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17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Hi All, My trip Aug 27th from Athens on the Crystal 7 Day Idyllic Aegean Cruise was beyond what I expected. With only 476 cabins this makes for a nice intimate group with no line ups. The extra pluses like all inclusive drinks, free ... Read More
Hi All, My trip Aug 27th from Athens on the Crystal 7 Day Idyllic Aegean Cruise was beyond what I expected. With only 476 cabins this makes for a nice intimate group with no line ups. The extra pluses like all inclusive drinks, free tours and no tipping quickly made this my top favorite cruise of all time. The guests themselves were 40-75 age group comprised mostly of Canadians and Europeans. No language barrier at all as the staff for the most part are fluent in 5 languages. Very few children which does not exclude families but there is not a huge children's program and the sheer amount of walking and exploring would be difficult for kids or seniors with mobilty issues. Having said that the ship herself does accommodate physically challenged passengers. The food was superb with a la carte and buffet style options. We had a pre reserved table every night and we loved getting to know the staff. The food was international style with a North American flair and every meal was different and presented in the most elegant way. They do offer upgraded menu items like Lobster and select wines but we didn't feel the need to upgrade. I can not say enough about the hard working and friendly staff. By day 2 they knew us by name and we were always greeted in a friendly way. The cabins were spotlessly cleaned and had all the special touches you would find on any other larger cruise ship. Towel service, turn down service, cute towel animals and chocolate on the pillows. Our cabin was a large picture window which was lovely arriving in each port. I would have upgraded to balcony except there were none to book last minute. The best thing about this cruise is that it actually overnights in many of the Greek ports which give guests a chance to experience day and nightlife without having to rush to get back on ship. It was great to be able to explore these destinations on our own. The tours were amazing and very informative, especially Turkey which was a wonderful surprise as we were slightly nervous about going there. At no time did we ever feel any port or locals were dangerous. Of course there were lots of vendors selling their wares and for the most part they were ready to bargain and the clothing, jewelry and trinkets were truly authentic. I would not travel in August again just due to the thousands and thousands of tourists in each port every day plus the heat which was in excess of 38C every day. I would highly recommend this cruise to any of our valued customers and do recommend a few pre/post nights to unwind before the cruise. I will be telling anyone who is willing to listen how fantastic this experience was. Read Less
80 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
Cuba badly needs American tourists in order to finance rebuilding of it's infrastructure, but in the short term this means that the first waves will struggle to find housing and food that meets expectations. You can pay a lot for the ... Read More
Cuba badly needs American tourists in order to finance rebuilding of it's infrastructure, but in the short term this means that the first waves will struggle to find housing and food that meets expectations. You can pay a lot for the few good hotels and search out the emerging private restaurants, but this requires effort. The easiest solution is to take this cruise around the island relying on it for the basics. Then in order to really experience the island you must be willing to add your own walking adventures to the bus tours offered by the cruise. And since the ship always docks in the oldest, most important parts of the cities, this is simple. Furthermore, Cubans are friendly, polite,and welcoming and we have never been in a country where we felt so safe. What we would most advise is to get out and absorb the distinctive cultural atmosphere and do what you can to learn about this society that does some things much better than we do. And when we refer to the basics, we mean very basic comforts travelling Americans are used to such as restrooms that are free. And restrooms that are equipped with toilet seats and paper. You may not find these even in costly hotels and must rely on the generosity of restaurants and bars to provide very basic facilities most often for a price. Once you encounter this reality it will make you more appreciative of the small bathroom in your cabin and the even smaller ones on the tour buses. As most every report on Cuban tourism advises, bring your own toilet paper and be prepared to lower expectations. But sense we knew these things in advance, we had less problems than we had feared. The People to People programs throughout the cruise provided excellent educational and cultural programs on the ship and on land. Two young and very interesting professors from the University of Havana provided a number of lectures on Cuban history and politics and musical groups from the island entertained each evening. Others provided Cuban cooking and dance lessons too. The Celestyal Crystal is a good ship to do this trip on. It's small and friendly and well maintained and due to it's size can get into all of the city ports around the island. We had read reviews saying it was old and needed to be retired, but that is not what we experienced. It was clean and appeared newly painted with some apparently new flooring as well. Some public areas appeared dated with 1980's era furnishings and decor, but they were comfortable and in good order. Our cabin on deck 5 was adequate with a large window and close access down the hall to the deck which in the back offered a great bar and viewing area. The staff was friendly and efficient and made an effort to please and be courteous. Some people stood out. Our head waiter, Mohammed, sincerely wanted to hear if we and others were being served well and the few times we had a complaint he patiently listened and asked questions. Most servers at the bars and in the two fine dining areas performed well, too ,and one stands out in our memory - Shane, He was always scanning to see who needed service or what needed to be done and when we complimented him toward the end of the trip he said sincerely that he loved doing his job. Impressive. And our two Cabin attendants kept ours clean throughout the day and were wonderfully warm and gracious. The one negative for this cruise was the food. We had read lots of reviews warning about the mediocre dining on board and concluded at the end, that they had been too complimentary. Breakfast at the buffet was the best and we could put together a satisfying meal each morning with lots of choices. The weakest link was the bread and this was true during all of the meals. Selection and quality were poor. Lunch entrees were often an artfully prepared mush of leftovers and by the last few days we learned to have a cheeseburger, which was always available, and a self crafted salad. Dinners were provided in elegant settings with good service, but they never satisfied. We cannot recall a single item in the five course meals throughout the trip that was very good. In particular, soups were always thin and lacking in taste and entrees often involved inferior meats and vegetables. The last entree we selected was the very worst. It was an eggplant dish that was so barely cooked and with such little flavor that one bite was all we needed. We filled up on the desert. And the deserts were always wonderful. But mediocre food is not the real story of this cruise. Bottom line - we came back sensing this was the trip of a lifetime. Who knows how Cuba will be transformed by changing relations with the U.S.. Now it offers quite a contrast and that contrast is enlightening, but as it gets transformed by us, it will be a more comfortable place to visit, but a less challenging and engaging one. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
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
Celestyal Crystal Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.5 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0
Rates N/A N/A

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