2014 Cuba V.I.P FAM Trip
Monday 1st December
I was very excited as I met the rest of the group at the Virgin check in desk at Gatwick South Terminal. There was 10 of us in the group and the trip was being led by Fay McCormack, Star Clippers General Manager, Danielle Dudley, UK Sales Manager and Carley Lancaster, Senior Cruise Consultant.
After a smooth check in we were invited into the V Lounge where we enjoyed free food and soft drinks in comfortable surroundings whilst getting to know each other a little better.
On arrival in Havana, after a 10 hour flight (during which the plane was struck by lightning!), we waited to clear customs. This did take quite a while however the staff were friendly and by the time we had been waved through our cases were waiting for us on the carousel.
We were then taken to the Hotel Capri and after a quick change around we headed out for dinner, a Cuban speciality of shredded beef, rice and black beans. Dinner was accompanied by a couple of Mojitos which we enjoyed as we sat outside in one of the four main squares in Havana.
Tuesday 2nd December
After breakfast we had the opportunity to visit the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, one of the most famous hotels on the Island. Opened on December 30th 1930 the hotel has played host to the likes of Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney and Ava Gardner and in 1998 it was declared a national monument.
We were then transferred to the port of Cienfuegos, a journey that took 4 hours, including a 20 minute break for Mojitos. After clearing customs at the port we made our way to the Star Flyer and, as always, the act of embarkation filled us with excitement.
We were welcomed onboard by the crew and after a quick check in and a complimentary drink we made our way to our cabins. At 7.00 pm we were asked to attend the mandatory safety drill after which we headed to the piano bar for pre-dinner drinks. After dinner we made our way to the sun deck to watch the first sail away, a moment which I always enjoy. Watching the sails unfurl as Conquest of Paradise (by Vangelis) is played is truly a magical experience!
Wednesday 3rd December
After breakfast we headed to the tropical bar for the Captain's welcome and an introduction of the officers and crew.
After the Star Flyer had moored offshore we boarded the tenders and headed for Playa Ancon. We were dropped off at the beach which meant a wet landing and so we had been advised to wear suitable footwear. After clearing customs the group decided to hire taxis (these were actually vintage 1950's American Cadillacs) and make our way to Trinidad town centre, a journey that cost us approximately £10 per taxi for a 20/25 minute ride. The cars throughout Cuba are amazing as they are nearly all colourful, vintage American cars.
Trinidad town centre was an amazing place, very colourful and vibrant. As we strolled through the town we realised that a lot of the shops we were passing were actually just people's houses. After an enjoyable few hours we made our way back to the beach, where we relaxed for a while before getting the tender back to ship.
Thursday 4th December
Today was a day spent at sea which gave us all a chance to relax and soak up the atmosphere onboard.
The more adventurous members of the group decided to take part in the mast climbing activity organised by the sports team, I however decided to keep my feet firmly on the ground! Although I must admit some of the photo's people took at the top were beautiful.
For the less energetic activities available included; the art of napkin folding, the art of fruit carving, and walk-a-mile onboard.
Friday 5th December
This morning the Star Flyer arrived at Punta Frances on the Isla de la Juventud. As this is a National Marine Park Area the ship was unable to drop anchor and instead was required to drift.
This meant that the tender took a little bit longer than normal however I really enjoy the tender journeys as they provide you with the opportunity to take some lovely photos of the ship.
The beach at Punta Frances is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque beaches I have ever seen. After a leisurely stroll along the beach soaking up the scenery we returned to the boat for a spot of lunch and a lazy afternoon.
The entertainment this evening was the Star Flyer talent show with a selection of crew and guests showcasing their talents. Acts included a magician, a singer, a trumpet player and a lady reading German poetry.
I also feel I should mention that dinner tonight was exceptional. The standard of food on all three ships is always very high however as it was Captain's night tonight we were served Lobster Thermidor.
Saturday 6th December
Today the ship anchored off Cayo Largo with a continuous tender service being offered between the ship and the beach. Todays beach was a little bit more built up than yesterday with a restaurant and a shop offering their services. Cayo Largo's scenery and sugar-white beaches make it one of Cuba's most sought-after tourist destinations.
The Island is comprised from limestone, formed over millions of years from the remains of marine organisms, much like the ones that form coral reefs.
Whilst ashore two of our party took the opportunity to swim with dolphins. I should also point out the Cayo Largo and the nearby Isla de la Juventud offer spectacular scuba diving.
Back aboard the Star Flyer we retired to our cabins in order to pack ready for tomorrows disembarkation. Before dinner the guests all gathered on the sundeck for a champagne sailaway.
Sunday 7th December
After breakfast everyone was sad to be leaving the ship. We gathered in the piano bar and watched the other guest disembark before doing so ourselves.
After clearing customs we made the 4 hour journey back to Havana (with a compulsory mojito stop). After checking back in to the Hotel Capri we ventured into Havana and grabbed some lunch at La Bodeguita Del Medio, one of the most famous bars in Havana.
After an afternoon of exploring we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our final evening in Cuba. We were taken to the Club Tropicana where we enjoyed a spectacular cabaret show in the open air with a few glasses of Cuban rum.
Monday 8th December
This morning we were hosted by the Cuban Tourist board who took us on a tour of the city that included a visit to a tobacco factory and a rum museum.
The tobacco factory was fascinating as we were allowed to stand and watch the workers as they lovingly made the cigars. The average wage is approximately £35 a month plus 5 cigars a day. We were informed that each worker makes about 120 cigars a day!
After lunch we headed to the airport for our flight home.
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