Havana, Cuba in One Day! Classic Car Tour

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Traveling to new places is very liberating, and if you’re one who enjoys letting go and partying while on vacation, then Cuba could be the destination for you. Havana’s citizens are fun-loving people and with the right mix of their exquisite Cuba Libre, Mojitos, and lively salsa beats, you can share in experiencing the hypnotizing buzz of a country known for its passion for life while you are visiting.

Cuba is considered very safe. In Cuba, there are laws that are very strict when it comes to tourists and the local people committing any real crimes against them. A friend of mine who frequents Cuba told me that the punishment for crimes against tourists is 5 years of hard labor.

I have always wanted to visit Havana, Cuba. I was totally excited when this opportunity came along. We were able to spend the day in Havana and see the sights on our Classic Car Tour we found right outside the port.

In my previous career, I attended many professional association events that the financial institution I worked for would sponsor. One of the groups we sponsored had an annual cruise for continuing education for the members.

For as long I can remember they would ask us to sponsor their annual cruise but because there would be no one attending from the bank so it was not able to be approved. Last year, when I was speaking to one of the board members discussing the groups plans he informed me that next year their cruise was going to Cuba.

I apparently looked pretty excited….. you see my Grandfather was a Marine during WWII. He would tell me stories of how awesome Cuba was before Castro and how much he loved to travel there. Traveling to Cuba was high on my bucket list.

Also, growing up in South Florida, Cuba is about 80 miles from Key West and was this mysterious communist island that we would pass by when we would take cruises to other places. The group asked if I would be interested in attending.

Book Havana Classic Car Tour Here


***UPDATE*** Cruises are no longer going to Cuba. US Citizens can still travel to Cuba with regulations.

Although Cuba is now open for US tourists to go, you will need to do some research before you book. Both my husband and I had not traveled out of the US since the changes from 9/11 have been fully implemented and when we did it was on the cruise lines in the Caribbean.

With collecting the required documentation and the state department’s own processing times of 4-6 weeks, the whole process can take a couple of months. There are also several forms you need to fill out for the cruise line before you get there so be aware of those requirements as well. Norwegian sent email updates for a reminder so we did not lose track.

Courtesy of Norwegian

The group chose the Norwegian Sun for their trip since they had a Monday through Friday itinerary.  I would look at the amenities on other ships if you are bringing kids. This one is great if you are not bringing children.

There are several specialty restaurants aboard this ship that we opted for with one of our free giveaways.

The cruise ship has planned itineraries for you while in Havana and the rules are that you must book an approved excursion to disembark into Havana. When I asked the person helping me set everything up he stated that no one checks so opted not to book any of the official excursions. I wanted to see Havana on my own terms. When I tell people we did it this way they think I am nuts but we have to remember, Canadians and Europeans have been coming here for years and feel it is very safe.

Norwegian Sun – Norwegian Cruise Line

And We’re Off on the Norwegian Sun! 

We board the ship in Port Canaveral, FL. Parking costs more the closer to the port you are. When driving to the ship we saw several lots that would transport you to the ship that had reduced parking rates.

This is our first time on Norwegian so we got the lay of the land and we wanted to get our dinner reservations in order. We opted to upgrade to specialty dining while onboard which was included as one of our free upgrades. You were given three nights of dining and this cruise also included unlimited drinks as well.

Courtesy of Norwegian
Courtesy of Norwegian
Norwegian Sun

Our first stop is Key West. As we enter the port there are two Dolphins playing in front of the ship! Unfortunately, I left my camera in the room so I missed the shot. But you get the idea….. It was almost as if Norwegian had hired the Dolphins to perform for us as we entered the port. It was great to see them jumping together, welcoming us to Key West!

We had been to Key West several times both as cruisers and when we stay in Marathon on family vacations, so my husband made the brilliant suggestion that we stay on the ship and hang out by the pool since everyone would be onshore and just rest. We had two waiters checking on us and there were maybe two or three other people by the pool. Peace, quiet and tranquility!


We wake up and the ship is docking! I am just so excited. This is what I have been waiting for! We approach customs and they stamp our passports and take your picture. I want to get off the ship as soon as possible!

Book Highly Recommended Havana Activities and Attractions Below

Once through the metal detectors, you can exchange USD for Cuban money that is only meant for tourists. Cubans have another currency that is for citizens only. At the time $1 equaled .87 in Cuban money. You can not exchange Cuban money in the US nor can you use US credit cards in Cuba. From what I understand, it is the US banks who are not jumping on board to do business in Cuba.

Courtesy of Norwegian

We approach the street. My first plan is to get a feel for the area. As we are leaving the port a man asks us if we want to tour Havana in a classic car. I knew the excursion price on the cruise ship was more than we wanted to spend and I was right. It was a huge saving to set this up on land. You pay after the tour so I felt pretty safe.

There is a line of classic cars trying to get to the next tour so they are beeping their horns trying to get the car in front of them to move along. They rush you into a car and you are off! Here are a few pics from this……

Classic Car Tour

Classic Car Tour with Jorge and Randy as guides

Next, our tour guide took us to a large marble monument to Jose Marti across from two government buildings that feature the faces of Che Guevera and Camilo Cienfuegos, so it’s a great place for photo ops. There’s also a museum beneath Jose Marti’s monument but they did not offer to take us and we were on a schedule. Visiting the Plaza and the monument is free!

Although Cuba is a communist country, I was really surprised that there were so many churches and religious statues still here.

The Christ Of Havana

The Christ of Havana is a large sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth on a hilltop overlooking the bay in Havana, Cuba. It is the work of the Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera, who won the commission for it in 1953.

The Christ of Havana

Morro Castle


The bay on our way to the Morro Castle. When you are entering the Port of Havana you are greeted by the Morro Castle at the entrance.

The Morro Castle, named after the three biblical Magi, is a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba.  In this case, the Spanish “morro” means a rock that is very visible from the sea and therefore serves as a navigational landmark. 

Perched on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana, it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance. The castle was built initially in 1589 in response to invasions on Havana’s harbor. El Morro protected the mouth of the harbor with a chain being strung out across the water to the fort at La Punta.

The fort is huge. You can probably spend all day there walking around the grounds.

Morro Castle

Getting Cuban Cigars At The Castle

Longest cigar ever rolled by Jose Castelar Cairo, known as ‘Cueto’.

Eventually, I asked our guides where we can get some Cuban cigars. They took us to the fort and told us to pay to enter. Where were we going to get us to the best Cuban cigars? The fort? I was a little suspicious. I even asked a couple of times, Why are we going to the fort?” We decided to trust the process. They led us to a little shop within the fort. Not only were we able to purchase our cigars we got to meet a Cuban celebrity.

Our guides were so excited to see that “Cueto” was at the cigar shop. He had rolled the longest cigar on record for Castro’s birthday. It was on display at the fort and we were able to see it.

Jose Castelar Cairo, known as ‘Cueto’

Colon Cemetary

Named for Christopher Columbus, the cemetery is noted for its many elaborately sculpted memorials. It is estimated the cemetery has more than 500 major mausoleums.

The guides told us that it is the largest cemetery in Latin America. When I looked it up though there are some that would disagree as there is a larger cemetery in Buenos Aires. I found that the Cuban people are told some things that are not exactly accurate.

Largest Cemetery located in South America

The Capitol Building In Havana

El Capitolio, or the National Capitol Building, is a public edifice and one of the most visited sites in Havana, capital of Cuba. The building was commissioned by Cuban president Gerardo Machado and built from 1926 to 1929 under the direction of Eugenio Rayneri Piedra. It was being renovated while we were there. I think the renovations are now complete. One of Cuba’s more well-preserved buildings, the Capitolio is extremely impressive! I think the general public can go in but you have to pay to see it.

Capitol being renovated in Havana

Chinatown or El Bario Chino

According to our guides, Castro built Chinatown in Havana because he wanted to Chinese to feel at home when in Cuba. Being in a classic car was perfect because of the convertible. Today there are less than 150 Chinese in Havana. They have assimilated into Cuban culture at this point but you can still see the influences here.


US Embassy

Our two guides also took us to see the North Korean Embassy but asked us not to take pictures or gawk as it was a secret. Next door was the UK Embassy. They also showed us the US Embassy where the Cuban Government had strategically placed a multitude of flag poles in front to block the view of any US employees for any events that were held at the venue next door.

US Embassy
The flag poles were put there by the Cuban government to block the view of any US employees during an event on the other side. Once they raised the flags it was impossible to see what they were doing on the other side.
Flag poles blocking US Embassy. Any time there is an event in front of the US Embassy the Cuban government puts up flags so US employees can not see the event.

The Castro Official Residence

According to our guides, this was Castro’s home, where he has displayed a US plane that was shot down. This apparently, shows his strength against the mighty US. The propaganda as much as says so on the signs around the wreckage.

Over a decade ago, Forbes estimated Fidel Castro’s personal net worth at $900 million. Castro’s luxurious living arrangements were well known, but for security reasons, his personal life and residence were kept top secret. Even Cuban citizens were not in the know about where he actually resided.

Castro’s Home

The Classic Car Tour is definitely the way to go. The car tour gets you around to all of the important sites in Cuba. They also offer bus tours as well but I loved the open-air feel of being in a convertible.

Click here to see what we did next on our walking tour!

Street Scenes in Havana

If you have been to Cuba tell me about your experience there in the comments.

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135 responses to “Havana, Cuba in One Day! Classic Car Tour”

  1. Melissa Jones Avatar
    Melissa Jones

    That looks like an amazing adventure!!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you, Melissa!

  2. Trisha Avatar

    This sounds a like a great way to see the city! I’d gladly cruise around in one of those vintage cars!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      We had a great time! I hope you get to soon!

  3. Tiffany Avatar

    This has to be one of the trips I would love to do – hopeful when I am able to go it will not commercialize, one of the appealing highlights of visiting.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That was one of my concerns when I was there. I think since the US has stopped cruises it will slow down a little there.

  4. Hera Avatar

    Haven’t been to Cuba but seeing several pics lately of visitors driving in Havana in Vintage cars. Looks like a great place to visit

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is definitely different!

  5. kmf Avatar

    I would love to visit Cuba…so beautiful! And how fun to tour around in a classic car

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It was a lot of fun! Thanks!

  6. Cindy Moore Avatar
    Cindy Moore

    Such a fun way to explore in Cuba! I’d love this too.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I am glad it is still accessible!

  7. Michele Avatar

    This looks like so much fun. We considered a cruise to Cuba last year.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is a shame you can no longer go that way.

  8. Chantelle Avatar

    I’m bummed that I missed a cruise to here, but I didn’t know we could still go until I read your post! I’d love to go

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes I know many people thought they could not go. I have another post with specific instructions on what to do.

  9. Missy Avatar

    Classic cars and a history tour. That is what we love about traveling.

  10. Brianna Avatar

    Cuba has been on my bucket list forever now and it’s mostly due to all those BEAUTIFUL classic cars! What a cool experience to tour in them!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I can’t wait to see your trip!

  11. Erin Avatar

    Such a great and thorough review. We’ve always wanted to go on a Norwegian cruise. We’ve been on Princess and Royal Caribbean. And that car is beautiful!! Looks like you had a wonderful time!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Norwegian was okay. I will probably choose another line next time.

  12. Alice Avatar

    Wow! that is a lot to see in one day! Loved the pictures!

  13. Stacey Billingsley Avatar
    Stacey Billingsley

    It looks like such a beautiful place to visit. I’d love to see the classic cars. Some areas are so colorful!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes although it is pretty run down the architecture was stunning.

  14. Casandra Avatar

    I loved my time in Havana. It is such a vibrant city!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes it is! Thanks Casandra!

  15. Leeanne Avatar

    I would definitely take the classic car tour. So many interesting sites to visit.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      We would definitely do it again!

  16. Cindy Avatar

    I want to get here…just the cars alone would be a great visit from what I understand!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      They really are fun! Thanks Cindy!

  17. Sandi Avatar

    Interesting visit. It’s on my bucket list.

  18. jody Avatar

    Looks like a lot of fun and you took some great pictures thank you for sharing.

  19. Tonya Avatar

    That’s a busy day! But sounds like a great time.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you! It was a lot of fun!

  20. Santana Avatar

    I’ve never considered traveling to Cuba. I may have to add it to my (very long) list!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You will not regret it! It is very interesting!

  21. Cindy Moore Avatar
    Cindy Moore

    What a fun way to explore, in a classic car! I’d love to visit Cuba.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! I can’t wait to hear about it!

  22. Tricia Snow Avatar

    Thanks Kevin! We enjoyed our time there.

  23. Kendra Avatar

    What a cool experience. I would definitely be interested in going to Cuba sometime!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks Kendra. I am definitely going back some day!

  24. heather Avatar

    Wow, you are right, there are so many churches and religious statutes. I am becoming fascinated by this country. I must spend some time learning more.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I guess in Spanish Communism they are not willing to disrespect the Catholic Church.

  25. Katherine Wolfe Avatar
    Katherine Wolfe

    How interesting that they have separate money for tourists!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      es … much closer in value to the USD!

  26. Charlene Avatar

    I love the classic car tour and I’m sure Dave would, too. Even though he’s into restoring VWs, he loves all classic cars!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Dave would really enjoy it because I amazed at their ingenuity to keep them running!

  27. Suzan Avatar

    Thank you for this, Trisha! I have so wanted to schedule a visit to Cuba!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Great! I can’t wait to hear about it.

  28. Tonya Avatar

    I’ve never been to Cuba, but it looks like a great experience. Maybe someday!

  29. Angela Avatar

    What an interesting and timeless place to visit for sure.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Stuck in the past for sure. Thanks Angela!

  30. Ethel Avatar

    Lol, I’d be suspicious too about going to the fort for cigar. Lucky you got to meet a Cuban celebrity. I should start saving up for that classic car tour, looks cool and fun to get around in that convertible!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It was pretty inexpensive compared to what the cruise was offering. Book with a local, not a tour group.

  31. Sara Avatar

    I’ve never been to Cuba, but it looks like a great place to visit. The classic car tour looks like it would be a great way to see Cuba, but we’d have to get 2 cars for our family of 6! It’s nice to see that you were able to do so much in just one day.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      They have Hummers as an alternative! Lol

  32. Jane Avatar

    Four things I have in mind about Cuba – beautiful beaches, kind people, vintage cars (the classic car tour would be awesome to explore around) and Cuban cigarettes. I heard they have an amazing health care system too! Thanks for sharing your cruise experiences there.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Still have their cigars in my freezer!

  33. Eva Keller Avatar
    Eva Keller

    Looks like a cool trip! I know its on a lot of people’s bucket lists. My college was doing a volunteer trip there about 5 years ago and they had to scrap the trip literally days before they were supposed to leave, so unfortunately no one was able to go. I hope the school groups can get there eventually.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That sounds like it was around the time there was an incident at our Embassy there.

      1. Eva Keller Avatar
        Eva Keller

        That would definitely explain why it got cancelled!

  34. Jen Avatar

    Wow! What an amazing experience! That’s a really great way to get to see Cuba, I think.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      We had a great time. Cubans are just trying to survive so it was nice to put something towards some citizens.

  35. Ruth Iaela-Pukahi Avatar
    Ruth Iaela-Pukahi

    A cruise to Cuba sounds very desirable! I’ve never thought of going to Cuba till your post! So many more places I want to venture to thanks to your blog posts! lol

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Well the cruises are no longer docking there but you can take a flight in!

  36. Kim Avatar

    I would love to visit Cuba! I bet it was an amazing experience.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      We enjoyed everything about Havana. The music was amazing!

  37. Debbie Avatar

    I think I’m about ready to cruise again!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Lot’s of great deals out there from what I hear.

  38. Lisa Avatar

    I would love to visit Cuba one day! Looks amazing!

  39. Kirsten Avatar

    That looks soooo interesting! I never would have considered taking a tour in a classic car. I’ve heard Cuba is really a cool place…one day we’ll make it I’m sure!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is pretty cool. I can’t wait to hear about it!

  40. Danielle Ardizzone Avatar
    Danielle Ardizzone

    Looks like fun!

  41. Linda Egeler Avatar
    Linda Egeler

    I have long been curious about visiting Cuba. You make it seem very easy and do-able!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It was easy on a cruise but it is still pretty easy. Be sure to check out my article about flying in!

  42. Douglas J. Avatar
    Douglas J.

    I have never been to Cuba. It looks very interesting.

  43. Lisa Avatar

    I can’t believe castro has so much money and let’s his people starve. I think I would struggle a little in Cuba. Even if it is beautiful!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Well, I looked at it as a mission trip. People in our group brought toothbrushes, TP and other toiletries to pass out to locals. More valuable than cash to be honest.

  44. Holly Avatar

    What a wonderful adventure! I have always wanted to go to Cuba! I never thought about including it in one of my cruises.. Thank you for sharing your journey! I can’t wait to get cruising again!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Soon Holly! We will be back at sea!

  45. Crystal Avatar

    Oh wow! I’ve never been there! Definitely going on the bucket list!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I can’t wait to hear all about it when you do Crystal! Thanks!

  46. Diane Kurzava Avatar
    Diane Kurzava

    We love to cruise so really enjoyed that information, but really enjoyed the specific information about Cuba! So many interesting nuances that I never knew. It was like a great history lesson. Thank you!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Great! I am so glad you enjoyed it!

  47. Lee Anne Avatar
    Lee Anne

    This is exactly how I would want to see Cuba! The Classic Car tour would be awesome!!!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      The only way to go! So much better than a tour bus!

  48. Beth Shields Avatar
    Beth Shields

    What a beautiful, interesting but complex country. I love the old car tour – very cool. But saddened at some of the other things, like the whole flags up at the US Embassy. But beautiful history. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yeah, it was actually kind of silly to purposely have events in front of our embassy and then try to hide it with flags. I just gave our guides a confused look.

  49. Monica Avatar

    I have always wanted to go to Cuba. The food, music, sights. Maybe next year.

  50. Kat Avatar

    I’ve always wanted to visit. Seems like a great vacation

  51. Tina Avatar

    How fun! I hope to visit Cuba someday! Love all the pictures.

  52. evelyn Avatar

    My parents are from Cuba but I’ve never visited.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Are they interested in going? I think it would be nice to go with them and see it through their eyes.

  53. Heidi Avatar

    I have always wanted to go to Cuba to shoot street photography. It’s just so lively!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes, there is a lot to see through the camera.

  54. T.M. Brown Avatar

    Wow! Sounds like you guys had an amazing and educational experience. A lot of history there ~ both good and bad. Glad you had a great trip.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You want to go with an open mind and heart for sure.

  55. Hannah Avatar

    I really enjoyed reading this Cuba is a place we have wanted to go but so much mystery surrounding it and rules and regulations made it hard. But I’ve only heard good things. Interesting about the tourists having their own currency!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You will love it! Put it on your short list!

  56. Stacey Avatar

    Cuba looks like such a beautiful place. I hope to see it someday! I’m glad you had a great trip.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I definitely want to spend more time so we can see other parts of the island.

  57. Lorna @ Gin & Lemonade Avatar

    I loved this cruise diary, and Cuba is on my must go list.

  58. Clarissa Avatar

    Wow, looks like it would be such an interesting place to visit.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is a fun culture!

  59. Christa Avatar

    Havana is such a bucket list destination for me. It looks like you enjoyed so many different things!

  60. Katie Avatar

    I had no idea there was different money for tourists and locals! Thanks for the insider tip!

  61. Jennifer Avatar

    The more I hear about Cuba, the more I am intrigued. I love the idea of the bright colors and cars, and the food sounds delicious as well!

  62. Rachel Newlon Avatar

    Thankful to read this…I’ve been very apprehensive about traveling there. We were near there in February of this year and chatted intensely about whether or not a trip would ever be in our future!

  63. Melissa Parcel Avatar

    I’m so fascinated by Cuba, would love to go there. I had no idea that NCL cruised there, we just recently went on an NCL cruise and are now hooked.

  64. Ina @ Crafty For Home Avatar

    I had no idea there could be lots of thing to do and see in Cuba for a day!

  65. Nikki Avatar

    Awesome article! And very informative! I tell my husband all the time how much I want to go to Cuba. My daughter’s Aunt/Godmother is Cuban and has asked her to go a couple times. I see it as a country so full of history; good and bad, and I love that!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It’s amazing! You will not regret it!

  66. Michele Vadnais Avatar

    Cuba would not have been on my list of places to see, but I think it may need to be! Looks like great fun and lots of history.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is worth the trip and taking a cruise is a great way to get your feet wet!

  67. gail Avatar

    So interesting about the Tourist money! Sounds like you could have spent more time there learning!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes fortunately when we ran out almost everyone would take USD 🙂

  68. Naomi Avatar

    Cool experience, you all explored a lot in a day 🙂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      And there is plenty more to see. Going back soon!

  69. Samantha Avatar

    This sounds like a very fun trip. I’m glad to hear your adventure!

  70. Pam Avatar

    So cool! I would love to visit Cuba – my parents went last year and said it was a great trip.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You should move it to the top of the list!

  71. Stephanie Avatar

    Sounds like an amazing experience and a fun cruise!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It was! I am ready to go back…. so much more to see.

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