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mikeysky

Genuine Cuba Tour Review

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I HIGHLY recommend booking a tour with Duramis though Genuine Cuba. Like I cannot recommend her enough recommend her. Of all our cruises and tours (both through the ship and private) over our 15 years of cruising, this was the most organized and best tour experience we have ever had! My family including my 10 & 7 year old girls took a cruise in March that included 2 days in Havana Cuba. I reached out to a few private tour operators that have positive reviews on cruise critic 6 months in advance and with the exception of Duramis, either got 'we're not available' or they weren't willing to work out a 2 day itinerary that worked for the hours we were in port and would only do a tour 1 of the days. Duramis's reply was "Yes, we can do a 2 day tour for the hours you're in port and customize it for what you'd like to do the most."

 

She suggested day 1 doing a 3 hour walking tour of Old Havana followed by 2 hours in a 1950's convertible. Day 2, she suggested a 6 hour driving tour in a 1950's taxi of all of Havana. She sent a list of everywhere we would see on the tour, listed lots of optional places we could add in if interested as well as any additional costs associated, and let me know if there were any additional places I'd be interested in going she'd be happy to do so. Her communication was fantastic and she always responded quickly (which is not an easy thing to do in Cuba where internet can be spotty at best). About a month before our cruise, she let me know that she wouldn't be able to conduct our tour herself due to a personal issue, but she had lined up Jenny to be our tour guide and communicated all of our wish list to her. She sent me Jenny's picture and instructions on exactly where and when to meet her as well as her contact info.

 

When we arrived in Cuba and cleared immigration, Jenny was exactly where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be. Everything seemed timed out perfectly. Our tours took exactly how long we'd talked about, but we never felt at all rushed. If we wanted to stay somewhere a bit longer, we did. If we were ready to move on, we did. Every car was waiting for us exactly where they were supposed to be when we were ready both days. We seriously never waited more than 5 minutes for the car to circle back around to where we were to pick us up which I'm still not quite sure how they accomplished. Jenny was with us the whole time and was our translator with the drivers as well as at paladors or in shops. She's a former English professor at the University of Havana and her English was fantastic (many tour guides and drivers are former professors, doctors, engineers, etc as they make significantly more as a private tour guide). She knew her stuff and gave us all kinds of information everywhere we went and answered all our questions. She sang with my girls when 'Havana' came on the radio in our convertible and by day 2, my daughter was holding Jenny's hand to walk around instead of mine. Duramis checked in with us the day before our tour, during day 1 of our tour to make sure everything was OK, and after our tour as well. I've seriously never had so much attention put into a tour anywhere else we've been. If you're on the fence, don't be! You won't be disappointed.

 

The whole tour falls under the 'In Support of the Cuban People' visa option. As long as the United States allows this as a valid visa option, you are fine. The cruise line pushed the 'people to people' tours as those are the cruise line tours run by Cuban Government companies. By going private, we saw WAY more than anyone we talked to on the ship, even those who had done multiple cruise line excursions, for significantly less cost. 

 

Duramis's email address is duramis@nauta.cu or you can find Genuine Cuba on Facebook.

 

A few of the extras/options we added on that I'd recommend (particularly if you're traveling with kids like we were):

-Camera Obscura at Plaza Vieja. This was during the walking tour part. for $2cuc/person you get a periscope camera tour of all of Havana and a rooftop observation area for a great photo op. This also broke up the walking tour for my girls as the walking was their least favorite part of the tour (but interesting for my husband and I) on the warm/sunny day.

-Fusterlandia. Artist Jose Fuster has turned his home & his entire neighborhood into a gigantic mosaic art masterpiece. We all loved walking around and climbing around his home to see all of his art on display. And it's free.

-Hotel Nacional. $5cuc/adult, kids are free. The grounds are beautiful and overlook the water. We did the cave/bunker tour of the Cuban Missile Crisis site (referred to as the U.S. Missile Crisis there) which was cool. Your admission also includes a mojito.

-Almendares Natural Park. We got out and walked around along the river and took a bunch of great photos. Also pretty to drive through.

-Eat at a palador (privately owned restaurant). The one we went to was on the other side of the bay near the Jesus statue and had been frequented by Jay Z/Beyonce. It was a bit more $ than what I'd seen listed for other paladors, but it was a beautiful patio with live music and great food.

 

One other tip I hadn't heard about... in Cuba you're expected to tip to be handed toilet paper use the toilet. So... 1. Bring some toilet paper in your bag off the ship with you (there's free bathrooms in the port building but they don't have toilet paper). 2. When you change your money, ask for a bunch of single pesos for all the little tips.

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Excellent, many forget about toilet paper. Some places charge a CUC for a toilet seat which they hand to you once you've paid.

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