Hilltoppers Head South

Cuba Cruise Offers WLU Alumni Chance to Relax, Reconnect and Explore

Photos Provided Old Havana has diverse styles of building architecture and four restored plazas, complete with charming cobblestones, beautiful ironwork, historic statues and charming restaurants.

It was a trip fit for kings and queens on the West Liberty University 2018 Alumni and Friends Cuba Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Sea.

Alumni and guests agree that the five-day excursion south of the border was an unforgettable experience.

The cruise departed from Tampa, Florida, on June 2 and included a stop in Key West, a day in Havana, Cuba, and a relaxing day at sea. Fifty-three former Hilltoppers and their companions boarded the ship, hailing from Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“It was the alumni association’s Florida alumni chapter that suggested the Cuba cruise over a year ago. Typically, this active and long-standing chapter has an annual meeting in a different city in Florida every year. However, it was at last year’s meeting where they suggested exploring a new destination — Havana, Cuba,” said Ron Witt, WLU executive director of alumni and community relations.

The agenda included a variety of sightseeing and social gatherings. Witt also took time to hold a shipside alumni meeting and give a State of the University update to the group on the first day of the cruise.

Dining on board the cruise are Charlie and Letty Annett and to the left of Charlie is Wheeling resident Chris Carder, a WLU alumna and her friend Robert Taylor, also of Wheeling.

“We had the good fortune of working with Letty Annett, owner of Letty’s Cuba Travel & Tours in Weston, Florida. Letty is from Cuba and specializes in travel to Cuba for individuals, groups and sports teams. She is married to alumnus Charlie Annett (’66). Both Letty and Charlie went on the cruise, which was a nice personal touch. Letty’s knowledge of Cuba and painstaking attention to detail made everyone in our group feel at ease,” Witt said.

Born in Cuba, Letty Annett’s passion is to bring Cuba and the U.S. closer together through meaningful travel experiences as well as through baseball. She started the Youth Baseball Friendship Cup as an annual baseball tournament for kids each summer.

Cuba is just 40 minutes from Miami by plane, and as a Cuban-American who emigrated to the United States 38 years ago during the Mariel Boat Lift, Annett understands the true price of the embargo for Cuba. Upon returning for the first time in 32 years in 2012, she opened Letty’s Cuba Travel and Tours and became a friendship ambassador.

Her husband Charlie is originally from Wheeling and both went on the WLU trip.

Havana is known for its pastel houses, 1950s-era cars, cigars, Spanish-colonial architecture, salsa music, great food, drinks and beautiful scenery. Annett personally arranged the agenda. Other highlights included:

An official Cuban tour guide describes the National Capitol Building In Havana.

∫ Plaza de San Francisco de Asis — This is one of the four leading plazas laid out in the 17th century. The spacious cobbled square was fully restored in the 1990s.

∫ Plaza Vieja, cultural heritage site in Old Havana — Architects and restorers saved the 16th-century Plaza Vieja, and today it is surrounded by elegant colonial residences and striking early 20th-century art nouveau buildings.

∫ Plaza de Armas and Castillo la Fuerza — Treasures from the islands were collected here to be shipped to Spain.

∫ Plaza de la Cathedral — The last of the main squares to be created and one of Old Havana’s most beautiful spots is home to art galleries, museums and restaurants.

∫ La Bodeguita del Medio visit — This spot was one of author Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars.

Street performers entertain along a street in Old Havana.

∫ Lunch at Colonial la Moneda Cubana Restaurant at La Cathedral Plaza — Travelers dined on authentic Cuban cuisine with music by a local trio.

∫ The Classic Car Ride — The excursion offered a one-hour panoramic view of Havana that included the following landmarks: Habana Malecon, Hotel Nacional, Miramar, Bosque de la Habana, Revolucion Square, Capitol Building, Grand Theatre, Central Park and more.

“Overall, this was a trip of a lifetime! Everything from the literal boatload of activities and delicious food aboard the cruise ship, the unique charm of Key West, the historic and scenic sights in beautiful Havana and most importantly, the camaraderie among our alumni and friends, made this such a memorable experience,” Witt said.

Plans are already underway for the next alumni and friends excursion. For more information about alumni travel opportunities, call Witt in the Alumni and Community Relations Office at 304-336-8888 or email wittron@westliberty.edu.

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