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Havana Plaza de la Catedral

Cuba by Land and Sea: Cultural Heritage and Natural Wonders

Example 11 Day Cruise
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The world’s fascination with Cuba has lasted for many generations, and for good reason. Cuba is a cultural hub, with a mix of descendants of indigenous people, European immigrants, and slaves, and its music and art draw on these diverse influences. Cuba has also exerted an outsize influence on world history. Join the Panorama II on a unique land-and-sea exploration that balances experiences in the country’s cultural centers with explorations of wild coastal sites. Be introduced to Cubans who make a difference in their fields, meet the friendly and always interesting residents, and gain a rich and rewarding understanding of this multifaceted country. It’s a fascinating time to be there, when Cuba is on the cusp of undergoing significant and rapid change.
Cuban musicianChurch in Trinidad, CubaA glimpse of Cuba's past and presentExplore Cuba's waters on your small ship cruise aboard the Panorama IIHavana Plaza de la Catedral
  • Learn about Cuba’s history & present via extensive people-to-people visits
  • Explore some of Cuba’s superb marine habitats, coral reefs, and sea life
  • Visit the Bay of Pigs where exiles tried to overthrow the government (1961)
  • Experience rich traditions from lively music to superb Cuban cuisine
  • See colonial Trinidad, vibrant Havana & Cienfuegos, a UNESCO Heritage Site
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Miami | Havana

  • 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Meet at Miami International Airport in the morning for your flight to Havana. On arrival, transfer to the city for lunch. This afternoon, meet with the members of a Cuban percussion and dance group, and take in a stirring performance of their groundbreaking music and dance. Check in to your historic hotel, the Hotel Nacional, located on the waterfront, where you stay three nights. The Nacional, a Havana landmark, opened in 1930 and over the decades has hosted a remarkable number of entertainers, writers, athletes, and world leaders. Ride in vintage 1950s cars to your dinner at a local restaurant. 

Note that flights are not included.

Day 2-3: Havana

  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
A full program of people-to-people visits is lined up for these two days, with opportunities for you to choose among programs that interest you most. Explore Old Havana on foot. It’s a World Heritage site, a trove of historic architecture, and center for Cuba’s arts and culture. See its great squares and meet with Cubans who are playing a vital role in preserving this area. Drive along the Malecón, the esplanade that runs along the waterfront. On your visits, meet with Cubans who are making a difference in their fields, and develop a rich understanding of life in Cuba. Get a perspective on Castro’s revolution at the city’s history museums. Visit art spaces. See Ernest Hemingway’s estate at Finca Vigía. Visit a cigar factory, and learn about environmental education projects at the Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez. Visit an auto workshop where classic American cars are restored. Enjoy several meals in some of Havana’s best private restaurants, which have developed a reputation for innovative cuisine. And on one evening hear the rhythms of Cuba at a private dinner, with the chance to meet the musicians—Cuba’s rich traditions have been celebrated all over the world. 

Day 4: Havana | Cienfuegos | Embark

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Have a final morning to explore Havana, with people-to-people visits. After lunch, drive to the beautiful city of Cienfuegos, on Cuba’s south coast. On arrival, meet and hear a performance by a stirring choral group that’s based here. In the late afternoon, embark Panorama II, your home for the next seven nights, and have a welcome dinner aboard ship. 

Day 5: Bay of Pigs

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning finds you at the Bay of Pigs, an ecologically important area that became known worldwide when the 1961 U.S.-backed invasion by Cuban exiles was rapidly and thoroughly defeated by the Cuban revolutionary government, whose forces were led by Fidel Castro. Visit the museum that recounts the history of the battle, with photographs and artifacts that include a Cuban fighter plane and vessels. Meet with people who tell you about what transpired and its meaning to Cubans.
The bay lies along the Zapata Peninsula and the Zapata Swamp National Park, and you have a chance to explore the area in search of its renowned birdlife, famously including the world’s smallest bird, the endemic bee hummingbird, along with the endemic Cuban trogon (Cuba’s national bird), La Sagra's flycatcher, Cuban green woodpecker and more. Meet with experts who tell you about the vitally important role the area plays in the area’s natural history—it has been compared to the Everglades. In the late afternoon, drive back to Cienfuegos and the ship.

Day 6: Trinidad

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
A UNESCO World Heritage site and Cuban national monument, Trinidad is a splendid and meticulously preserved colonial city, perhaps Cuba’s most beautiful. It occupies a spectacular setting on a hill overlooking the Caribbean, with a backdrop of green mountains. Founded in 1514 by the conquistador Diego Velázquez, it has rich architecture, cobblestone streets, palaces, and plazas. Seemingly every building has an intriguing history. This morning visit the Office of the City Historian, and walk through the town, interacting with residents along the way. There are stops for visits to local artists, to home studios; and to the municipal museum. The museum’s bell tower offers fine views over Trinidad. In the afternoon, see the Valley of the Sugar Mills, where local guides explain sugar’s importance to Cuba’s history and you can see how the sugar barons lived. Alternatively, spend the day with a local specialist exploring the Topes de Collantes Natural Park in the Escambray Mountains, with a short hike and a chance to see something of Cuba’s natural history, and explore Trinidad in the afternoon, meeting its residents. 

Day 7: At Sea

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
A day at sea gives you the chance to attend talks by staff about Cuba, work on your photographs with the Lindblad-National Geographic photo instructor on board, and reflect on the things you’ve seen. 

Day 8: Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth)

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Isle of Youth, formerly known as the Isle of Pines, is a large island off the south coast of the main island of Cuba. It occupies an important role in Cuban history as the place where Fidel and Raúl Castro and others were imprisoned, and also where many people considered “social undesirables” were at one time exiled. It is today a friendly place, which because of its relative isolation from the rest of Cuba gets very few outside visitors—the presence of foreign travelers gets heads to turn. Anchoring at Siguanea Bay, drive about 40 minutes to the island’s main city, called Nueva Gerona. Visit a maternity hospital to learn about the care that mothers receive, and the art school on the central plaza. Then stroll the "Boulevard," lined with local shops, meeting with local residents and seeing cultural performances as you go. After lunch, visit the Presidio Modelo, the prison where Fidel and Raúl Castro and 23 other revolutionaries were confined between 1953 and 1955, following their failed attack on the Moncada barracks near Santiago de Cuba. The area where the revolutionaries were confined is now a museum with interesting exhibits, and the ruins of the large, circular buildings where other prisoners were held are extremely evocative. Return to your ship, with a brief stop if time permits at the Hotel El Colony, improbably opened as a Hilton in 1958 and reportedly financed by the Mafia. 

Day 9: Cayo Largo

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This beautiful key is home to diverse marine ecosystems and a small local community that serves the primarily European and Canadian visitors who come here. This morning have a people-to-people visit to the local clinic to discuss Cuba’s medical system with local doctors and nurses. Visit a sea turtle breeding center and endangered species protection program. Have a chance to explore the island’s marine world by swimming or snorkeling. 

Day 10: Cienfuegos

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today explore Cienfuegos, Cuba’s "Pearl of the South" and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Columbus is said to have been here in 1494, on his second voyage to the New World, and the area was subsequently a haven for pirates and smugglers. French settlers arrived in 1819, and the city retains a distinct liveliness and sophistication. Begin by exploring colonial Cienfuegos on foot. Among places of particular interest that you see are the Government Palace (City Hall), the Teatro Thomas Terry, and the beautiful main square, Plaza Martí. Continue to the Benny Moré School of Art, named after the great Cuban singer and bandleader who came from this region. It is a lively school, where young people get a strong education in the performing arts. Meet teachers and students, and see performances. After lunch at a local restaurant, have a chance to visit Pepito Tey, a village where sugar used to be processed. On a people-to-people visit that gives excellent insight into Cuban agriculture and rural life, meet with a local historian who tells you about efforts to bring new employment to the former sugar cane workers who live here. Return to Cienfuegos for a moving children’s performance of "Cucarachita Martina," a children’s tale known to all Cubans. Then go to the roof of the ornate Palacio de Valle, built in 1917, for sunset drinks on the rooftop, before returning to your ship for a farewell dinner.

Day 11: Cienfuegos | Depart

  • 1 Breakfast
Disembark this morning and transfer to Cienfuegos airport for your flight to Miami, connecting with flights home. 

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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
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