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1 Celestyal Cruises Celestyal Crystal Cruise Reviews for First-Time Cruisers Cruises to Caribbean - All

We are first time cruisers so read with appropriate caution. I thought this was a great way to see Cuba. We sailed on January 1st. from Montego Bay with a "People to People" educational program. The ship and food were deemed ... Read More
We are first time cruisers so read with appropriate caution. I thought this was a great way to see Cuba. We sailed on January 1st. from Montego Bay with a "People to People" educational program. The ship and food were deemed "below expectations" by the experienced cruise passengers we sailed with but both were perfectly adequate in our opinion. You take this cruise for the destination, not the ship. The crew was above all earnest, but overworked. I'm not sure the ship is staffed well enough when the vessel is full. There were concerns with elevators that frequently did not work and, "ahem" the toilets of questionable quality. The ship is on the smaller side so meeting people was quite easy, especially given that most on board were there for their first Cuba experience. I thought that the entertainment on board was great. It was not "polished" but the entertainers were clearly energetic and invested in putting on a good show. As others have mentioned the cruise director "Danny" was great and made sure that everyone was having a good time! What I most loved about this cruise was the port of calls and the educational sessions offered by the two University of Havana professors who were on board with us. They gave a fascinating overview of the history, politics, culture, and flora/fauna of this great land. I felt sorry for the cruise guests who were not "required" to attend these sessions as they were quite informative. You ideally go on this cruise to learn and there were many opportunities to do so. Shore Excursions: Santiago de Cuba - our first shore excursion offered a decidedly pro-Castro view of Cuban history, an exposure to Santeria dancing, and unfortunately not lunch. Eat a good breakfast before this one! There is, however, a stop for coffee and beer at a local gallery that had exquisite ceramics for sale at very reasonable prices in the gift shop. Havana - the reason that most of us took this cruise. Havana is amazing but the quality of the shore excursions was, at best, uneven. I might skip them entirely. The ship docks in Old Havana and there are great squares and historical buildings that can likely be experienced better with a good guidebook. Your ship will stay here for one full and one partial day. I would spend the first day exploring Old Havana and having dinner in one of the many Paladares, or private restaurants. Hemingway had many talents, but the bars he frequented has only one - ripping off tourists with substandard Mojitos. Skip these. For the second day take a taxi to the National Museum of Fine Arts for their spectacular modern collection. Have lunch at "Habana 61" and still have time for the Museum of the Revolution and a leisurely walk back to the ship. The formal excursion would make you choose between these two museums but this is not at all necessary. Maria la Gorda - We almost skipped this excursion as those who boarded the ship before us proclaimed the nature preserve as a total bust and because we are not beach/hot weather people. This stop turned out to be one of the most fun. First of all, tenders run between the cruise ship and the beach continually so you can spend as much time or as little as you would like. I would suggest the first non-tour tender. Once you exit on the pier move as far to the right as you can as this is where there are beach umbrellas and a Cuban BBQ sponsored by your ship. You may purchase drink/food coupons in advance but these are not required. For a short queue you can simply sign purchases to your cabin account. This made for a most relaxing day and a great counterpoint to the urban Havana. Cienfuegos - the most beautiful port and excursion of them all. Known as the "Pearl of the South" from colonial era the architecture was well preserved and the most common tourist sections were closed to vehicular traffic. Your first stop will be in the main square to see the Teatro Tomas Terry theater and the gorgeous Palacio Ferrer. Save your money from the street vendors in this area because for us the next two stops were at artist collectives where there was an abundant amount of original art for sale and the opportunity to meet the artists. Definitely a highlight of the trip! This excursion ends at Punta Gorda, where the wealthy of the area once congregated, and Palicio de Valle, a former Batista casino, turned into a restaurant with beautiful views of the bay. I'm not sure we would take a cruise with this company again for a non-Cuban destination. Having said that, our costs were considerably less than competitive offerings and we had a great time overall. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Celestyal Crystal Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.6
Dining 4.0 3.5
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.2
Family 2.0 3.2
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.5 3.8
Service 4.5 4.2
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates N/A N/A

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