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Cuba and the treasured Caribbean expedition cruise - 2 Oct 2018

16 days from £4,986pp

Dates & Prices Get in touch

Cuba and the treasured Caribbean expedition cruise - 2 Oct 2018:
Trip Dossier

You board Silversea’s Silver Cloud in Nassau, Bahamas, and then head straight for Cuba, the largest island in the sparkling Caribbean Sea.  By travelling to historic towns by ship, you can view from the sea the beautiful coastline between them, indented with rocky bays and sugar-white beaches.

In Cuba, the coast shelters atmospheric colonial cities where Spanish and French architecture has survived:  some buildings are just crumbling façades but others are sufficiently preserved to recall the affluent era of European empires.  Following a brief stop in Jamaica, sail on to drop anchor at Cartagena, perhaps the most romantic of all the continent’s cities and historically a major port on Colombia’s northern coast.

Wrap up the voyage at the San Blas Islands of Panama, where the Kuna indians have maintained a unique traditional lifestyle.  Disembark in Colon at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal and spend a couple of nights in the colonial quarter of Panama’s vibrant capital, with a wildlife spotting tour next to the canal.  

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Nassau. Transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Embark expedition ship Silver Cloud; set sail.

Day 3

At sea in the Caribbean en route to Cuba.

Day 4

Explore Havana.

Day 5

Further discoveries in Havana.

Day 6

Drop anchor at Isla Juventud (Isle of Youth).

Day 7

Visit Cienfuegos and Trinidad.

Day 8

At sea. Bird-spotting and lectures. Arrive Santiago de Cuba.

Day 9

Visit Santiago de Cuba

Day 10

Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Day 11

Heading towards Cartagena, Colombia.

Day 12

Cartagena, Colombia.

Day 13

Visit the San Blas Islands, Panama.

Day 14

Arrive Colon and transfer to Panama City.

Day 15

Rainforest expedition by boat close to the Panama Canal.

Day 16

Transfer to the airport for international flight, arriving home the following day.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Nassau. Transfer to hotel.
 

Arrive in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, once part of the British Empire.  The city centre shows off some graceful historic buildings from the colonial era, and the balmy tropical island is famous for its pink-sand beaches. Transfer to your hotel in town, the first class British Colonial Hilton.

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Nassau, Bahamas

Day 2

Embark expedition ship Silver Cloud; set sail.
 

Embark your cruise vessel, the luxury expedition ship Silver Cloud. After she weighs anchor you will meet the Expedition Team and other crew members.  Get to know your ship, meet your fellow travellers and enjoy your first meal of contemporary, international cuisine and regional specialties unique to the voyage destination.

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Silver Cloud

Day 3

At sea in the Caribbean en route to Cuba.
 

Relax on deck or browse through the books in the well-stocked library. As you sail towards Cuba you may join the Expedition Team on the outer decks and watch for birds, whales and dolphins; or head to the theatre to learn more about Cuba and its culture.

Mealtimes are a highlight of your day. Eating is a relaxed and informal affair: you are free to dine when, where and with whom you please in the restaurant. 

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Cuban musicians

Day 4

Explore Havana.
 

Arrive at the capital of Cuba, Havana: the island’s largest city. The historical centre has a large number of grand buildings dating back to Spanish colonial times. Nowadays many are crumbling away while others are gradually being spruced up.

Leave the ship and take a guided tour of the highlights including a Spanish fortress with a wide view over the city. The tour continues to Revolution Square and its memorial to Cuba’s hero of independence, José Marti.

Continue to the colonial part of the city to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site on foot. You may head to a bar for a drink and listen to a traditional Cuban band before walking back to the port for an early dinner on board.  

Later in the evening you’ll go to the famous (weather dependent!) open-air Tropicana Show a vibrant mix of Caribbean extravagance and cabaret.  The ship will overnight in Havana’s port.

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havana

Day 5

Further discoveries in Havana.
 

Today is also spent in Havana. There is a guided tour to sample three things Cuba is famous for: vintage American cars, cigars, and mojitos. Take a ride in a 1950s vintage American car to the ‘Cigar Factory’. Watch the cigars being hand-rolled then continue your drive to the famous Hotel National, where you will stroll through the garden and enjoy amojito, Cuba’s best loved cocktail.

If you want to continue to explore Havana on your own, the Havana Rum Museum, with guided tours explaining history of rum and its production, is within walking distance.

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havana cars

Day 6

Drop anchor at Isla Juventud (Isle of Youth).
 

In the morning there are Cuba-focused lectures as the ship cruises along Cuba’s western tip before reaching the ‘Isle of Youth. This island was discovered by Columbus in 1494 and for centuries served as a base from which English and French pirates launched attacks on the Spanish galleons travelling to Europe laden with gold and silver plundered in South America.

The ship will tender ashore at the Punta Frances Maritime National Park.  Join the ship’s marine biologist for a snorkel tour and learn to identify exotic fish and turtles. Alternatively, explore more of this national park on foot looking out for iguanas and pelicans. During your stay you’ll savour seafood lunch including lobster.

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Go snorkelling off Cuba's Caribbean Coast

Day 7

Visit Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
 

Dock at Cienfuegos, or the ‘ Pearl of the South’, founded in the early 1800s by French colonists. The French influence remains and it even has its own Arc de Triomphe. UNESCO declared the city a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2005.

You will also drop in on Trinidad which preserves its Spanish-colonial style with cobble-stoned streets, red-tiled roofs, wrought iron grills and shady internal patios. Visit a couple of the museums and palaces before having lunch at the Plaza Mayor. Afterwards you will visit a tavern to sample a special drink made with honey, lemon and rum concocted for slaves in colonial times.

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Trinidad Cuba

Day 8

At sea. Bird-spotting and lectures. Arrive Santiago de Cuba.
 

During the morning Silver Cloud will continue along Cuba’s southern shore, giving you time to observe, relax, enjoy the amenities Silver Cloud has to offer. Work out in the well-equipped Fitness Centre, take a class in circuit training or Pilates in the aerobics room, and let the sauna and steam rooms soothe every muscle. Silversea offers seminars ranging from aromatherapy to nutrition.  A holistic approach to wellness fully integrates exercise, fitness and spa therapies with health lectures and nutritious dining

You can also attend lectures which will focus on Caribbean natural history. In the afternoon Silver Cloud will approach Santiago de Cuba’s port and spend the night there.

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Silver Explorer

Day 9

Visit Santiago de Cuba
 

You’ll be driven through the main streets of Cuba’s second city your way to a 17th century fortress at the entrance to the harbour, described by UNESCO as the most complete and best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture. A brief stop will be made at Revolution Square before you visit José Martí’s mausoleum. A stop will be made at a rum bar before you head to Céspedes Park, the heart of the city, where Santiago’s beautiful cathedral overlooks the square.

Alternatively, depart inland on an adventure which follows the road to La Gran Piedra, one of the rugged Sierra Maestra peaks.  The best view of the mountains is at the top of a flight of over 400 steps.

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Santiago de Cuba

Day 10

Port Antonio, Jamaica.
 

Join members of the Expedition Team for a visit to a small cove nearly which is acknowledged to be one of Jamaica’s most scenic spots, the Blue Lagoon. You will also visit Frenchman’s Cove and the architecturally ornate and historic Victorian mansion of Demontevine Lodge on Titchfield Street.

Together with the onboard ornithologist, you embark on a bird-watching adventure to Reach Falls. Where, owing to the migratory path to and from North America, many species can be spotted in both autumn and spring.

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Day 11

Heading towards Cartagena, Colombia.
 

A leisurely day at sea allows time to attend a talk about the next destination, Colombia’s colonial Cartagena.

You might take advantage of the facilities on board, such as the beauty salon or exercise classes: yoga, Pilates and aerobics are on offer and there is a comprehensive Fitness Room.  Or maybe just luxuriate in the comfort of your suite and watch a movie.
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Silver Cloud

Day 12

Cartagena, Colombia.
 

Since its foundation in 1533, imposing Cartagena de Indias has been one of the most strategically important ports in Latin America. In colonial times it sheltered Europe-bound galleons laden with gold. Pirates repeatedly attacked the city which was fortified with lofty walls and fortresses.  This ‘walled city’ was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1984.

During the afternoon you will visit the exquisite and atmospheric historic core. Ochre-hued colonial houses with flower-draped balconies line narrow lanes echoing with the salsa music which you can hear on every corner. These delicate façades shelter art galleries, bars and trendy restaurants.

Inside the protected walled area you’ll also find several museums and theatres. Indeed, nowadays this cultured city is an international centre for the Arts, and even hosts its own Hay Festival. 

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Cartegena

Day 13

Visit the San Blas Islands, Panama.
 

Continue sailing to the last of your contrasting Caribbean countries, Panama. Boarding Zodiacs you’ll visit one of 365 islets and islands off Panama’s northern coast. San Blas archipelago is populated by the semi-autonomous Kuna indians whose economy centres on fishing and agriculture.

The Kuna women craft colour-rich embroidered garments which they wear to this day. While you are visiting one of the uninhabited islets for swimming and snorkelling Kuna women will come over from the other islands, offering their ‘molas’ for photographs or for sale as souvenirs.

This voyage rich in a variety of multi-layered cultures and landscapes is over, and this evening the on-board videographer/photographer will present a Voyage DVD, recapturing all the sights and sounds of the voyage.

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weaver

Day 14

Arrive Colon and transfer to Panama City.
 

Arrive at Colon, at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal, and disembark.  You’ll be collected and taken to the beautifully refurbished  first class art deco American Trade Hotel in the Spanish colonial district of Panama City for two nights.

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old panama

Day 15

Rainforest expedition by boat close to the Panama Canal.
 

It’s just a short drive to Soberanía National Park and Gatún Lake. The vast body of water was created when the canal was built and it is fringed by rainforest which is a haven for wildlife. With a naturalist guide to help you, look out for howler monkeys, sloths and toucans.

You'll also be able to watch, almost within touching distance it seems, mighty Panamax freighters glide past, towering above the jungle canopy.

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Lake Gatun

Day 16

Transfer to the airport for international flight, arriving home the following day.
 

Alternatively, now you've reached one end of the Panama Canal, why not stay on board for the next section of the cruise, from Colon to Callao? Or at least visit the canal, and maybe even make a full or half day transit of this monumental waterway. 

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Miraflores Dock

Essential information

Transport

12 day expedition cruise from Nassau, Bahamas to Colon, Panama. Land transfer to Panama City.

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates a luxurious cruise on board a first class cruise ship, Silver Cloud, accommodating 200 guests.  All guest suites are ocean view and all have verandas, marble bath, flat screen TV, on demand movies, and spa robes. All suites have a designated trained butler. Among his or her many services for you, your butler helps customise your mattress, pillow and bathroom amenities. Wifi internet (when coverage is available) and computers are accessed in the Internet café. The ship also has a medical centre, spa, beauty salon, fitness room and boutique.

Hotels in Nassau and Panama City are first class. 

Meals

Breakfast daily, full board on the cruise ship. On board ship, all meals and snacks are included, with options to eat al fresco or in your suite. Complimentary beverages incl wine, spirits, coffee, soft drinks; customised minibar items.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 30 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return. Guides, lecturers and presenters on the cruise ship are all qualified in a field of expertise relevant to the cruise.

Included excursions

• Rainforest expedition at Gatún lake alongside the Panama Canal.  
• Land and sea-based excursions and activities on the expedition cruise.

Summary of nights

Nassau 1, cruise 12 nights, Panama City 2 nights.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives on the mainland..
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• All inclusive cruise as specified, including land and sea excursions, activities and lectures. 
• Complimentary water bottle and backpack on cruise.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified. 
• Cruise staff tips and gratuities.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities on the mainland and mainland excursions.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Excursions designated optional.

Currency

The currency of Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso, in Colombia it is the Colombian Peso. in The unit of currency in Panama is the Balboa, equivalent in value to the US dollar. US dollars also circulate in Panama. 

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of good quality meals, drinks and the odd souvenir on those days in the holiday itinerary or extension outside the cruise. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more. On the cruise, excursions, drinks, meals and tips are included.

How to take it

Outside the cruise period, cash machines are available in major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

You can purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos in banks or cadecas (money exchanges) in principal towns. US dollars are not accepted but you can take cash in UK sterling. Euros are also accepted but the rate may not be as favourable. There are some ATM machines which supposedly accept debit cards but they are not always reliable. You can also get cash with a credit or debit card (not issued by a US bank).

In Colombia notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs in the old and new quarters of the city using a UK credit or debit card, though you may have to advise your bank first and amounts that can be withdrawn may be lower than in the UK. Be aware that some ATMs are often out of service but there should be a working one nearby. Money exchanges (casas de cambio) change US dollars cash (very few accept euros or sterling and the rate will be poor). Don’t change money on the street.

ATMs are available in Panama City.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can spend as the dollar is the local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

You can pay for extras on the cruise (beauty salon and spa treatments, boutique items) with a credit card or US dollars. Optional excursions may be offered which have to be booked and  paid in advance before departure. Acquiring some local currency for tips for services provided by local people on the mainland and purchases from markets is advisable.

Tipping

Tips for the cruise staff are included, but local guides onshore will welcome a gratuity: they often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. Most service industry workers will hope for a tip so it is useful to have spare change for waiters, hotel porters, taxi drivers etc. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential.  Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. If you have doubts about your fitness for the cruise, we will send you a medical questionnaire. 

Children are accepted, but must be over 6 years old to participate in excursions. There is no special entertainment programme on board for children. Children and and teenagers who are interested in the wildlife and nature should enjoy the cruise and if there is a number of children/teenagers on board, the expedition team might dedicate a team member to lead the group and explain things to them.

Climate

In Cuba, the weather is usually sunny, and not too humid, though there can be cool days and tropical downpours. Hurricanes and storms are also possible in November. Temperatures usually range from 19-28°C.

Cartagena enjoys plenty of sun at this time of the year, with high temperatures (25-32°C) and the possibility of rain showers.  

Situated well within the tropics, Panama City has high temperatures (over 30°C) all year round. May-Nov is the rainy season. The city lies outside the main hurricane belt.

Clothing and special equipment

Pack for hot weather with summer-weight loose, comfortable clothing including shorts and trousers (bear in mind that you have to get in and out of Zodiac boats). Brings sun-protective headgear, swimwear, smart casual for the evening, light sweater or jacket for cool evenings, wet weather gear: umbrella for tropical downpours, rain-cape or coat, comfortable non-slip footwear including stout walking boots or shoes and consider bringing aqua socks for snorkelling etc. There’s no need to over-pack: On board the cruise ship there is a laundry and dry cleaning service.

Sun block and insect repellent are essential. Don’t forget your sun-glasses, binoculars, camera, charger and memory cards. Some items can be bought in the on board boutique, including branded and unbranded T shirts and sweatshirts, scent, souvenir mugs etc. Remember to pack any personal medication (carry it in cabin luggage on the flights). Consider taking sea-sickness prevention (consult your pharmacist). A small first aid kit with blister pads, aspirin etc may come in handy. The ship has a medical centre.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements such as malaria prophylactics.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html

This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

UK Passport holders must present an e-passport with a built in digital chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.


APIS - many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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