Igor Travels Abroad

"In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take."

Havana, Cuba | Rum, Cigars and Vintage Cars

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A few days after Jamaica, I arrived to Cuba. For many years, Cuba has been closed down to Americans and it was actually illegal and a jailable offense to go there if you owned a US passport. After the death of Fidel Castro, the country was opened for the first time since the mid 1900’s to American travelers and tourists. As I am a Russian citizen too, we are able to travel and live in Cuba up to 6 months at a time, without a visa. Nevertheless, our ship docked at the old port “San Fransisco” in mid-town Havana.

Some brief history about Cuba. It is a communist country with a population of eleven million and capital being Havana. The city of Havana as well as most cities still remain the same as in the 50’s and it feels like truly stepping back in time 70 years. They didn’t have internet until 2 months ago for example. Healthcare and education are free to all and someone like a doctor or lawyer makes approximately two dollars A DAY. Yes, two dollars. Our tour guide is a lawyer, but he says he makes much more money off the tips from the tours than his job being a lawyer. Havana is or was home too many famous people, such as Ernest Hemingway, Al Capone, Tony Montana and more. It’s also famous for its world-class rum, cigars and baseball. Half of the city of Havana is a Unesco heritage site and the other half a modern city!

I even took a panorama…take a guess which side is modern vs historical!

Now, back to the trip! After disembarking early in the morning, my dad and I headed to the port and went off to see the city…by vintage American car! Cuba is home to many restored 50’s American classic cars, since they don’t trade with the USA since the mid 50’s.

So we climbed in to our Chevy and headed down the streets of Cuba. We stopped by the revolution square, religious monument and finally, my favorite, el Floridita, home to the daiquiri, as well as the writer Hemmingway’s favorite place. He even quoted, “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.”

(Answer above: left is historical, right is modern)



After completing our amazing tour, I walked around Havana and enjoyed some of the nightlife as well, including the local music in virtually every cafe and street corner (video below). To wake myself up, I had a delicious Cuban coffee, roasted to be very dark and eaten with a delicious flan cake and sugarcane.


The next morning, I woke up and headed off the boat to learn about rum and cigars. I especially filmed the whole process for you so you too can learn how the world’s best rum is made and how to properly treat yourself to a cigar. Since it was Sunday, the factories were closed so I went to a museum instead. The video below is part one of the production process of Havana Club rum.

After the video, our tour went on to show us the actual machinery used during the distillation process, reproduction of a factory and finally…rum tasting! 
We tried the 7 year rum. There are many vintages to rum, but the popular ones are 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, 25, 50 and 100 year old rum as you can learn below. That way, next time you are in Cuba, you will know which one to get. If your country has good relations with Cuba and imports and exports products, maybe you can even get it at your home country! PS: The Rum was delicious!
Next, I went to a small castle located in the suburbs of Havana where I have a cigar degustation with a local cigar and rum sommelier. For educational purposes, we tried the Romeo Y Julieta No.3, a mild and delicious cigar along with 5 year rum and 100% Cuban coffee arabica. For a proper degustation and to really enjoy the tastes of Cuba in one-sitting, the process is as followed, have a sip of coffee arabica or a strong coffee, preferably Cuban. Next, try the cigar. If you don’t know how, definitely don’t inhale the smoke, you keep it in your mouth and then exhale. Now the flavors fix from the coffee and cigar. Finally, sip on some Havana Club rum. If you don’t have Havana Club, Bacardi is the alternative. For cigars, Cohiba is definitely also recommended.
Afterwards, I explored the city and had a great time eating some freshly caught lobster. I thought it was interesting, I went to wash my hands and since the owners didn’t have enough money to afford a faucet, they used an old gas station pump handle.


Our ship let just about all of Cuba know we were leaving and I waived goodbye to people on the shore. We set sail full speed ahead to the blue waters of Miami!

Author: Igor Miller

A passionate Swiss hotelier with a love for adventure, entrepreneurship, experiencing cultures and people.

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