Chuck found out about I LOVE Cuba Photo Tours on one of the travel message boards and they have incredible ratings from both the people on the message boards and on Trip Advisor.
From the very beginning, they were awesome to deal with. Chuck emailed the owner, Yosel and got a response back really quickly. We emailed back and forth confirming the ship we were sailing on, the time we dock and what was included.
All of the tours are private, they include a hardtop vintage car with A/C for the entire tour with one hour in a convertible. The whole tour was six hours and was completely customizable. They shared a sample of what many people request and we told them based on the excellent reviews we would leave it up to them.
Please understand as someone who is an Elite Yelper and posts heavily on Trip Advisor I rely a lot on reviews, and when I say great reviews, they have GREAT reviews. Out of nearly 850 reviews, at the time of this blog, they had almost 815 Excellent reviews.
The biggest draw of the tour, beyond great reviews and vintage cars in Cuba, was the photo tour portion.
PLEASE NOTE: I saw comments that people thought they would be teaching you how to take great photos on vacation. This is NOT the case.
You bring them a blank SD card, and they pop it into their camera and shoot photos all day long. Not only are they shooting historical and local sites but they shoot great images of you on vacation in Cuba!
Yosel was excellent, he kept in touch with us via email. (I also stalked them on Instagram) he requested a picture of the two of us so our photographer, Damien, knew what we looked like and we got one of him.
When we reached Cuba the announcements from Royal Caribbean regarding disembarkation and customs in Cuba. They made it sound like at any given moment we could go from lines moving well to getting stuck for hours in line. We worried a bit and emailed Yosel from the ship to let him know we thought we might be running late.
His response was pretty much… don’t worry Damien will be waiting for you however long it takes.
We actually made good time getting off the ship and through customs in Havana, we left the port, crossed the street and headed left about two blocks to the Havana Club Museum, and Damien was there greeting us with a big smile.
Damien was AWESOME, his command of English was excellent, he was warm, friendly, bright, articulate and knowledgeable. We walked a bit and talked about our day, he started pointing out local sites, and we boarded our first car. The tour was truly customized to what we wanted, in addition to the places we wanted to see the off the beaten path part of Havana and see the day to day life.
We headed off the pretty streets to a small neighborhood that was a gritty mix of small shops, apartments, construction, graffiti, and street markets.
We needed to exchange money, and he took us to a small bank where locals were lined up. A guard opened the doors and let people in two at a time as the first two people departed. It was an experience, but we never felt in danger.
We exchanged US dollars for Euros before leaving Florida as US dollars are not accepted currency in Cuba.
We explored Centro Habana, Parque Central, Vedado, Fusterlandia, Miramar, Plaza de la Revolución and the outdoors of El Morro.
We requested to go to the Hotel Nacional for lunch and for the views of this beautiful, historic hotel.
We treated Damien to lunch and while we were eating we ran into Yosel, whose tour was VERY, VERY late getting off the ship and through customs. He was still there waiting for them, and they were having an awesome day.
We never felt rushed, we had time to buy some local art, explore local neighborhoods and really experienced Havana with Damien pointing out things of interest.
This is absolutely an interactive tour, so asking questions and keeping the conversation flowing is the way to get the most out of your visit.
The tour cost us a total of $230 US and was WELL WORTH every cent, we came home with over 450 photos as well as some fun video clips, and Damien was terrific.
Not only was the tour spectacular but given that our ship left Havana after only one day because of weather, we came away feeling like we got to see so much with the little time we had.
This is a MUST DO when visiting Havana!