Thursday, June 8, 2017
After 78 years, the Tropicana nightclub continues tradition

Each and every night, some 900 visitors to Cuba converge on the Marianao neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana to witness a nearly 80-year-old tradition under the stars. The Tropicana nightclub is set in a lush, tropical, 6-acre garden complete with royal palms reaching skyward from the expansive seating area. During inclement weather, the show is moved indoors with seating for more than 500 guests.

Opened on Dec. 30, 1939, the Tropicana, at one time, also included gambling and attracted American celebrities including Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.

During the Tropicana’s most prosperous times in the late 1950s, the owners created the “Cubana Airlines Tropicana Special.” Taking off each week from Miami on Thursdays, a $68.60 ticket got you a seat on a temporarily retrofitted 46-seat airplane for an all-inclusive experience. With the first eight rows of seats converted into a mini-stage, and a modified baby grand piano bolted to the floor, passengers were served pink daiquiris as showgirls and singers performed up and down the aisle during the hour-long flight to Havana. Included in the ticket price was the “night club” flight, an evening with dinner and drinks at the Tropicana, an overnight stay at the Hotel Nacional, breakfast, and a return flight to Miami.

Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, gambling was outlawed and while Cuba’s casinos were closed, the Tropicana endured and has remained one of the island’s most popular attractions.

Beginning at 10 p.m. nightly, a full orchestra provides the soundtrack to a stage show featuring more than 100 voluptuous, scantily clad dancers gliding rhythmically across the stage and performing acrobatic moves reminiscent of a Cirque de Soleil show. Toward the show’s end, patrons are encouraged to climb onstage and become part of the show. It is, indeed, quite a spectacle.

While there are many other entertainment options in Havana, the Tropicana is a true original with a rich, and slightly infamous history. Sadly, that round-trip “night club” flight, stage show, dinner, breakfast and a hotel room are probably going to run you just a tad north of $68.60.