"" Writer's Wanderings: Port Of Call - Santiago de Cuba

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Port Of Call - Santiago de Cuba

Our tour time was an early call at 8:30 AM. Armed with our passports and visas and some bottles of water we left our ship, the Oceania Sirena, to start our Cuban adventure. Everything went pretty much as our Enrichment Lecturer, Sandy Cares, had said. Immigration went smoother than I expected. Passports were checked and stamped and a transit ticket issued. (It would be collected upon our return to the ship.)

Across from the immigration building was the money exchange and again, things went smoothly. We did not need to have our passport to make the exchange but apparently things are always changing in Cuba so you never know. CUCs in hand, we boarded a very nice bus for our tour. That was another pleasant surprise. We were told that the buses are new and will be used for tourism for a few years and then replaced and retired to public transportation use.

The weather was quite pleasant but promised to heat up. We headed out for our first stop, El Morro Castle. The castle actually has a longer name: Castillo de San Pedro de la Rocco del Morro. There is also a Morro Castle in Havana. This castle or fort--it seems like they used the terms interchangeably--was begun in 1638 and took 42 years to finish. In 1898, it played a part in the Spanish-American War. The fort overlooks the bay where the US naval force destroyed the Spanish Armada.

The primary purpose of the fort was to guard against commercial and political rivals in the Caribbean region, European colonies, and raiding pirates. The fort also served as a prison for a time during the fight for independence.

The fortress, or castle, offers beautiful views of the coastline. One of the things we found fascinating was the ammunition elevator that got the cannonballs up to the top where the cannons were placed. I don't know how it worked exactly but it was impressive.

Inside the chapel door sat a trio of ladies singing. I think this was part of our people-to-people requirement--cultural exchange.

Walking back to the bus, we got a good look at the lighthouse. Playing in the courtyard there was a little boy. I don't think he was a scheduled part of our OFAC requirement.

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