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8 Boston to Cuba Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because it involved two ports in Cuba-Havana and Cietrefugo. The ship is very small and had almost no entertainment until the trumped up Happy hour, which charged a very high charge for every drink and for only $2 ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it involved two ports in Cuba-Havana and Cietrefugo. The ship is very small and had almost no entertainment until the trumped up Happy hour, which charged a very high charge for every drink and for only $2 more for the second drink. Music was a piano player for and hour. The food was just fair and the beef quality got worse as the cruise went along. So we stopped ordering all beef dishes. The evening entertainment was a trio playing Frank Sinatra era music. The main show was supported by a quartet which was inadequate for decent musical backup for visiting performers. Basically nothing going on all day long. The service was ok . Ports other than Cuba were not very good-- Grand Camen on a Sunday is useless as it is closed for business. We will never travel on Holland American again!!!!!!!!!! No entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We chose the 2-week cruise from Boston to the Caribbean and back in August because the summer was when we could take vacation and we liked the days at sea from Boston before arriving in the Caribbean and afterward. We were excited ... Read More
We chose the 2-week cruise from Boston to the Caribbean and back in August because the summer was when we could take vacation and we liked the days at sea from Boston before arriving in the Caribbean and afterward. We were excited especially to see Cuba. What we learned from this cruise: 1) Do not vacation in the tropics in summer unless you enjoy walking around in what feels like someone's mouth, with sweat dripping down your face every second you're outside; 2) The excursions were boring at best, sometimes very disorganized, and downright terrible at worst. The excursion to Havana should be criminalized, it was that depressing. The Havana they presented was a complete dump, with buildings falling down, most others that looked like they should be torn down, and garbage and poverty everywhere. No real sights to see except Christ of Havana Bay! It also reeked like a sewer; 3) The ship dining room food was FABULOUS, while the in-room dining was just OK; 4) The staff are AWESOME, so patient, kind, and upbeat; 5) Ship was clean and comfortable even though it's definitely showing signs of age / need of updating, especially in the suites. The TV was pretty pathetic. 5) We're sorry that we didn't take time to spend a few days in Boston to sightsee. I'd say definitely give this cruise a pass. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
The first truth about Cuba: GO. It’s fun and wonderful. The people are great. You can and should book independent tours. Exploring on your own is NOT limited and is encouraged. The Paperwork There are two important pieces of ... Read More
The first truth about Cuba: GO. It’s fun and wonderful. The people are great. You can and should book independent tours. Exploring on your own is NOT limited and is encouraged. The Paperwork There are two important pieces of paperwork. The first and easiest ifs the Cuba tourist card. Cruise lines charge $75 for this, most if not all of which goes to Cuba. They give you the blank form at cruise check-in. You fill it out. Cuba checks it once. The second, more intimidating, piece of paper work is compliments of the US Government. It’s an affidavit that states why you’re going to Cuba. It’s an exercise in futility and keeping some bureaucrats’ job in DC. Because our government says we can’t go to Cuba for tourism, you have to indicate why you’re going. You have to select one of 12 reasons. NOBODY LOOKS. NOBODY CARES. NOBODY ENFORCES IT. Go and have a good time. The form is collected at check in for the cruise. You’ll never see or hear about the affidavit again. Most people select option 1 or 8 on the affidavit. But again, it’s a US Government waste of paper. Cuba and Cubans are glad that you’re there spending money. Ditto for the cruise line. Please complete this form but don’t think twice about it. You CAN go out and about in Cuba on your own without any limitations. You DO NOT need to book tours through the cruise line or any other company. These are huge myths that seem to stem from the lengthy, verboten affidavit. A sample copy of the affidavit is here, but you’ll probably want to get one with your cruise line’s logo: https://www.carnival.com/~/media/CCLUS/PDFs/OnlineCheckIn/Guest-Affidavit-0413%20pdf The Cuban Arrival Process Cuba is like any other Caribbean port with ONE exception: they check and stamp your passport. You can get off and wander around as you please. Cuban authorities check your passport and want to see that you paid the $75 for a visitor pass…but there are NO LIMITS as to getting off the ship without prepaid or prearranged tours. It’s like any other port. Don’t let anyone tell you have to book long, expensive tours through the cruise line, sanctioned company or government. It’s not true. We booked our Cuba tours online (but didn’t pay for them until after the tour). Our car, driver and guide were waiting for us as promised and were thrilled to see us. Some passengers had their Cuban tourist cards collected by the Cuban authorities. Others did not. This caused concern among those who wanted to get off again and didn’t have the visitor card. Again, it was a non-issue. They check to see that your passport was stamped and you’re free to go. The Money Changing money is Cuba is a necessary evil. The currency the tourists use is the CUC (pronounced “kook”). It is pegged to the US dollar, so the exchange rate is 1 to 1. All currencies have a 3% charge. US dollars have an additional 10% charge. Bring Canadian, British or European coins if you can to exchange to avoid the 10% charge. There are currency exchanges in the terminal. The line can be long but it moves quickly. You can also exchange money at banks or other currency exchanges. There is another currency used primarily by the Cubans for their personal needs. This is the CUP and the exchange rate is 25 CUPs to $1. There was no need for this currency, but make sure you don’t get change in CUPs when you’re paying with CUCs. The CUC bills have pictures of monuments of them. The CUP bills have pictures of people on them. If you end up with extra CUCs at the end of your trip, be sure to exchange them back while in Cuba, or save them for friends going to Cuba. And unlike many Caribbean ports, it’s difficult (perhaps illegal) to use US dollars in Cuba. Some vendors say you can pay in either US$ or CUCs. But all seem to prefer CUCs. Medical Insurance Another non-issue is the required Cuban medical insurance. Cruise lines include this insurance in their port taxes, which is very convenient. I don’t know how effective this insurance is, but it satisfies the requirement. If you search the cruise line’s FAQs, there’s usually a question addressing it Here is NCL’s Cuba page and their response (HAL’s is similar): https://www.ncl.com/cruise-faq/cuba-travel “Is medical insurance required? All travelers to Cuba must show proof of Cuba approved medical insurance. This medical insurance will be included in the price of your cruise fare.” Docking in Havana The approach into forbidden Cuba is scenic and very emotional for many. You’ll drift by many forts, the malecón, El Christo de la Havana and dock conveniently in Old Havana at the Sierra Maestra terminal. There are three terminals: two are falling apart, the one you dock at is in good shape. Walking out of the terminal and across the busy street is San Francisco square. An easy and fun walk through Old Havana takes you to the capital building that is under constant non-renovation. You’ll have a sense of déjà vu looking at it. If you’re looking for a vintage car tour, there are many waiting by the Russian church close by the terminal. The major shopping market in Havana is also close by the Russian church. It was closed when we were there because of an electrical fire, but it was supposed to re open quickly. Others seem to think nothing happens quickly in Cuba. Out and about in Cuba Out and about in Cuba is a lot of fun. Those that took the long “approved” cruises from this ship felt that they were not good value. We booked a vintage car, driver, and guide for $80 for two hours. It was PERFECT. We then wandered around old-town on our own, stopping frequently in the historic squares for drinks. We found the Cubans a very proud people who almost always spoke very highly of their country, especially those working in the tourist trade. But some we met on the streets were not so complimentary. The art of the networking payoff is alive, well and open in Cuba. Tour guides and people you meet on the street are happy to show you places for food, drink, cigars and rum. They expect and get a cut from these establishments. Most Cubans don’t have much; so there is a fair amount of begging in the streets, but none, thankfully, is too aggressive. Cuba is very safe; as there are severe penalties for messing with tourists. US Customs In coming back to the US from Cuba, it’s like any other cruise. Customs and Border Patrol DON’T CARE why or that you went to Cuba. They don’t care what you bought. You can bring back 100 cigars and a liter of alcohol—just like other ports. If you’re carrying a keg of rum off the ship they might question you, but otherwise it’s like any other cruise inspection: a non issue! The Ship It's older and smaller, but space is used wisely and comfortably on the public decks. Holland America has a sophisticated and wonderful daily activity program. The partnerships with America's Test Kitchen, BBC Earth and Microsoft make for a lot of fun and educational activities during the day. Their port talks are also good in that they don't just steer you to places to shop. Holland America's happy hours, where the second drink is only $2. add unusual value in the bar department. This is NOT a high-tech ship. The $160-$200 14 day internet option was fairly priced, but I was constantly disconnected. Many cruise lines offer their daily news letters and account information online complimentary through the ships wi-fi. Holland America's Explorer was the first that actually worked beautifully. There is also a free chat feature where you can text others on board (that actually worked). There's no setting I could find for an audio signal that I message was received though. Dining Dining was better than I remembered on Holland America in both the dining room and buffet. The quality AND variety was a notch above other mainline cruises. The salad bar and the Asian sections were my favorites in the buffet. The dining room menu was always varied and interesting. The wait staff was attentive. Most nights, the buffet menu was similar to the dining room menu. I found the wines too expensive for my taste. The two for-fee restaurants were only fair. The Italian restaurant is a partitioned off part of the buffet area. There wasn't much special about it. The steak house offered a good steak but little else. Service was good but not fabulous. The wine list was crazy expensive, and I got some attitude from the wine steward when I requested a wine not on the restaurant's wine list. The steak house turns into a seafood place occasionally, which I would have loved to try. Entertainment This is where Holland America sorely lacked. A couple of OK comedians. The ship's production numbers were just okay as well. The performers worked hard and did a decent job, but they weren't given a lot to work with. The ships orchestra was outstanding. The South American electric harpist was excellent, but I had already seen her on other cruise ships. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Be VERY leary. DO NOT GO. I have the CDC Vessel Sanitazion Program (CDC) on this one. Disgusting, filthy toilets and “sanitation”. I walked into my cabin when it was announced that cabins were clean and ready, and I went into my ... Read More
Be VERY leary. DO NOT GO. I have the CDC Vessel Sanitazion Program (CDC) on this one. Disgusting, filthy toilets and “sanitation”. I walked into my cabin when it was announced that cabins were clean and ready, and I went into my bathroom and the toilet was over flooded with filthy water and human fecal matter! The public bathrooms were almost always filthy; I never saw anyone clean a public toilet all the days. The HVAC (heating and cooling) was constantly not working.....everyone complaining....even “Guest Relations” told me to be glad my room wasn’t almost 80 degrees like others and that I had SOME air. I couldn’t believe that! When the air was on, there was an exhaust smelll (others complaining as well)and a strong odor that I have never smelled but it smelled like rotting fruit. Several times thru out the cruise, toilets backed up, and there was no running water....one day I had no hot water for 20 hours and guest relations did nothing and I finally approached a navigation officer, who handled it. Communication was almost non existent between Departments was very poor...., for example, it was in their daily program that card players meet in a certain room each a.m., and the room was not set up 1/2 the time, and passengers were getting and setting up tables and chairs. We were promised water and coffee in that room, and only received one day, even after repeated calls. Customer Service was so poor it was almost comical.....but it wasn’t, but I could see why. I was so upset and frustrated one night when I had to WALK TO GUEST RELATIONS IN MY PJs, as no one would answer the phone, and I was crying and the Hotel Director was by my elevator and I implored him for help and he actually said “Not my job” and left we standing there! Employee relations was very inconsistent; some crew (like my cabin attendant in 598) actually walked away while I was talking! The Ship is very very run down, stains, boards missing or damaged under floors, for example I reported repeatedly that on the floor adjacent to Table 63, main dining, had some serious problems with the floor, as everytime a wait staff would walk by, the floor would sink in and bother my back. I was told they could do nothing until next dry dock!! Although the food was quite good, I did have a health issue. I have serious celiac disease and must be gluetin free, and in the buffet, the room service, and only once in main dining....they tried to serve me food with gluten. I stopped using room service as almost daily, it was not on time, missing items, coffee cold, etc. The promenade deck had hard wooden loungers with slats and NO COVERS....unusable! Photo below. I had to RENT a refrigerator for my medicines and special diet food and it was delivered in filthy condition! When I arrived in my cabin, it was not properly cleaned....hair everywhere, sticky remote control, dirty clothes in the drawers, badly stained and ripped sheets! The bathroom floors had the same shoe stain for two days. The charges for HALs excursions were 50% to 1400% (YES! 1400%] higher than one could find outside. The 4th of July party and BarBQue promised on their private island was not done because “thunderstorms were predicted”.....we checked the weather on line and we saw no such prediction and it was a beautiful day. The furniture in the showroom was uncomfortable and the onboard singers and dancers and their shows were so bad....people were calling it “dancing by numbers”. The outside entertainers were just okay, not bad. Often, it would take so long for someone at the front desk to answer phone, I waited up to an hour and walked down in my PJs. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary to Cuba, Key West, and Grand Cayman. Unfortunately, the Veendam is in terrible shape. The air conditioning does not work. There are parts of the ship that are blazing hot while other parts ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary to Cuba, Key West, and Grand Cayman. Unfortunately, the Veendam is in terrible shape. The air conditioning does not work. There are parts of the ship that are blazing hot while other parts are freezing. Plus, in our cabin, there was rust on the shower ceiling, dings in the walls, stains on the duvet, and a strong urine smell in the bathroom at all times. We had friends who had to change cabins three times during the cruise due to problems (including flooding) in their cabin. In addition, there were very few activities on the ship, especially on sea days. It felt like the ship shut down by 8:00 p.m. For example, there were no guest lecturers, no house band or DJ, or no local groups brought on for musical performances. While we enjoyed the ports, the overall Holland America experience was awful. We are avid cruisers, and this was our first and last experience with this cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Great round-trip cruise from Boston to Cuba on the HAL Veendam. A lovely ship carrying around 1200 passengers for these two weeks on a relaxing itinerary with a number of sea days. The food was great and started off the first night with ... Read More
Great round-trip cruise from Boston to Cuba on the HAL Veendam. A lovely ship carrying around 1200 passengers for these two weeks on a relaxing itinerary with a number of sea days. The food was great and started off the first night with fresh haddock as a choice at dinner. We chose the early fixed seating as its great way to get to know to people and also the dining room stewards who took great care of us. HAL carries a Catholic priest chaplain on all its cruises so we had the option of Sunday and weekday Mass. We were scheduled for two Cuba stops, but the second one was cancelled by the port of Cienfuegos due to an fuel leak from another ship which blocked the pier there. So we had two full days in Havanna and a very interesting 8 hour HAL excursion named 'Best of Havanna ' visiting the major sites, mostly in the colonial part of the city. A wonderful meal in a local restaurant was included and surprisingly for me, an air conditioned coach took us around. We had the chance to interact with the locals who were most friendly and proud to show us their island. The other stops we had were Key West, Ocho Rios, Georgetown, and Half Moon Cay. As I work in Miami and know a number of Cuban foks there, I was glad to have this opportunity to experience some of their culture and history. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We selected the Veendam because of it's smaller size and lower key atmosphere. This was our first trip on the Veendam (but not our first cruise) and the ship was fabulous. She is well maintained. The staff ratio is excellent and ... Read More
We selected the Veendam because of it's smaller size and lower key atmosphere. This was our first trip on the Veendam (but not our first cruise) and the ship was fabulous. She is well maintained. The staff ratio is excellent and the food is the best we have experienced. Our children enjoyed the activities geared toward them. The shows were well produced. The room was well sized, the decor of the ship is tasteful. The main dining room food was extraordinary! The afternoon tea daily was something fun for mother/daughter/grandmother to do. We played tennis and enjoyed the pool. Several of the staff went above and beyond. The spa services were well priced and well done. The library was a good resource for family time. Overall, this was our best cruise out of the 4 we have taken. The island time was lovely, and disembarkation was well handled. We would do this one again! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We chose this cruise because we wanted to be docked for a few days. Although we prefer suites,we decided to try a Lanai cabin. We are three star Mariners with HAL and received the Signature Beverage packages. This included all drinks ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to be docked for a few days. Although we prefer suites,we decided to try a Lanai cabin. We are three star Mariners with HAL and received the Signature Beverage packages. This included all drinks 9.50 and under. We also received a night in Pinnacle Grill. We arrived in Boston on Saturday and used the HAL ground transportation to get to the port. Everything was smooth and we waited perhaps 30 minutes before being allowed to board. Our cabin was ready and we explored the ship. I had read many negative reviews regarding Veendam and I was worried about the ship not being maintained well. It is obviously an older ship, but everything in our cabin (349) was in perfect working order. A lanai cabin is much smaller than a suite, obviously. But we did not miss the extra room much and we also did not miss the private balcony much. We had plenty of room for 7 days worth of clothing. We were ok with the very tiny pools at the retreat as we mostly are in our chairs and just dip our toes in periodically. Neither of us have ever used the hot tubs on a cruise ship. I do wish that the Lido pool was for children and the Retreat pool was adults only. There were more kids than normal when compared to our previous HAL cruises, but I realized that would be the case by taking a cruise in June. I did not find the children on the ship to be an issue after the first day. The first day, there were many children in the bars, dining room, pools, etc. But after that, they must have been utitilizing Club HAL. My biggest complaint though were the few kids that were almost always at the Retreat pool. Two of them belonged to a mom who would simply deposit them at the pool area and then move to another area to relax, not even leaving them in her site. I would guess they were 3 and 6. It was annoying and I feel, dangerous. But I have seen that on other cruises as well. We ate in the dining room twice and we have not been doing assigned seating lately. The service was excellent and the food was good. The Pinnacle service was excellent and the food not quite as good as previous visits, but it was fine. We felt the Lido offered a good variety and we received good service there. We ordered room service late a couple of nights and that was delicious and quick. We knew we would miss BB King and we did, but we managed to have fun by going to the Piano Bar. Barry from Boston was excellent as usual. We are 58 and there were many that age that were there each night and many much older. The crowd seemed to enjoy more of the show tune, older music. We know those songs, but it is not our cup of tea each night. He did do a Beatles night and some other themes we enjoyed. But the crowd that frequented the Piano Bar was just a bit old for our tastes. I am referring more to their attitudes than their actual ages. Again, Barry was excellent. We saw a magician one evening and he was pretty good and this was our only show. We loved Bermuda. The weather was around 80 each day and almost always sunny. We jogged each morning for an hour when we were docked and then went on long walks. On sea days we walked on deck 6 as no running is allowed. That is always a disappointment to us on HAL ships we have been on. We visited the park nearby, which was beautiful. We had drinks at two bars and met some great locals and also someone that was working on an RC ship. We shopped for maybe a half hour and purchased very reasonably priced t shirts. We also went to a pharmacy and picked up extra sunscreen and water. We visited Horseshoe Bay and found it beautiful. We rode the bus there and found it very easy and enjoyable. We also spent a day at Clearwater Beach and that was breathtaking. The bus home was a bit irritating as we had to transfer as we had on the way there, but due to some bus issues we had to wait over an hour. We did not make it to Crystal Caves, although we desperately wanted to go. Once we had our suits on and were on a beautiful beach with perfect weather, we could not tear ourselves away! We left the ship on our last day at 9:45 am. We handle all of our own luggage, so don’t have to worry about finding our luggage. All went smoothly and the lines were almost non existent to get off the ship. We found this to be one of our favorite cruises, even though it was only 7 days and even though we had a Lani cabin. It was an excellent value when we factored in the beverage packages. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018

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