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The majority of my life the country Cuba has been the “forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden. Many Cuban-Americans speak of a beautiful country 90 miles south of Florida lost in time shortly after the US invasion in 1959.
Under US President Obama’s administration, Americans are now allowed to visit Cuba freely typically by airplane or by cruise line. This past summer when a family member organized a reunion on Royal Caribbean International’s Majesty of Seas with a port call in Havana on its’ itinerary, I was like Eve and “bit the apple”.
Our debarkation was from the Port of Tampa Bay during a hot summer that included a stop in Key West, Florida. My original thoughts as I entered this ship was simply, “an aging ship”. It did not include any of the luster a brand new modern cruise ship offers. The ship originally launched in 1992 and its’ décor represented the 90’s well. The ship was clean and comfortable and the Cruise Director did a fabulous job of providing spectacular and engaging activities.
After an evening at sea then a day trip to Key West, we arrived early as the sun was rising and topped with a summer mist in the Port of Havana. I was like a child anxiously climbing the stairs to get to the upper deck to view this “forbidden fruit”. From the upper deck we looked down upon the City of Havana and she was as breath taking as many Cuban-Americans have described. . Despite the obvious erosion and imperfections to the structures of its’ buildings, Havana did not disappoint with her beauty.
I gazed down at the Port of Havana’s terminals and only one of three of its’ terminals is available for anchor. The other two are under construction. At this moment I learn why Royal Caribbean International’s Majesty of the Seas remains in service. Its’ 880 feet in length fits in an aging Port of Havana that can only service the smaller ships.
I brought my passport and my Cuban visa form already filled out that required a $75.00 fee as I entered through Cuba’s customs. After exchanging our currency we joined our prepaid “people to people” tour which is rumored to be required as authorized travel allowing Americans to visit Cuba. We chose the “Walking Old Havana with Hemingway” tour because it’s basically a “pub crawl”. It showcases Hemingway’s favorite bars that included “La Bodeguita” known for its’ Mojitos and “Floridita” known for its’ famous daiquiris. Both drinks served with Cuban government owned rum “Havana Club”.
Our real adventure in Cuba began after we fulfilled our “people to people” tour requirement. To my astonishment we had the authority to roam Havana freely. This allowed for a famous 50’s Cadillac ride through the country side. We cruised the rustic coast line to Cuba’s military base where it and the “Cristo de la Habana” look over the Havana Harbor to protect its’ remarkable City, culture, churches, its’ many statues and her people.