Antiguo Convento de San Francisco de Asis, Trinidad, Cuba - a colonial city under protection of UNESCO

By Oceania Cruises Guest Marisol M.

With its mysterious and fabled past, Cuba has long enchanted me. Living in Miami, I’ve come to know and love so many Cuban natives, so I’m excited to see what this charming island has in store for me during my cruise this fall. Here’s what locals say you shouldn’t miss when you travel to Cuba.

TAKING A RIDE IN A CLASSIC AMERICAN CAR

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Arriving in Havana, the first thing you may notice is a line of vintage Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Mercury, Dodge, Oldsmobile and Pontiac models from the 1950s and 1960s in an array of bright colors – blue, pink, green, orange – all just waiting to take travelers for a drive around the city. With my love of all things antique, I can’t wait to take a spin around Havana in one of these classic rides.

A STROLL ALONG THE FAMOUS MALECÓN

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One of my activities in Havana will definitely include strolling along the city’s famous Malecón and soaking up the Cuban atmosphere. As Havana’s sea drive, the Malecón spans almost five miles long and is one of the city’s most quintessential thoroughfares. Locals say it’s the perfect way to begin or end any visit to the island’s capital.

HAVANA NIGHTLIFE

After watching the sunset by the ocean and enjoying a bite at one of Havana’s famous paladares, the perfect thing to do, Cuban natives tell me, is get a taste of the nightlife. When it’s time to take in the lively atmosphere, and try the island’s famous drink – the mojito – why not enjoy it all at one of the most well-known nightclubs in Havana, Tropicana Cabaret? Built in 1939 in the Marianao neighborhood, Tropicana Cabaret remains one of Havana’s most popular locales.

THE PICTURESQUE TOWN OF TRINIDAD

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Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, Trinidad is a one-of-a-kind, perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement near Cienfuegos. With the Sierra del Escambray as a backdrop, my Cuban friends say they can’t imagine traveling to this region of the country without visiting the Valle de los Ingenios, where there are ruins of dozens of 19th-century sugar mills, including warehouses, milling machinery, slave quarters, manor houses, and a fully functioning steam train. Though some sugar is still grown here, the valley is famous today for its historical significance and UNESCO World Heritage status.

THE FAMOUS BACARDÍ RUM FACTORY & MUSEUM

The Bacardí museum was established in 1899 in Santiago de Cuba by the rum-entrepreneur, war hero and city mayor Emilio Bacardí Moreau, son of Don Facundo Bacardí, founder of the family’s first rum distillery in Santiago de Cuba in 1862. The museum displays artifacts collected from Emilio’s travels, including an extensive weapons collection, paintings from the Spanish costumbrismo school (a 19th-century artistic movement) and the only Egyptian mummy on the island. After the museum, I plan to crown my voyage with a visit to the renowned Bacardí Rum Factory to sample some rum.

With all of the incredible options for exploration, it’s easy to understand how Cuba has a way of captivating travelers with its larger-than-life culture. Start planning your Cuba voyage now!