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Cuba: An insider’s view


This trip is now SOLD OUT. We appreciate your interest in our Alumni Travel Program. Please visit our Upcoming Trips page to see alternative itineraries – we’d love to welcome you on another trip soon!

November 7-11, 2019

Havana – Callejon de Hamel – Las Terrazas

Extension: Bay of Pigs – Cienfuegos – Trinidad – Santa Clara


FACULTY TRAVELER: Manuel Aguilar-Moreno

We are honored to have the beloved Dr. Manuel Aguilar-Moreno traveling with us to Cuba this November.

Manuel has his Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Professor of Art History at California State University in Los Angeles and is a renowned expert on pre-Columbian civilizations, the colonial history of Mexico and Latin America and the Mexican Muralism.  Dr. Aguilar-Moreno has published on a wide range of subjects, including Mesoamerican art and history, colonial art and history of Mexico with emphasis in the Indian-Christian art of the transculturation process, funerary art, and the pre-Columbian ballgame.

He has traveled in four continents doing interdisciplinary studies of art, history, anthropology and philosophy. Manuel taught on the Fall 2003 Voyage (which went to Cuba), and he is thrilled to return.



Presidential access!

The Institute for Shipboard Education President & CEO, Dr. Gary Ransdell, and his wife, Julie, are very excited to join us in November. Gary and Julie are passionate about education and travel—and there is no better way to experience Cuba than with our amazing alumni community who share their love of travel and culture. As the President of Western Kentucky University for 20 years, Gary and Julie traveled with many student groups and encouraged international travel as an integral part of education. As the current leader of ISE, he brings his passion for learning, cultural immersion, and connecting with alumni and friends to Semester at Sea. This is a rare opportunity to spend five days alongside the President—we hope you’ll join us for this unparalleled access!

Day 1: November 7

Day One—¡Bienvenidos a La Habana!

Be welcomed by our local guide and take a private transfer to our hotel in the heart of Old Havana. The afternoon will be free to settle in before the evening’s activities.

In the late afternoon will begin exploring the sites of Havana Vieja, or Old Havana, and have a chance to meet with local artists in the city.  We will then enjoy a welcome reception and the rest of the evening will be yours to explore the sounds and sites of Havana nightlife, just footsteps from the hotel.

Meals:  Dinner | Lodging: Hotel Sevilla

Day 2: November 8

Day Two— Exploring the culture and country’s best exports

After filling up on breakfast, take a curated tour of the Museo de la Revolución, once the presidential palace decorated by the famous Tiffany & Co. of New York, and now a government-owned presentation of the 1959 revolution. Before lunch, we will test our knowledge with a backstage tour of a cigar factory and meet with professional cigar rollers, who will demonstrate the process of making their world-famous exports.

Next, explore Callejón de Hamel, a narrow two-block alleyway between Aramburu and Hospital Streets. Over the years, it has become a shrine to Afro-Cuban religions through the art created by Salvador González.  Enjoy lunch and learn about Santería from local practitioners, and the complicated layering and transference between Catholicism and African traditions that is found throughout the island.

After returning to the hotel and enjoying some free time, depart for an art exhibition before enjoying a lovely group dinner.

 Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner | Lodging: Hotel Sevilla

Day 3: November 9

Day Three—Artists and Dancing

After a delicious breakfast, take a private, curator-led tour of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and its expansive and superb collections of Cuban art for an overview of the history and importance of art on the island. Then, head to a special location for a curated lunch experience. After lunch and some free time, enjoy a sunset drink on the Malecon, where locals gather to start their Saturday night, and then head to your dance lessons nearby.  After an hour of moving and shaking, enjoy the evening on your own to find some local delicacies and live music to practice those dance moves!

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch | Lodging: Hotel Sevilla

Day 4: November 10

Day Four – The Cuban Countryside 

After breakfast, drive out of Havana and through Cuba’s scenic countryside to Las Terrazas, the pioneering eco-village that is nestled within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  On the way, stop in for a colorful tour at Fusterlandia, the private home and studio of Cuban muralist and ceramist José Fúster, described as the “Picasso of the Caribbean.”  Upon arrival in the countryside, explores and discuss the reserve and local community, learning about their role in environmental preservation in the Caribbean.  Enjoy lunch  with farm-fresh ingredients from the region. Then return to Havana to freshen up for our final night on the town. We will feel the thrill of a sunset cruise in an old classic American convertible—painstakingly restored and maintained—along the Revolution Square and around the old city and sea wall.  Enjoy our farewell feast in Havana, arriving in style.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner | Lodging: Hotel Sevilla

Day 5: November 11

Day Five – Adios, Havana!

This morning is free for some final exploration and a last wander around Old Havana to discuss life with locals and barter for some souvenirs. Take a private transfer to the airport.

Meals: Breakfast

Or, onward to the “Explore La Isla” extension!


After saying adios to your friends in Havana,  we continue to the Bay of Pigs.  We will make a stop at the infamous invasion coastline and enjoy a lunch and a discussion on those historic events.  Then take a guided tour of the Museo de Play Giron, showing the Cuban perspective on the American-planned invasion. In the afternoon, arrive to the heart of beautiful Cienfuegos and our hotel just steps from the main square.  After freshening up from our journey, enjoy dinner along the breezy shore and an optional sunset dip off the docks of our fun and funky restaurant.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner | Lodging: Hotel La Union


Day 6: November 12

Day Six – Pearl of the South 

Explore Cienfuegos, another UNESCO World Heritage site, where we will wander the streets and take in the charming architecture with our guide. Walk through the historic city center and surrounding boulevards as we note the influences of European settlers here. Before lunch, enjoy a private concert and conversation with the singers at the Provincial Museum.  After experiencing lunch from a rooftop over the main square, take the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore this beautiful town on your own.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch | Lodging: Hotel La Union

Day 7: November 13

Day Seven 

In the morning, we depart to colorful Trinidad, Cuba’s best-preserved colonial city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. En route, stop for a lunch aboard a beachside catamaran—feel free to join a game of dominoes or an optional swim in the nearby beach.  Once in Trinidad, settle in to our centrally-located hotel.  Then explore the narrow winding streets and beautifully decorated colonial homes—from modest to elaborate—meeting antiques collectors, artists, and other locals. Visit Plaza Mayor flanked by the golden-hued church Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima Trinidad, which feels truly frozen in time.  After a formal guided walking tour, enjoy rooftop cocktails, dinner and live music.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner | Lodging: TBD

Day 8: November 14

Day Eight – Legacy of Sugar

Enjoy an early breakfast and prepare to depart for today’s countryside adventure into the historic and beautiful Sugar Valley.  Depart on horseback (or carriage if preferred) and ride through the Sugar Valley as you take in the sights and sounds of this beautiful place. Stop to learn about the sugarcane that made this region famous in Cuba.  Lunch will be at an organic farm, the full flavors of Cuba evident in every bite.  Upon returning to the hotel in the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to partake in a pottery class, or feel free to savor your final afternoon exploring this enchanting city.  In the evening at 19h00, we will enjoy our final dinner together and reminisce about the memories made on our journey across the island.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner | Lodging: TBD

Day 9: November 15

Day Nine – Santa Clara & Departures

The morning is yours to explore at leisure, depending on your time of departure.  Check out of hotel and go by private transfer to Santa Clara airport to catch your departure flights home.

Meals: Breakfast


Included Features

Trip includes:

  • All activities and entrance fees on the itinerary
  • All meals throughout the program
  • First round of alcoholic beverages at lunches and dinners
  • Taxes and tips throughout the program
  • Private transfer by air-conditioned buses
  • Bilingual guide
  • Lodging at private homestays
  • Comprehensive briefing packet for each participant, including country information, logistical and contact information, reading list, and packing list.

Not included:

  • International flights and Cuban visa
  • Expenses of a purely personal nature (including cab fares, laundry and other personal items, room service charges) or additional services like phone calls, laundry service, etc.
  • Transportation of luggage in excess of weight
  • Alcoholic beverages outside complimentary offerings
  • Meals not noted in itinerary
  • Passport application fee
  • Costs associated with trip interruption or modification due to weather, travel conditions, political/civil disputes, medical emergencies or other causes beyond our control
  • Travel insurance (we strongly advise that each participant arrange for their own travel insurance)

Important Information

Travel Information

Semester at Sea tries to give you as much information as possible, but the onus is on you to make sure you are complying with international regulations. View our full info packet here. Please read this information prior to registering for our trip. We are here to help with any and all logistical matters in this complicated country (limited to no cell service, no credit cards, etc.)

Registration & Pricing Information

Registration: – SOLD OUT!


A non-refundable $500/person fee will be charged to those who cancel before May 1, 2019. A $2,000/person fee will be charged to those who cancel between May 1 and August 10th, 2019. After August 11, 2019, the trip is NON-REFUNDABLE and we will keep 100% of the trip fee. 

We highly encourage trip insurance.


5-day trip:

Adult, double occupancy – $4,350/person
Adult, single occupancy – $4,750/person

10-day trip:

Adult, double occupancy – $7,550/person
Adult, single occupancy – $8,350/person

Please note itinerary is subject to change.