During our recent cruise to Havana, Cuba onboard Norwegian Sky, we had two full days to explore the history and culture of this Caribbean island. Like most U.S. citizens, this was our first trip to Cuba, so we wanted to make the most of our visit. We spent the first day exploring Old Havana on a walking tour followed by a classic car ride through modern Havana with a great local tour company, Havana Journeys.

For our second day, we had originally booked an excursion through Norwegian Cruise Line. The tour was scheduled to visit the historic forts of Havana, Cuba as well as the nearby fishing village of Cojimar. Unfortunately, a few weeks prior to our cruise this shore excursion was cancelled.  An extensive internet search yielded no similar tours. So, we decided to explore the forts on our own. Contrary to popular belief you ARE allowed to just walk off the ship without an organized tour (at least for now under current regulations). It is strongly recommended that you keep a journal of your activities proving that you met the “people to people” requirements for travel to Cuba.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

Upon exiting the cruise terminal, there are plenty of classic cars and taxis for hire. Our tour guide from the day before had told us that it should cost around $10-15CUC for the trip. Since we had already taken a ride in an immaculate 1956 Ford yesterday, we didn’t care so much about the car today. We just needed transportation to the forts. Of course, I flagged down a pink convertible in hopes of getting a ride fit for a Princess, but DB wasn’t willing to pay the extra cost for such luxury. In our limited Spanish vocabulary, we were able to negotiate a price of $15CUC for a less desirable model. Although not the prettiest car, it was a means of transportation for the less than 10 minute ride to the forts.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

The military complex, which is also part of the Old Havana UNESCO World Heritage site, actually consists of two forts, Castillo del Morro and La Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña. Both forts are open to the public for exploration. With the forts scheduled to open at 10 am, we arrived at El Morro right on time. After taking a few panoramic shots of the cityscape and some selfies, we prepared to enter the fort. Admission was $6CUC and an additional $1CUC for a guided tour. I opted to go sans guide, although it might have come in handy since all the signs were in Spanish.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

El Morro

“El Morro”, known for its emblematic lighthouse, was built in the 16th Century. It served as an important defense construction until its capture by the British in 1762. The lighthouse, only added later, is now a landmark of Havana. Today, several areas of the complex are open to explore, including the still functioning 19th Century lighthouse (closed during our visit). Not only is the construction worth touring, but there are also some interesting museum-like exhibits detailing the history of the fort and the lighthouse.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

Of course, DB can’t go to a fort without posing with a cannon.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

We got to see the entire fort, take some pictures, and learn a bit more about the history during our approximately 45 minute self guided tour. Exiting the fort, there are several merchants selling typical souvenirs. We grabbed a few small things and were ready to take the trek across the way to the next fort, La Cabana.

Top Things to Do in Havana, Cuba on a CruiseTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

La Cabana

Located about a half mile away (15 minute up-hill walk) is the larger fort, “La Cabana”. This 18th Century mini-city is the largest Spanish fortress in the Americas. During the wars for independence, La Cabana was used as a prison. Today, the fort houses a number of exhibition halls as well as a few restaurants and bars. One of the more popular museum exhibits is the life of “El Che”. There is a separate entrance fee for each of the forts, costing an additional $6CUC to enter La Cabana.

Norwegian Sky Cuba Cruise ReviewTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

Even though the complex was pretty quiet, we still spent about 75 minutes touring the area and taking pictures. This is great spot for some selfies to prove to all of social media that you visited Cuba. It is also a great spot to take pictures of the ship docked in the bay.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

On our way out, DB made it a point to stop in the cigar and rum shop at the fort. The store is home to the largest hand-rolled cigar in the world. Upon exiting La Cabana, we walked towards a small restaurant near the entrance and were easily able to secure a taxi. Trying to communicate where we wanted to go proved a bit more challenging though. After several unsuccessful attempts to convey “cruise terminal”, “cruise ship”, or some variation of it, we remembered that Plaza de San Francisco was directly across the street from the cruise terminal, so we opted to get dropped off there. With a rather uneventful drive back, we arrived around 12:30pm. Our time in Havana was coming to a close, but not before one last stroll through Old Havana and a beer for DB!

Tips for Cruising to CubaTouring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

If you are spending the evening in Havana, don’t miss the Cañonazo. This customary firing of the cannons that occurs nightly at 9pm has been maintained since colonial times signaling the closure of the gates in the city wall. Some cruise lines offer evening tours to the forts so you can experience this re-enactment up close and personal.


 If you are visting Havana, Cuba on a cruise, touring the historic forts should make your short list of activities to do while on the island. These military landmarks really complete the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana, giving you a full appreciation of the history of the island along with some pretty impressive architecture.


Have you toured the historic forts of Havana, Cuba? What are some of your favorite things to do while visiting the island on a cruise? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Touring the Historic Forts of Havana, Cuba

About the Author

DB & The Princess

Welcome Aboard! We are Don and Heidi, the husband and wife travel team behind EatSleepCruise.com. We took our first cruise vacation together 10 years ago and have been hooked ever since. Follow along as we share our travel tips, cruise reviews, information on ports of call, and the latest cruise news to help you plan the ultimate cruise vacation. Are you ready to embark on your journey to “sea the world, one port at a time”? Read More...

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