What exactly does that mean? As an experienced traveler and lover of all things that allow me to access the essence of a place, I was really looking forward to finding out.
Our cruise began in Jamaica with a mixture of International guests, but most from the US and for all of us, our first visit to Cuba.
Day 1 was an introduction to all the people involved with making our “people to people” program possible and to my surprise, most of them Cuban. There are dancers, servers, musicians and experts, including a young doctor of philosophy, all willing to share their life experiences and perspectives.
In port, the information flows from our guide (a previous English teacher) and I learn so much about the Cuban history, culture, the struggles and victories that they share. Many elders freely express what it has meant to be Cuban. In between we visit artisans, important monuments and enjoy Cuban musical performances while sipping a refreshing Mojito.
An intense immersion like this just couldn’t end without snacking on an authentic Cuban sandwich and we found just that from a vendor in the park near our ship. We munched while taking photos of a modern sculpture of “CUBA” with our ship as a backdrop. The curiosity of 3 locals couldn’t be contained as they approached us independently to find out who we were. We certainly had a perfect opportunity to practice our Spanish. The locals beamed at the exchange.
Back onboard, our immersion escalates with lectures (cigars, more history, rum tasting), dance lessons (salsa, rumba, chachacha) and musical presentations.
The pieces start to come together the more I am exposed to the many facets of Cuba. Although inextricable, because the “power of the people” is at the core of every Cuban, the politics seems less important than the humanity.
We’re only 3 days into our journey and I feel connected to this beautiful island with people who seem so proud of their accomplishments. Their crowning moments being the leadership of Jose Martí into the war of independence from Spanish colonialism in the late 19th century, followed by the Fidel Castro led revolution which culminated on December 31, 1958 leaving him their victorious leader on January 1. There is so much more to the story that invites you to come and find out for yourself.
Although I am an avid reader, sometimes I don’t have the time to really get to know about a place before I visit. My experience so far has been so positively “educational while you go”, that I sincerely wish every cruise would immerse us in this way. My feeling is that the more we understand about our neighbors, the more we learn about ourselves.
There’s a lot more to think about in the days to come and I am looking forward to our next 2 days in La Havana!
Contributed by Tammy Weiler ~ President of Fun & Adventure at Singles Travel International