Trinidad to the Island of Youth

Feb 27, 2018 - Harmony V

After six days of full people-to-people activity, today we enjoyed a much deserved rest day at sea.  Last night we left the port of Casilda near Trinidad bound for the off-the-beaten-path Isle of Youth, 220 miles away.  Clear skies, a light tailwind, and gentle seas made the passage quite comfortable and we were able to set anchor by 6 pm at the Bay of Siguanea.

Of course, there was no shortage of entertainment along the way.  Naturalist Carlos Navarro broke from his naturalist role and shared stories of one his heroes—Cuban singer Célia Cruz.  Photographer instructor Brenda Tharp gave various photography workshops throughout the day, and local guide Daniel Alonzo provided instruction in one of Cuba’s great past times—dominoes.

I had the privilege of conducting rum tastings on the sundeck. Santero was the brand of choice. While Cuban heavyweights such as Havana Club and Santiago can be found around the world (except in the U.S. due to the embargo), the Santero label is endemic, and is a local favorite.  Confronted with blind taste tests, the aged 15-year-old Santero was a clear favorite.

Today also acted as a day of reflection for the guests and for myself personally. Due to U.S. travel restrictions, our days are typically packed with educational activities and little free time. But today I got the chance to reflect upon changes in U.S. and Cuban relations and the future of tourism in Cuba. Last year set a new record for visitors to this island nation, but numbers are considerably down in 2018. Many private entrepreneurs have invested in restaurants and B and B’s, thinking that trends would continue, but as we saw yesterday in Trinidad, many new businesses aren’t making ends meet.

A combination of poor media coverage, a deadly hurricane season, and changed international policy have hindered interest in Cuba, but this island remains the same fascinating and safe place that it has always been. For our “hermanos y hermanas” in Cuba, we hope that tourism will be revitalized soon. In the meantime, we are going to enjoy the lack of crowds in one of the world’s great travel destinations.

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About the Author

Jeff Phillippe

Expedition Leader

Jeff was raised in upstate New York and completed his B.A. in geography at Middlebury College in Vermont. He attained his master’s degree in water resource science at Oregon State University where his research focused on glacier hydrology in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. He spent most of his 20's teaching Earth sciences and geography at the secondary and university level, while taking his summers off to lead wilderness and climbing expeditions throughout the continental U.S., Alaska, and Canada.

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