A cultural guide to Cuba

Friday, 9 August 2013 8:33 AM

When deciding what to do for your next sun-soaked holiday, a Caribbean cruise is an option that's hard to beat - especially if you pick an itinerary that features Cuba. As well as being an idyllic island awash with beautiful beaches, the country has a rich culture.

It's this culture that makes it stand out as a top holiday destination, since it has that little bit more to offer than beaches alone. Below, you can get an idea of what cultural treats you can look forward to on your cruise from Southampton to the inviting shores of the Caribbean.

An introduction to Cuba's culture

Cuban culture is wonderfully diverse - something that's largely down to the fact that trade brought people from all across the world here. These days, it's possible to discern the influences of Spanish, French, African and English folk here, to name but a few.

With a history of such an eclectic mix of people both passing through and settling here for trade, it's no surprise that today the island has a vibrant and varied culture. Its diverse history is particularly evident in its architecture, but we'll come to that in a moment.

Coffee

Coffee is more than just a drink in Cuba; it's a way of life. It's something that gives locals time to socialise, and a means of welcoming friends and family into your home. It's also an important slice of local history, since the bean was introduced by French planters in the 18th century - the first people to make this a viable crop on Cuba.

So, trying some of the strong, punchy coffee here is an absolute must. Of all the variants, cafe cubano (also known as caficito) is probably the best one to sample, as it's a drink characteristic of the island. It's a Cuban espresso that's brewed with sugar, making for a sweet yet strong taste.

A colada is the same drink, but it comes in a larger container along with lots of small cups - a beverage designed to be shared, reflecting the nature of coffee culture here as a whole.

Architecture

Cuba is home to some absolutely incredible architecture, and a significant portion of its charm stems from just how varied this is. For instance, you can still see buildings - particularly forts - from the Spanish colonial period alongside Art Deco designs and modern constructions.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana is particularly worth visiting if you're interested in discovering some of Cuba's architectural gems. In terms of UNESCO heritage sites in general, there are nine in Cuba, including the original coffee plantations - which again goes to show just how important coffee is to the country.

Cinema

While cinema is something that's popular across the world, it's an integral part of Cuba's culture. The island first got involved in film in its early stages of development in the late 19th century, and is known for producing challenging and artistic movies.

The Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericana de La Habana is a testament to the importance of cinema. This annual event showcases new Cuban films, with this year's festival taking place from December 5th to 15th in La Habana.

Sport

There is also a strong sports culture in Cuba, with baseball being particularly popular. If you are in Havana during the main season - which runs from November to March - it is well worth going to see a game at the Estadio Latinoamericano to immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere.

Boxing is another popular sport, meanwhile, and participation in athletics is rising, so there are possibilities for seeing other disciplines if baseball doesn't tickle your fancy.

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