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Columnist: Follow Trade Winds For Cuban Charters

Lovely salon of the 33m classic Klaassen sloop Shamoun, available via central agent YPI in Raja Ampat and other SE Asian waters

Apr 11, 2018 | By Yacht Style

Columnist: Follow Trade Winds For Cuban Charters

“Before heading down west, I decided to take a trip to Marina Hemingway on a classic 1957 Chevrolet.” – Liz To

Despite the fact that I spend most of my time at Yachting Partners International (YPI) helping yacht owners and charterers explore the best of Asia and beyond, I rarely plan an itinerary when it comes to my own travel plans.

But as I am constantly looking for new ways to enhance the yachting experience of our Clients at YPI, whenever I do travel to a new country, I always learn as much about the superyacht options there as I can.

In February, following the northeasterly trade winds scented with tobacco leaf, I headed to Cuba, arriving just before Chinese New Year. Though within easy reach of the Caribbean, Cuba is currently seen as an off-the-beaten track destination, luring the more adventurous charterers to its paradise shores.

Lovely salon of the 33m classic Klaassen sloop Shamoun, available via central agent YPI in Raja Ampat and other SE Asian waters

While there is a conception that chartering in Cuba is complicated and difficult, there are in fact plenty of agents there who are very experienced with potential superyacht issues and can work with the captains to take care of administration, visas, authorisations…

Indeed, as a large island with poor-quality roads and lack of luxury service, Cuba is best experienced by superyacht. A yacht charter here enables guests to enjoy the country’s best elements – its old towns, nature and live music with no compromise to lifestyle.

As superyacht owners are increasingly focusing on experiences and adventures, we may see more facilities becoming established here as the island develops as a superyacht destination.

Marina Hemingway and the new Varadero resort marina are capable of accommodating superyachts. For now, there are plenty of places to drop anchor, with the island’s north side highly protected and the south side offering fantastic diving opportunities. A good charter option is to cruise the picturesque south coast of the island and take a helicopter to Havana for a visit.

My first stop was Cienfuegos, located on the island’s south-central Caribbean coast, and of southern-central, and recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage site. A stunning historical town with a lively French flair, its marina, Club Cienfuegos, is located in Punta Gorda, set in majestic Spanish colonial architecture with an emerald green roof.

On a Saturday just before sunset, the yacht club’s patio was packed with locals and visiting yachties welcomed by a Cuban live band. For arriving yachts, this really sets the scene.

In Havana, a night in the Cabaret Tropicana is a bucket list experience, but my favourite was the flamenco show at Gran Teatro de la Habana. The theatre itself is also one of the nicest in Old Havana and looks particularly magnificent at night when the exterior is illuminated.

Secret bars and speakeasies are popping up everywhere: walk into a red English telephone booth and find yourself in the basement bar La Zorra y el Cuervo (the ‘Fox & Crow’), a smoky, dark bar that’s full of atmosphere and worlds away from the traditional Jazz Cafés.

Before heading down west, I decided to take a trip to Marina Hemingway on a classic 1957 Chevrolet. Composed of four canal-shaped basins, the marina is known for its Ernest Hemingway International Billfish tournament, one of the oldest big-game saltwater tournaments in the world.

For four days, fishermen battle with large ocean fish just as Ernest Hemingway, legendary both as a writer and a fisherman, once did. For yacht guests keen on fishing, this is a fantastic calling point on a Cuba itinerary.

People often complain about the food in Cuba, but as well as fresh seafood prepared by the yacht chef, I will be recommending clients to discover the culinary scene of Old Havana.

San Juan de Dios Street is an oasis of good Cuban and International Cuisine. Restaurant 5 Sentidos serves snapper ceviche, octopus salad and grilled lobster, with a lively atmosphere and excellent service, surrounded by the Spanish Colonial architecture that characterises Old Havana.

The YPI Charter team and I can advise on charters in Cuba and any surrounding waters. The best months for cruising here are November to April, the dry period, offering calmer waters to cruise and more hours of sunshine to enjoy. Months to avoid are September and October, peak hurricane season.

For more details on the YPI and charter rates, please visit www.ypiyachts.com.

***This article is republished from Issue 43 of Yacht Style.

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