With the U.S. and Cuban governments making it easier to travel to Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest island has become a popular tourist destination for U.S. travelers.
Regina Tours, a leader in Catholic pilgrimages since 1985, hosts tours of Cuba that focus on its religious history and cultural life.
Cuba is a multiracial country with ethnic roots ranging from Indian, Spanish, African and English to American, Chinese and French. Cultural traditions include dance such as salsa and cha-cha, baseball, coffee, rum and music, the latter arguably the best known expression of Cuban culture. Taste buds are satisfied with a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisine, and Cuba’s literary history encompasses social protest regarding revolution, rebellion and the Communist government led for decades by Fidel Castro.
The largest organized religion in Cuba is the Roman Catholic Church, but Cuba was officially an atheist state during most of the Castro era. In the 1960s, the government seized more than 400 Catholic schools, claiming that they spread dangerous beliefs among the Cuban people. After the Cold War, however, the government lifted restrictions on religious believers seeking membership, and Cuba was deemed a secular state. Since 1990 Catholics have been allowed to practice their religion openly, although only about 1½ million out of the 11.5 million Cubans are practicing Catholics.
Regina Tours captures the essence and history of Catholicism and religious freedom in Cuba through its cruise ship tours while providing groups a look at the culture in general.
Bishop Cisneros Tour
Upcoming Dates: March 24, 2017
Price: $3,598 from New York
This eight-day cruise on the Celestyal Crystal departs from Montego Bay, Jamaica, where participants can take dance lessons or attend a lecture on visual arts in Cuba. The ship then sails to Santiago de Cuba, where participants tour the area where the Cuban Revolution began; embark on a pilgrimage to the national shrine of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity; and visit the Cathedral of Santiago, where St. Anthony Mary Claret was bishop. The trip also includes a leisure day during which participants can learn about unconventional Cuban instruments, get acquainted with the history of rum, and take a cha-cha class. Tour members spend two days in Havana, one day in Punta Frances and one day in Cienfuegos, with a visit to Plaza de Armas, Teatro Thomas Terry and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
Julio Garcia Tour
Upcoming Dates: Dec. 8, 2017
Price: $3,298 from Albuquerque
This tour departs Albuquerque for Montego Bay, Jamaica. Upon arrival, guests will be transferred to the seaport to board the Celestyal Crystal cruise ship for a delicious dinner, a night of relaxing and various optional activities. The following day, participants visit Santiago de Cuba to learn about the history behind Cuba’s national shrine, followed by Mass and a visit to the local community. The cruise ship will spend two days in Havana, with guided walks through the Old City and a visit to the Felix Varela Cultural Center for a conversation regarding the religious and cultural work of the center. A day dedicated to nature and ecology will be spent in Punta Frances, where participants can wander through pine forests and mingle with orange blossoms and warm ocean breezes.
Catholicism in Cuba Tour
Upcoming Dates: Feb. 17, May 19, June 23, Oct. 20, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8, 2017
Price: $3,198-$3,498 from New York
Diverging from the previously mentioned tours, Regina Tours’ “Catholicism in Cuba Tour” focuses on the history of Cuba’s many Protestant denominations, current practices and the place of religion in today’s culture. From Montego Bay, Jamaica, the cruise ship heads to Santiago de Cuba, allowing participants the chance to discover the region’s military history, including Moncada Barracks, where Fidel and Raul Castro commenced their assault on the Batista regime. Groups will spend two days in Havana exploring the town with visits to the Cuban Council of Churches, where participants can meet with Christian leaders and listen to a presentation about the community in Cuba and the work of the council. After lunch, groups will head to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The cruise ship will leave Havana for Punta Frances on day six for a tranquil day spent on a beautiful, white sandy beach surrounded by crystal-clear warm waters ideal for snorkeling.
All trips include transfers to and from the airport, cruise ship accommodations, all meals, deluxe motorcoach transportation, services of professional tour guides, cultural presentations, port charges, shipboard activities and gratuities, a Cuba visa and medical insurance.