activity before we travel to the international airport in time to check in for the suggested 4.10pm Aeromexico flight to Mexico City. Alternatively, you might like to stay on in Havana for a few days’ individual sightseeing. (B)
Dr Stephen Wilkinson
Is chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba and holds a PHD in Hispanic Studies.
Dr Stephen Wilkinson is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Buckingham. Stephen first visited Cuba in 1986 and has been travelling to and writing about the island ever since. Now the Chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba, based in the UK, Stephen has a PhD on the subject of Cuban literature. He has written numerous articles on diverse questions such as the history of European and US – Cuba relations, Cuban attitudes and policy towards homosexuals, Cuban art and the nature of the Cuban state. Stephen’s book, Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture, was published in 2006 by Peter Lang.
Among his other commitments, Stephen teaches at King’s College London, is Editor of the International Journal of Cuban Studies, is a contributor to IHS Sentinel Reports on Cuba and consults on a variety of media projects related to the island. He consulted on the film 638 Ways to Kill Castro in 2006: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7zf3cUPAa8
Stephen is an experienced guide and tour leader to Cuba and frequently leads academic study groups and people-to-people exchanges to the island. In 2000 he led and designed numerous study tours for a number of US clients including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institute. Between 2006 and 2011 he designed and led week-long study tours for MBA students at Cranfield School of Management in the UK. His other tour projects have included leading birdwatching and trekking tours. His wealth of contacts in Cuba adds greatly to the experience.
A three-star superior hotel with a rooftop terrace, in an excellent central position for strolling. www.hotellaunion.com
Cruise, Variety Voyager (7 nights)
Built in 2012, the 68-metre MS Variety Voyager is the newest addition to the fleet of 11 small ships operated by the boutique cruising company, Variety Cruises. Based in Athens, the company offers a select range of cruises in Europe and the Mediterranean. The tour priced is based on a comfortable B-grade cabin on the lower or main deck, with the option to upgrade to an A-grade or P-grade cabin.
Category B (Lower/Main Deck) The category B cabins are located on the lower and main deck offering oversized twin port holes (lower deck) or small double windows (main deck), bathroom with marble floors as well as Glass and Corian showers. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes.
Category A (Main Deck) The category A cabins are located on the main deck offering double windows, bathroom with marble floors as well as Glass and Corian showers. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes.
Category P (Upper Deck) The category P cabins are located on the upper Horizons Deck offering double windows, all finished with marble throughout the bathrooms and more luxurious fabrics and special amenities. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.