We were fortunate our cruise stopped in three Cuban ports and that we were able to take a bus to a fourth town, Trinidad. Most cruise ships from the U.S. just stop in Havana. As is typical with a cruise, we only had a cursory exposure, but it was more than we were likely to see otherwise.
After arriving in Cienfuegas, a port on the southern coast, we took a bus to Trinidad which still has many colonial era buildings and then returned for a brief tour of Ceinfuegas.
In Havana, one of our guides said Cuba has “no rich people; no poor people.” But there are different degrees of prosperity under those terms. In the countryside, we were much more likely to see people using horses and donkey carts rather than motorized vehicles. There had been no beggars in Havana, but they were common in the other towns. We were told we were safe in Havana, and we were. But approaching Cienfuegas and Santiago de Cuba later in the trip, we were warned about pick pockets, urged not to wear “bling” and told to keep close track of our cameras and other belongings. As far as I know, none of our group had any problems.
In typical tourist fashion, we visited a large colonial home [now a museum] a lace shop, a church, a Santeria temple, a pottery and a bar that featured cancharía, a drink made from honey, aguardiente, and lemon .
Probably the item that most caught our attention in the home/museum was a jar and stone water filter kept under lock and key. The owners gave the key to only their most trusted slave because they were afraid they might be poisoned. Spain did not abolish slavery in Cuba until 1886.
Alie was intrigued by the temple and its altar showing a mix of Catholic and voodoo religions.
As always, we both enjoyed our encounters with local people.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Date of our visit: 17 December 2018
Next week: Cuban Cars
The week after next: Santiago de Cuba, Teddy Roosevelt, Fidel and other warriors
P.S. I apologize but feel I must inject a political commentary. U.S. cruise ship travel to Cuba has since been banned. It makes us sad to read there are already [less than a month later] food shortages in Cuba. We hope the issues will be resolved soon for the sake of the Cuban people, but aside from the current problem, Cuba has to reform its economy and learn to feed itself. Even last December, when we asked about a line of Cubans in front of a building, we were told they were lining up because the store just got apples.
Although I am not informed enough to say U.S. policy is correct, the cruise ship ban is not about the Cuban economy. One news report said there were 20,000 Cuban “doctors” in Venezuela. Cuba does rely on sending doctors out to obtain foreign currency, but the U.S. does not object to doctors — Cuban secret service forces are keeping the Maduro Venezuelan dictatorship in power.