10 Easy Steps For Americans Visiting Cuba On A Cruise

For over 50 years Cuba was closed for tourism for U.S citizens. Currently the restrictions for visiting are not completely lifted, but after doing research when planning to visit Cuba, I found the easiest way for me to visit was on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line.

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Havana, Cuba

By taking a cruise I did not need to fly into Cuba, find accommodations or figure out what I would do each day – I took out all the planning and left it to NCL.

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Norwegian Sun in the Havana port

I did receive a lot of questions and emails from everyone asking about the steps and how easy it was to visit Cuba as a U.S. citizen – so I am putting together this guide that outlines everything.

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Musicians

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Handicrafts

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Cuban cars

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Beautiful doors

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Dining in Havana

  1. You need a passport. Cuba is a foreign country and no matter how you plan to visit there as a U.S. citizen, you will need a passport. If you are booking your cruise 6 months out or later, apply for your passport now and send in all the required documents so you can get it back in time (most post offices offer this service). If you are planning between 1-6 months out, you can expedite your passport online. Keep in mind you will need time to get a visa and you cannot get a visa without your passport information.
    1. You can book your cruise without having your passport first. You will fill out your cruise documents prior to leaving for the cruise – so if you do not have a passport but want to book, that is ok. Just make sure you have the passport before leaving for your cruise or they will not let you on.
  2. Book the cruise – Currently Norwegian Cruise Line offers anywhere from 4-15 day cruises that stop in Cuba. On the shorter stays, you will be stopping in Havana overnight and on the longer cruises you will be there from morning until late night. You will have to decide if you want to go to more islands, if you are just wanting to visit Cuba and one other stop – that is up to you.
  3. After you book the cruise, you need to get a visa. It is required to have a visa to even board the ship, but also you will need it to enter Havana at the port. There are two easy ways to get a visa:
    1. Norwegian will get the visa for you and you can pick it up when you check in to the ship – this is the easiest method.
    2. I got my visa from oncubatravel.com – and they sent it 2 day overnight. The only reason I went this route was to test the waters and see how fast they could get it to me and that it was accurate (which it was) and I had more than enough time that if anything went wrong I could get one through NCL.
      1. If you do go through On Cuba Travel, you will need to select from the 19 current available options for “Support for the Cuban people (515.5740)” as your visa.
  4. Before you cruise, Norwegian will email out an affidavit that you will need to fill out electronically and send back that has your purpose of travel (which in this case is “support for the Cuban people”).
  5. As a U.S. citizen you are required to meet the requirements for the visa, and NCL makes this easy by offering tours that are compliant with the government regulations. You will need to book at least one tour in advance of your cruise to fill this requirement. I highly advise looking at the options early and picking something you are comfortable with.
    1. There are several options for tours and in some cases you can fit more than 1 tour in a day. When I went overnight I could have done 3 tours throughout the day that were all different. If you are set on cruising around in an old car – make sure to book that first and work everything else around it.
      1. The real trick in doing multiple tours (and it is easy) is to find the tours you want to do and make sure they are offered at different times throughout the day. Make sure they aren’t very close together because you never know if a tour will run long.
    2. You should keep a detailed itinerary of your activities in Cuba for about 5 years.
  6. Once you have everything you need to cruise and you are ready to go, getting on the cruise is easy.
    1. If you decide to add on another tour through NCL you can do this on the ship (but you also have the option to book them all before ever getting on the ship and I think you should go this route just to guarantee you get what you want from your trip).
  7. Arriving in the port of Havana – if you have an early scheduled tour you will meet with the staff before exiting the ship so that they can show you where to go to meet your tour guide (afternoon tours will do this later in the day).
    1. Exiting can take a little bit of time because each person has to turn in their passport and visa and get their photo taken.
    2. You will not have wifi or cell phone service in Cuba. You can however get it on the ship (even when in port) or there are parks that you can find people selling wifi cards.
      1. I had wifi on the ship that was fast and it worked perfectly on the ship. I did a live story on Instagram for a few minutes from the ship facing Havana and the connection was lightening fast.
  8. Bring money with you to convert to CUC$ (convertible pesos) once you go through passport control at the port. There will be an area at the end of the hallway with multiple people at the windows converting currency. You can also return what you didn’t spend on your way back in and get dollars back. IMG_0379
    1. U.S. ATM cards and credit cards currently do not work in Cuba – make sure you have plenty of local currency.
  9. Whether you are taking a tour first thing in the morning or later in the day, there is plenty to see and do around the port. I took a morning city tour that lasted about 3 hours and then walked around Havana for the rest of the day meeting locals, eating food and photographing the city.
    1. There are several food stalls selling local foods within the streets beyond the port.
    2. There are Cubans dressed up with cigars standing in front of beautiful walls that will let you take their picture for $1 CUC.
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      $1 CUC for a photo

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      $1 CUC for a photo

    3. Don’t forget to try a mojito!
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      Mojito

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      Mojito stand

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      Mojito

  10. Once you get back to the United States you will have to clear customs (and it is a breeze) at the port.
    1. You ARE allowed to bring back cigars and rum (things change frequently so just double check on the current allotted amount).

Visiting Cuba on a cruise

5 Comments

  1. June 13, 2018 / 2:51 am

    Nice breakdown here and I love these photos. Dude with the cigar has quite the beard. 1 smacker for the photo sounds about right too. I just hope that travel opens up a bit more to Cuba with the current government in the US. Prior president really got things going. Hopefully momentum carries us in that direction.

  2. June 13, 2018 / 3:53 am

    The photos are incredible! We want to go to Cuba eventually, I will definitely remember this about taking a cruise. 🙂

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