This is the cruise DH & I have been waiting years for, finally come to be. Your Cuba Cruise based in Canada is offering around Cuba 7 night cruises with embarkation at Montego Bay or Havana.
We chose Mo Bay as it seemed easier to fly to plus I wanted to stay a night beforehand & visit Rockland Bird Sanctuary. That was a lovely experience feeding the Hummingbirds from a small bottle of sugar water & watching many other birds feed from the various feeders around, then walking around the property.
We stayed at Doctor's Cave Beach Hotel which was a bit dated but okay & in such a good location on the main street across the road from the beautiful beach of the same name.. A very light breakfast of toast & tea/coffee was included in the price & was all we required.
The Louis Cristal is a beautiful ship with the capability of carrying 1200 passengers but in this, the 1st season the numbers are much less.
The embarkation is quick & it was strange to be the only couple boarding!
We were taken right to our cabin 6212 a deluxe outside one. Me likey!
We then headed to the La Scala dining room on deck 8 which was the only one in use all week.
We had a nice 3 course lunch, off to a good start.
Went back to the cabin & unpacked, lots of room in the cupboards. Rested until the safety drill to which you took your life preserver.
I bought the $26 60 minute wifi card since there were no 90 min ones left. I also ordered the cruise DVD for $49.95.
We reserved the Steak House for 6:30 & it was a very nice experience with good service & food.
This is the 2nd cruise I've done a steak house the 1st night & I won't do it again as it diminishes the meals that follow.
After walking right around the promenade deck & enjoying the beautiful sunset we went to the "Cirque Fantastique" show which was really good & where I enjoyed the DOD which was only $4.95, virgin ones $3.95.
Didn't sleep well but that wasn't the fault of the bed which was very comfortable. Headed up to LaScala for the buffet breakfast where you could also order hot items like omelets, eggs benny etc although we never did. After breakfast we went back to the cabin where a cute Swan towel animal awaited us.
Tried to get on the internet on my Iphone but had problems part of which was caused because I didn't get the instruction sheet telling you where & how to do it. 1/2 my minutes got eaten up & I hadn't done anything so I went to the desk & later on they gave me a new card . We had an early lunch as I had to meet for the "Cienfuegos & Botanical Garden" excursion at 12:30. The tour was pretty good but the guide didn't point out things that might be of interest along the way. One woman near me yelled there's a town over there but I don't know what it is .
The garden was nice & had mostly trees, palms & bamboo. Our garden guide didn't speak English so
our bus guide had to translate everything. We then went to the town square & walked around there for
a while. It was nice. Next we went to the Terry Tomas Theater where some were upset that there was a 2 CUC charge to take pictures. Taking a look at the tour description to write this I see we didn't do things in the order shown plus I don't remember seeing any Triumph Arch. We went to the Palacio de Valle last where we had a Cuba Libre on the roof overlooking the bay.
Outside the port was where one could exchange some money for CUCs & also where one had to "enter" Cuba if they boarded in Montego Bay. Didn't get back to the cabin until 5:30 ish so had a little nap before going to the Flamenco show at 7 followed by dinner around 8. I had a yummy shrimp tempura appetizer, salad & beef which was a little tough after last night's tender filet. Some of the waiters sang & danced around to bid farewell to the passengers disembarking in Havana .At 10 pm we went to the "Cristal's Got Talent" show in the beautiful Metropolitan Show Room.
This entry reminded me of some details I really liked about the cruise, the branded items like the Pocket Guide, laminated staff name cards in the DR & the cabin ( I usuallyhave trouble remembering my steward or waiter's names), fresh flowers on the DR table, little extras one received with their pictures like the key chains, fridge magnets, reasonable pricing of the drinks, photos & their quality. Ricky, the photographer I posed for most was so nice, helpful & very skilled. The quality of the pictures was amazing.
Sunday, Punta Frances ~ The Island of Youth
Got ready for the tender to the island. First I bought a $4 voucher from the bar to purchase a coconut drink at the beach. I just walked along the beautiful beach admiring the ship from afar, the lovely shades of blue water & the coral along the shore. It was hot & I'm not a sunworshipper/beach person so I went back onboard. DH followed a path & had a nice walk. Around 1 the buffet lunch was available at Riviera & Traviata & had nice choices like salads, cabbage rolls, jerk chicken & yummy bread pudding with sauce for dessert among other things. I hadn't paid attention to the Daily News so missed the fact that a glass of Champagne was available for $2.50 between the hours of 1 & 3 or a large beer for $4.95. I had a "Party on the Beach" for just $4.95. Had a little nap then went to waiter Ronnie's special show at 6.
He's really a good singer & sounds like Elvis or did Elvis sound like Ronnie?
Had a nice dinner then went on internet then to the "Cuba Cruise Show" which was very good.
Became aware of 2 for 1 happy hours so bought 2 wines to share. After the show they serve finger food on the way out of the theatre.
After the buffet breakfast we went up on deck to see the entrance to Havana Harbour but Cristal arrived a little earlier than scheduled so missed that. Met the group for the "Havana City Tour" in the lounge at 9:30.
Our guide Ina was very good & we enjoyed the tour which went to the Cathedral Square, Hemingway Hotel & also the bar where we had a free Mojito. Here you can write your name on the wall if you bring a marker which I did. We went to the Fort where you could purchase coffee, rum & cigars then Revolution Square. Got back to the ship around 2 & went for lunch where I really enjoyed the spring rolls, salad, pasta & rhum baba.
After a nap we went to the DR a little earlier than the posted 7:30 time as we had to meet for the Tropicana excursion at 8:15. I don't know why this was,as the show didn't start until 10 so we sat waiting for over an hour. Besides the 1/4 bottle of rum, mix, & a welcome drink of Champagne there was some peanuts so beware if you have allergies. BTW there was a fee of 5 CUC to take pictures of the show. I had to search out a program/book of the show which sold for 15 CUC. The show was entertaining but not something I'd do again. When we got back to the port I got in the wrong line as another ship was there too & almost got left behind!
At 10 we had to go to the General Drill for the people who got on in Havana but also us as we hadn't seen our life boats the other day. We explored the ship some more then attended the shore excursion
meeting. I went to the BIngo at noon but because the minimum of 10 people wasn't met there was none. I never got to play Bingo the whole cruise & it was only $7 so I was looking forward to it. After lunch & nap I went to see the afternoon tea that takes place every day between 4 & 5 but I didn't eat anything.
Not enough people for Bingo at 4:30 so I went to the casino instead where I turned my $20 into $100!
The machines took US dollars but paid out in CAD. Some machines you needed tokens for so that was strange. Found the library & borrowed a book which was really good.
Tonight at 6:15 was the Captain's Cocktail event where you could also get your picture taken with him.
It was elegant night (optional). The Variety Show took place at 9:45 in the Metroiplitan Lounge & was good, Had another towel animal waiting for us in the cabin.
Wednesday, Antilla (Bahia de Nipe)
Had to meet the group at 8:45 for the Cuba Life Tour that was delayed about an hour. Our guide Marcel was really good & informative. He also let some of us exchange money in town before setting off for what turned out to be the tour I enjoyed most. It was a long drive to Holguin but the scenery was beautiful.
We went to the park where we had our included lunch first. It was quite delayed but worth waiting for, cheese & crackers, salad, jerk chicken, rice & beans, plantain, & a cheese guava puree dessert. A free drink came with it & the scenery was beautiful. We then were greeted at our next stop by Christopher Columbus. We watched the native dance which was fun as they had some of us join them at the end.
We then went to the AI where there was a flea market where I bought DH a lovely guayabero for 15 CUC, an ornament for 5 & saw the beautiful beach. Next stop the museum with the skeletons where they waived the picture taking fee for us. The last stop was Nene's farm where he greeted us with a banana,
took us around his land, cut sugar cane & gave us some to chew/suck, gave us a snack & some of his coffee. There was some animals there & a beautiful peacock. It was a lovely excursion but went longer than originally scheduled so drove back with the sun setting so beautifully & got the last tender. On this trip I met Adam, a UK Cruise Critic writer who was reviewing the cruise. We went for dinner which was really good then went to the "Latin Night Show". There was a cute elephant towel animal waiting for us in the cabin as well as a beautiful Kleenex flower. Another lovely day on our Cuba cruise.
Thursday, Santiago de Cuba
We were 2 hours (11:30) late pulling into port due to a mishap yesterday at the dock. It was a lovely entrance with the fort on our starboard side.. Today the lunch was served buffet style, probably because a lot of people were on excursions. I've been here twice before so just got off the ship & walked up to the street to see what was there. There was a man selling postcards & books not far from the dock so I bought some. Because I didn't have quite enough CUCs for the book he let me have it for what I had, very nice of him. DH who doesn't like excursions did his usual walk around the city. Tonight the "Cuban Folkloric Show" & dinner were both at 7:30 so we picked dinner. At 9:45 another show "Carnaval de Santiago" took place on the Riviera deck but we didn't go as we had to pack, buy photos etc.
Friday, Montego Bay
Had to be out of our cabin by 8 so got up earlier than usual. Went for last breakfast, boo hoo.
The disembarkation was easy. We collected our luggage, put out the night before, in the terminal & went through customs . We shared a cab with another couple who it turned out she was a CC member. The fare from the port to airport was $30 US for 4 passengers.
This was an amazing cruise & I sure hope to do it again. Cuba is a unique, beautiful, interesting island, the largest in the Caribbean. Everyone we spoke to was very happy with the cruise.