10 Easy Steps For Americans Visiting Cuba On A Cruise

For over 50 years Cuba was closed for tourism for U.S citizens. Currently the restrictions for visiting are not completely lifted, but after doing research when planning to visit Cuba, I found the easiest way for me to visit was on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line.

havana 4

Havana, Cuba 

By taking a cruise I did not need to fly into Cuba, find accommodations or figure out what I would do each day – I took out all the planning and left it to NCL.

IMG_0615

Norwegian Sun in the Havana port

I did receive a lot of questions and emails from everyone asking about the steps and how easy it was to visit Cuba as a U.S. citizen – so I am putting together this guide that outlines everything.

havana 2

Musicians

havana 1

Handicrafts

havana 5

Cuban cars

IMG_0659

Beautiful doors

IMG_0686

Dining in Havana

  1. You need a passport. Cuba is a foreign country and no matter how you plan to visit there as a U.S. citizen, you will need a passport. If you are booking your cruise 6 months out or later, apply for your passport now and send in all the required documents so you can get it back in time (most post offices offer this service). If you are planning between 1-6 months out, you can expedite your passport online. Keep in mind you will need time to get a visa and you cannot get a visa without your passport information.
    1. You can book your cruise without having your passport first. You will fill out your cruise documents prior to leaving for the cruise – so if you do not have a passport but want to book, that is ok. Just make sure you have the passport before leaving for your cruise or they will not let you on.
  2. Book the cruise – Currently Norwegian Cruise Line offers anywhere from 4-15 day cruises that stop in Cuba. On the shorter stays, you will be stopping in Havana overnight and on the longer cruises you will be there from morning until late night. You will have to decide if you want to go to more islands, if you are just wanting to visit Cuba and one other stop – that is up to you.
  3. After you book the cruise, you need to get a visa. It is required to have a visa to even board the ship, but also you will need it to enter Havana at the port. There are two easy ways to get a visa:
    1. Norwegian will get the visa for you and you can pick it up when you check in to the ship – this is the easiest method.
    2. I got my visa from oncubatravel.com – and they sent it 2 day overnight. The only reason I went this route was to test the waters and see how fast they could get it to me and that it was accurate (which it was) and I had more than enough time that if anything went wrong I could get one through NCL.
      1. If you do go through On Cuba Travel, you will need to select from the 19 current available options for “Support for the Cuban people (515.5740)” as your visa.
  4. Before you cruise, Norwegian will email out an affidavit that you will need to fill out electronically and send back that has your purpose of travel (which in this case is “support for the Cuban people”).
  5. As a U.S. citizen you are required to meet the requirements for the visa, and NCL makes this easy by offering tours that are compliant with the government regulations. You will need to book at least one tour in advance of your cruise to fill this requirement. I highly advise looking at the options early and picking something you are comfortable with.
    1. There are several options for tours and in some cases you can fit more than 1 tour in a day. When I went overnight I could have done 3 tours throughout the day that were all different. If you are set on cruising around in an old car – make sure to book that first and work everything else around it.
      1. The real trick in doing multiple tours (and it is easy) is to find the tours you want to do and make sure they are offered at different times throughout the day. Make sure they aren’t very close together because you never know if a tour will run long.
    2. You should keep a detailed itinerary of your activities in Cuba for about 5 years.
  6. Once you have everything you need to cruise and you are ready to go, getting on the cruise is easy.
    1. If you decide to add on another tour through NCL you can do this on the ship (but you also have the option to book them all before ever getting on the ship and I think you should go this route just to guarantee you get what you want from your trip).
  7. Arriving in the port of Havana – if you have an early scheduled tour you will meet with the staff before exiting the ship so that they can show you where to go to meet your tour guide (afternoon tours will do this later in the day).
    1. Exiting can take a little bit of time because each person has to turn in their passport and visa and get their photo taken.
    2. You will not have wifi or cell phone service in Cuba. You can however get it on the ship (even when in port) or there are parks that you can find people selling wifi cards.
      1. I had wifi on the ship that was fast and it worked perfectly on the ship. I did a live story on Instagram for a few minutes from the ship facing Havana and the connection was lightening fast.
  8. Bring money with you to convert to CUC$ (convertible pesos) once you go through passport control at the port. There will be an area at the end of the hallway with multiple people at the windows converting currency. You can also return what you didn’t spend on your way back in and get dollars back. IMG_0379
    1. U.S. ATM cards and credit cards currently do not work in Cuba – make sure you have plenty of local currency.
  9. Whether you are taking a tour first thing in the morning or later in the day, there is plenty to see and do around the port. I took a morning city tour that lasted about 3 hours and then walked around Havana for the rest of the day meeting locals, eating food and photographing the city.
    1. There are several food stalls selling local foods within the streets beyond the port.
    2. There are Cubans dressed up with cigars standing in front of beautiful walls that will let you take their picture for $1 CUC.
      IMG_0679

      $1 CUC for a photo

      IMG_0750

      $1 CUC for a photo

    3. Don’t forget to try a mojito!
      havana 3

      Mojito

      IMG_0531

      Mojito stand

      IMG_0536

      Mojito

  10. Once you get back to the United States you will have to clear customs (and it is a breeze) at the port.
    1. You ARE allowed to bring back cigars and rum (things change frequently so just double check on the current allotted amount).

Visiting Cuba on a cruise

 

Life Update and Future Travel Plans

I thought for so long that if I wanted to do something amazing with my life that I would always have to be doing epic stuff. So I traveled the world solo – and while it was amazing, I realized all the little things I missed at home were what already made my life extraordinary. After sleeping in 44 beds last year and being away from everyone – it was time to hang up the full-time traveler hat and settle down. Part of me knew once I finished my MBA that I would go back to having a regular life – and there is nothing regular about traveling full-time alone.

I went back to work about a month ago and I am now only traveling part-time but plan to keep my blog and social media channels up and running. I am trying to put together a schedule to blog about 2-3 times a week if time allows. I know I have been neglecting my blog a little bit .. and it is not on purpose.

Travel on the horizon:

After receiving a lot of messages across social media accounts and emails about my travel plans, I can share more with you now. I was traveling full-time for the last year and a half and now that I have switched gears, I will be writing more on utilizing long weekends, holiday travels, staycations, and the time off given by employers to maximize my wanderlust spirit.

My next trip (that I know of) will be in June to Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia. I love this area and it is about an hour from my home.

salamander

Photo from Salamander Resort

I have this plan to go to Cuba the week of my birthday in December .. I have mixed feelings about this trip because I KNOW the country is more than the street of colorful buildings and old cars that everyone posts on social media – keep an eye out on my write up for that later in the year. Here are 10 tips I found useful when planning my trip to Cuba!

Cuba-street-color-0416

Picture from Fathom.org

Further out (in the winter) I am booked for a week in St. Lucia. I tend to do my traveling in January right after the holiday when the crowds aren’t max capacity and the weather is good.

sandals

Photo from Hotels.com

I am planning holiday weekend and staycation travel throughout the summer to keep exploring my area and the surroundings. Funny enough, I live right outside of Washington, D.C. and I have access to Virginia, D.C., & Maryland. There is so much to do that is local  and I plan to spend my summer seeing and writing about it.

I really want to get to more of the wineries in my state of Virginia – there are over 250!

If you have any recommendations for those areas please do tell me – I am ALWAYS interested in exploring new areas.

Twitter:

I have been spending a lot of time on Twitter and less time on my other social media channels. I feel like I have made a lot of friends and enjoy conversations and Twitter chats on this platform. It is by far the easiest platform to really get to know people and talk about things you have in common with other people. Don’t get me wrong – I love Instagram and viewing photos, but Twitter to me has more substance than a quick scroll, and an occasional like and/or comment. If you want to connect with me on Twitter -you can find me —> here.

On Sunday’s I started a #SundaySunsets chat that goes all day. You can tag myself @eatlivetraveldr, Pam @always5star, and @Roarload – we will be re-tweeting and discussing sunsets around the globe all day, every Sunday. Hope to see you there.

I have been really good about responding to every tweet ❤

Consulting:

I am still doing consulting. I offer 30 and 60 minute sessions to help you with starting a brand, building a business, website design, social media, creating media kits, helping you create a pitch to land sponsorship’s, graphic design, and helping you with any of your blogger and/or social media needs. Please do email me if you want to chat or discuss your business –> eatlivetraveldrink@gmail.com

Blog Posts:

I will be changing my blog post structure a tiny bit. I have spent a lot of time focusing on luxury hotels (because that is what my travel style is) and I still want to write about them – but I also want to write about other things like restaurants, city guides, Instagram guides for cities, walking tours, and my life at home. I think travel is so much more than hotels and I want to share that other side with the world. I am always going to stay in hotels and I will always love them and write about them – but there is more to say ❤

I have over 40,000 photos that no one has seen before – and so I want to start sharing them in posts.

Guest Writing:

I am doing more writing for Matador Network – when those articles publish I will share them 🙂

That is all I have for now – and I will be posting very soon as I am working on my next blog post already 🙂

Nicki