The port of Havana is showing signs of wear, but the faded elegance of Havana can be seen beneath, with ornate balconies and delicate shuttered windows adorning the upper levels of the port terminal, it's easy to think back to the heydays of Cuba's past.
The port terminal is nice and close to many sights, with Hemmingway's house not far and the port fort. There are plenty of cafes and bars, street markets and of course the cars. Walk the streets, and you will smell the distinctive aroma of cigars, with the locals from old men to young ladies, enjoying one of Cuba's most known product. Cigar shops are found all around the port area, often wood paneled and air conditioned.
Havana is a lovely place to visit, there are plenty of sights to see within walking distance of the ship, so excursions are not needed id you are happy to wander. The locals are welcoming and polite. Keep an eye out for cigars, they make a great present, but remember your allowances, it is sometimes better to buy a slightly lower grade cigars individually tubed, rather than buying a box, which, although it looks impressive, will of course, once opened lose some of its character.
Cuba has a closed currency, but the port terminal building has a couple of currency changing desks, and indeed there are cigar shops and duty free sales for those not wanting to venture ashore.
Passengers will find Havana pleasantly devoid of large numbers of cruise visitors. This is due to the US restrictions. US citizens and ships cannot visit Cuba, many Americans do visit, but can only do so, by visiting another country first, so for example, they would fly into Canada to then take a flight to Cuba. Even European based ships face problems, with the US banning any foreign flagged ship for a six month period after it has visited Cuba. The result of these actions is a low number of visiting ships.
The Thomson Dream
was the first large cruise ship to re visit Cuba in January for a few years, and was welcomed by happy cheering locals and news crews. Smaller Mexican flagged ships have always frequented Havana, but in the future more ships may visit as ship operators assess the demand.