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Avalon II liveaboard, Gardens of the Queen
The archipelago know as Gardens of the Queen comprises a chain of 250 virgin coral and mangrove islands extending along 75 miles of turquoise waters. Jardines de la Reina was declared a Marine Park in 1996. The largest populations of adult fish in the Caribbean, such as sharks, snappers, groupers and jewfish of up to 400 pounds, are an everyday experience. Sharks are one of the main attractions you can see everywhere. Modern skiffs are used to organize excursions to lagoons and boat rides through mangrove channels.
Avalon Fleet II has 10 deluxe, comfortable state rooms air-conditioned, with individual thermostats. All cabins have private bathrooms and 2 beds (one full, one twin). The vessel has an overall capacity of 20 passengers and 9 crew members. The design and interior decor give the yacht a touch of intimacy, refinement, a sense of warmth and simplicity, each space is created to provide its guests with maximum comfort and safety The boat guarantees all our guests a pleasant, exciting and exclusive cruise through Jardines de la Reina. Each room has panoramic windows to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Caribbean beaches.
There is a spacious and comfortable combination lounge, dining room and bar area on the boat deck. In cabins and common areas you will find European /American sockets (220 volts and 110 volts ).
Avalon II offers to the divers a lot of space for dive equipment and photo and video cameras . On the top deck a Jacuzzi (500-gallon hot tub) ,with panoramic view: ideal space to drink a mojito after the last dive at sunset.
Meals are usually served on the afterdeck where there’s a nice breeze. Dining on board combines the style of the best Continental Italian cuisine with delicious seafood and traditional Cuban favorites like rice and beans, black bean soup and fried bananas. Beverages available on board are: Bottled mineral water (2 lt/day included in the package), sparkling and tonic water, various soft drinks, juices, beers, rums, whisky and excellent wines.
The chef on the Avalon II is excellent. The day starts with a hearty breakfast. Lunch and dinners are primarily fresh fish. Lobster is our specialty and is served in a variety of ways. For those who like something different, chicken, pork and beef are also available. Salads and different fruits are served in every meal. Desserts feature our famous Cuban caramel custard, rum-flavored cakes, cookies, puddings, pies and many others. Vegetarian and kosher meals are served on request with many different choices available.
Divers booked on the Avalon will board at the port of Júcaro. The trip to Jardines de la Reina lasts 5 hours. Lunch is served on board on the way out, and there is time to kick back and relax with a cocktail, or even get a nap before arriving at JDR.
In Jardines de la Reina, the season is year round. A normal week includes 15 dives from Sunday to Thursday; return to the mainland is on Friday. It is possible to book extra dives on request.
Diving in Jardines de la Reina
The "Gardens of the Queen", are a complex network of untouched marine ecosystems that have been regarded by many knowledgeable scientists and organizations as a reference of what is the original status of a coral reef as Christopher Columbus found it in the times of the discovery.
The underwater paradise is all that comes into the mind when you first enter the water, the vertical walls covered with brightly hued sponges, the huge Pillar Corals (Montastraea Annularis), the black corals extending the branches in the contrasting blue water, many species of gorgonians, fragile laminar corals (Agaricia sp.) showing its beautiful shapes through crevices, canyons and caves built along thousands of years of invertebrates work, converting tons of calcium carbonate into architecture masterpieces, all this combined with one of the biggest fish diversity and biomass of the Caribbean makes each dive an unforgettable experience.
The amazingly healthy mangrove system provides nursery area for young fish populations, filtering the water that goes to the reef together with the seagrass beds (Thalassia Testudinum) and in return receiving from the reef protection against the open ocean wave energy, all interconnected in a very fragile network that here keeps its variety, richness and splendor intact.
The biggest populations of adult fish in the Caribbean, Sharks, Snappers and Groupers, Jewfish up to 400 Pounds are an everyday experience. Sharks are one of the main attractions and can be seen everywhere. It is possible to dive with 6 different species: Silkies, Reef, Lemon, Black tip, Great Hammerhead and Nurse sharks. From July to November brings the opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks.
The Marine Park
Jardines de la Reina Marine Park is one of the biggest treasures of the Caribbean, in a bigger scale can also be considered as one of the world's best-preserved marine areas. The importance of its protection goes beyond the Cuban waters jurisdiction, as the connectivity between marine ecosystems has international importance. The Cuban Government together with AVALON and AZULMAR (Branch of Marlin Marinas de Cuba) has been working to accomplish the protection tasks of the Park. Government's institutions such as: ONIP, CITMA, CNAP, CNPFF, and the Center for Studies of Coastal Ecosystems of Ciego de Avila all have been key partners and have been directly involved in leading investigations and all the projects and surveys in the area.
Within Jardines de la Reina marine park there are some areas classified as ZUSRUP (Zones Under Special Regime of Use and Protection) this is a management classification of protected areas, with the aim of using them in a sustainable way, in places where tourism and conservation activities can be interacting under special rules and strict regulations and delimitations. The only allowances in the marine park are for Bonito fishing in the south of Jardines (blue water fishing, Open Ocean) and Lobster fishing with artisanal means.
All Caribbean marine regions are interconnected exchanging energy and matter, the migrations of fish, turtles, larvae's, birds, etc. involves many areas from the east coast of the US to the Gulf of Mexico and from Bermuda to Lesser Antilles, the North Coast of Sur America and more, all ecosystems are interdependent, the management success in preserving some areas or the mistakes and lack of protection in others affects the region as a whole, the protection of Jardines Marine park has a global importance and AVALON has been committed to support this protection for almost 23 years of continuous work and efforts.
Legal travel to Cuba
For U.S. Citizens and permanent residents, leisure travel and tourism activities still remains illegal. Visiting Cuba for those under U.S. jurisdiction is restricted to one of 12 categories enforced by the Department of Treasury. We work with a combination of foundations and marine researchers to provide full-time programs that comply with the State department’s general “People to People” educational travel license for your Gardens itinerary and for any additional add-on’s. Part of meeting these stipulations means that each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba. We have travel specialists on staff that have personal experiences diving JDR, visiting Havana and beyond under these requirements. Please contact us for information and to tailor your Cuba educational and/or sustainable visit. For citizens of all other countries not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, there are no specific restrictions as far as travel to Cuba and leisure travel is permitted.