On Live Voyage Reports: Mojito Days, Havana Nights

Mojito Days, Havana Nights

Hola, Habana! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Hola, Habana! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

January 13, 2014

Today has easily been the most spectacular part of this voyage so far aboard Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal . We sailed into the port of Havana, Cuba on a hot, cloudless morning; the panoramic view of the city obscured only by a thin layer of mist. But it did not feel like we were sailing into any ordinary Caribbean port; it felt more like arriving into a spectacular city in Spain or Portugal.

The Havana skyline comes into view early this morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Havana skyline comes into view early this morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We made our way along the narrow channel to the inner harbour, where three massive piers jut out like fingers into the bay. Arrival here feels surprisingly like arriving at New York’s Manhattan Cruise Terminal, and Louis Cristal swung her stern around and slowly backed in to our berth as the sounds of early-morning traffic filled the air, along with the belching black smoke emitted from some of Havana’s older automobiles.

Sailing into La Habana. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Sailing into La Habana. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Backing into our berth at the Havana Cruise Terminal. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Backing into our berth at the Havana Cruise Terminal. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The pier has been entirely renovated and refurbished – signs of a massive infrastructure upgrade that can be seen throughout Havana. “Island Time” may be alive and well here, but the Cuban people really know how to get things done. Ironically, the refurbished interior looks remarkably similar to the passenger terminal in Naples, Italy, where I was just two months ago.

Inside the newly-renovated Havana Cruise Terminal. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Inside the newly renovated Havana Cruise Terminal. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Havana, or La Habana, is Cuba’s capital and largest city. More than 2.1 million citizens call Havana home, and nearly 1 million tourists from around the world visit the city annually. The city’s Old Town – or La Habana Veija – was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982 in recognition of its stunning array of Spanish Colonial architecture.

I could go on about the rich history of Havana and rattle off names, places and dates, but let’s cut to the chase, shall we? A visit to Havana is a life-changing experience. In fact, chances are it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced – and everything – all at the same time. There’s European influence. Latin American influence. African influence. And yes, even American influence. It’s crumbling but sexy; modern but ancient. Welcoming and mysterious.

Our first stop of the day: Revolution Square. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our first stop of the day: Revolution Square. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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