In my previous two reports I described the places we visited and some of the people we met during our Cuba Cruise cruise, a 7-night trip around the island.
In my last report from the ship, I’d like to share some of the highlights during my week onboard Louis Cristal.
Every Wednesday, we’ll be taking you on a journey around the world to some of the most interesting places our members have trekked, swum or merely witnessed from afar while cruising.
Whether these photos inspire you to plan a relaxing escape or walk on the wild side, we hope they ignite your senses and give you ideas for your next cruising adventure. If you have a photo you’d love to share, send it to us at email@example.com or post it in our member photo gallery.
Thanks to member Don_In_AZ who captured this shot of Holland America‘s Zaandam while anchored off the coast of Lahaina, Maui.
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Royal Caribbean’s brand-new Quantum of the Seas doesn’t arrive in its Bayonne, New Jersey homeport until November. But anticipation has been building, particularly for some of the features that will be among the first seen at sea.
Take the North Star, a jewel-shaped glass capsule that rises 300 feet over sea level. This ship will also offer a skydiving simulator, studio cabins with balconies and virtual balconies that will bring sea views to inside cabins.
We here at Cruise Critic are excited for Seaplex, designed to be the largest sports and entertainment complex at sea. Among its attractions: a circus school, where you can try the trapeze, roller skating and for all you amusement park lovers, the first bumper cars at sea.
As you can see from the video above, Royal executives had a lot of decisions to make when choosing the bumper cars – everything from the type of floor to the color of the bumper cars themselves. We have photos of the prototypes, which leads us to our latest contest: Guess what model the new bumper cars will be.
Dipping their toes in the Indian Ocean, hugging a Koala and catching a glimpse of the Southern Cross were just a few of member ScubaCruiser54 and his wife’s bucket list wishes. And the two couldn’t imagine a better way to fulfill them than on their 40th wedding anniversary, sailing through Australia and New Zealand with one of their favorite cruise lines.
As we walk up the steep hill leading from the port of Santiago to its main square, Plaza Cespedes, we hear what sounds like an explosion.
It’s a car backfiring, an ancient Soviet-era Lada, probably dating from the early- to mid-60s, trying desperately to get up the hill. It explodes again, juddering almost to a halt, but the driver, much older than the car, does not seem overly concerned.
As each explosion propels it a few feet further up the hill, police on corners and kids playing in the street turn to watch. The car finally makes it to a junction, and there are a few cheers from the onlookers as it slowly inches down a sloping side street, still backfiring into the distance.
Day 3 of my cruise round Cuba with Cuba Cruise, and it’s incidents like this that makes a trip to this Caribbean island unique. It’s part of the fabric and color of Cuba, people just trying to get on with their lives with what little they have.
It’s a new month – time for February’s Caption contest! Come up with your most creative and witty caption (but please, keep it clean) for this shot of a waiter in Puerto Vallarta, submitted by CC member GTVCRUISER on his cruise to Mexico on Holland America‘s Oosterdam, and post it in the comments section below. Limit your entry to one caption. You have until noon Friday (February 14) to wow us. We’ll pick our favorite and contact the winner, who will receive a Cruise Critic gift pack for his or her cleverness.
Note that entries posted on Cruise Critic’s Facebook page will not be eligible to win.
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On my second night onboard the Canada-based Cuba Cruise, the first cruise line to offer sailings around the island, Captain Stathis Goumas added a caveat to his welcome speech that resonated with all of us onboard:
“If you want to experience a typical Caribbean cruise, then you have come on the wrong ship. Is that what you’d like?” he asked us. A chorus of ‘no’s.
He went on: ”Don’t expect cruise ship tourism that you might have experienced in other parts of the Caribbean: We’re leaving 2014, and stepping back to the 1950s.”
And so it has proved, just a few days in to my seven-night trip: The town of Antilla has nothing at the port, one tin shack which acts as the passport office, a disused gangway and the remains of a gangway, storks sitting on the exposed posts.
As we arrive from our tender, we’re met by a band of local musicians playing traditional Cuban music (Guantanamera is the crowd pleaser; but other tunes including ones by Compay Segundo, of Buena Vista Social Club, and from this area, also make an appearance).
We’re bundled into buses from Cubanacan — the state tourist organization — and head off to our various excursions. In an hour and a half we pass maybe five cars, a truck and a school bus and tourist bus or two. The primary means of transport is horse-drawn cart or donkey.
And yet: front porches are immaculate. There is no sign of rubbish anywhere. Kids are smartly dressed in school uniform. The villages we drive through seem lively, people wave as we drive by.
It’s a landscape of sugarcane, much like Jamaica, and the primary source of income around these parts. We learn that up until the mid-90s the sugarcane was transported around the island by steam train. It’s a far cry from Havana, that’s for sure.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Every other Friday we will bring you a piece of reader feedback and our response. Have a question about cruising? Notice an error on our site? Want to just drop a comment for our consideration? Submit your own feedback by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe we’ll select your submission for our next Feedback Blog.
This Week’s Feedback:
“When boarding last time, there was a long line before crossing over to the ship for the photos. With priority boarding someone put us at the screen, picture snapped, and we boarded. (We said we didn’t want a picture but they insisted). So without priority boarding, can we just skip the photo queue or will they make everyone wait in the line?”
There is a difference between a headshot for security, and the sales push to capture you and the family against a painted backdrop of your ship. If you’re being asked to look directly into a camera from a crewmember or security personnel, it’s a lot less (read: not) elective than being ushered towards a pre-embarkation glamour shot.
Politely declining a keepsake photo when you’re often looking at your most weary is one of our Top 15 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Embarkation Day. It’s not that you shouldn’t capture every moment of your cruise vacation, but it’s something we encourage you to take into your own hands. Don’t ever feel pressured to smile for the camera — unless, of course, it’s the shot deemed mandatory to get onboard. We’re going to guess that one making a funny face in a lei isn’t it.
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