YOU would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped onto the set of a 1950s film as you stroll around the bright, eccentric city of Havana.
It smells of adventure and fun. It feels unpredictable, but exciting.
Multi-coloured buildings border the bustling streets as old-school cars cruise by, dodging laughing children as they play soccer on the rough bitumen.
The coloured facades of buildings hide dilapidated concrete jungles, but back roads and alleyways reveal the character and charm of this incredibly beautiful Caribbean gem.
The people are warm, welcoming and not afraid of a kiss on the cheek. Chances are you'll also be invited into the homes of locals for a Cafecito and exchange of stories.
For a country so rich in culture and beauty, it's hard to believe Cuba is often dismissed as a destination of choice by travellers.
But once they realise it's the real case of a prince in a poor man's coat, it's impossible not to fall in love with this astounding place drenched in history, music, architecture and culture. So before the rest of the world cottons on to just how great Cuba is, be one of the people who got there first.
Here's a few things to get you started…
Habana Veija (Old Havana): A large part of your time will most likely be spent exploring Havana's old town. It's the city's Spanish Colonial quarter and where you'll find many well-restored homes, museums and churches. Like the pages of a picture book, this place is a photographer's dream. Take a walk along the Malecon at sunset to get a dose this city's bustling lifestyle and soak up that Caribbean sea air.
Accommodation: If we're being honest, Cuba isn't the best for luxury accommodation. While the touristy areas are generally well-equipped with power and water, it can sometimes drop in and out in areas just out of the city centre. The best way to see Cuba is aboard a small ship such as Aegean Odyssey - meaning you'll have the best hotel room in town with all the creature comforts you could possibly want or need.
The Cigars: You don't go to Cuba without checking out a tobacco plantation. The Habanos are known as being the best cigars in the world yet only a few of the many plantations' produce is good enough to go into a Hanabos. Even for the non-smoker, the interesting tobacco history and seeing where it is grown and harvested is a must for all travellers.
Music: Cuba is up there with the most musical countries on Earth, and wherever you go you'll be serenaded by the sounds of this country. Deemed an 'African drum and Spanish guitar fusion', the sweet music lingers in cafes, streets, bars and sidewalks. And wherever there is music, there is dancing, so wear some comfortable shoes and enjoy a jive with the locals.
The sites: Beautiful buildings are everywhere, but make sure you get to the Santiago de Cuba Cathedral - it's simply stunning. And the La Cabana fortress is a key part of Cuban history, and a must-visit.
See Cuba with Voyages to Antiquity which combines the comfort and benefits of boutique-style cruising with the very best of cultural travel and include shore excursions in selected ports and celebrated guest speakers onboard. Classically elegant, but far from stuffy and formal, premium class MV Aegean Odyssey offers passengers every comfort at sea, with a relaxed atmosphere and the highest calibre of personal service and an intimate passenger count of about 350 people per voyage.
But don't take our word for it... See for yourself HERE.
Cruising with history
Voyages to Antiquity enlisted the expertise of historian and author Dr Carrie Gibson to craft their itineraries around Cuba and the Caribbean.
Her extensive knowledge means the cruise company is able to give travellers the best possible experience while on board.
We caught up with Dr Gibson about why she can't get enough of Cuba.
Your book 'Empire's Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day' has been a huge inspiration for Voyages to Antiquity and its cruises to Cuba and the Caribbean. What was your inspiration to write this book?
The Caribbean really called out to me in part because it is such a diverse region. The British, Spanish, Dutch, French, and even Danish and Swedish had colonies here, and the legacy from that time is that each island has a unique history and culture. Much of the academic scholarship is forced to be quite specific. So people who work in English sources tend to write about the English speaking-islands, likewise with French or Spanish. Yet, as everyone who sails around it will see, these islands are so intimately linked, and they have been so for hundreds of years. I wanted Empire's Crossroads to reflect those connections. In addition to the islands' relationship to each other, I also wanted to illustrate the Caribbean's importance to the wider world as well. It continues to be a global crossroads.
Tell us about your experiences travelling in Cuba.
Any time spent in Cuba is always an adventure! For me, one highlight is just strolling around Havana at dusk, when the fading tropical sunlight hits the colourful buildings. It's like being in a photograph.