All good things must come to an end – but in this case, the Cuba Cruise has one more day of relaxation in the form of a semi-private beach on the Isle of Youth. The Isle of Youth, or Isla de la Juventud is a sparsely populated island that is home to some of the best scuba diving sites in Cuba. For us, it was the access to Punta Francis and its long beach of white sand.
The ship anchored and tender boats ferried people across to the island for a nice, peaceful retreat. The water is clear blue and there are rum drinks. What more could you want? Back on board the ship, staff setup a barbecue by the pool and we had a perfect day in this bit of paradise.
As the day wore on, there was entertainment all around the ship and the main lounge show was a highlight. As the evening drew to a close and luggage placed outside the stateroom doors for pick-up, I knew I was going to miss the many people who made this such a great experience.
The sail into Havana is a great photo opportunity – especially since you should be able to see the sunrise over the city. It was almost like sailing into Valletta, Malta, the way the Morro Fortress guards the entrance – stunningly beautiful.
After breakfast, I said a special good-bye to my stateroom stewardess and found a place to sit and read until we got the notice we could disembark the ship. Again, there are protocols to follow. In this case, for those of us disembarking, our luggage had to be off the ship, scanned twice and sniffed by dogs. Then, we could leave, have our temperatures taken one last time, show our passports and another customs form before collecting our luggage.
The transfer to the airport was easy. Next to where the luggage, all transfer agents hold signs so you can check-in and get information on how you are getting to the airport – or transfer to other locations. Pretty easy.
Our bus driver liked me because my luggage was small and light. We headed out of Havana to the Varadero Airport, with a brief stop for a bathroom and smoke break, arriving at the airport right at 1:00.
Check-in was easy – show your passport and they find your information and print a boarding pass. The next stop is to pay the airport tax of $25 CUC (and don’t forget this step – if you do, you will have to go back and then stand in the immigration line again). Next is the immigration line – one person at a time where they take the immigration form, your picture and you then are on your way to the next line – scanning! Finally, you are through all the lines and can head to your gate.
There are duty-free shops, just in case you forgot to pick-up your bottle of Havana Club rum or a few cigars. I was drinking a coffee when they announced the boarding call for my plane. We were loaded on the plane and set to leave thirty minutes ahead of schedule. I guess, once everyone has checked in, the plane can take-off.
We arrived thirty minutes early to Toronto, so of course, there was no gate for us and we had to wait. At least it was warm on the plane – it was not warm in Toronto. I was home and now I have more stories to tell of my time in Cuba.
I’m already planning my next trip — I love Cuba!