Sunday, 26 November 2017

Cuba Small Ship Cruising: Snapshots of Cuba

#expeditioncruising .

Cuba is one big story and myriad vignettes at the same time. Founded in Spanish colonial 16th century and fought over, argued about, raided, plundered and isolated on and off for the next 500 years, Cuba contains a distinct set of time capsules from every era of its tumultuous evolution.

Here are just a few 'freeze frame' captures from my last week on and around the island while sailing aboard Variety Cruises' MV Callisto with Peregrine Adventures.

Presidio Modelo (RE)

Isla Juventud: (Island of Youth) Just one of the five cavernous, abandoned jail blocks of the Presidio Modelo that once held both Fidel and Raul Castro following their arrest in 1953. The massive 'panopticon' prison is a carbon-copy of the Joliet Prison in Illinois. Construction began in the late 1920s and abandoned in 1959 following the Castro brothers' revolution. Most of the prisoners were political prisoners and quick to embrace the new regime. The island itself sees very few tourists and enjoys a relaxed lifestyle.

Late 1940s Ford Mercury

Pre-1960 US Cars: This magnificent Mercury convertible was parked on the cobbled, UNESCO World Heritage streets of Trinidad de Cuba in the country's south-east. For many years after the embargo, these vehicles were all Cubans had and their preservation was as much by necessity as nostalgia. Of course, most do not look as well kept as this example. The vast majority are pressed into service as ad hoc private taxis and seemed to be held together by magic as they rattle, belch and bounce along Cuba's pot-holed highways.

Cuban relief wood sculptor, Lazaro Niebla

Local artist, Lazaro Niebla: Most of the available Cuban souvenirs are a bland homogeneity of state-produced trinkets that seem to populate every street stall. Relief wood sculptor, Lazaro Niebla (43), is based in Trinidad de Cuba and a refreshing example of home-grown Cuban talent. His sculptures take about two weeks to complete and are carved from salvaged antique cedar windows and shutters. Each work represents an otherwise unremarkable elder of Cuba who he sees as the living heritage of the nation. Niebla has exhibited internationally and his works range in price from $2000-$15,000. www.lazaroniebla.com

Cigar smoking woman in traditional colonial attire (RE)

Old Town, Havana: An unmistakable image of Havana are the ebullient women dressed in bright colonial attire who are delighted to pose for tips. Some solo, some in small groups, some with props like umbrellas, flowers or cigars, these ladies and their male equivalents have become one of the enduring tourism trademarks of the 500-year-old capital and blend harmoniously with the restored buildings around the city's central square.

ExpeditionCruising.com travelled as a guest of Peregrine Adventures and Variety Cruises on the 'Cuba Panorama Cruising' itinerary aboard MV Callisto. See www.peregrineadventures.com/en-au/cuba

From today, we transfer to MSC Opera for a new Caribbean adventure. www.msccruises.com.au