Key west and Havana ports of call advice please?

Tales from the Caribbean -- Ask A Question / Share Some Info

Coco Cay - Photo by Eva Beagle

The Caribbean is open! What do you want to know about your favorite Caribbean islands or itineraries?

Are you just back? Please share your experience!
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 10:06 AM.
5 Posts
Joined Apr 2018
Hi, I’m new on here!
Have one cruise only under our belts from 2011 ... It’s been a while but we’re v excited!
We’ve just booked a five day Florida to Cuba cruise with RCCL and are looking for ALL YOUR BEST TIPS please!
Anything we need to know about RCCL (last cruise was DCL) for instance?
Specifically ...
Reluctant to rely just on the cruise co’s excursions, so thinking of booking our own vintage car tour in Havana - we will be overnight there. Has anyone done this and have tips please? Husband has wanted to visit Havana for ages and fitting much in is tantamount to such a short visit ... anyone know of seeing Buena Vista Social club is easy to arrange? That would be a big deal for him. Our kids will be 17 and 14.
Ditto we’d like to book a snorkel session for son and me (he’ll be17) as one of his favourite memories of the 2011 cruise was snorkelling on sapphire beach and seeing all the fish up close - he still loves that kind of thing!
Our daughter loves cool things, is quite arty, likes warm sun and white sands ... she’ll join in snorkelling but is not a big boat trip fan (cruises are fine, just not little pleasure boats).
35 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
That's a great route. And you certainly shouldn't rely on them. The biggest magic in truly experiencing a destination is wandering around independently, and observing locals, scenery, without entirely knowing what is coming. That said, of course, with somewhat of a plan or guide, too (esp. for Havana).

Self guided of Key West. Should give you a good idea of where to meander. If you are looking to hit a beach and see a major engineering feat while there, perhaps there are excursions from town that would take you out to Bahia Honda State Park and 7 Mile Bridge? I don't know that, but it wouldn't surprise me. If you are history buffs, the Harry Truman, and Ernest Hemingway house tours may be worthwhile.

As per Havana, gorgeous, and high on my list. Though I don't think I'll be going with a cruise because they seem to upcharge prohibitively so for any itineraries involving Havana (perhaps this is cheaper, but I haven't seen any for under $700 pp for 5 days which is insane). Anyways, it is one of the prettiest cities of the Western Hemisphere though. This company seems to offer 3 Walking Tours that say Free Self Guided, but I'm sure they appreciate perhaps a 10-20$ USD tip pp on there. Which you can understand, because it's still quite reasonable, and otherwise would be unsustainable.
Make sure to cover your bases before visiting though, if you plan to get off independently without an excursion I'm not positive of this but I believe you might need to apply for some type of Visa in advance, or at least have information available to pay once you arrive. Perhaps someone more familiar could help elaborate on this. Safety-wise, there shouldn't be much concern, it's probably safer than most cities in the world considering how harsh punishments are for crimes against foreigners, and how well policed everything is (at least from what I understand). With that said, obviously have some idea about where you are going still, and if you don't want to be pick pocketed, simply don't carry things loosely, leave them out, etc. Not sure that's an issue, but that would be the biggest one because from what I understand personal crimes there are slim to non existent. You should have no trouble wandering anywhere during the day, in fact, tourists are encouraged to even visit the area west of the Capitol to see the startling difference between it and the super well preserved, white washed center. A car ride as you mention is a great idea, and there really is a lot to offer. You could hit bars such as La Floridita that Hemingway and other famous people used to frequent, you could eat at a paladar, which is basically a non-government owned restaurant (they are growing), and the food is authentic and of a higher quality than otherwise. Just look up best Paladars in Havana, and you'll have options. There are unique art installations such as Fabrica de Arte Cubano, or Fusterlandia, they offer tours around to said places I am sure, but also you could take a car ride over the west part of town, I believe that is where a lot of the mansions are. There are cabaret shows at certain hotels like the Hotel Nacional I think, you could go up to where I believe is a hillside that has a fort, a place where Che Guevara lived, and a Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the Havana skyline or harbor, and I believe there is an evening cannon fire visible from that area. Baseball is the National Pastime as it is here in the states, so you could catch a game in the evening depending on the ships policy/if there is a curfew/how late it would be. Even just wandering around the Malecon, especially in the evening when a lot of locals come out, may be a treat.

Here are some other videos for context and to give you some ideas. Enjoy! I think it is such a blessing to travelers that such a historically and architecturally stunning city is visible once again. A number of these are buildings within the Old Town that are generally free to simply wander into and admire.
5 Posts
Joined Apr 2018
Thanks so so much for the really helpful ideas. Lots to look at here
I did wonder if the cultural visit programme was also something that applied to UK visitors (I’ve read about the requirement that is hit and miss for US visitors to Cuba, but we were able to visit before Obama’s work to loosen restrictions). So I do need to look that up in more detail.
34 Posts
Joined May 2018
You can take a hop-on, hop-off trolley to get an overview of Key West, then use it to hit the spots to your liking. Little White House that Truman visited often is a nice stop. And we enjoyed the Hemingway House.

The Eco-Discovery Center near there is free; you can learn about the different zones in the barrier reef, see fish and such. Not crowded.

There are several famous bars that are family friendly during the day, if that's your thing.

One place to go for a different souvenir is Peppers -- they have a tasting bar for a variety of hot sauces.

It's trite, but getting a picture of the southern most point in the US, or the end of US 1, is free.
San Diego
2,128 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
There is also a hop on hop off bus in Havana. It stops just outside the port exit door to the left. It was $10 CUC pp. our friends did it and said it was fine.
We walked to the national hotel about 5 miles one way. Had a Cuba Libra and then flagged down an old car taxi on the way back. The driver said $10cuc to the port but when we got there he said $10 pp so be careful because with all the new visitors they are learning how to scam. Then we walked all over town. We had a great time in Cuba It’s very safe and the people are very nice.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
12/07/2018 Celebrity Reflection S. Caribbean
03/31/2017 Oceania Marina, 31 days Miami to Lisbon
12/05/2016 Holland America Veendam Panama Canal
12/12/2015 Oceania Riviera Western Caribbean
06/13/2015 Holland America Westerdam, Alaska
04/03/2015 Celebrity Solstice, Sydney to Hawaii
04/19/2014 Oceania Marina, Papeete to Lima
12/06/2013 Celebrity Century, Hawaii
04/15/2013 Celebrity Equinox, Trans Atlantic
04/09/2012 Oceania Nautica, 35 days Hong Kong to Athens
12/31/2011 Celebrity Constellation, So.Caribbean
02/05/2011 Rhapsody of the Seas, Fiji and Vanuatu
01/03/2010 Celebrity Constellation, Panama Canal
01/18/2009 Celebrity Infinity, South America
07/04/2008 Blue Monarch, Egypt,Israel,Turkey
12/24/2007 Carnival Spirit, Mexico
12/24/2006 Carnival Destiny, S. Caribbean
01/03/2006 Carnival Spirit, Mexico
05/11/2003 Carnival Conquest, Caribbean
07/23/2000 Carnival Elation, Mexico
Central PA
660 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
If you will be in Key West between April 20 and April 29, 2019, you will be on hand for the Annual celebration of the Conch Republic. There's too much to discuss here and now, but if you Google "Conch Republic" you will see just how fun-loving the folks of Key West are.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
11/2005 NCL Dawn 11-day Thanksgiving Cruise (Jamaica, Caymans, Roatan, Belize, Cozumel, Nassau)

Ok, tell me one more time...WHERE am I going, and WHY am I in this handbasket...?
West Palm Beach
46 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Key West - You can do the Conch Train for a quick tour and history of KW. You must visit Duval Street, which is rather subdued during the daytime, to see the "famous" bars.
Cuba - There are numerous "taxis" outside the port. Not sure what they cost though.
The cruise line should charge you for a visa, RCCL did when we went to Cuba. There wass a 13% currency exchange and premium for U.S $, when we went in April 2017.
5 Posts
Joined Jun 2018
We lived in Key West for a stint. It's very small 2x4 mile island with it's own culture where folks come to drop out of the rat race. Def a great art vibe in pockets. Very easy to wander on foot BUT if u can swing it, rent bikes. It's how the locals get around. and The Green Parrot Bar best live music over Sloppy Joe's. The sunset party is free ... not to be missed. And finally the Butterfly Conservatory at the south end a block from the marker is totally worth it. Dont forget to seek out a Cuban coffee and sandwich. Dont fall for the key lime pie.

Sent from my SM-G950U using Forums mobile app