Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and certainly one of the most interesting and diverse, compromising of Cuba, Isla de la Juventud and several small archipelagos, all of which sit between the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. This multi-ethnic country offers those who visit an experience like no other, with people, culture and various customs derived from a diverse range of origins, including the Taino and Ciboney people, Spanish colonialism and African Slaves.
Before Spanish colonization in the 15th century, Cuba was a bustling island inhabited by Amerindian tribes – native peoples of the Americas – and it remained a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American war of 1898. The war of 1898 led to nominal independence, but Cuba was incredibly fragile. Although the country and its people attempted to strengthen the democratic system within, mounting political radicalization and social unrest climaxed in the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1952. Batista widened the gap between rich and poor, negotiated lucrative deals with the American Mafia and aligned himself with the wealthiest land owners. Cubans were up in arms and finally, in 1959, Batista was overthrown during the Cuban revolution. Fidel Castro, a Cuban revolutionary, then governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as the country’s President from 1976 to 2008. Castro was decorated with various international awards and his supporters viewed him as a true champion of anti-imperialism and socialism, however, others would argue that he was a dictator whose administration turned a blind eye to human-rights abuses and more. Castro died in November 2016.
Having been closed to U.S. citizens since 1961, Cuba reopened its doors in 2015 and tourism on the island flourished. With the gates to this incredible country now wide open, it’s no surprise that our award-winning, small-ship Aegean Odyssey will be visiting Cuba in 2017 and 2018, stopping at some of the islands most impressive destinations: Havana, Cienfuegos, Casilda and Santiago de Cuba. We have introduced a selection of dedicated sailings that will allow our guests the opportunity to delve deep into the rich, cultural history of this fascinating land and explore and experience on a comprehensive People-to-People travel program. Through our tailored P2P itineraries, US guests will experience first-hand the culture, heritage and people of this extraordinary destination, experiences that the average tourist simply will not have. This may include playing dominos – the beloved national pastime – with residents in Havana, dining with local fishermen on Granma Island, visiting a rum factory with its workers and learning about its history on the island, or even taking part in Tumba Francesco, a traditional May Poll dance.
Cuba offers it all: historic monuments, rich history, white sand beaches, unspoilt valleys and a variety of flora and fauna. It is a destination like no other in the Caribbean, Havana was recently added to the New7Wonders Cities list and we can’t wait to take you there!