Monday, February 17, 2014

Varadero Cuba 24 December 2013 to 20 January 2014

We left Marathon Florida at 15:00 23 Dec and crossed the Gulf Stream to enter Cuba at 10:00 24 Dec Christmas Eve day. We spent three hours clearing customs which was relatively fast. Took our first cold Cuban shower and rushed to Memories Resort to meet Kevin, Paula & the boys. Their resort was lovely, drinks cold, company amazing. This quick eight hour visit was the best boost I could have had and a definite cure to my home sickness. The gang left at 07:30 the next morning. 

Nick Kevin Paula Jamie Adam 

Me and the guys :)

Marc & I Memories Resort

Christmas Dinner we love you guys

So since Christmas we have been exploring the Cuban culture. Are learning to live on the boat in a foreign country. Enjoying the fantastic weather (I am thankful for the prevailing east winds cooling me off). Of course we have shared rum & laughter with other cruisers. Visited Trinidad (Cuba), Santa Carla, Ceienfuegos, hiking in the El Nicho rain forest, Marc swam in waterfalls. We have danced. Explored white sand beaches. On the flip side we struggled to communicate in the market for produce I don’t recognize. Do laundry by hand. Cold showers and limited toilet paper. I Love Cuba. 

Varadero is famous for its miles and miles of white sand beaches. The east end of the peninsula is the luxury hotel zone.

Chaska shops abound to find souvenirs

Marina Darsena 

Marina Darsena was a great introduction to Cuba. The crossing from marathon was doable. Entering at a small marina seemed to be relatively easy especially with the wealth of information from Marina locals and seasoned Cuban cruisers. Ismeli the marina manager is helpful and welcoming. Debbie Armstrong a pleasant go to for much needed local knowledge. Also, yacht pilot's cruising guide is invaluable. Clearing customs wasn’t even as painful as we expected. 
Some quick observations: 
The marina is worn needing upgrading. We each enjoyed one hot shower in 27 days. There was no lighting in the showers and toilets need repairs. The ritz it isn't.  The security is excellent. Free ice. No laundry facilities. It is a good 25 minute walk but well worth it to get to the beach. Having bikes for transportation is a bonus. 

The Berm Varadero Style 
Much the same as home good people, cold rum, yummy snacks. Just more nationalities. 

One of my favorite outings of the week was going to the market. We always went on Sundays because it was the biggest market of the week. The first time we went, we went with Debbie a Canadian that has lived in Varadero for 13 years. To say I was intimidated is an understatement. But Debbie's savvy and spanish rescued my butt. By the end of four weeks I was getting pretty comfortable. I did love the colors, sounds and yes even the smells of the market. 

Notice the ever present cigar dangling over the meat

You get the Cuban experience of buying fresh food in the Santa Marta market. But, stock well. Many items we take for granted such as flour, potatoes and eggs are not always available. Seed potatoes rot in subsequent plantings so fresh seed potatoes are brought into Cuba for each planting. Lobster is a national commodity. In varadero buying chicken breasts was hard, they went to the resorts. Dark meat to locals.


I can see my friends now freaking at the meat. It was wonderful! Fresh and tasted like heaven. I just never knew what cut I was buying. 

There is an invisible line in Varadero between where the tourist stay in the resorts and the Cubans live.   The socialist government forces these people to become underground capitalists. The people are amazingly ingenious being able to do just about anything with very little. They also spend huge amounts of time everyday on basic needs that we just take for granted such as laundry, food, transportation. Transportation is so limited there is a national hitch hiking strategy. FYI the staff in the tourist resorts are the highest paid (think tips) people in Cuba and make more than doctors & teachers. They need so much and not in the resort areas.

We had to laugh the police will be standing on the side of a busy road watching traffic. No vehicle. No radar. They will point at a vehicle, the vehicle pulls over and they issue a ticket. These two were hanging at the market. 

Communication in Cuba is a struggle 
I wrote this first bit in the different text around the January 10th 2014 in anticipation of sending a broadcast e mail but it didn’t work. I was going to delete it but have decided to leave it as it explained our early trails with communication in Cuba. As you can see now these problems have been resolved, we left Cuba.

If you are reading this it will be because we have broken down paid $10 and taken a bus to a resort at the far east end of Varadero in once again another attempt at Cuban communication. Wow, we can never complain again about the comforts we have. Think outside the beautiful resorts. As foreigners we cannot have cell phones. To make phone calls we have to go to one of the three Cuban communications offices in Varadero to buy a calling card. These cards are often unavailable so we have been trekking from one office to the other. When you have one of these precious beauties in your hand at $20.00 it costs $2 a minute to make a call. As I write this I have still never had a conversation with anyone at home. The internet system works much the same, cards, line ups & communications offices. Were it gets really tricky is there is no wifi available. You must use their computers. Key boards are worn and often missing symbols or set up for foreign languages. It took us 40 minutes and almost $20 to figure out shift 6 was an & sign. I haven't been able to access emails, bank accounts, or FB yet. Sigh...Marc did manage a brief visit to FB on one attempt. Now this part is my fault. I have my passwords memorized into my lap top I cant access my e mails so I cant reset my passwords. Not good. I tell you all this for three reasons. First I want to explain our prolonged absence. Second I wanted to share the trails of our adventure and third I wanted to explain our next anticipated absence.

Eventually we did contact the kids.  in Cuba we had no way to contact the kids as we could not call their cell phones so our wonderful friends Marc and Manon let the kids call us from their phone to the wonderful Debbie's cell phone in Cuba. 49 minutes = $241.41. WOW 

We got to enjoy a wonderful New Year in Cuba

We spent the day on the beach followed by a fantastic lobster dinner then off to enjoy Cuban music and dancing. If their were two things I would have done before traveling it would have been salsa & spanish lessons. 

Our Ride 

I think the best part of cruising is the great friends we have made and enjoyed. 

Joe in Green



Ronald and Dianne

Doug and Alice


  1. Excellent blog, love the photos. Best wishes for continued success in your great adventure.
    Roy and Margaret Eaton

  2. Wow beautiful pictures , looks like you had alot of fun and met some cool ppl!Love your blog can't wait to see what's next for you guys!!

  3. Hello Roy I saw the dolphin pictures and was totally taken. Maybe I can enjoy that experience some day. Thanks for the words of encouragement. Linda & Marc

  4. Mike Coomes
    Really enjoyed reading about your Cuban adventure! It brought back so many memories of my time in India! Don't you just love the Third World! We take so much for granted, when so many have so little. Keep the blogs coming both Susie & I enjoy being there with you! Hope this comment gets through!

    Good morning mister Mike I have been trying to answer you since you posted your comment on the blog. Not being able to respond has been my ongoing source of failure since the creation of the blog. The worst thing is I have spent hours in chat rooms and fix it threads and I can’t seem to get help. Well, meaning others have said I should just change sites but it seems such a huge endeavor that I’m just not up to it. I just wish I could pay someone to fix it and get on with it. Anyway...

    It always thrills me to think you are reading the blog. You are right we do take to much for granted when so many have so little. Even water was sparse in some areas. We complain of pot holes when their basic infrastructure such as sewerage is crumbling. Sadly I think we have been given a history of Cuba to suite our needs. Cubans receive knowledge to met the socialist government needs. From the short time I was there I felt empathy for Cuban people who only want to live a good life without being used by foreign countries and there own leaders. I have been reading about Cuban history from various perspectives. History has been unkind to this wonderful country.

    BTW the comment didn't show on the blog :( like I said I'm not sure why. I would love it if they did and when a person read the post they could easily see the comment thread like on Dave & Rita's blog. I'm going to move it there if you don't mind. Also why, why, why, have they made it so hard to leave a comment!

  5. Hey Miss Rita Thanks for the kind words. We are having a great time. You guys look like your on the trip of a lifetime also. Love ya and can’t wait to catch up. Tell Dave we are thinking about him and say hi for us.

  6. Yeah Cuba is best location for travelling visitors and there we get huge family packages very easily. Cuba is a perfect holiday destination and Cuban people are very friendly and adorable in nature.

    Legal travel to Cuba