Rusty and I book a cruise going to Cuba. The ship stayed two nights in Cuba. As Americans, the only way for us to go to Cuba is by Cruise Ship or through a Travel Agent. I’m not sure if with the Travel Agent if you can go solo or have to be with a group. It was a bit confusing because, with the cruise ship, the crew talks about the People to People program that you have to take part in. This program involves eight hours and we thought it was for one 8 hour day which we learned differently when we boarded the ship. So, we thought we would have one day free to go on our own. Our understanding would be like an educational program which we were fine with as we know nothing about Cuba. As for now, only Americans have to do this. People from other countries, who have been able to go to Cuba over the years, do not.
For those who are planning to visit Cuba, I want to spend time on this first blog explaining what to expect. I’m coming from a cruise ship experience. As I mention earlier, I’m not sure what if any difference it would be if you use a travel agent.
When you go, you will have to pay for a Visa. Our cruise ship took care of that for us, although we had to pay for it. You will get a Visa paper and instructions on how to fill it out. If you make a mistake, you will have to pay for another one.
The ship’s excursions are geared toward the People to People program but not all of them. One excursion we booked didn’t qualify and we didn’t know until we got on board. Fortunately, the ship would change it for us. We had booked another tour through another agent. This is where the confusion came in. Some people said we don’t have to follow the rule of being out for 8 hours, others said we did. The ship’s crew held a meeting with all of us to explain it. Since we were there for 2 days, that meant we would have to spend two 8 hours days with these People to People program. So, what’s the big deal? When you attend these excursions, you are given paper documenting that you were there. You are supposed to keep them for 5 years in case someone audits you. It’s sorta like your tax returns. You keep them in case Uncle Sam comes to check them out. With all that said, the crew stated you don’t have to attend these programs but you were warn about what could happen.
Once you are allow getting off the ship, you go through customs, there is a money exchange inside the port. Cuba has two currencies, CUC, and CUP. The CUC is for the tourist. It was easy to exchange our money. We asked several people why they have these two currencies and never did understand the reasons. I would recommend getting some coins or as our Lecture on board said, “pee-pee” coins, as most restrooms you have to pay the attendant.
Once you completed your first-day excursion, you are free to return back to the ship or stay out and explore on your own. When you go out for the next day, you don’t have to go through the custom routine.
My next blog will be about how safe is Cuba.