A FOREWORD BY DR CARRIE GIBSON

I can’t think of a better way to see off the chill of winter than spending time in my favourite part of the world – the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. As nice as the palm trees and rum cocktails are, it is the diverse and fascinating history of these islands that has drawn me back time and again. It is a privilege to join the Aegean Odyssey for cruises around the Eastern Caribbean & the Grenadines on December 5 and on January 12 along the stunning Cuban coast.

This is a particularly important time to visit Cuba. The island has such a rich past that goes well beyond the events of the twentieth century. Those layers are on display in Havana, whose history is reflected in its both its layout and architecture, from the imposing Morro fort built by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, to the 1950s modernism of the Riviera Hotel, once owned by mobster Meyer Lansky. From Havana, it’s on to the nineteenth-century elegance of Cienfuegos and the colonial cobbled streets of Trinidad, before ending in Cuba’s second city: Santiago. The city occupies a special place in Cuban history as the birthplace of the Revolution, but it was also one of the earliest Spanish settlements on the island, founded in 1515.

Although Cuba has a staggering amount to explore, the smaller islands of the Caribbean have equally complex histories. Although Spain first claimed them, the islands on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary ended up as either British or French colonies – and sometimes both! One attribute they all share, however, is a stunning landscape. Barbados is blessed with perfect beaches, while the dramatic volcanic topography of Martinique and St Lucia is carpeted in hues of deep greens. Bright violet bougainvillea flows over walls and along buildings everywhere you go, while birds of unimaginable colour combinations dart through the skies.

Sailing is a special way to see the Caribbean – for hundreds of years it was the only way. What a treat to still be able to enter waters where pirates and smugglers once prowled, and where warships battled for supremacy.

These Caribbean itineraries to Cuba and beyond are a chance to journey to the heart of a diverse and unique region of the world. Do join me this winter to discover just what makes these islands so special.

Carrie Gibson - VTA Cuba Cruises

Dr Carrie Gibson

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