The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s historic visit to Cuba was hailed a “success” by Britain’s ambassador as Charles ended the trip celebrating the nation’s cuisine – and working for a free lunch.
The first official tour of the communist state by members of the monarchy saw the prince and his wife meet a star of the Buena Vista Club, embrace the country’s love of classic cars and hold talks with the president.
Antony Stokes, Britain’s ambassador to Cuba said: “I think it’s been a wonderful visit and the first official royal visit to Cuba – I think that’s highly significant.”
He added: “It’s been highly successful and a step forward in our bilateral relationship in a significant way.”
During a visit to a leading Havanan restaurant which showcased the best of Cuban cuisine, Charles quipped “cheap labour” after he agreed to operate a small hand mill used to squeeze juice from sugar cane – but soon found it hard going.
He laughed as he struggled to wind the handle and said “that’s a long piece of sugar cane” as it slowly moved into the jaws of the machine.
After his efforts had produced around half a pint of sugary liquid, the heir to the throne asked: “Can you put rum in it?” and was soon sipping his efforts with an added shot of the famous Caribbean drink.
He had enjoyed a range of classic dishes including the ultimate Cuban comfort food black bean croquettes – and requested a doggy bag of the delicacy.
The duchess’ concerns about the food on the Communist island were put to rest after she saw and sampled local produce taking an interest in artisan bread and cheese.
She nibbled on goats cheese flavoured with ginger and said: “I’ve never had cheese with ginger – very good.”
Before the trip, Camilla had said she was not sure about Cuban food, but after the event she promised to send her food writer son Tom Parker Bowles to the country to write about its cuisine.
Before leaving, Charles and Camilla were given a lesson in how to make a mojito and the duchess was so taken with the cocktail she asked for the recipe.
Their teacher Diana Figueroa, who runs a restaurant bar, said: “They were good students. They did everything I said. They muddled the mint really well. It was really nice.
“They were so happy. They said they had not tried mojito since they had been in Cuba.”
As Charles and Camilla left the Habanera restaurant, which staged the event, the prince said to Lis Cuesta Peraza, the wife of Cuba’s president who had joined them: “Will you give my fondest regards to your husband, and say how grateful we are for his generosity and hospitality? We will never forget it.”
The couple then flew to the final leg of their 12-day tour of the Caribbean – the Cayman Islands.
Charles and Camilla arrived in the British Overseas Territory in the ministerial jet RAF Voyager and received a special welcome, jets of water were shot over the plane by water tenders as it taxied to a stop.
They did not have to travel for their first engagement just a few metres to open a new airport terminal which has increased capacity from half a million visitors a year to 2.7 million.