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Luxury Cuba: Colonial classics and coast

11 days from £2536pp

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Luxury Cuba: Colonial classics and coast:
Trip Dossier

Cuba’s unique Latin American beat sets it apart from all the other islands of the Caribbean. With a direct flight from the UK, it is a viable option to spend just 10 days on a luxury break to experience the hospitality of the people, their extraordinary history, living culture, music and dance. We’ve devised a first class holiday where you will explore both by day and at night old Havana’s evocative historic quarters and Trinidad’s elegant colonial streets. Finally,  you’ll soak up the sun on the chalky white sand beach at the Caribbean island Cayo Santa María, the largest and most developed of an archipelago of coral islets. There’s time at leisure to choose optional excursions and activities at your top quality resort hotel, or just lie on the beach with a mojito or piña colada in your hand.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Havana. Transfer to hotel in the historic city centre.

Day 2

Guided vintage car tour of Old Havana.

Day 3

Visit to the Tropicana Cabaret show.

Day 4

Transfer by car to UNESCO World Heritage Site Trinidad, in southern Cuba.

Day 5

Guided colonial city tour.

Day 6

Day at leisure or to explore the Escambray mountains.

Day 7

Land transfer to first class resort hotel on Cayo Santa María.

Days 8-9

At leisure

Day 10

Transfer to Havana overland .

Day 11

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Havana. Transfer to hotel in the historic city centre.
 

With VIP assistance at the airport you will transfer to your hotel in the historic centre.

Day 2

Guided vintage car tour of Old Havana.
 

Soak up the atmosphere from the seat of a vintage car as you are driven around one of the world’s most vibrant capitals and along the famous malecón (seafront promenade), including highlights such as the revolutionary square famed for  being the platform for Fidel’s lengthy speeches.  Before you climb into the back seat of your polished classic car you’ll stroll along the pedestrian cobbles of La Habana Vieja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Music seems to seep out of every doorway in the pastel-hued mansions and the more modest homes of narrow, shaded alleys of the busy centre. The subsequent restoration of this part of town has transformed it into what is arguably Latin America's finest colonial quarter, standing in marked contrast to the potholed streets and crumbling façades around it.

Day 3

Visit to the Tropicana Cabaret show.
 

At leisure in the capital. In the evening you’ll have an appointment with the world famous Tropicana Cabaret. Over the top it may be but its flamboyance reflects the Cubans’ love of music and dressing up. Founded in the 1930s the Tropicana club harks back to Havana's flashy mid-century heyday, when the jet set flocked here to live it up amongst the casinos, cocktail bars and luxury hotels and the city was a byword for Caribbean exoticism. 

Make your own way across the cobbled streets of Havana to the Salón Bajo las Estrellas ('Hall Under the Stars') for this extravaganza of tropical colour and rhythm, beginning at 10pm. Included are some light bites to eat, a ¼ bottle of Havana rum, tonic water and a glass of sparkling wine. Watch enthralled as singers in show-stopping Carmen-Miranda-style costumes command the stage and dancers perform larger-than-life routines to the mesmerising beat of salsa.  The dress code is smart/smart-casual. There is a small fee to take cameras into the cabaret.

Club Tropicana show

Day 4

Transfer by car to UNESCO World Heritage Site Trinidad, in southern Cuba.
 
Transfer by car to Trinidad, a beautifully preserved colonial town with numerous eateries and live music venues set in some of Cuba’s loveliest scenery. Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere. Low-rise, brightly painted houses with vast shutters open out onto cobbled streets, palm trees dot the main plaza and evening entertainment continues into the early hours with dancing and music each night.
Trinidad's colonial streets

Day 5

Guided colonial city tour.
 

Guided tour through Trinidad's cobbled streets and elegantly crumbling town houses which lead to vibrant plazas frequently filled with music and salsa dancing. As you visit the Plaza Mayor and Museo Romántico, you'll be introduced to the history of the city which seems barely touched by the modern world. Stop at an authentic Cuban bar, La Canchánchara to sample a traditional cocktail, before heading off to a ceramics workshop, La Casa del Alfarero.

Day 6

Day at leisure or to explore the Escambray mountains.
 

At leisure during the day. You might visit the nearby crisp white beach or head off into the Topes de Collantes National Park in the Escambray mountains behind the city, where there are cool forests, lakes, waterfalls and a number of hiking trails.

In the evening there’s a unique guided excursion taking you around the bustling streets of colonial Trinidad by night. You'll head out at around 9pm, accompanied by a knowledgeable and friendly Trinidadian resident for an evening filled with music, dance and authentic Cuban bars. Your drinks and entry costs are payable locally.

Topes de Callentes

Day 7

Land transfer to first class resort hotel on Cayo Santa María.
 

Transfer by road to Cayo Santa María. A string of small tropical cays (which form part of the Jardins del Rey archipelago) are connected to the town of Caibarién on the mainland by a 48km causeway. This island (2 x 13km) is blessed with gorgeous powdery white sand beaches, mangroves and calm turquoise waters, ideal for snorkelling and diving. It is served solely by a small cluster of resort hotels; there is no Cuban village. 

Cayo Santa Maria

Days 8-9

At leisure
 

At leisure on the beach.

Day 10

Transfer to Havana overland .
 

Transfer back to Havana overland.

Day 11

Transfer to airport for international flight home.
 

Essential information

Transport

3 private road journeys ( the longest is approx 6 hrs)

Accommodation

Accommodation on this trip is in the most luxurious hotels Cuba has to offer in the chosen places. In Cuba standards of amenities and service can be erratic, but are constantly improving. You’ll find well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning.

Meals

Breakfast daily. Dinner day 6, full board days 7-9.

Guides

Included excursions

• Guided vintage car tour of Old Havana.
• Tropicana Club cabaret.
• Guided city tour in Trinidad.
• Guided city tour by night Trinidad.
• Included activities at beach resort.

Summary of nights

11 days, 10 nights: Havana 3; Trinidad 3; Cayo Santa María 3; Havana 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

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

Currency

The unit of currency in Cuba is the Cuban peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around £25 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cuba imposes a 10-15% charge on dollar exchange. To avoid this, you should travel a reasonable quantity of with sterling or euro cash (no more than is covered by your insurance). Notes should be in good condition, soiled or torn ones may be refused. Both euros and sterling are accepted in most banks and some of the larger hotels. You can change these into convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) on arrival. Keep the official receipt from your transaction, because you will need this should you want to change any currency back to sterling or euros at the end of your trip. 

Credit cards (not issued by US banks) are also accepted in some places, but be aware that there is a 11% surcharge on payments made by card, including on cash advances. Havana has a few ATMs and there are a couple more popping up in other cities, although these cannot be relied on. Maestro cards are not accepted in Cuba. 

Travellers’ cheques are another option, though these are gradually falling out of use (in Cuba those drawn on a US bank, eg American Express, will be refused). 

In October 2013 President Castro announced the abolition of the artificial Cuban Convertible Peso, allowing Cubans and visitors to exchange hard currency for ordinary pesos. This change is predicted to be in place by the end of 2014.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Cuban authorities require visitors to have travel insurance, and specifically for the medical and repatriation element of cover to be from an approved provider. For example, Journey Latin America’s recommended insurance company is Campbell Irvine, and their medical and repatriation cover is handled by International Medical Assistance, who are approved by Cuba. Please check with your insurance company that their provider is similarly approved.

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.

Departure tax from Cuba is now (as of May 2015) included in  the price of your ticket.

Journey grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors, including families.

Bear in mind that there are some walking tours on this trip, though nothing especially demanding. This journey uses a combination of tourist bus services and private transport. Be aware that although there are timetables for buses in Cuba, there are often delays and occasionally cancellations – patience and a flexible attitude will be a virtue in these situations.

Climate

As Cuba lies in the Caribbean Sea, it has a tropical climate that is split into two seasons, one wet and one dry. 

However, Cuba is generally hot throughout the year (18-32°C) with regular rainfall and high humidity. The rainy season runs from May to October and from July to September, humidity can be very high. The east of the island is hotter and more humid that the west. Hurricanes and tropical storms are possible from July to October.

Clothing and special equipment

No special clothing or equipment is required although comfortable walking shoes or trainers, and sandals would be useful. Light, summer clothing will be adequate for these hot temperatures, and the dress code is very casual everywhere. Thin, long-sleeved garments may be useful for evenings, and a lightweight raincoat is the best protection against tropical downpours. We also recommend that you pack a torch as lighting can be poor at night.

Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

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. A completed Cuban tourist card is essential for all UK citizens travelling to Cuba, we will organise this for you. Clients with a different nationality should contact us or check with the Cuban consulate.

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