Celestyal’s Cuba, Part Four

Knego’s Final Cuba Cruise posting takes in the “other side” of the island with a visit to the pristine beaches of Maria La Gorda and a call at Cienfuegos with an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site designated Trinidad.

Celestyal Cruises

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

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In the early morning, we quietly dropped anchor off the pristine shores of Maria La Gorda in the Pinar del Rio province in Western Cuba.

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Tendering ashore at Maria La Gorda.

The Cubans are very protective of the reefs around Maria La Gorda, to the point that the CELESTYAL CRYSTAL’s tenders had to almost zig zag on an approved course to land guests.

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Crystalline Cuba.

In addition to swimming and watersports, Maria La Gorda is known for its myriad dive spots.

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CELESTYAL CRYSTAL in the backdrop.

I joined a snorkeling excursion that took us to a reef at the base of a coral ridge.

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Snorkeling site at Maria La Gorda.

For an hour or so, I snorkeled in a paradisical world of crystaline, temperate water, brilliant fish and coral.

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I returned to the ship reinvigorated and ready to enjoy the rest of the afternoon at sea.

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Fidelia and Robin.

Shouts out to the CELESTYAL CRYSTAL’s friendly and efficient staff, who, without exception, made the ship feel like our home away from home. Extra kudos to cabin stewards Fidelia from Honduras and Robin from Mauritius for keeping my stateroom so livable and for their highly skilled towel animal art.

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Thalassa Sunset.

There was a stunning sunset at dinnertime, so I dashed out to the Thalassa Bar to get the full effect.

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When sun meets sea.

And a final zoom, just for good measure. With the sun in our wake, we had already rounded the western bend of the island.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Shortly after breakfast, the CELESTYAL CRYSTAL entered the large harbor of Cienfuegos (“one hundred fires”) on Cuba’s southern coast. Dubbed La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South), it has 150,000 inhabitants and boasts some fine examples of Neoclassic architecture.

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Exotic fruit tasting.

After disembarking, we were off on a coach ride into the Cuban countryside, through small villages, sugar plantations and small farms to the UNESCO World Heritage site-designated town of Trinidad. On our way, we stopped at a roadside stand to taste some delicious fruits, including the best baby bananas ever.

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Trinidad time:  Iglesia Parroquial Mayor del Espiritu Santo.

Founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar under the name Villa de la Santísima Trinidad, Trinidad became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Built around the sugar trade, Trinidad has long since morphed into a tobacco industry and tourist town.  Our walking tour began in the Plaza Mayor, which is considered an open air museum of Spanish colonial architecture.

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Italianate stucco.

Our guide led us to a renovated colonial house, a former sugar baron’s mansion, that still contains its original furnishings and Italianate painted stucco.

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View to the north.

After a tricky climb to its belltower, we had the chance to take in the view overlooking Trinidad.

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Plaza Mayor overview.

Typically, time was running out, so we had to head back to the coach.

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Thanks for visit us!

After a very quick buffet lunch we were on our way back through the Cuban countryside.

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As soon as we boarded, the CELESTYAL CRYSTAL unleashed her lines and began her mad dash back to Montego Bay.

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Cienfuegos astern.

Once again, even after a full day of touring, there were still so many things to come back and see.

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Night over stern.

Although a mere week had passed, we enjoyed a month’s worth of scenery, history and culture on our Cuba Cruise with CELESTYAL CRYSTAL. After packing, I joined friends at the Thalassa Bar one final time.

End of Celestyal’s Cuba

Special Thanks: Marlene Oliver

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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