National Geographic team first-ever journey to Cuba is an exceptional combination of a three-night stay in Havana, meeting some of the people who make it so intriguing, and a seven-night voyage exploring Cuba’s southern coast aboard the sailing ship Panorama II.
On arrival, we transfer to the city for lunch. This afternoon, we’ll meet with the members of a Cuban percussion and dance group, and take in a stirring performance of their groundbreaking music and dance.
You check in to the historic hotel, the Hotel Nacional, located on the waterfront, where we will 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. We’ll then ride in vintage 1950s cars to our dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2 & Day 3
The full program of people-to-people visits lined up for these two days, with opportunities for you to choose among programs that interest you most. You’ll explore Old Havana on foot. It’s a World Heritage site, a trove of historic architecture, and center for Cuba’s arts and culture. You’ll 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.
You are going to 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 we will 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.
Havana, Cienfuegos & Embark Panorama II
You 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, you'll meet and hear a performance by a stirring choral group that’s based here. In the late afternoon, we embark Panorama II, your home for the next seven nights, and have a welcome dinner aboard ship.
Bay of Pigs
This morning we drive from Cienfuegos to 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. We’ll visit the museum that recounts the history of the battle, with photographs and artifacts that include a Cuban fighter plane and vessels. You'll meet with people who will tell us about what transpired and its meaning to Cubans.
The bay lies along the Zapata Peninsula and the Zapata Swamp National Park, and you may choose 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. You will meet with experts who will tell us about the vitally important role the area plays in the area’s natural history—it has been compared to the Everglades.
Another option is to swim, snorkel or dive (for certified divers only, weather permitting) at the Bay of Pigs. In the late afternoon, drive back to Cienfuegos and your ship.
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 we will visit the Office of the City Historian, and walk through the town, interacting with residents along the way.
There will be 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 will explain sugar’s importance to Cuba’s history and you will 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.
A day at sea gives us the chance to have talks by our staff about Cuba, work on our photographs with the Lindblad-National Geographic photo instructor on board, and reflect on the things we’ve seen.
Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth)
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, we’ll drive about 40 minutes to the island’s main city, called Nueva Gerona.
We’ll visit a maternity hospital to learn about the care that mothers receive, and the art school on the central plaza. We then stroll the "Boulevard," lined with local shops, meeting with local residents and seeing cultural performances as we go.
After lunch, we 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.
We then return to our 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.
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 we have a people-to-people visit to the local clinic to discuss Cuba’s medical system with local doctors and nurses.
You’ll visit a sea turtle breeding center and endangered species protection program. You’ll have a chance to explore the island’s marine world by swimming or snorkeling.
Today we 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. We begin by exploring colonial Cienfuegos on foot. Among places of particular interest that we’ll see are the Government Palace (City Hall), the Teatro Thomas Terry, and the beautiful main square, Plaza Martí. We 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. We’ll meet teachers and students, and see performances. After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll 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, we’ll meet with a local historian who will tell us about efforts to bring new employment to the former sugar cane workers who live here.
We then return to Cienfuegos for a moving children’s performance of "Cucarachita Martina," a children’s tale known to all Cubans. We’ll then go to the roof of the ornate Palacio de Valle, built in 1917, for sunset drinks on the rooftop, before returning to our ship for a farewell dinner.
Cienfuegos & Depart
We disembark this morning and transfer to Cienfuegos airport for our flight to Miami, connecting with flights home.
DetailsEnquire about this itinerary
- All meals and non-alcoholic beverages
- Cappuccinos, lattes & filtered water
- 24-hour coffee, tea & soda on demand (soda not incuded on Lord of the Glens)
- Hors d’oeuvres & snacks during Recap
- Fitness center or exercise equipment, depending on the ship
- Fully stocked library, and other gracious public spaces
- The guidance and company of our expedition staff
- The services of a physician on certain ships/destinations
- Hotels ashore as indicated in itinerary
- Meals on land, as indicated in itinerary
- Sightseeing & entrance fees
- Special access permits, park fees, port taxes
- Transfers to and from group flights
- The expertise of our expedition staff
- All excursions
- Zodiac & kayak explorations
- Snorkeling, including wetsuits, masks, fins & snorkel where relevant
- Presentations and guest speakers in the loung