The dock in Havana is extremely convenient. We cleared Customs and simply walked across the street to San Francisco de Asis Square. The square is dominated by the 16th century Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis. Surprisingly, vendors were in short supply. Only one artist had set up a stand to sell his work while he continued to create lovely images. In contrast, there were a gazillion hawkers touting tours and antique car excursions! Cuba may be communist but capitalism happens!
We walked over to Plaza Vieja, constructed in 1559. The Plaza was always a residential area encircled by the homes of wealthy citizens. From their balconies, they could watch processions, fiestas, bullfights and even executions. Today, cafes line the square. Outdoor seating is plentiful and even comfortable when there’s a breeze. But when the wind does not blow, indoors is better with electric fans set up everywhere. There is no air-conditioning! We found the Café Escorial to be typical. Umbrella tables set up outside; the interior sparse with rustic tables, lots of electric fans and all windows open to catch a breeze.
As the time approached to meet our car & driver for the afternoon tour, we made our way to the Rum Museum. Everything in Cuba was nationalized after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 including the distilleries. The Arechabala Family, producers of Havana Club, left Cuba for Spain and the United States. They stopped producing rum. Bacardi, on the other hand, already had facilities in Puerto Rico and the United states. They left Cuba and continued their business. Today, they are headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda. We continued to Restaurante Dos Hermanos for libations while we awaited Fabio, our driver from Havana Vintage Car Tours. The restaurant is rumored to be the oldest bar in Havana. They are located across the street from Sierra Maestra Terminal (with its graffiti of Che Guevara) and the Regla Ferry Boats.
Fabio arrived a little early and we boarded our 1955 Buick chariot for a tour of the city. The first stop was a government-mandated visit to a military museum. After the propaganda stop, it started to rain. The convertible top went up. We continued through Havana Centro and the Vedado District to the Malecon and on to the Hotel Nacional where we escaped the downpour. We enjoyed drinks on the covered hotel Terrace. When the rain finally stopped, we returned to the ship and concluded our Cuban adventure.
We didn’t get to see as much as we had hoped. The rain put a real damper on that! However, there’s no doubt that Cuba will remain a port-of-call for many cruise lines. We expect to return!
It’s time to start planning the next adventure!