On Live Voyage Reports: Cruising Cuba, Holguin, Biran and Cigars

Holguin, Biran and Cigars

Stepping back in time on our way to Holguin, Cuba. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Stepping back in time on our way to Holguin, Cuba. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

January 15, 2014

Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal anchored this morning off the small port city of Antilla in Bahia de Nipe. It was the site of the Battle of Nipe Bay, which occurred on July 21, 1898 as part of the Spanish-American War. Today, Antilla is a relatively sleepy little village that consists of a few buildings and the remnants of a crumbling pier.

Cuba Cruise's Louis Cristal at anchor off Antilla, Cuba. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal at anchor off Antilla, Cuba. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Because of the lack of a suitable pier apron, Louis Cristal ran stern lines to the concrete pilings of the century-old pier to hold her in place, and guests went ashore aboard the ship’s motorized tenders. But there are signs of improvement underway: The town has paved brand-new roads leading onto the pier just for Cuba Cruise, replacing the dirt roads that were here just a few weeks ago.

One of the Cuba Cruise motorcoaches departs Antilla, bound for Holguin. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
One of the Cuba Cruise motorcoaches departs Antilla, bound for Holguin. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Antilla is the gateway to the Cuban city of Holguin, a rather industrial city of 1.5 million. It’s noteworthy for being close to the small commune of Biran – the childhood home of Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul.

Four excursions are offered in Holguin:

  • Paradise Island ($149 Adult / $136 Children) – a catamaran sail to Paradise Island with a buffet lunch on the beach and snorkeling excursions.
  • Biran & Holguin ($88 Adult / $78 Children) – a full-day tour of both Biran and Holguin, including a visit to a local cigar factory to see how Cuban cigars are made.
  • Dolphins & Beach Time at Guardalavaca ($160 Adult / $150 Children) – A beach break in Guardalavaca and a visit to the Dolphinarium situated in the ocean.
  • Cuba Life ($92.00 Adult / $84 Children) – a visit to Cayo Barjay where Christopher Columbus first landed in Cuba, followed by a visit to a local farm to see his avocado and yucca plantation. The excursion concludes with a trip to the El Chorro de Maita archeological site.

To make the most of my time, I chose the eight-hour Biran & Holguin tour that included lunch in the cost of the tour, along with – as I have come to learn in Cuba – ample cerveza.

Since we had ample time on our hour-long drive to Biran, lunch orders were taken in advance to ensure meals were ready for us later on in the day. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Since we had ample time on our hour-long drive to Biran, lunch orders were taken in advance to ensure meals were ready for us later on in the day. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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