Circumnavigation of Cuba
Before You Go
This program will offer a rare, but valuable perspective into the daily lives of Cuba’s citizens. But, participants should be aware that the infrastructure can be poorly developed, and occasional delays and amendments to the program can occur. Some days will also be long, with bus rides over bumpy roads and boat journeys that require sitting for long periods. Please note that deviating from the group itinerary is not permitted at any time. Temperatures will range from the low 70sºF– mid-80sºF, though high humidity can make it feel warmer.
Please pay close attention to the following sections: Passport and Visa Requirements, Health Information, and Baggage Allowance.
Activity Level & Accommodations
This program will offer a rare but valuable perspective into the daily lives of Cuba’s citizens. In Havana, accommodations offer four-star elegance; aboard the Hebridean Sky, the ocean-view suites feature en suite bathrooms and individually controlled air conditioning. Participants should be aware that due to poorly developed infrastructure, occasional delays and amendments to the program may occur. Please note that while many days include a choice of activities, deviating from the group is not permitted at any time.
A trip to Cuba is an active one that calls for good health. You should be able to walk without assistance for a minimum of two hours at a somewhat brisk pace in order to participate in this expedition. Some activities involve a great deal of walking on uneven terrain such as cobblestone streets or slippery trails, all of which will be in hot weather. You will occasionally have to climb/descend stairs and negotiate places where footing is uncertain, often without handrails. If you have any concerns about participating in this expedition, please contact your Expedition Advisor.
Arrivals & Departures
Departure / Airport Check-In Procedures
Please arrive at the airport for your flight to Havana, Cuba at least two hours prior to departure and have access to your passport and airline E-ticket confirmation. Do not pack your passport or other travel documents in your checked luggage. Be certain the check-in agent properly tags your bags through to the final destination allowed, and that you have all baggage and E-ticket receipts.
Airlines change flight times frequently and if you booked your tickets through our air department, Zegrahm Expeditions will send you any updates as they are received from the carrier. Still, we recommend reconfirming the departure time of your flights with the airline directly within 24 hours of departure. This can be done easily online and will ensure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to board your flight.
Please contact Zegrahm at 1.800.628.8747, 206.285.4000, or 206.219.1641 should you encounter significant delays or problems en route. Proceed to your airline’s ticket counter or flight gate for immediate assistance. Advise Zegrahm of all changes to your arrival into Havana so that we may inform our Expedition Leader.
PLEASE NOTE: Your travel authorization letter, daily itinerary, and tourist card for Cuba will be required for you to board the plane to and from Havana, Cuba.
Arrival / Departure Transfers
Transfers and assistance between airports and group hotels are arranged for participants arriving and departing on group dates only. If you are not arriving on the group day or arriving with the group pre-extension, Zegrahm Expeditions is unable to provide an airport transfer or book lodging for you. Please note, only non-US citizens that are not transiting through the US have the option of arriving or departing Cuba outside of the group dates.
If you are handling your own travel arrangements, please forward a copy of your itinerary to Zegrahm Expeditions, as well as contact information where you can be reached prior to and after the program.
For your international flights to and from Havana, Cuba, please check for luggage weight restrictions with your airline provider or our air department if you are booking your international air arrangements through Zegrahm Expeditions.
PLEASE NOTE: Most airlines strictly enforce their baggage regulations. Excess baggage charges, which can be substantial, are the personal responsibility of each participant.
We recommend the use of soft-sided luggage as it is easier to store. Your carry-on bag should include anything you may need in transit. We recommend that you carry essential toiletries and prescription medications on board the plane, as well as a change of clothing appropriate for the initial activities of our itinerary so you will be more comfortable in the unlikely event your baggage is delayed in transit or is slow to be delivered to your room upon arrival.
Cuba has a largely tropical climate. Expect warm temperatures and high humidity throughout this itinerary. Sporadic rain showers are also common this time of year.
The following are average high/low temperatures in April for selected locations on our itinerary:
|Santiago de Cuba||83ºF||73ºF|
The British pound is the standard currency on board the Hebridean Sky. Your voyage includes most necessities; therefore, we strongly recommend that you carry most of your spending money in smaller denominations. At the end of your voyage, you may settle your onboard account with your Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit card.
As of November 2017 the exchange rates are as follows:
|$1 US dollar (USD)||0.76 British Pound (GBP)|
|$1 US dollar (USD)||1 Cuban convertible peso (CUC)|
The US dollar and British pound are not accepted for payment in Cuba and credit cards are currently not accepted. You must pay for items you purchase in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs), and there is a 13% conversion fee when you convert your US dollars into CUCs. The airport and hotels will have exchange facilities for you to convert USD to CUC upon arrival into Cuba. If you exchange $100 US dollars you will receive roughly 87 CUCs after all the taxes and fees are deducted. When you leave the country, you can exchange any extra CUCs back into dollars at the airport.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT CREDIT CARDS IN CUBA: Credit cards cannot be used if they are connected with an American bank in any way. Unless you have a foreign bank account that issues you a credit card in Euros or Canadian dollars, you must pay for your purchases, gratuities, bar tabs, and hotel extras in CUCs. Also, note that the same applies to debit cards—not even four and five-star hotels can accept them for payment.
You will receive your pre-departure information—including a complete packing list, reading list, and gift certificates—approximately five months prior to departure. Final documents—including a final itinerary, contact list, and staff biographies—will be sent approximately one month prior to your departure.
Electricity on board the Hebridean Sky uses standard, American-style outlets (two flat prongs) at 110 volts.
The electric current in Cuba is also 110 volts, though many hotels now have only 220 or dual voltage to accommodate the many European visitors. Since hotels in Cuba can change last-minute, we recommend that you travel with an international power converter kit that includes a current converter and a set of adapter plugs, including a three-prong to two-prong adapter.
PLEASE NOTE: Temporary power outages are not uncommon. The electrical output in some hotels can surge and affect appliances that are plugged into outlets. We are not responsible for damage to appliances as a result of power surges. It is best to only leave appliances plugged in when in use or during the minimum time required for recharging.
Flights to and from your home city are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements.
You will need to purchase airfare from your home city/Havana and Havana/home city. For more detailed information, please contact our in-house Air Department for fare quotes, reservations, or other air-related questions.
At this time, no vaccinations are needed for this expedition.
Protect yourself against the heat and the strong sun. Drink plenty of fluids whenever you can, not just when you are thirsty. By preventing dehydration, you may prevent a range of medical problems associated with traveling. Take precautions to avoid overexposure to the sun. Bring a sun hat with a wide brim or scarf, polarized sunglasses, and a high-SPF sunscreen.
Be sure to bring a sufficient amount of your personal medications, as pharmacies are not found in the remote areas of this expedition.
In case of serious injury or illness while traveling, it is important to understand that satisfactory medical facilities may not exist nearby. Should you require emergency medical care, it may be necessary to depart the country by international medical evacuation services. The cost of your expedition includes $100,000 in emergency evacuation and $25,000 in medical expense. If you would like to purchase additional insurance, you can do so at www.travelguard.com/zegrahm or through our office.
The information herein is a guideline and is subject to change without notice. Contact your physician or local health center for current and other information concerning health precautions, immunizations, and prescriptions based on your physical condition and medical history.
Internet & Phone
Your final documentation will include contact information for the group hotel and the Hebridean Sky. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available on board the Hebridean Sky for all guests.
You will be able to make calls to the US from our group hotel. If you need assistance in making a call to the US, please check with your Expedition Leader or your Cuban National guide.
Following are local times that apply to this expedition when it is 7:00am on the North American west coast:
|7:00am||Seattle, WA (PDT)|
|10:00am||New York, NY (EDT)|
Part of the travel experience lies in sampling the many culinary offerings. As a visitor to Cuba, you will be served the best food available. Service can be slow in some places, but not everywhere. You are safe to eat anything in the restaurants we visit, but it’s best to stay away from street vendors.
Do not drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth. Beverages, including wine and beer, are included with meals where available. Cocktails can be purchased with CUCs and are not included in the cost of the tour. There are many legendary Cuban cocktails to try including mojitos, Cuba libres, and daiquiris.
Please keep in mind that while we will do everything we can to meet your dietary requests, it may not be possible in all Cuban restaurants. The local culture does not allow for a wide variety of vegetables. The cuisine consists largely of rice, beans, and meat such as pork, chicken and fish/seafood.
However, meals onboard the ship will be able to accommodate dietary restrictions.
Should you have any dietary needs, please let us know on the Personal Information Form, and we will do our best to prepare for them. Unfortunately, kosher meals cannot be accommodated.
It is essential to maximize the versatility of your travel wardrobe by packing clothing that can be layered. Wash-and-wear, lightweight, natural fabrics are recommended. As you pack, consider your own internal thermostat and personal tastes and adjust accordingly
Clothing on Board
The ship is air-conditioned and heated throughout, with individual controls in each cabin. Comfortable and casual clothing, in the expedition spirit, is recommended. Normally, there are two shipboard occasions when you may wish to wear slightly more formal attire: the captain’s welcome aboard and farewell cocktail parties, followed by dinner. On these two occasions, women may choose to wear a dress or other appropriate attire, and men may choose to dress business casual. The degree of dress is in accordance with one’s personal preference.
Sporty summer-weight clothing is a good basis for your wardrobe. Loose, lightweight, wash-and-wear slacks, skirts, blouses, and T-shirts made of natural fibers and wick-a-way fabrics are recommended. The sun can be strong, so bring adequate sun-protective clothing and gear, wear hats, and use sun block, as we will be out in the sun for extended periods of time. Also, keep in mind that we may encounter a rain shower or two during our excursions.
Shore excursions will involve a fair amount of walking over uneven trails. Sturdy walking shoes with thick soles or light hiking boots are recommended for walking on the often-rough terrain. Make sure your shoes or boots are well broken-in before your trip.
Sport sandals with a sturdy sole are the best type of footwear for wet landings, especially where there are rocky and/or coral covered beaches. They provide excellent protection and dry quickly. You may also want to bring canvas sneakers or water shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty. You will also want to wear either pants that are easy to roll up, shorts, or a sarong for wet landings.
Mask, snorkels, and fins are available onboard, but we recommended that each snorkeler brings their own gear for best comfort and fit.
Passport & Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required for participation in this voyage. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after entering Cuba, throughOctober 30, 2018. If you do not have a passport, or if it is not valid for the correct length of time, you should apply for one as soon as possible. You need to have a minimum of two blank pages available for entry/exit stamps in your passport. As of January 1, 2016, the US State Department has eliminated the application to insert additional pages into your passport. If you require additional pages, a new passport must be obtained. We suggest that you carry extra passport photos and a photocopy of your passport’s information page when you travel.
Documentation for Entry into Cuba
Tourist cards are required for entry into Cuba by the Cuban government, and you can apply for yours online at https://cubavisaservices.com/. The tourist card will cost $85 per person ($50 for the tourist card, plus a $35 processing fee) and is not included in the tour cost. The tourist card will be mailed to you directly once you have completed your tourism card application online. You will need to enter the following information:
OFAC Category: People to People, Group Travel.
Flight Date: Enter your flight’s arrival date of April 17, 2018 if you are traveling on the main group itinerary, or April 16, 2018 if you are going on the one day pre-extension tour.
Record Locator: This information is optional. We recommend leaving this blank.
Cuba Province: Havana.
Please apply for your Cuba Tourist Card at least 2 weeks prior to departure.
Documentation for Travel to Cuba for US Citizens and Residents
Traveling to Cuba carries certain restrictions for US citizens and residents, and must fall into certain categories to be authorized to spend money related for travel to, from, or within Cuba. You will be traveling under a General License, People-to-People Travel (section 515.565). You will be given an authorization letter outlining this requirement and a daily itinerary from Zegrahm Expeditions with your final documents. You may be asked for these documents in order to re-enter the US from Cuba. In addition, you must keep a copy of your authorization letter and a copy of the daily itinerary for five years after your US return date in case of an audit.
It is important to note that the Department of Treasury license and authorization documents are for US Government purposes only and have nothing to do with Cuban entry, so do not present them to Cuban immigration officials. Only present your passport and tourist card.
If you are not a US citizen, you must also carry all necessary documentation with you to re-enter the US (visa, green card, etc.). Please notify your Expedition Advisor at the time of booking if you are not a US citizen, have dual citizenship, or require other special services based on your personal status.
Payments & Cancellations
A deposit totaling 25% of the expedition fare will reserve a place for you on this Zegrahm program. The balance of the expedition fare is due 120 days prior to departure. Airfare is due at the time tickets are issued. All prices are quoted in US dollars and must be paid in US dollars.
Cancellation & Refund Policy
Notification of cancellation must be received in writing by Zegrahm. At the time we receive your written cancellation, the following penalties will apply:
- 180 days or more prior to departure: $750 per person
- 120 through 179 days prior to departure: 25% of expedition fare
- 1 through 119 days prior to departure: 100% of expedition fare
Please note, fees associated with cancelled airline tickets are in addition to this and will be clearly outlined for you on your flight itinerary.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance
We strongly advise that all travelers purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance to protect themselves from an unforeseen emergency that may force you to cancel or leave an expedition while it is in progress. Information describing coverage will be sent to you upon receipt of your deposit for the expedition. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer insurance to guests residing outside the United States.
With Our Compliments
We are pleased to offer complimentary amenities to our explorers so they can be fully prepared before departing on one of our expeditions. A gift certificate to our Zegrahm Store will offer you the opportunity to purchase essential trip gear from our store. The certificate will be emailed to you approximately five months prior to departure. Please refer to the gift certificate for more details.