by Adam Coulter
Louis Cristal has had a colorful life: It started off as a passenger ferry in 1980 before being converted into a cruise ship in 1986. It was destroyed by fire in 1990 and completely rebuilt; partially sunk in 1994 and rebuilt again; renamed five times; and owned by five different lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line (where it sailed as MS Leeward), before ending up with its current owners in 2007. Past passengers include Sweden's Royal Couple, who stayed onboard during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and President George H. W. Bush, who stayed onboard in November 1995.
It's a small ship by modern standards, but it has a big-ship feel. Holding 1,200 passengers on 10 decks, it has everything you would expect on a big ship, but it's scaled down. You'll find a casino, kids facilities, a library, a spa and gym, a pool and hot tub, three bars, a main dining room, a self-service buffet and two specialty restaurants. It's just all in miniature -- except, that is, for the main theater, which could rival that found on any big ship in terms of atmosphere and design.
Louis Cristal harkens back to an earlier age of cruising. The corridors are wide, as are the cabin doors, which are solid and aluminum-clad. There are 12 cabin types, and all have a distinct style, as opposed to a modern cookie-cutter one. The ship boasts large picture windows with huge screws and thick metal frames; triangular-shaped balconies cut from the superstructure, rather than jutting out; and lots of polished mahogany decks and banisters.
It's the second-largest ship in the Louis Cruises' fleet of three, and it spent the whole of 2012 out of service before being chartered by Canada-based Cuba Cruise to start the first-ever round-Cuba cruise service. Launched in December 2013, Cuba Cruise spends December to March operating seven-day Havana-to-Havana itineraries, stopping at five Cuban ports and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The ship spends the rest of the year in the Mediterranean, offering seven-day and four-day itineraries in and around the Greek islands.
While chartered to Cuba Cruise, the hull is repainted to reflect where it is, and restaurants reflect the Cuban itineraries.
Louis Cristal Fellow Passengers
On the Cuba sailings, passengers are predominantly Canadian and Swedish. The rest of the clientele is drawn from the U.K., Germany, Japan and Jamaica. Americans are onboard, generally as part of an officially sanctioned, legal tour group. The average age is around 55 to 65, with a smattering of younger people and a handful of children.
On Mediterranean cruises, the demographic changes significantly, with European passengers -- particularly Greeks -- making up the largest percentage. The average age drops, and there are far more families onboard as it sails through the school holidays.
Louis Cristal Dress Code
On Cuba itineraries, the dress code is casual, with one night suggested as elegant, but it's not strictly enforced. When in the Mediterranean, daytime dress is "country club casual," which means "a relaxed yet elegant presence and respect toward the onboard areas and your fellow passengers is ensured." There is one formal night per seven-day cruise, which means cocktail dresses for women and suits and ties (no tuxedos) for men.
Louis Cristal Gratuity
The Canadian dollar is the official currency onboard on Cuba cruises. The suggested amount for gratuities is $10 per person, per day. Tips are included while the ship is in the Mediterranean, when the currency onboard is the euro.
September 2014 Manuelonno
I should write about my wonderful experience onboard Louis Cristal last week. From the moment we checked in to the moment we left the ship it was the most memorable hospitality I have ever encountered. I have taken many, many cruises but like ...continue
My friend and I recently traveled on the 7 day cruise from Istanbul to Athens on the Louis Cristal. I was a bit concerned after reading a previous review. We had a great experience! I do need to say that the ship is very basic. It was clean and ...continue
1 - 3 of 7 Reviews
The stateroom we were in was not large, but was comfortable for 2 people. There was a tiny bit of vibration in our room which was on the 6th deck forward but it was only noticeable if you listened closely. The room was quiet as there were no ...continue