Cuba Cruise: Things That Surprised Me

Sailing to Cuba with Carnival Cruise Line I knew what to expect while aboard Carnival Paradise.  But as we sailed away from the Port of Tampa, a number of passengers along for the historic first-season voyage were concerned.  What would it be like?  To United States citizens, it is nearly as though God created a new island in the Caribbean.  For all practical purposes, the trade embargo against Cuba has kept Americans from visiting for a half century. Right now, the door is open for U.S. citizens who wish to visit Cuba with a few cultural exchange caveats. Much of what we experienced was about as we anticipated but other elements of our Carnival Cuba cruise were surprising.

READ the whole story, all about our Carnival Cuba Cruise here

  • A Great Lesson In Preconceived Notions- Whatever you think Cuba is all about, odds are you’re wrong.  Here again we find regular people like anyone else trying to keep a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs and be happy one way or another.  Not present: locals looking at us like we were the first visitors from a planet in some other solar system. We’re not the first.  Most of the rest of the world has been visiting Cuba all along.

  • Lots Of Veterans, But That Makes Sense-  If you did not know better there are times when it would seem your Cuba cruise was chartered by old guys with ball caps noting their military service.  It does not surprise me that there were many.  The flavor of this experience was much like sister cruise line Princess Cruises series of Cruising For A Cause military appreciation sailings. Had I thought about it beforehand, this would not have made this list
  • The Many Reasons Travelers Go To Cuba- Many passengers on our sailing of Carnival Paradise had some sort of personal connection to Cuba, usually a family matter. Surprising reasons came from military veterans who might have served during Cuban events that led up to the trade embargo still in effect today.  Others did not have a blood relation but came to know more about the past of friends who do.



  • The Arrival In Havana was a really emotional time on board Carnival Paradise that caught me by surprise.  There are usually a number of passengers on the deck as any given ship approaches land. Here, with Cuba the obvious star of the itinerary, the decks were packed with people to the point that I really thought the ship was leaning to that side.
  • The People in Cuba are nice. In the past, I thought about as much of communists as I did terrorists.  Now, communists are looking pretty good if we just keep their finger off the missile launch button.
  • Cuban Communism Is Different-  Initially comparing Cuba to other visited countries operated under a socialist system (China, Vietnam) was a mistake that served its purpose while on the ground in Havana.  Of the five communist countries in the world, the three I have seen all operate differently with their own rules and cultural differences nuances.  In other words, it’s not like all the Communist countries are friends like Democratic countries are.
  • There Are Other Cars in addition to classic 1950’s American cars, although there are probably more classic American cars in use here than any other place on the planet.

  • Cubans Have Caught Onto Capitalism Just Fine-  Cubans, especially the younger ones, seem be catching on to capitalism just fine.  Example: In a place where there is a trade embargo between to countries (Cuba and us), the kids are wearing designer clothes we might see on similarly aged humans at an American mall.  They pay up to four times more to French companies for the same t-shirt  if it were bought 90 miles away in the United States.
  • Communism and Destination Immersion Are A Great Fit because part of the requirement for Americans to visit Cuba is participation in cultural exchange activities.  That makes just about any tour offered by any cruise line an engaging travel experience. It’s the law.

  • Cuban Drivers Are Nice About Car Inquiries when American tourists arrive and want to look under the hood of a ’58 Chevy.  Good thinking: many come here for that one reason.
  • This Map caught my attention and made me wonder where I was going.  I did not think Cuba was under Mexico but wondered: have I been looking at the planet from the wrong angle?  We could have big discussion on orientation.  What if Mexico was on the left side of the United States and Canda on the right?  That puts Cuba on the left side of the United States and under Mexico.  Odd huh?  That’s next.