Shore Excursions Group — shore tour alternatives

By Deanna Palić
This item appears on page 16 of the April 2019 issue.
Havana is an open-air museum for classic cars. A one-hour ride in one around the city cost about $100. Photos by Josip Palić

My husband and I cruised to Havana, Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, in January 2019. It was the first visit for Josip, but it was my second visit after a lapse of 40 years.

On my visit in 1979, the land tour was very restricted. Our time in Havana was delegated to mandatory visits to a maternity hospital, an elementary school, the Museum of the Revolution, the Cuban National Ballet's theater and the Tropicana Club. Those sites were informative and interesting, but I felt that a guided visit to the colonial part of town would have made that trip more complete.

When my husband and I booked our 2019 cruise through the cruise-booking site of United Cruises (800/211-2039,, we were told that, since we were traveling there under the People to People program (authorized by the US government), it was mandatory to purchase at least one shore excursion while in Havana.

When I checked into this further, I was told this wasn't true, although certain requirements do apply. For one thing, Americans (according to US law) must not patronize businesses owned by the Cuban government, although private establishments are fine.

Through the tour-booking site of the Shore Excursions Group (Plantation, FL; 866/999-6590,, we booked the "Old Havana Walking Tour." The cost was $79 each, a savings of $20 per person over the price of the cruise line's shore tour.

Our tour group was comprised of one other couple and us, while the tour groups we noticed from the ship were quite large. We wouldn't hesitate to book any future shore excursions directly through Shore Excursions Group.

The assembly point for the 3-hour tour was directly across the street from Havana's cruise ship terminal at Plaza de San Francisco.

I'd advise wearing comfortable walking shoes to combat the uneven cobblestone streets, as there was a lot of walking and standing.

Contributing Editor

Josip Palić enjoyed a “very good espresso” in La Bodeguita del Medio's lobby bar in Havana, Cuba.
Deanna Palić, arm in arm with a bronze statue of Antonio Gades, the  Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer, in Old Havana's Cathedral Square.
One of the many classic cars found in Havana, this one a teal-and-white, 1957 Ford Fairlane 500.