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La Tortuga floating hotel, Gardens of the Queen
The archipelago known 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.
Are you looking for all of the magic diving the Gardens holds but not on a liveaboard? Avalon Fleet offers an original 110-foot double deck houseboat, the Tortuga. The Tortuga is a floating hotel with eight guest cabins that accommodate 2/3 divers each (16 divers up to 21). Tortuga is a steel houseboat anchored in a protected channel, so it never moves. It is extremely stable, there’s no chance of getting seasick no matter the weather conditions.
There are 7 cabins on the upper deck and one on the main deck; all featuring their own bathrooms with sink, toilet and a good shower with hot water. Each cabin has its own easily adjustable air-conditioning system. On the lower level (main deck), there is a large air-conditioned dining room along with a foredeck and afterdeck, with chairs and tables, perfect for relaxing and taking the sun after a diving day. The foredeck is a very nice place to enjoy our pizza appetizer and drink cocktails or smoke Cuban cigars before dinner. Electricity on board is supplied by generators located nearby and it is available twenty-four hours a day. There are many outlets on board that provide both 110 and 220V. Tortuga has satellite Internet service with Wi-Fi, making communications with the outside world easy and free for guests.
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 Tortuga is excellent. The day starts with a hearty breakfast. Lunch and dinners are primarily fresh fish. Lobster is the 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 Tortuga’s 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 Tortuga will make the two-and-a-half-hour transfer to Jardines on M/Y Sol or M/Y Mares, boarding at the port of Júcaro.
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.