Two New Stops In Cuba
We enjoyed a day trip in Havana on our holiday cruise to Cuba. The two other cruise port stops in Cuba were both overnight stays. And new places in Cuba for us too. Cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos provided us with opportunities to stroll around these smaller towns. This gave us a taste test of two towns that we may return to again.
We enjoyed our day in Havana. But Mother Nature decided that our Cuba plans needed to be mixed up. Throughout the day in Havana, the clouds gathered. Just as the last guests got back onboard, the skies opened up. Gale force winds and a major storm kept us in port for a few extra hours. And the path of the storm caused the captain and head office to re-assess the path around Cuba. In the end, safety won out and the path and our ports were reversed.
The four days for our cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos were over Christmas. We did a little bit of exploring. But we did use the time to enjoy the ship and relax. About 95% of the passengers were American. Unlike us Canadians, this might be the only time they got to see Cuba. So many people headed out for back to back tours to see as much as they could.
We Arrived In Santiago De Cuba
The destinations team struggled to re-book all of the ship excursions due to the change in port days. We had more fluid plans for our stops in the two ports and worked to re-plan our two port stops. But there was one more unpleasant surprise for us. Instead of docking in Santiago De Cuba, we anchored in the harbour and had to take tender boats ashore. This added an extra hour to every trip in. It was a good thing that we had little planned for Santiago de Cuba.
When we finally made it into the town, we stopped at the park by the port and captured images of the local street art. We continued to be amazed at how much art there was everywhere in Cuba. We chatted with a few of the local tour guides. But decided we would just stroll around the city.
We Climbed The Hills Of Santiago De Cuba
It was immediately obvious that the main part of town was a steady walk uphill. We sort of wished we had taken a pedi-cab. But then were sure that one scrawny guy would not have made it up the hill with both David and I onboard!
We had a couple of options for streets to head up. But of course, we picked the very local and dilapidated street. One of the locals walked with us and took the opportunity to practice his French with David. He pointed out a set of steep stairs that took us away from where we were headed. They even had their own mural.
We had a coffee shop marked on our map and just kept walking up until we found it. The La Isabelisa coffee shop was open. And every table was filled with locals. Undeterred we went in and ordered an espresso and a cold bottle of beer. We were ok to stand at the bar. After all, the total cost of this entertainment was only about two dollars!
We had finally hit the more touristic and shopping part of town. We enjoyed strolling through the towns on cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. It was certainly one of the reasons we liked to visit Cuba.
Old Town Santiago de Cuba
We wandered past the Bacardi Rum museum. The Jose Maria Heredia Cathedral looked quite beautiful. In the Cespedes Square in front of the church was a historic monument to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. He was the revolutionary hero who later became President of the Republic of Cuba.
When we stopped in the Plaza Delores, we sat on a bench in the shade with the other locals. Restaurants ringed the park. Children played. It was a great stop. We were amused when we saw a row of motorcycles and thought we saw a bright red Ducati at the front. On closer examination, it proved to be an amusing knock-off Bucatti.
We wandered down the Enramadas walking street. On all sides of the street we found shops. Whether we looked up or down we found interesting art and architecture as we walked this street. We stopped at the large green Jardin las Enramadas when we saw an ice cream sign. As we walked through the courtyard we found yet more interesting art pieces. Architecture, art and colour are definitely great reasons to visit Cuba.
At the bottom of the street, we saw our ship in the harbour. A short walk took us back through the port. It was great to see the touristic parts of towns on cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.
A Lazy Second Day In Santiago De Cuba
We enjoyed some relaxation time onboard our great floating luxury ship. It was nice to have the ship to ourselves while others went off to explore.
When it was time to leave port, we went on deck to watch the ship leave the harbour. And sail out along the bay. We saw a lot more to explore from Santiago de Cuba for a return trip.
It was great to enjoy the cruise in and out on cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.
Our Last Port In Cuba Was Cienfuegos
We arrived in Cienfuegos at noon on Christmas Eve. Because of the change of port schedules, we were still trying to confirm a city tour we wanted for this first day. We considered taking the little train parked outside of the port. Ultimately we just grabbed a taxi and had Mario take us around to the major sites in town.
We started with the Cemetery de Reina. It is the oldest cemetery in town. We always find that cemetery visits give us an interesting view into the history of a town. This cemetery reminded us very much of the beautiful statuary we found in the cemetery in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The most famous statue in the cemetery is known as “Sleeping Beauty”. She died at the age of 24 in 1907 from a broken heart.
It was great to see the historic parts of towns on cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.
Driving Along The Water In Cienfuegos
From there we drove to the shore past the yacht club. A short stop at Club Cienfuegos gave us a view out over the water. There were a number of tour buses parked outside. So we figured that this was used as the dock for people who had tours out on the water.
As we continued along the water, we were fascinated to see the mix of old torn down buildings and intricate, artistic buildings. Two of the buildings had distinct Moorish design elements.
We continued along the shore until we came to the point. A small park with a bar and restaurant provided a great 270 degree view out over the water and back along the shorelines. We could see our cruise ship in the distance.
We enjoyed seeing different facets of towns on cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.
A Walk Around The Main Square In Cienfuegos
Our taxi driver took us back into the downtown area. As we drove, Mario had talked about the musician Benny More who played a part in the history of this town. He was on the sign that welcomed you to town. We stopped to take a picture of his statue at the start of the pedestrian mall.
From there we headed to the Jose Marti Square and got out to walk around. We entered the heart of this UNESCO town through the archway. The park area had something to see on every side. On one end was the Purisima Cathedral. Across from this was the Thomas Terry Theatre. Town hall buildings and the Provincial Museum lined the square.
A statue of Jose Marti dominated the centre of the park. At the other end was the large arch entry. Around the park there were more statues and pagodas.
On one corner of the park was Palacio Ferrer. This blue building had a high tower. In the tower was a circular staircase that went up to a viewpoint.
One final stop on the way back got us a view through the fence of old and rusted locomotives. We were sure this would have been an interesting stop for most tourists. But we only got a glimpse.
We loved the colour, art and architecture of the town squares on cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.
On Christmas Day we debated taking a tour to visit Trinidad. Or to see the Botanical Garden in Cienfuegos. But we decided instead to have a quiet and relaxing day onboard the cruise ship. This trip was after all meant to be a relaxing break for us.
The ship left port at 1:30. We found a spot on the upper deck to watch the transit out. We passed by the point with the Moorish houses. A ferry was doing a run to Cayo Carenas Island. From the ship we saw one of the scuba diving shops. We were sorry we did not get to scuba dive in this port. As we went through the narrow neck to the harbour, we got a view of the lighthouse on one side and the Castilla de Jagua on the other. The castle would have been an interesting spot to visit. But it was not a short trip from the main port in Cienfuegos.
As we cleared land, the pilot boat pulled up and the local pilot jumped off our ship. It was time to head back to Miami.
Small Taste Tests On Our Cruise Stops In Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos Cuba
On cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos we got a small taste test of these two new Cuban cities. We enjoyed the chance to walk in the towns. Colourful art and artistic architecture greeted us at every turn. We were happy that we had the chance to see these new spots on our holiday cruise to Cuba. But we knew there was much more to see if we planned a return
Is Cuba on your travel wish list? Would you consider a trip with cruise stops in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos?
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Wow! Your post is really inspiring us to visit Cuba! We’re not quite into cruises, but would definitely love to visit both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. It’s awesome that there is so much street art everywhere in Cuba, and that the facades are all so colorful. Since we love funerary sculptures, we’ll certainly consider strolling around at the Cemetery de Reina in Cienfuegos. The Moorish buildings are also awesome.
Mei and Kerstin, We were so happy we got to visit some new towns on our visit to Cuba. Glad the posts are inspiring you. Hope you get to visit. Linda
That sounds like a great Cuba cruise with stops in Havana and two small towns, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. I wouldn’t want to just see Havana and say I have seen Cuba!
Carol, It was a great spot to see more spots around Cuba. We had visited the beach areas before and we definitely knew we had not seen Cuba. Linda
I agree with you, old cemeteries do give an interesting look into the history of a town.
Anyway, what caught my interest at the Cemetery de Reina is the “Sleeping Beauty” who died at the age of 24 from a broken heart?! Wow, what a love must have been!
Milijana, We do like to visit cemeteries. Always so much history. We definitely wanted to see the “Sleeping Beauty”. What a love indeed. Linda
I love the pastel buildings and all the public art in Santiago De Cuba, especially the flamingos! Cienfuegos looks like an interesting city, I really like that spiral staircase up to the viewing platform, its so unique
Sherianne, We were surprised at how colourful and artistic the architecture was in Cuba. Linda
I am not at all into cruises, but I think a cruise to Cube would be a great choice for me. I always wanted to go there, but I don’t want to put up with all the difficulties of such a trip. My main interest would be Havana, of course, and if there are a couple of other towns included that’s even better. I think you made a great choice going to Cienfuegos instead of Trinidad..
Anda, A cruise is a good way to taste test some different spots. For many people, this is the easiest way to get a taste of Cuba. We liked the chance to see some new towns. Linda
Oh no, setbacks are not fun at all! So sorry. I love how colourful the city is, especially the street art and murals ? Cemetery de Reina looks so incredible (weird to say about a cemetery, haha!) And love those buildings in Cienfuegos??✨
Lisa, We were surprised to find as much street art as we did. And colour! It is weird to say a cemetery is beautiful. But so many have such great statuary. The cemetery in San Juan Puerto Rico is an art gallery. Linda
This seems to be great way to explore Cuba. I also liked the idea of having entire cruise to yourself when others went out to explore. The glimpses of Cuba in this post is much different than I have seen in other posts.
Indrani, We did love taking the cruise to Cuba. I am glad we gave you a different view of Cuba. Linda
Your post has inspired us to visit cuba. It looks beautiful especially the murals, art and architecture. The colourful buildings in Cienfugos are amazing. Whole of the cruise to yourself might be a cool idea. Loved your pictures.
Suruchi, I am glad that our post has inspired you to visit Cuba. We loved the chance to visit some new towns on this trip. Linda
What a wonderful trip! I specially like the architecture of the buildings. Also, wouldn’t thought that a cemetery, like the Cemetery of Reina, would be so interesting. Thanks for showing so well Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.
Marlene, I am glad you enjoyed our look at these two new spots in Cuba. They were interesting revelations for us too. If you want an amazing cemetery with great statues, visit the one in San Juan in Puerto Rico! Linda
What a wonderful Cuba experience you guys had. It’s so great you get to visit whenever you wish. We had to “sneak” into Cuba back when Bush was president in 2006, and has the most magical experience ever.
Question, where was that fort on the hillside? The one with multiple tiers?
Mike, We were glad to see some other spots in Cuba on this trip. We saw forts on the way into both Santiago de Cuba an Cienfuegos. The one with the tiers in the blog is from Santiago de Cuba. Linda
Why weren’t you able to dock at the cruise terminal in Santiago? Why did they make you take tenders to shore? That seems inconvenient.
Javier, I am not sure why we could not dock on our visit. And it was definitely very inconvenient. Seas were bad on one day and the trip was not great. Hopefully that was a short term thing. Linda
How fun – those were two of my favorite cities when travelling through Cuba. I loved Cienfuego’s elegance and easy living – will never forget the Mojitos on the terrace of the sailing club while enjoying the sunset and listening to Chan Chan. I Santiago I loved the vibrant feel of the Afro-Cuban culture. I would always recommend travelling also eastwards when in Cuba.
As Canadians we can visit Cuba quite easily. Most of our visits were beach trips. This was the first look at some of the cities and we will definitely go back for more.