Cuba is a fascinating place and as an island, it derives much of its unique identity from the seas that surround it. There is much to see and do on a land based tour of Cuba but to get a sense of Cuba's Caribbean location and to enjoy a different angle on its stunning shoreline, taking a cruise that stops in Havana or, better yet, circumnavigates the island and stops in at several different ports, could be a great way to get to know this place a little better. A cruise can help you slow down to the pace of life in the Caribbean and enjoy the unique culture, beautiful weather and breathtaking views of this amazing and intriguing island nation.

Cuba is a safe place to visit and the people are famous for being friendly and welcoming. The friendly locals, along with the sunshine and the vibrant culture make this a must-see spot in the Caribbean. Travelling on a cruise ship and stopping in at some of Cuba's interesting ports will allow you to understand what this place is all about and it will be easy to put it all in context as you put out to sea. Whether you take a cruise that focuses on Cuba alone, or combine it with other Caribbean ports of call, you will be sure to have a wonderful vacation.

It is becoming increasingly easy for US nationals to visit Cuba and the relaxation of relations between the US and Cuba that has come during the Obama administration means that more companies are offering flights and cruises that travel between the countries. While not long ago it would have been near impossible for ordinary US citizens to get permission to see Cuba, now more and more companies are making this a viable option for all.

Cruise lines that have or do visit Cuba include: Oceania Cruises, Cunard, Fred. Olsen, Club Med, Princess Cruises, Star Clippers, Cruise and Maritime, Azamara Cruises, Carnival, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea Cruises, Voyages of Discovery, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Hurtigruten, P&O Cruises, Saga Ocean Cruises, Thomson Cruises, Seabourn and Vantage. Cruises depart from a number of worldwide locations and spend varying amounts of time and attention on Cuba. There are other smaller and luxury cruise providers who also offer cruises to or around Cuba.

When it comes to choosing your Cuban cruise, it is worth noting that almost all cruise ship options are for travel between December and March and you will be unlikely to find anything at any other time of year. You should be clear when you choose your cruise on exactly what you would like to be included on your itinerary. Remember, seeing Havana is not seeing Cuba – that is like seeing New York and saying you have seen the US, or seeing London and saying you have seen the UK. While a short stop in Cuba will be delightful, the longer you are able to spend exploring Cuba and the more you are able to see, the more you will fall in love with this enchanting island. Consider choosing a cruise that stops in at some or all of the following popular Cuban ports of call.

Havana is of course the best known Cuban port of call. This place is a melting pot of history and romance, all to the beat of Cuban rhythms. It is impossible not to be caught by the beat and swept along in the mad tide of Havana culture. With its old town heart, cobbled streets, magical music and mid 20th Century charm, it is impossible not to be enchanted by this exciting city. It would be a shame to limit yourself to seeing only Havana on a cruise to Cuba but it is a must-see. If you get the chance, consider booking a cruise that allows you to spend an evening or a night in Havana. The city becomes a different place after dark and the place is lively until dawn.

Even more frenetic and bustling than Havana is Santiago de Cuba,  which is the second largest city on the island and has a more Caribbean feel to it than any other part. Though big, noisy and sometimes overwhelming, this city is a fascinating place to visit, with a rich history all tied up with the revolution. It is an enthralling and exhilarating place to be.

Trinidad, Cuba is a UNESCO listed town of almost ludicrous beauty. It has pretty pastel coloured houses with iron balconies and cobbled streets that lead between little squares. Music pours out of the doorways and fills the small settlement and people lounge in the shade of leafy palms in picturesque squares. Nearby, pristine beaches add to the infinite charm of this part of the island.

Cienfuegos is another UNESCO listed town and has the largest collection of architecturally interesting neo-classical buildings in the Caribbean. Amongst the other attractions of this part of the island, the botanical gardens are perhaps the most impressive. These were founded in 1901 and are considered to be one of the world's most important tropical gardens.

Holguin is a well known area of tourism and has a collection of charming beaches, including the pretty Guardalavaca Beach and Cayp Barjay, where it is said that Christopher Columbus first made landfall.

Of course, in addition to these fascinating ports of call, cruises will usually allow you time to see and enjoy some of the finest beaches and other natural sights of the islands, from the huge expanse of Varadero to the many caves around the main island and the truly untouched spots such as the perfect and pristine Isla de Juventud which is the quintessential Caribbean paradise.

No matter where your cruise of Cuba takes you, you will find plenty to delight the eye, heart and mind and will discover places where no road can bring you as you enjoy the tranquil seas and sublime coastlines.