Cuba Libre

I started preparing this beverage at least a month before my cruise to Cuba; to get an idea on how to create the drink and to become familiar with the taste.  It is a twist on my college alcoholic drink, coke and rum; the added ingredient is lime.  It is tasty, and it is called Cuba Libre.  “Cuba Libre” is also a documentary film produced by Netflix on the tumultuous 500-year history of Cuba (I later found this documentary while researching the country’s history). 
Five friends and I took a 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s “Empress on The Seas.”  It is a small ship  (692 ft) that has a passenger capacity of 1853 and has twelve decks.  The ship was built in 1990 and refurbished in 2016.  Click here to tour the Empress on The Seas.
My five friends relaxing on the cruise to Cuba.

Our trip took us to Key West, Florida, Labadee, Hati, and Havana, Cuba.  I wanted to go on this cruise to learn more about Cuba.   I was also interested in Ernest Hemingway as he lived both in Key West and Cuba.  

Sloppy Joes

Our first port was Key West.  It was 90 degrees and sunny, and we took the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour.  Then, we went to Sloppy Joes, a restaurant that was frequented by Ernest Hemingway.  We then took a tour of the Ernest Hemingway House. 

Ernest Hemingway’s home, Key West, FL.

Hemingway lived at 907 Whitehead Street in Key West from 1931-1939 with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer.  It was at this home that he wrote “To Have and Have Not,” and “The Green Hills of Africa.”  There were over 40 cats inside and outside their property.  Descendents of the Hemingways’ cats still lives on the property today.

Our second port was Labadee, Haiti.  We called it “fake” Haiti as it is an island owned by Royal Caribbean.  It was lovely.   However, before going on the trip, I had to take pills that would prevent me from getting malaria while in Haiti.  Had I known that it was “fake” Haiti, I would have not had to take those pills.  Next time, I will know better.

During our visit, we took a short boat ride to Amiga Island.  It was 82 degrees and sunny.  It took less than 10 minutes to walk the entire island.  While there, I did yoga (more like yoga stretches).  It was beautiful hearing the waves of the ocean while doing the downward-facing dog.  We were on Amiga Island for two-hoursThen, we took the boat back to Labadee.  Where we had lunch and purchase souvenirs from the locals.

When we were not on an excursion, we had a great time on the Empress on The Seas.  I took Zumba classes, Salsa lessons, and a wine-tasting class.  There was great entertainment from comedians, good dancers, and singers in the Royal Theater.  

On the sixth day, we arrived in Havanna, Cuba.

We took an Old-Havanna Sight-Seeing Tour.  It was a four-hour bus tour that stopped at four different places:

  • Morro Castle–a fortress that guarded the entrance to Havanna, Cuba
  • Plaza de Revolucion–a public square where political rallies take place and where political figures address Cubans
  • Cristo de la Habana statue–a large sculpture that represents Jesus of Nazareth
  • Colon Cemetery–a cemetery known for its elaborate memorials

At 9:30 pm, we left to see Jazz Night at La Zorre El Cuervo.  We left the club at 12:30 am.

I bought his cd, and I will have memories of the night for years to come.

On our last day in Havanna, we shopped at the flea market and then got a ride back in an old-fashioned car.  The icing on the cake!
It is widely known that Cubans receive free education and healthcare. What I wasn’t aware of was their income.  According to our tour guide, the wages of the average Cuban is $20 a month.  Most people do not own their homes as they can not afford it.   Families live together in a crowded two-bedroom apartment.   In the case of our tour guide, he is single with a girlfriend of many years, but they can’t think of their future (now) because they have to earn a living while saving money to have their own place.  Living with in-laws and other family members may not be a good option for most young people.

It is always distressing to see poverty in any part of the Caribbean including Cuba.  My friends and I had lunch at a restaurant in Havanna.  One of my friends wanted to offer a dog the last of her sandwich.  She approached a merchant woman to ask if she thought the dog would be interested in her sandwich.  The merchant woman told her that if the dog didn’t want the sandwich that she would eat it.  Portions of the sandwich were given to the dog but he did not seem to care about the food.  So, the merchant woman ate the sandwich.  That was a telling moment.

POTUS 45 has added additional embargos against Cuba.  Cubans are rationing staples such as chicken, rice, beans, eggs, soaps, and other items, but it didn’t affect tourists.  Maybe the merchant woman gave us a glimpse of what is really happening in their country.

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