Are you considering a cruise vacation to Cuba? Here are a few things to know before you leave.
Yes, you will need to purchase a Cuban visa, known as a “tourist card”. Many cruise companies will help facilitate this for you and have it available when you arrive on the cruise ship. It is a two-part card; one half is taken upon arrival in Cuba and the second half upon departure. Additionally, you must have a passport that is valid for six months after your travel date to Cuba.
Yes, as long as you travel with a group that has a license based on one of the 12 authorized categories of travel to Cuba. In order for a cruise line to travel to Cuba, they have a received a license issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. As a guest on a cruise line, you will be able to legally travel to Cuba under their license.
You are required to complete a travel affidavit identifying the category of travel under which you are visiting. In most instances, you will select the “educational activities” category since you will be participating in the cruise line’s people to people travel program. This affidavit must be completed prior to boarding the cruise ship.
As of November 2017, self-guided people-to-people travel will no longer be allowed.
People-to-people tours are sponsored, education-based trips designed to promote meaningful interactions between you and the Cuban people. Cruise lines operate under a people-to-people license and will offer qualifying people-to-people activities.
Yes. Cuba requires mandatory medical insurance coverage. Many cruise lines will provide that coverage and include the cost of it in your cruise fare. Check with your cruise line before purchasing any on your own. It is unlikely that you will be covered by your U.S. health insurance plan. Check with your insurance provider to determine if you are covered by your health plan.
Cuba requires mandatory coverage during your visit. As with health insurance, many cruise lines will include the cost of travel insurance in your cruise fare, so check with your cruise line before purchasing any on your own.
Cuba does not require any specific inoculations before visiting. For current travel health information, contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to use U.S. credit cards in Cuba and you cannot access a U.S. bank via an ATM card at this time. It is best to take cash; most places will accept U.S. currency. You can also exchange your cash for Cuban CUCs (pesos). This must be done at a CADECA (approved currency exchange bureau) or at a hotel.
You can bring back as much as you would like as long as it is for personal use or for gifts, and it can fit in your luggage. This includes alcohol, tobacco products, artwork, or music. If you buy larger artwork through a gallery, you must receive an export permit or official receipt from the art gallery. “Tourist art” bought on the streets of Havana doesn’t require exportation procedures.
Check with your phone provider regarding what coverage, if any, they offer in Cuba. Sprint and Verizon offer international roaming services for U.S. customers traveling to Cuba. If your phone carrier does not provide coverage, you can purchase a global SIM card for your smart phone (not mobile phone) or you can rent a compatible cell phone.
Most cruise lines traveling to Cuba have Wi-Fi available onboard the ship. If you must use it while onshore, there are internet cafés and you can purchase Wi-Fi at hotels; however access is typically slow and can be quite expensive.
Cuba is among the safest countries to visit. Crime is quite rare, but pick-pocketing and street hustling do sometimes occur. For example, street hustlers have been known to sell counterfeit cigars; it is best to buy them from a reputable cigar store.
Published Aug 31, 2017; updated May 14, 2018.