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!
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!
And so our Cuba adventure began…
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.
The convertible I rode in all day was this perfect pale pink ’54 Chevrolet. Isn’t it pretty?
I was able to take a ton of photos right from the convertible as we drove. This is a typical building in Havana…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beautiful view of the pool and sea from the bar…
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.
This is Juan Carlo, our guide. He took us to his home and neighborhood to meet his beautiful wife, children and neighbors.
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!
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!
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.
We spent the rest of the day enjoying Cuban food, cocktails and shopping.
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!
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