What do you get when you mix a speedy train with a rum tasting and Cuban music? You get a party invitation that’s hard to resist.
The Brightline Havana Special Rum Train Excursion made its maiden voyage this past weekend, a tour that pays homage to the glamour of Havana’s yesteryears.
Cuban songstress Leslie Cartaya along with The Cuban Trio set the festive tone on the Havana Special, playing classics aboard the train where many couples preferred to get up from their seats and dance. The tour is reminiscent of the golden years of travel aboard Henry Flagler’s railroad to the southernmost point in the United States, Key West. The crew served rum-based libations onboard, provided by local distillery Miami Rum.
Men in Panama hats, linen attire and women sporting floral tropical prints add to the party’s tropical vibe. A historian narrated the story of Havana’s golden years before the Cuban Revolution and the relationship between railroad travel in the U.S. and Cuba, where rum was enough motivation to go on vacation.
This adult party continues touring through June on Fridays and Saturdays. The $99 per person price tag ($108 with fees) does feel steep for the two-hour round-trip tour but is definitely worth it for a special occasion or celebration.
However, our experience with the spacious seats, smoothness of the train and speed with which it reached its last stop from Miami has us eagerly anticipating its future route to Orlando. The train’s speedy route to Palm Beach felt more like smooth sailing into Cuba. Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains USA bought the Brightline, and there is no doubt this is a premium experience.
The tour operator recommends you arrive an hour before the event, and for good reason. An hour-long reception is held before the train’s departure at the Virgin Trains Miami Central Station. The generous buffet with Cuban fare was plentiful. Among our favorite bites were the Ceviche with plantain chips and classic croqueta preparada mini-sandwiches (a Cuban sandwich with a croquette inside) that were pressed hot to perfection. In addition to the great view of Downtown Miami, the party also featured rum cocktails and music before you board your train.
A snack box provided by Sergio’s Cuban Restaurant toward the end of the tour did feel a bit basic given the flair of this event, but we put it to good use after sampling all the rum drinks.
As a Cuban-American, they got it right!
Parking at the Virgin Miami Central is available for $8 a day if you arrive by car. For more information or to buy tickets. You must be 21 and over to ride the Havana Special.
Service from West Palm Beach to Orlando is expected to launch in 2022, once track expansion is complete. Future plans include extending service to Tampa as well.
(Photos and video courtesy: Daniel Lastra, SouthFloridaReporter.com)