Havana – Cienfuegos

Dec 30, 2017 - Harmony V

Our New Year’s Eve party began early this year in Cuba.  Last night we were treated to a fabulous private concert from the 90-year-old El Septeto Nacional, which doubled as a birthday party for the group’s Director Frank Oropesa.  Guests danced the night away on the breezy rooftop of Hotel Parque Central in Old Havana, and proudly broke the bar bill record for our two years of running trips in Cuba.

And yes, it was a challenge for most of us to get out of bed this morning.  After some strong Cuban espresso at the executive breakfast in Hotel Nacional, we boarded our spacious Chinese-built buses for a.m. excursions.  One group joined local guide Luis Martin for a visit to one of the most aesthetic cemeteries in the Western Hemisphere – El Cementerio Colon, while others joined Edgar Perez for a Cuban history lesson at the Revolution Museum.

By late morning we were on our way to Cienfuegos.  For many, it was sad to say goodbye to Havana, and truthfully three days is not enough for this marvelous city.  But there is still much to see on this journey, and the less-visited southern coast awaits us.

Upon our arrival to the “Pearl of the South”, we were welcomed by a Cienfuegos gem, “Cantodores de Cienfuegos,” one of the finest choirs in Cuba.  After an acapella-style presentation of Cuban classics, our two groups exchanged stories and photos. 

We proceeded on a panoramic tour of Cienfuegos, and soon realized why this small city is considered by many Cubans as a top place to live.  Unlike Havana, it’s quaint, clean, and built of French colonial architecture.  It serves as a perfect starting point for our excursion in the south.  Just in time for cocktail hour, we boarded the Harmony V for the first time, with a warm welcome by our lovely Expedition Leader Paula Tagle.

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About the Author

Ivan Phillipsen


Ivan is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He has participated in studies of a diverse assortment of organisms: aspen trees, cactus wrens, aquatic snails, frogs, and beetles. He holds a M.S. in biology from Cal State San Bernardino and a Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University. The population genetics of freshwater animals was his area of focus. He has published a series of papers on the evolutionary biology of amphibians and aquatic insects. Ivan’s scientific work invariably involved backpacking into remote wilderness areas to find his secretive research subjects in their natural habitats.

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