welcome to

The tomkat studio blog

Highlights from Our Trip to Cuba…

Share To:

So, I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. Guess what? Not much has changed! Except, we went on an incredible trip to celebrate my big milestone. I took a billion pictures, but I picked out a few highlights to share here on the blog. We decided on taking a Royal Caribbean cruise to Key West and Havana, Cuba with some of our best friends! Yes, Cuba! We figured we better get there while we still can. It was truly an amazing visit and I’m so glad we experienced the Cuban people, culture and history. Before we made it Cuba, we flew into Tampa and stayed one night in Clearwater Beach. I found a darling boutique hotel online, Hotel Cabana Clearwater Beach which was walking distance to the beach bars + restaurants and we had a great night to kick off the trip!

The next morning, we headed to the port to board the cruise! We hadn’t been on a cruise since before we had kids so we were super excited for it. We love that you get to see several places rather than just staying in one area. We had gone on a cruise for our honeymoon (back in 2001) that stopped in Key West and loved the laid back tropical, beach vibe there so it was great to be visiting again before we set off to Havana.

My girls had these darling Catchin’ Waves with my Faves shirts made for us all to wear on my birthday in Key West! While the husbands were a bit hesitant of wearing them all day and the attention they would bring, they were good sports and went for it! Sure, they got a lot of flack from the boys back home but whatever! Everyone loved them!

our trip to cuba for my 40th birthday

As we approached Key West, we saw this gorgeous island filled with spectacular homes. Seriously, can you imagine living there? I’m ready to retire on this island, right now. I researched it and it’s called Sunset Key. Want to see the current listings? Click here  A girl can dream, right?

My birthday in Key West was filled with great food (thanks for the recommendations on instagram), great drinks, great shopping and great times with our friends. Of course, we stopped by to snap a pic of the famous Hemingway House. Danny & I stopped here on our honeymoon and had bought a watercolor of the house that we still have! I pulled it out when we got home and I’m going to frame it and hang it somewhere in our new house!

A little birthday treat… and then back to the ship for a fancy birthday dinner at the steakhouse and some casino time!

The next morning, we woke up at dock in Havana, Cuba. This was the view from our stateroom! Incredible! 

traveling to havana cuba

And so our Cuba adventure began…

habana cuba street sign

It is just as you imagine. Original, American classic cars everywhere. They were gorgeous, especially with the backdrop of this beautiful city. To learn why there are so many classic cars in Cuba, read here. We quickly were approached by Juan Carlo, who helped us flag down convertibles for our tour. I requested a pink one and of course, he delivered. We didn’t realize he was coming along with us for the ride, but he ended staying with us for hours and giving us a day in Havana that we will always remember.

pink classic car in havana cuba

traveling to havana cuba

The convertible I rode in all day was this perfect pale pink ’54 Chevrolet. Isn’t it pretty? 

traveling to havana cuba - pink chevrolet

I was able to take a ton of photos right from the convertible as we drove. This is a typical building in Havana…

havana cuba architecture

Juan Carlo asked us if we wanted to see the “real” Havana or all of the tourist sights and we asked for a mix of both. We started at the Christ of Havana statue. It stands at 66′ tall, is made of white carrara marble and overlooks the bay in Havana. So beautiful. 

jesus christ of havana statue

Then he took us to a local neighborhood to this eclectic bar and down to the basement to meet an important man who funds art school for artists in Havana. We weren’t sure what we were doing in the basement, but afterwards we agreed that we should have bought a piece of art. By the way, I forgot to mention sooner… it was SO humid the entire time we were in Havana. We were drenched through and through but it was worth it! Air conditioning in Havana is definitely a luxury.

art center in havana cuba

In this neighborhood, we saw some little girls playing outside and gave them some of the toys and necessities we brought as gifts. Juan Carlo said to wait and give the rest of our gifts to the kids in his own neighborhood, where he would take us later.

havana cuba kids

He took us to Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which is a beautiful hotel built in 1930 overlooking the city and the harbor. Photos of all of the famous people who have visited grace the walls.

hotel nacional de cuba

We enjoyed our first Cuban mojito at the gorgeous hotel bar overlooking the sea. It truly felt a journey back in time with the bartenders in fancy attire.

hotel nacional de cuba

Beautiful view of the pool and sea from the bar…

hotel nacional de cuba pool

Our driver pointed out many landmarks and historical places to us. He explained that he recently left his job as a firefighter to become a driver. Interesting fact… he was making $22 per month as a firefighter and doctors make about $40 per month. It was shocking, really. I had done some research before our trip to understand the history of Cuba, but actually being there, it really hit hard how privileged we are as Americans. I know that I take for granted the opportunities and freedom we have.

driving in havana cuba

This is Juan Carlo, our guide. He took us to his home and neighborhood to meet his beautiful wife, children and neighbors.

tour guide havana cuba

havana cuba neighborhood

Looking around at the neighborhood and the rundown homes on the block pulled at my heartstrings, but when we gave the kids’ the gifts and toys we had packed, my heart was full. It wasn’t much, but the least we could do. Watching them run and play (rather than staring at iphones) was refreshing.

That night, we watched a performance by the Buena Vista Social Club which really gave us a taste of authentic Cuban music. Then it was back to the ship to sleep and get ready for another day in Havana!

flordita havana cuba

The next day we decided to head out on our own walking around town and visiting some famous spots we had heard about. We stopped at the Floridita, the restaurant and bar where the daiquiri was said to be originally created and one of Hemingways’ favorite hangouts. Of course, we enjoyed a few daiquiris (best I’ve ever had) and I got the recipe too!

la bodegita del medio havana cuba

We also walked over to La Bodeguita del Medio, the bar/restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of the mojito. We enjoyed our mojitos (not as sweet as we had hoped) and made our mark, like so many others on the front step of the entrance.

la bodegita del medio havana cuba

We spent the rest of the day enjoying Cuban food, cocktails and shopping.

havana cuba travel tips

pink car in havana cuba

We had an earlier curfew to get back on the ship the second day, so we enjoyed another delicious dinner at the steakhouse on the boat. The next day we had an “At Sea” day which was lovely. It was the perfect way to end our trip, visiting the spa for a massage and then relaxing by the pool. The next morning, we woke up and we were back in Tampa, ready to debark the ship and fly back home to see our kiddos! I am so thankful to return home with incredible memories of celebrating my milestone birthday in such beautiful places of the world!

  1. Caley

    July 30th, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    What an amazing trip – I LOVE that you did this for your 40th! That Sunset Key island is heavenly… Can I retire there too?
    x

  2. Kim

    July 31st, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Thank you, Caley! It was such an amazing trip!! Yes… Sunset Key, I’m in!

  3. Margie

    July 31st, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    What a great trip! Any idea where the shirts came from? I’d love to get some for my 40th girls trip to Jamaica!

  4. Kim

    August 1st, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Sent you an email! 🙂

  5. Rosie

    August 1st, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Thanks for sharing your amazing pictures of your birthday getaway and of the island where I was born. My parents came to Miami when I was 10 months old and I have yet to experience what you did! Hopefully one day!!! Happy 40th Birthday Kim! ???????? BTW your home remodeling is on point! ????????

  6. Kim

    August 1st, 2017 at 7:39 am

    That is amazing, Rosie! I hope you get to visit soon!! Thank you so much for your sweet words! xoxo

  7. Jill

    August 2nd, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Just finally seeing your pics and reading about your fabulous trip! So happy for you to have such an amazing time celebrating your 40th. xo

  8. Kim

    August 3rd, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you, my sweet friend! xoxo

  9. Lani

    August 5th, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Looks like you had an amazing time! 🙂 Happy Belated Birthday! Would love to know where you got the 40 shirt please.
    Thanks!

  10. Candace

    August 8th, 2017 at 11:42 am

    So awesome !! I’ll have to use your post as a guide to a trip to Costa Rica ….great photos!

  11. Candace

    August 8th, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Cuba not Costa Rica

  12. Kim

    August 9th, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Excellent! Have so much fun!!

  13. MJ

    February 20th, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    I saved this blog for when we considered doing the same trip and would love to hear about your thoughts on the boat itself. Hopefully this message doesn’t get lost since this post was from so long ago 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SUBSCRIBE

sign up

Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to our email list to keep up with our latest projects, listings, blog posts and giveaways! 

Heading

Thank you!

Subscribe

Subscribe to our email list to stay up to date with our latest projects, updates and ideas!