Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn [email protected]
If going to Cuba is important to you, you might think about how you are going to get there? Do you want to fly into Havana or an outlying city, and go it on your own with no guide or schedule or reliably confirmed lodgings? And what about getting around once there? Do you only want to see one city, one environment? And what about an over seeing agency or organization to check in on your safety and health? There is nothing worse than getting sick or suffering a minor injury away from home.
These uncertainties can be alleviated by taking a cruise ship, such as with Fathom aboard the Adonia, that visits three Cuban ports of call in a week, arrange guides and cultural activities and looks over your safety insuring your return to the good old USA. It leaves out of the port of Miami, As with all cruises it is a safe idea to arrive a day early so that you don’t “miss the ship” with unexpected delay. Miami offers a plethora of one or two day opportunities to expand your trip. South Beach with its many restaurants and art deco hotels is a prime and affordable example.
With no special journalistic discounts, my cruise fare was most affordable. If you start communication with Fathom through their web site ( https://www.fathom.org/cruise-to-cuba/ ) you might get notices of special reduced fares within a couple of weeks of a cruise departure. I found fellow passengers that bought such last minute discounted fares with noticeably no discount in cabin features or shore excursion offerings.
Besides Cuba, Fathom offers affordable cruises and tours to the Dominican Republic, which I hear has beautiful beaches and more touristy offerings than Cuba.
A good cruise ship is a convenient and comfortable way to travel, with your food, lodgings and entertainment taken care of. Of course you can venture from the standard tour offerings on your own. In Havana, you might find your own local guide to the city in a vintage automobile.
With a large cruise ship comes the drawback of so many passengers needing to be loaded on busses at the same time. While Fathom staggers the announcements for passengers to get off the ship, there still results in a line at dockside. There is little way around this, but to add to the delay and frustration is the Cuban customs which at each stop, each passenger must go through. Of course everyone from the cruise ship is permitted to pass through, but the frustration comes with medal detectors and showing passports which are seldom stamped, but must produce your photo identity. If this was done once for the entire cruise as has been done on European cruise ports it would make the cruise more pleasant and time effective. But one must remember that this is Cuba with its very suspicious and bureaucratic government. I am assuming there is nothing that Fathom can do about this, but it is an inconvenience.
Once loaded on about ten separate busses following ten different itineraries with ten different local guides, the luck of the draw is the rule of the day. Some bus guides are as good as one could expect from a country not familiar with Americans. Some are hard to understand and are not proficient in the area they are guiding, thus more frustration. The choice of your cultural exposure on your assigned tour varies and the passenger has no choice. Some excursions are rated high by the passengers and some are delinquent. Some have more interplay with the locals and some just hit the monuments and plazas. The intention is good but the execution needs improvement. If you pay with your cruise package for a tour, it seems logical that you can pick the experience that best suits your desires.
Dining aboard the Fathom is a pleasant and efficient experience. Upon entering the dining room you are asked if you would mind sharing a table. I always do this as your fellow dining guests are as interesting as your ports of call, coming from a variety of home states and backgrounds. This also is an efficient way for a table of six or eight to get served. Of course you may dine alone if you prefer. The wait staff is most efficient and congenial and the food above average for a cruise ship.
After a hard day of touring or on your day at sea, you can treat your self with your reservations to special Signature dining, a painting and wine class, and even a multiple course cocktail class, featuring specialties of the day and exotic cocktails.
The cabins, are of average cruise styling and the Fathom Adonia offers many with balconies opening on to sea vistas. A balcony is mandatory for this cruise to Cuba as there are many sights to see as you enter a variety of harbors, not to mention Havana’s with the historic “Remember the Maine” battleship experience. Often local Cubans will be on the outlaying banks waiving and wish you well. You also may see landmarks and local houses that you would otherwise not see, and thus a glimpse into the average Cuban way of life.
An added educational treat is the on board presentations before visiting a port. Here they will illuminate you as the history of Cuba, the particular port, and the cultural interaction you might experience. At these briefings the crew is happy to answer any questions you may have.
All in all a Fathom cruise to Cuba aboard the Adonia, or maybe the Dominican Republic, is an experience I would repeat. And that is the highest compliment one can give a cruise. The Adonia is a destination that rivals a Cuban visit. For your information: https://www.fathom.org/cruise-to-cuba/