For many, a stay in Havana would not be complete without a visit to the Tropicana Nightclub. Having now been there and experienced it first hand, I can quite understand why. Like most of Havana and indeed Cuba, The Tropicana is set in a time warp. Personally, I love love LOVED it, though I can also understand why it might not appeal to everyone’s taste.
Upon arrival you are immediately transported back to the glamour and glitz of 1950s Havana.
Classic American Cars roll up and deposit their guests into the waiting arms of the meet and greet team, namely heavily made up girls flashing whiter than white smiles and fluttering false eyelashes of drag queen proportions whilst handing out (complimentary) cigars to the Gents and flowers to the Ladies.
Insider’s tip: Even if you don’t smoke or want the cigar, accept it graciously and keep it for later. Your driver will be very happy to take it off your hands on the return journey.
And in we go… Well, not quite “in” as the venue is al-fresco and is set under the stars and palm trees. It was a beautiful, balmy November evening when we visited so I have no idea what happens in the event of rain. In which case, you might like to check with your cruise line as to what the plan B is.
The stage area is quite big and can be easily seen from the surrounding seating which is set up into three different price categories; the most expensive being closest to the stage. We were seated in the middle range which was fine.
At the stroke of 10 the band strikes up and the waiters bustle in, bringing first a welcome drink of ‘something bubbly’ followed closely by bottles of Havana Club Reserva Extra rum and cans of cola. Each adult guest is allocated one can of cola and a quarter bottle of rum. You will not go thirsty, trust me. Well, not consciously, at least.
We were also lucky with our table guests who proved to be great fun. Saying that, who isn’t great fun after a few rum and colas at the Topicana?! Myself included.
The show is fabulous. Really, these people sing and dance non-stop and they work tremendously hard to entertain. It’s a veritable over-the-top explosion of colour; flashing lights, music, and dance so much so that at some point during the evening’s proceedings, I experienced an almost psychedelic flash back to a scene from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ where the Oompa Loompas are energetically dancing in unison all over the set. I know, it probably doesn’t get much more bizarre than that, but let’s just blame it on the boogie, and besides, it was only momentarily.
Another thing I will mention is that whilst the the girls looked fabulous throughout the show in their micro (‘blink and you’ll miss ’em’) undies, elaborate feather plumage and Madonna inspired nipple tassels; the guys’ costumes did offer up some slight cause for concern.
Let’s face it, the ‘flared, skin tight, powder blue, slightly too short, Lycra jump suit’ look is difficult to rock by any Adonis’ standards. No matter how closely you resemble a certain famous Real Madrid striker… (I swear, this guy could play his double!) I would even go so far as to guess that, sadly, even the great god of Cuban dance himself, Carlos Acosta would fall short.
Through the course of the evening, these talented, limber and perma smiled dancers will take you on a historical journey through their colourful cultural roots by way of dance. Top stuff, and the band is awesome too by the way!
No doubt cruise passengers will have a choice of transportation to the Tropicana. Either by motor coach or private transportation. Personally I would go for the full on experience and arrive in style by Classic American Car – preferably a convertible. Whereas for the return, I would enquire to see if coach transportation is available. No doubt your cruise line will be happy to help with such enquiries.
Perhaps best NOT opt for the same transportation as me and my husband Ægir did – which was by regular taxi.
What a mistake. We arrived in an ancient, hand painted brown Lada, complete with a very loud, broken exhaust and were horrified when we saw the fleet of beautiful cars pulling up ahead of us at the venue. The Lada was actually abandoned out of the view of the entrance, and we walked the remaining 100 metres in order to save face!
The return journey was much the same, but suffice to say we were past caring at that point. In fact, we continued our evening in a jam-packed, down-town salsa club whose name and location I cannot for the life of me remember but… I do have a telephone number.
It was given to me by the most amazing, friendly dancer who has kindly offered to give me and Ægir dancing lessons when we return. Yes, really!
An offer I might well take him up on, so watch this space.
Many cruise ships are now including overnight stays in Havana (MSC Cruises and Cuba Cruises among them). All of them will, no doubt, be offering their guests an opportunity to visit this famous landmark by way of an evening shore excursion. Personally I loved it, and can highly recommend it. Though I will add that alongside the mandatory rum and cola, copious amounts of good nature and a relaxed attitude to cigar smoke will no doubt serve to heighten the experience.
Have you been to Havana’s Tropicana night club? What was your take on things?
Do share! We’d love to hear..