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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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
I selected this cruise because it was offered by Apple Vacations as an authorized People-to-People tour for Americans and it was a smaller ship (since I had never been on a cruise before, the idea of being on a boat with 1000's of ... Read More
I selected this cruise because it was offered by Apple Vacations as an authorized People-to-People tour for Americans and it was a smaller ship (since I had never been on a cruise before, the idea of being on a boat with 1000's of other travelers was not my idea of vacation.) There is a more luxurious (MORE expensive) cruise line that also cruises around Cuba but I'm not one who needs be waited on hand-and-foot so I didn't want to pay for it! For those now worried about too many Americans "ruining" the experience, the guest ratio on our trip was about one-third. Most guests were probably 50+ on our sailing (but there were a few 20 and 30-somethings). No young children on our trip. Our sailing was below the 900ish guest capacity. Maybe only 1/3 full so the staff was not overwhelmed/busy so we took the opportunity to try to have conversations with many of them. We learned where they were from (Bali, Cuba, Philippines, Mauritius and others) and life on a cruise ship for 10 month contract. From the Cuban staff, we learned about growing up and living on the island. There was one full service restaurant not open during our trip (not sure if that was because of low guest count or refurbishment?) but that was OK. We never had a problem getting a seating for dinner. We chose to eat at the buffet for breakfasts and lunches while on-board. Menu changed nightly in full service restaurant. Breakfast buffet was the same every day. Lunch buffet varied slightly day-to-day, including a poolside cook-out one day. Only attended two of the nightly "big show" (Cirque and Caberet) and in my opinion they were surprisingly good considering the ship size. There was an instrumental band that played other times on pool deck and before/after shows which was good. There was also entertainment in the Euros lounge but we didn't participate. Tours for US citizens are included (except Tropicana in Havana). The dancing presentation at the "culture stop" in Santiago was too long in my opinion. Liked having free time to eat/shop/explore between tours in Havana on both bays. Tropicana cost $149 (included transportation, champagne welcome drink, rum and cola)... worth it! Costumes are amazing! Weather was perfect to sit on the back-of-the-ship patio bar anytime of day. That was our favorite spot for great sunsets, cigar smoking, great conversations with other guests and staff! We learned staff is assigned to a specific bar for a week so Emerson, Eka and Jodanys were our bartenders and they took great care of us. All were incredibly kind and friendly (so it was sad for me to leave). The waiters were Sandra, Ilena, Isabella and Alejandro that week and we enjoyed talking with them also. Emerson would get a few hours break from the patio bar and then return to the disco bar for the end of the night festivities (karaoke then dancing). Again, he took great care of us! For breakfast and lunch, we sat on the pool deck where Konool and Pratiksha often took great care of us. Edwin was often the bartender there... and he has a great voice too which we learned at karaoke one night ... and then asked him to join us for a song (or two) other nights. I'm hoping (because it was slow), it was ok for him to leave his post to be part of a guest's duet (GREAT SERVICE!!!) Our housekeepers did a great job too! Sorry I didn't catch there names but I saw them occasionally in the halls in mornings and evenings where they would politely greet me (and I even got a compliment on my outfit one night). Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We liked this cruise because it was a totally Cuban cruise, in spite of the fact that it spent one day in Montego Bay to refuel and load supplies. Most of the other cruises we saw were Caribbean cruised that only spent one day visiting ... Read More
We liked this cruise because it was a totally Cuban cruise, in spite of the fact that it spent one day in Montego Bay to refuel and load supplies. Most of the other cruises we saw were Caribbean cruised that only spent one day visiting Havana. In addition, Crystal is a smaller ship which is great for embarking and disembarking. Our cabin was small but clean and our attendants kept the cabin very clean and were great offering to change our towels various times during the day.The food was good and the entertainment fantastic, among the best compared with Seabourn, Silverseas and Windstar. But what we mainly liked was the great service we received on board from the crew and especially from the Cuban members of the crew and entertainment staff that put on fabulous shows and also gave us great tips for onshore visits. The excursions were good and informative about the Cuban people, their music and arts but nothing exciting. Overall i would rate the ship and the service almost on a par with Seabourn, Silverseas and Windstar but for the cost-value it was definitely a 5 star. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose this cruise because it was going to Cuba. We joined a Road Scholar group that was on the ship. We also wanted to go to more than one port in Cuba and the big ships are only going to one port. There were about 150 people on ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was going to Cuba. We joined a Road Scholar group that was on the ship. We also wanted to go to more than one port in Cuba and the big ships are only going to one port. There were about 150 people on board out of the 1200 that it will hold. Maybe because of this there were very few activities other than the mandatory Cuba lectures and activities. For some of the scheduled activities, no one from the cruise showed up. The casino was small and unexciting. The cabins were small and outdated. We had a junior suite and it was tiny. The toilets didn't work right and it was a joke that everyone shared. Everyone went to the common areas to use the toilets. The same group performed every night. They were quite good but it got really repetitive. The gym was good - it was small but given the number of people on the ship it was fine. All that said, the crew was very friendly and nice. The food was excellent. The cabins were clean. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
Cuba is fascinating, and this is the best overall way to experience various cities and themes. Cheaper and easier than hotels or private homes, more variety of cities, with bonus of excellent Cuban lectures, entertainment and staff. ... Read More
Cuba is fascinating, and this is the best overall way to experience various cities and themes. Cheaper and easier than hotels or private homes, more variety of cities, with bonus of excellent Cuban lectures, entertainment and staff. Older ship design, a bit quirky, but once used to it, compares favorably to the dozen or so larger, newer ships on which I've sailed. A small ship has big advantages. Officer passed me as I was headed for door leading outside, turned around, went back and held it open for me! We had 45 knot winds one day, closing the pool and promenade deck, but did not bother me in middle of ship. 18 cabin categories!!! Size and layout vary widely, so do your homework in booking. I tried to attend every lecture and every show. The music/dance was not quite as polished as on megaships, but you felt more a part of the show. All the performers stood at exit of theatre to talk with us after each show. Lectures by Dr. Arocha were hilarious and insightful, and he spent as much time as I wanted with him privately discussing points of Cuban history. Food was very good, drink package a real deal. Am now addicted to double caramel macciados. Excursions on Cuba cruises (I've come on two cruise lines) are unique answers to US regulations, Cuban conditions and cruise ship needs. They are included in price for US citizens, cover a wide range of history, culture, shopping and onshore dining (included in price). Remember you are in the tropics and the streets are hot and humid.. Buses are modern, with a/c and bath. Guides work for the government agencies but are often quite candid about conditions in Cuba. One is free to come and go, especially on the overnight in Havana. There are adequate tourist police on the streets but no heavy-handed guards or guns. You will see much more security in US airports. Only complaint was that a/c varied from room to room and sometimes had trouble keeping up with the tropics. But crew moved our friends to another cabin to accommodate them. I am planning to return soon to Cuba on this same ship. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a ... Read More
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a colloquial manner . Each and every one of the towns visited was a vivid picture that solidified the historical, architectural and cultural presentations made on board. All shore excursions were perfectly geared to the presentation on-board, providing a platform for us to interact with the people, the music, the culture itself. This jelling experience is The Authentic Cuban Experience. As for the ship experience itself, I was pleasantly surprised. Dining Room Exp: Food was delicious and authentic. I really enjoyed my lunch and dinners, when time permitted, at The Almanthia. Jose Luis, "Rest. Captain" has a welcoming smile and handshake for everyone which makes you feel "at home". Monica and Luis are excellent members of the wait staff but they also have the quality of making you laugh, which is medicine for the soul. That's an A+ in my book. I must mention Edel and Ricardo, "Rest Capt." from LEDA Deck Rest. Also gracious hosts with a sunny disposition. Our Cabin was impeccable every day, with special towel art presented by Vivianne and Ernesto. (5th Deck) All special requests were acted on immediately. They both were so attentive, always providing service with a smile. Entertainment on board were spectacular, thematic shows, provided by a team of polifacetic artistic acrobatic-singers, MC'd by Danny-from Romania, Cruise Director. Based on this experience, I'm already planning my next Cruise with Celestyal - Crystal...Thanks for the opportunity to share, Kudos to these people who make cruising fun as well as a learning experience. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Wow, I have much to say here. The experience was a mixed one, but I got what I wanted to get out of the trip. No one goes on a cruise to Cuba to be on a ship, so I will cover the excursions first. I am a US citizen, so my itinerary was ... Read More
Wow, I have much to say here. The experience was a mixed one, but I got what I wanted to get out of the trip. No one goes on a cruise to Cuba to be on a ship, so I will cover the excursions first. I am a US citizen, so my itinerary was pre-planned as is required for the visa. Note that all tour guides were happy to answer questions, but they were well-indoctrinated. Coaches were clean and air conditioned and were like rolling castles compared to the life that the citizenry experienced. Throughout Cuba, you see crumbling homes and buildings with rusting corrugated steel. Be prepared for lack of toilet seats and paper everywhere, even with a 1 CUC restroom fee. Expect fees to take photos of almost anything, including the old cars. You will see music and dancing almost everywhere. The pride of Cuba is around their art/music/culture and it is deservedly so. Some of the other things that they are proud of is their social services, and that is probably misplaced from the view of western visitors. You won't see much graffiti. In the "tourist bubble" of coaches and tour guides, I felt safe all the time. Santiago is the first experience on this schedule, and it is a levelsetter for your Cuban visit. As you pull into the port you see the small boats and crumbling buildings. San Pedro de la Roca castle in Santiago is a must-see, as is San Juan Hill where I would have enjoyed more time. Additionally, in Santiago, you can get a guided tour of Moncada Barracks with a lesson on Castro, and see a community center with teenagers putting on a dance show. You may also be taken to a rum distillery that was pretty much worthless for me, an opportunity to separate your CUC from you. My suggestion: get rum and cigars in Cienfuegos on your last day in Cuba. 2 days or so in Havana. Old Havana is somewhat restored and is highly tourist-oriented, along with a price premium for everything. Some "fine" hotels and restaurants can be found, including a hotel where Hemingway stayed. Architecture is pleasant and wrought iron is beautiful (almost "New Orleans" level). You can find an edible meal with live music for lunch and supper. The walking tour was a bit rough on my 83 yr old father and after being shown the 5th city square/plaza, he was spent. I enjoyed the Craft/Souvenir market though most of the wares were not too exciting, the market itself is an experience. Must See's: Fusterlandia house (buy a tile if you can), Havana's art museum (no photos at all allowed), and the Cabana evening show (extra excursion). The cabana show was PG rated, but I don't think children are allowed.. the dancers were amazing and the band was as good as any US big band of old. Old cars with new engines are everywhere, we didn't take a ride as the coach had already shown us the same sights. Havana is worth experiencing and I feel like I just got a small taste of a complex, tragic, lovely city. 1 day in Cienfuegos Cienfuegos looks to be a resort town that has seen better days. We were given a bit of a song-and-dance about the government-provided pharmacy, food markets, dry goods, etc. We were again treated to a pleasant town square (which would be a good place to purchase cigars and rum, had I waited). We also were shown a city theatre building for what seemed like no reason. Must Sees: We were driven out to see a restaurant called palacio del valle that was picturesque. Finally, we hit 3 artistic spots, two of them that are worthy of leaving some money at...the most salient being the Graphical Society of Cienfuegos (works with down's syndrome artists). Crew and services First know that this ship employs MANY native Cubans, and they are rightfully proud of that. The crew on board the ship were friendly and helpful. I was happy with their efforts to keep things clean and to care for passengers. I purchased the full drink package. Drink and food service was very good. I never went hungry or thirsty. I did find that pleading for water bottles wasn't the most fun experience, especially if I wanted a few extra for excursions. I eventually resorted to filling up a thermos from the workout room's large water cooler. Stateroom was well-kept by maid service with towel folding art. The massage that I had was good-not-great. Meal service was great, the waitstaff were attentive, friendly, and well-informed about the options. I felt disturbingly guilty retiring in the evenings to a good meal after having seen the conditions in Cuba. Note that the ship's mixed drinks were not particularly liberal with the alcohol, but I could have as many as I wanted. The administrative staff at reception and excursion desks were also reasonably helpful. Cabin and amenities The ship is old and it shows. We did not have a good time with shower temperature. Additionally, having been on a newish RC ship with shower doors, the shower curtain clinging to my body was not pleasant. The soap and tray placement in the shower did not help things. Eventually I ended up showering in halves with one foot out. Other than that, the bathroom was as reasonable as any other on a ship, yet still old. Hint: take a shower at the gym/spa for some elbow room. The beds were twins/bunks with older electrical fixtures, but adequate. Cabin electricity was present, along with a reasonable closet, plenty of shelves, some drawers, and under-bunk storage. really only complaint about cabin was shower/watertemp. The pool was smallish for a ship and very few people used it, I did not. The hot tub appeared reasonable too. Though it was small, I did see people using it. Comments were that it was not particularly hot, but still acceptable. The casino was all electronic and was pretty empty throughout the cruise. The library was also empty. Decks and deck chairs were good. My phone (ATT) did get ATT at sea, but the other party could not hear me. Internet was not great, but it was available, I did not try it. Additionally, the internet area was near the smoking area, so some 2nd hand wafted over. One night, outdoors, I did clearly smell marijuana; this is not surprising as the ship sails from Jamaica. I am not sure if it was coming from passengers or crew, nor am I sure of the ship's policy on that as it is becoming acceptable in the USA in places. Entertainment etc. The "shows" were not good. Each night, was the same performers dancing and singing, and synchronization among dancers was not good. The band was also pretty weak. Intonation would be something that the singer and the sax player could learn. Thankfully, the shows were short (45 mins) and they all included scantily clad women so I was at least distracted from the performance. A few people would go up to the disco/karaoke bar later at night, but it was not exactly crowded either. There were also a few lounge-act type singers and a classical pianist. Some small classes which I'd say more like interactive "demos" were available such as food carving and napkin folding, and towel folding. Additionally some cuban dance and cooking demos. They seemed well enough for the at-sea days. In contrast with the dance/music shows, the ship had a cuban expert, a mid-30s PhD in Cuban history who was excellent. I cannot say enough good words about him. He gave daily lectures. He explained the history of how Cuba got to where it is today. He taught me much about Cuba and her international relations that I did not know prior to the cruise. Unlike the excursion tour guides, he was happy to answer ANY question, including difficult ones such as "Cuba gives every citizen a food ration card, but can the citizen actually turn that ration card into food?" His contribution made this trip very worthwhile. He joked that on one side he was being bugged by the CIA and on the other by the Cuban military; he presented Cuba in a good light with a balanced view. Other/leftovers: The excursions for US citizens are NOT resort-type excursions, do not expect to swim with dolphins, snorkel at a reef, or relax on a beach with umbrella-drinks at your demand. The excursions are primarily intended to be educational with a bit of tourist shopping, and for the most part, they were. On the excursions, do not expect any discussion about the missile crisis or GTMO. The shipboard "view" of GTMO was after dark and pretty far away, but it was lit up. Remember that GTMO is a huge military base and only a small part of it is the infamous prison. A family that had relatives in Cuba was able to visit them, and that family left all sorts of goods with the relatives, OTC meds, towels, shoes, t-shirts, extra CUCs, etc, if you are in a similar spot, you may want to do that. The economic situation is complex and troubling. It isn't as bad as Juarez with beggars on the street, but still difficult to see with our western lens, the tour guides and waiters earn more then the MDs. You may only exchange money at the ports, everyone says to bring Euro or CAD rather than USD, and I can agree with that, a few vendors accept USD and there is a premium for USD exchange to CUC. Do not expect an ATM or credit card acceptance. This trip had few teenagers or families or 20-somethings. It was adults and seniors. Spend the $12 at reception and schedule a bridge tour, it's worthwhile. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2017
Wanted to see Cuba without a lot of hassle and long bus trips so chose a 7 day cruise which included 3 Cuban ports. (Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago) Some of the entrance channels are narrow and shallow which will prevent larger ships from ... Read More
Wanted to see Cuba without a lot of hassle and long bus trips so chose a 7 day cruise which included 3 Cuban ports. (Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago) Some of the entrance channels are narrow and shallow which will prevent larger ships from stopping at these ports. In fact leaving Cienfuegos the ship was causing mud and sand in its wake as the water was so shallow and the channel appeared no more than a couple of hundred yar ds wide. I would rate the cruise overall as excellent. The included tours were very good on nearly new high quality air conditioned buses with restrooms. (Chinese). The food was of a wide variety and very good. US citizens on the ship were in a minority with many French, German and Canadians. The crew and service was outstanding. Our cabin was kept in immaculate condition by our Ukrainian and Uzbeckisani cabin attendants. The ship is older and small by todays standards but has recently been refurbished and is in excellent condition. Our tour was advertised as a People to People tour as per US requirements. There were numerous and informative programs to meet these provisions at which attendance was invited and encouraged but never required. Dress was casual and a jacket and tie is not required. The all inclusive drink package was included in our price and it is a very good program. The nightly shows were very good. Highly recommended Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
I chose this ship as an easy way to visit large areas of Cuba on a US approved people to people program. The company really covered every aspect of Cuban culture from Cuban staff, Cuban professor on board, Cuban food specialties on the ... Read More
I chose this ship as an easy way to visit large areas of Cuba on a US approved people to people program. The company really covered every aspect of Cuban culture from Cuban staff, Cuban professor on board, Cuban food specialties on the menus, Cuban music, dance lessons, a wonderful Cuban entertainment company, films, lectures, demonstrations, tours and drinks. The programs were at a high level, well organized and well done. The food was mostly very good to excellent and certainly abounding. The cabin was lovely even for an inside space and it never felt cramped with the tv turned on to the bridge so one could see the weather outside and follow the map of where were were. I loved it. My only criticism is of the internet service on board. It is not only spotty but expensive and very difficult to use. More time is used up trying to log on or log off than is actually used on line. A very small criticism compared to a wonderful experience over-all Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
I was the Group Leader for 18 USA passengers on a People to People tour to Cuba in early January 2017. Most were between 60 and 75 years old. We selected cruising, in part to avoid long, cramped bus rides which would otherwise be needed ... Read More
I was the Group Leader for 18 USA passengers on a People to People tour to Cuba in early January 2017. Most were between 60 and 75 years old. We selected cruising, in part to avoid long, cramped bus rides which would otherwise be needed to see much of Cuba over a week. Celestyal represented we would have stops in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Punta Frances, and Cienfuegos with their voyage beginning and ending in Montego Bay Jamaica. Once aboard we learned from other passengers (not Celestyal) that Punta Frances had been deleted from the itinerary. Travel there had evidentially been prohibited by the Cuban government months earlier but no advance notice was given to me or members of my group. The company still falsely represents on their website that it is included as part of the trip. Then, the evening we sailed from Montego Bay to Santiago de Cuba, a crew member advised one of my group that it was unlikely we would go to Havana. it was, however, only after departing from Santiago that the ship advised that "technical reasons" linked to bad weather on the north coast of Cuba would preclude our ability to dock in Havana. We were advised that instead we would spend the balance of our trip at the port of Cienfuegos. So much for cruising! The solution Celestyal felt appropriate was to arrange 2 days of bus trips from Cienfuegos to Havana (8 hours of round trip travel time each day) in a bus without a working toilet. They also arranged a bus trip (3 hours round trip and again no working toilet) to the colonial city of Trinidad. The excursion included a welcome drink, a lunch, and a visit to one museum. No offer was made to compensate passengers for the meager, physically challenging, and educationally devoid substitute itineraries offered to replace the cruise we signed up and paid for. All of this said, the ship itself was clean and comfortable, the food was acceptable, and most of the crew did their best to make the best of a bad situation. I attribute the universal belief of my group (and almost certainly the balance of passangers) that they were grossly shortchanged by Celestyal to poor decision-making by company's senior decision-makers and owners. Passengers never did receive a complete and plausible explanation of w docking in Havana (the reason most had come on the voyage to begin with) was not possible. The alternative arrangements offered were worthless. And continuing to advertise an itinerary that includes Punta Frances ought to be illegal if there is no possibility of stopping there. he senior management of Celestyal was tested and found to be lacking. Future visitors to Cuba...forewarned is forearmed. A fish begins to stink at the head and 18 of us just spent a week holding our noses. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
There was a group of 18 of us from the US who wanted to see Cuba before it changes too much. I can remember when I was a little girl and Castro took over. For half a century, we couldn't go to Cuba and it was very isolated. Now ... Read More
There was a group of 18 of us from the US who wanted to see Cuba before it changes too much. I can remember when I was a little girl and Castro took over. For half a century, we couldn't go to Cuba and it was very isolated. Now it's open and it will change quickly. I was pleased that it was a small cruise ship and even more pleased that it wasn't near filled up, resulting in fewer lines and more seating. Our cabin was clean and very well maintained. The food was OK, but not outstanding. We preferred eating at the buffet because there were more options. We didn't have to let them know immediately what we wanted for an appetizer, main course and dessert. Once they found out, the food was brought quickly. I'm a very slow eater and the formal dining room made things happen too fast for me. Because the ship didn't go to Punta Frances or Havana, it wasn't near the experience I had been hoping for. I do understand that the Celestyal had known about not being able to dock at Punta Frances months prior to our cruise, but they had not given any of us that information prior to the cruise. When I found we couldn't go to Havana, but they had arranged bus trips for 2 different days, I thought I'd wait to see how things went the first day before deciding to go on the second day. I heard from some that they were on the bus for 4 hours in each direction, while other told me it was more like 4 1/2 hours in each direction and with a toilet that didn't work. No thanks -- I'll pass. I also heard that the bus returned after dark and that some of the trucks on the road didn't have lights. Also, there are a lot of horse carts on the roads. That's just an accident waiting to happen. Again, no thanks ! ! ! The theater was charming and I enjoyed the seating arrangements. The shows were fine, but I feel those long suspended pieces of material on which they did acrobatic stunts were used too often. The music in the lounge/bar area around cocktail time was always very sad. They had a female piano player and a female violinist. I just don't know why they always felt as though they had to play such slow, sad music -- I just stopped going there. The casino is a joke -- there are 25 various machines to play. I never saw even one passenger in there. Also, I never saw even one person in the swimming pool. Usually it was "closed," but even during the rare moments when it was open, no one used it. I'm retired from Delta Air Lines Sales & Marketing and I used to take travel agents on trips around the world. I can't even remember how many cruises I've been on -- for business and for my own personal pleasure. This was certainly a cruise I won't forget -- the cruise that sorta went nowhere. I'm just sooooo happy we had such a great group of friends. That ended up making it wonderful. I was also very happy to see first hand how happy and friendly the Cuban people are. It was a very pleasant surprise. I didn't know what to expect, but that made me very happy. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We choose the cruise because it was essentially the only way we could see Cuba in a family group. That said, we got to see much less of Cuba and much more of the cruise than we hoped. This was through no fault of the cruise however. We ... Read More
We choose the cruise because it was essentially the only way we could see Cuba in a family group. That said, we got to see much less of Cuba and much more of the cruise than we hoped. This was through no fault of the cruise however. We were supposed to spend an afternoon at a snorkle beach (something like Punta Frances) and the Cuban government closed the port so we spent an extra day at sea. We also got into Havana 3 hours later than expected so we did not get to walk around much there either. That said, the cruise did a very nice job attempting to keep us entertained. I cannot say enough about the amazing and sweet percussionist from the Buena Vista Social club named Lazaro. Be sure to visit with him - he will give you lessons! Also loved the band leader Nidia who plays bass and sings like an angel. I got a kick out of the performers who put together some very respectable shows with multiple props and costume changes considering how challenging their acts let alone on a swaying stage. I would also suggest you go to the cooking demonstrations - both Cuban cooks were a delight. The restaurants are way better than the buffet. We loved our waiters - a delightful team from Indonesia - Wayan. They also performed in an incredible crew talent show that they must repeat if possible.I also got a kick out of the dance lessons. Another nice feature were the on board lectures (for example about rum or cigars or music) and films about Cuba they showed. All of the staff was very sweet and our chamber maid was lovely - Dunia also from Cuba. Our kids (ages 6-13) liked the entertainment - the crew was very nice with them playing Wii and teaching them napkin folding, paper flower making, and fruit carving. Mahelys spent time entertaining my daughter and making a souvenir book with her. We liked our excursions to see 2 Cuban cities but again, would have benefited from spending more time on shore and less time on board. Also our toilet was not functioning optimally but the rest of the cabin was fine. Daniel the cruise director was super organized and helpful. Ultimately, it was a very nice family get together with some fantastic music and art on the side. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We had planned this cruise for 10 months prior as a Christmas trip with 6 of our good friends and stayed two days in Montego Bay, Jamaica before embarking at the Port there. I had never been on a cruise before and I have to say my ... Read More
We had planned this cruise for 10 months prior as a Christmas trip with 6 of our good friends and stayed two days in Montego Bay, Jamaica before embarking at the Port there. I had never been on a cruise before and I have to say my expectations were greatly exceeded as I had the most amazing time . My husband and I had a balcony cabin, which was spacious enough for the two of us , and we were lucky enough to get adjoining balconies to our friends . The cabin was spotless, well maintained and very comfortable . Our house keepers Angela and Adrian were so lovely and couldn't have been more helpful and welcoming. It was a treat to come back to the cabin at nights with a turned down bed and the folded towels and chocolates !! I felt very spoilt ! The entertainment staff Martha, Danny and most of all our lad Vladimir were on the ball and so full of life and lots of fun, it was hard keeping up with them ! They truly made the "Team" Mohammad in the main restaurant was so lovely and friendly , and became part of the family as did Vladimir in Entertainment ! All the staff we came upon from front desk, to duty free, to bar tenders, to crew members, to the wonderful chefs , each and everyone of them did an AMAZING job during our time onboard and we felt very sad to leave as we had, had a truly fantastic time and felt they had become our friends ! The food was yummy, both in the Restaurant and buffet area with an array of different dishes. We never went hungry. We did the all inclusive drinks package which was well worth it , hopefully we didn't drink the ship dry !! The shows in The Muses Lounge area in the evening were fabulous and the dancers and singers are so very talented, we made sure we were there every night to join in the fun. Cuba was beautiful and our excursions were well worth the money, which were included. The tour guides were fabulous also . Overall the whole cruise was well worth the money and so glad we chose this Christmas vacation. Everyone in our group had a truly fabulous time. We would definatly return to Cuba but most of all we would definatly return on The Celeystal Crystal. Thank you for such a memorable trip . Your Bermuda Friends Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We just returned from Cuba. The reviews of the ship were "iffy" Not true, the ship was great. Very clean, our cabin was fine. The shower was very, very small. Our air was just o.k.. Mohammed in the dining room was amazing. He ... Read More
We just returned from Cuba. The reviews of the ship were "iffy" Not true, the ship was great. Very clean, our cabin was fine. The shower was very, very small. Our air was just o.k.. Mohammed in the dining room was amazing. He did gluten free for me daily. The beverage package is well worth it. One woman in the pool complained about the food. The people in Cuba have a bare subsistence. Please don't be the "ugly American". The lectures were very good, don't miss them. Take a good book for the sea date as there is not much to do other than the lectures unless you like folding napkins. We booked with "Legendary Journeys" Tammy was are tour guide (she was nonexistent) We did hook up with a Friendly Planet Guide who was great. Legendary said they would pay the 95 dollar fee.They did not. Also, we booked a trip to Trinidad (not to be missed) There were 10 English Speaking guests and the rest German. The night before the morning tour we were told that there would be two separate buses. When we got on the tour they said it would be bi-lingual. The guide was excellent but this was problemetic as we were past the site she pointed out by the time she translated to English. The same was true in the square as she did German first for 20 minutes then let them explore for 30 min, by the time she did English we only had ten minutes.to explore. We asked for a partial refund but were told no. I would recommend this tour to anyone. There were different groups coming and going all the time. Rhodes Scholars used Celestial Some guests got on in Havana and off in Havana some as we did in Jamaica. The Tropicana can be skipped. Great costumes but no substance. Not very good voices. The ships local entertainment is great. The funeral procession went right past where our ship was docked Happy Helen Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
The first part of this was posted on the message boards. I've added many more details here (scroll down to "more observations") Well unfortunately for us, Fidel died the night before we arrived in Cuba, which totally ... Read More
The first part of this was posted on the message boards. I've added many more details here (scroll down to "more observations") Well unfortunately for us, Fidel died the night before we arrived in Cuba, which totally altered the tone of the entire trip. All the music was cancelled on shore, and numerous restaurants and bars were shuttered. The country was in mourning for 9 days so our shore excursions had to be revised in many instances. For example we couldn't get anywhere near Revolutionary Square in Havana due to Fidel's ashes there, with thousands of people lined up to sign the book and write their last respects. As for Celestyal Crystal itself, a couple of really big changes in the itinerary, which they relayed to us at the last possible minute. We were supposed to sail out of Havana on the second day at 5pm, but this was changed to 1pm, so we lost the afternoon there. Not sure where the blame lies, but as we sailed out of the harbor, we passed an MSC ship, waiting to take our berth, so someone (harbor master? Celestyal?) screwed up with the port schedule. Then we were told that we wouldn't be stopping at Port Francis, due to the govt. banning ships from anchoring on the coral. We learned that it was also cancelled (again at the last minute) the week before. So I suggest you leave the snorkel equipment at home and save your space for more clothing in your suitcase. I'd be surprised if the Govt is going to reverse this policy, and I'm curious to see how long it'll take Celestyal to delete it from the itinerary. Food left a lot to be desired. They either need to buy sharper steak knives, or quit putting any kind of beef on the menu. Multiple disappointments with overcooked, tough meat. And cook the pork please! We did the buffet mostly for lunch and loaded up on salads. Would have loved a nice cup of soup, but they rarely had hot soups (cold cucumber, or chilled mango etc). They did have hot consomme a couple of times which we doctored up with a few croutons from the salad bar. Check out by the pool for a cooking station. Omelets and french toast out there for breakfast; variety of stuff for lunch, like tacos etc. We didn't find it until the 3rd day on board. Dining room on the 5th deck was closed due to the ship having less than 800 passengers. All inclusive drink package (alcohol) was absolutely worth getting. No need to upgrade to the premium package. Included were Absolut, Johnnie Walker Red, Drambuie, Brandy, Frozen drinks, etc. House wine was actually good. You can't just walk up to any bar and order a drink; you have to order from the wait staff...couldn't figure out why this was. The staff (with the exception of the front desk people who had quite the attitude) were fantastic, from the wait staff to the room stewards. The entertainers were very good, however, it was the same people every single night and it was somewhat repetitive after awhile. Cruise director Danny was great, but hearing the same speech in 4 or 5 languages is time-consuming and annoying: English, German, French, Spanish. Wifi was surprisingly good, best wherever you have a Cisco router mounted on the wall. Look for them. We took 3 hrs for $18, which was plenty for us to check email etc. Ship interior is a little worn, she's quite old after all, but she sails beautifully. MORE OBSERVATIONS: Dining: No food available between meals, although there is a menu in the lounges which has items (burgers, pizza etc) you can PAY for, but not sure if you can order all the time. Main dining room: No more assigned seatings with specific times. However it is not conducive to open seating. It has mostly large rectangular tables seating 8+ people and they don't try to seat you with people who speak your language. They do have limited tables for 2, which you can request, however you may have to wait quite awhile to be seated. (Worth the wait in my opinion...they do let you sit in the adjoining Eros lounge and will call you). The main dining room also features items you can pay for: steak, lobster tails, etc. We did have the tails and they were excellent; $18 for one large tail. As I said above, the quality of food on the regular menu left a lot to be desired. Meats all very over cooked (lamb, beef) except for pork, which was nearly raw. Risotto was so undercooked it actually crunched! Waiters limited English doesn't help. We asked one to translate the description of the risotto, and he said it was with asparagus ...it turned out to be broccoli. At the buffet, the bacon started out VERY undercooked the first day; after that it was so overcooked you could barely chew it (too many times reheating perhaps?). Cabin: I can only comment on ours which was a Cat. XC on the 3rd deck. The window was a nice size, and nearly took up the entire outer wall....this will give you an idea of how NARROW this cabin was. A bed on either side against the wall with small night stand between them. Bed lamps were mounted so low on the wall next to the bed, that everytime you turned over during the night, you're arm would smack the lampshade (making so much noise it woke you up). Ridiculous set-up. Beds were VERY narrow and had a permanent gulley in the center, which you sort of fell into and stayed there for the whole night. Not enough room under the bed to stow a full size piece of luggage, but there were 2 big closets and you could stand the suitcase upright in one and thankfully it fit just fine (after moving the life vests elsewhere). Very limited drawer space. Safe deposit box easy to use and the fridge worked well (no mini bar in ours). Be aware that the bottles of water in the room are NOT included in the drink packages..if you use, you pay. Better to order your bottled water at the bar and stock up your room. There is only one outlet located over the desk. Bring a gang plug if you need to charge more than one item. The hair dryer is also here but uses a different plug, however they have screwed the wire onto the top of the desk so you can't steal it (not that you'd want to). Whether you use it or not, it takes up desk space all the time. A wall-mount would have made more sense. Don't plan on watching much TV. Limited channel selection and for news, only CNN with a lot of rerun segments. They should upgrade the ship map....the size of the ship icon on the screen makes it look like it's as big as the Isle of Youth, so it's hard to tell exactly where you actually are. The video on the live web-cam channel is very poor quality. Bathroom: On the plus side, there are lots of shelves for storage and a hand-held shower with a strong spray and ample hot water. However, the shower curtain was very worn with many of the top clips missing, making it easy to flood the whole bathroom floor. Try to organize your curtain as best as you can before turning on the water. We used a lot of towels soaking up the floods. They do supply liquid soap and shampoo dispensers. Be aware that the tiles in the shower become very slippery once the soap hits. By the way, we never had an issue with the tissue in the toilets. Pool: A small pool is located on the 8th deck completely surrounded by tables and chairs under a retractable roof, which was never opened all the way, in spite of great weather. The lounges were all located on the 9th sundeck. So when you got hot sitting in your lounge chair, you had to take the elevator down a deck to take a dip, and then go back up to lay out in the sun. The hot tub is located on the 5th deck aft.....also surrounded by tables and chairs, no lounges. This area is partially under a roof, so there's lots of shade (for all those people getting skin cancer....and there are many). The portside half is smoking, and starboard is non. There's a small bar (Thalassa) where you can order a cup of coffee early in the morning and sit and enjoy the fresh air. They did have danish/muffins at the bar sometimes as well. This was our favorite place to sit on the ship; very quiet and relaxing and the hot tub was usually empty. Public Areas: The theater (called the Muses Lounge) is very attractive but very impractical. Visibility from most of the seating is terrible and if anyone is in front of you, you can't see the stage. Also, there are not nearly enough seats. Our sailing had under 800 people and it could never accommodate all of them....since they only had one show per night (at 9pm). Many people left when they couldn't find a seat. There is a balcony, also laid out so that only the front row can see the stage. The seats behind were elevated, but not enough to be able to see over the heads of the first row, so this section was always vacant. As is the case with the theatre seats and tables, the ones in the Eros lounge are also jammed packed together with no aisle space once people pull the chairs out and sit down, making it impossible for the wait staff to take drink orders. Less bulky furniture might be the answer. Looking for the Library? It's a tiny room stuck in the corner of the "conference center" on Deck 8. If you are German-speaking you're in luck....tons of books for you. Other languages are there as well....Spanish, French, Greek, etc with quite a few books. If you're English speaking you'd better load up your iPad or Kindle because there are very few choices available. Elevators are very slow, and there are only 4 of them. They also have weight limits and won't move if you're over (and it doesn't take very many bodies to tip the scale). If you're fit, the stairs are much faster. Especially when there is one out of order, which happened quite frequently. Public announcements are not everywhere. Over 100 people were sitting in the Eros lounge waiting to be called for disembarkation, and never heard the announcements, and many had a plane to catch! In spite of all the above criticism, we really enjoyed the ship and especially the crew (from a multitude of countries), who bent over backwards to give you good service. We would probably sail her again....hopefully when no one in Cuba dies and the music is playing once again in this beautiful country. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
Basically: Cuba has only moderately good roads; passable Chinese buses and long roads and distances. This is why it is fantastic to travel to Cuba by ship. You drive especially in the night and you have time in the day for sightseeing. ... Read More
Basically: Cuba has only moderately good roads; passable Chinese buses and long roads and distances. This is why it is fantastic to travel to Cuba by ship. You drive especially in the night and you have time in the day for sightseeing. The ship, the Celestyal Chrystal is a very good three stars - plus ship. After 41 years of cruising I can say that quite in comparison. If you are looking for a luxury vessel for a reasonable price, this will be difficult. In comparison (from cheap ferry boat to Queen Mary 2 in the "Queens" class I've already done a lot of cruises): great value for money and a nice ship. Pleasantly small; You feel partially "yacht-like". Ship well through and easy to walk through. What more do you want? We had a larger interior cabin (deck 3); It was relatively spacious with enough boxes and a desk. That the bathroom in this class is small, one must know and accept. The TV offers "exterior view" as well as ship and travel information; Unfortunately no outside temperature was displayed Friends were with us and had the newly built suite with balcony (deck 6). Very beautiful! And almost 5-star! In ship evaluations, three weak points were sometimes mentioned: quality of the meat, tightness of the buffet at the pool and long waiting times on "all inclusive" drinks. I can not confirm. Here the shipping company may have reacted: The meat quality is excellent; As at all the food is rich and tasty. There is a breakfast buffet in the restaurant and the top deck café; Lunch restaurant served or top deck buffet cafe; In the evening the same. In reviews it was criticized that the buffet is not 24 hours on duty; I found with these food amounts funny, because afternoon snack is also available! The "narrowness" of the buffet on deck I found not problematic, as it was only once during the trip the buffet as a BBQ outside the pool and the pool was locked. Otherwise, the buffet is at the upper deck inside and you can sit outside or inside and also the bathers have enough space. As for the "all inclusive" drinks, there is now the sun bars waiter, who can help and you can take the drink right away. Incredibly nice ship personnel; Both from the "ships crew", as well as from the restaurant service, bar service, entertainment team. In addition, a first-class professor was on board, who gave interesting lectures in English. The pool: well, adapted to the size. But you do not go on a vessel for swimming. Entertainment: an excellent revue theater on board; All great Cuban artists; Like a small branch of the Tropicana: dancers, singers; Show actors; Liveband etc. 5 different performances in 7 days! Very interesting lectures. The excursions - as always with cruises - quite interesting, although dependent on the quality of the respective guide. Cuba is a friendly and safe country. One can see much, especially In Havana on foot. Many interesting museums; Also the Museo de la Revolucion! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
I personally loved this cruise! The crew were excellent, the entertainment was great, the excursions were great too. I loved everything about the cruise. We had an Olive Oil thematic. This meant a few interesting presentations by an ... Read More
I personally loved this cruise! The crew were excellent, the entertainment was great, the excursions were great too. I loved everything about the cruise. We had an Olive Oil thematic. This meant a few interesting presentations by an olive oil expert (GAEA) , a food blogger (https://www.facebook.com/cookandfeel.gr/?pnref=lhc) and an archaeologist that worked on olives too. All three were amazing at what they did and it made for an interesting and informative. Of course that also meant food tastings that were excellent. Then every night we had a dance troupe (Cirque Fantastic) that always gave an amazing show, with a different theme every night. I'm not even a fan of these shows but they kept me coming back every night. The excursions were great too. You have a few that you can do without the cruise excursions, and a few that you really need the guide to get the full experience. The crew were very helpful in showing us what what on each excursion so we could make our minds about which to take. The animation crew were just phenomenal, and less obvious but the entire support staff did a wonderful job. The ship is smaller and older that a luxury cruise would offer, but I didn't care much for that, what I remember are the great experiences we had on board and at all the stops. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Cruising the greek waters in summer is always a great pleasure for me.This is classical cruising ald style, when the pleasure of the destinations,the symbiosis with sea and sorrounding nature were paramount.If you want a luxury cruise on a ... Read More
Cruising the greek waters in summer is always a great pleasure for me.This is classical cruising ald style, when the pleasure of the destinations,the symbiosis with sea and sorrounding nature were paramount.If you want a luxury cruise on a superliner or a "sterylized "ambiance don't ever think about booking with Celestyal . If you want an old fashioned ( but clean and updated ) ship and love to experience a classical cruise on Greek islands this is for you.The ambiance is greek, it is exactly as vacationing in a greek island, greek atmosphere,greek music,greek food. In a 7 days cruise you get 10 destinations, the ship is nearly always at pier. And yes, there's also smoking people onboard ( but you can manage not to be disturbed by this,there are separated areas : here EVERYTHING is authentic, as is ashore ). NOTHING is similar to big american style mainstream cruise lines except kindness of the crews ,cleanliness of the ships and freshness of the food ( no,this is much better,everything is embarked fresh in many of the ports visited ) . And nothing is specially geared to american tastes : why it should ? This is Greece, not America ! At least, this is what I enjoy while travelling : the differences ! I want all true American...in America ! Wonderful and enjoyalble cabaret style evening entertainment ( they really exceeded my expectations who were adeguate to ship's style,simple ) and lot of music to dance : in a word, fun ! I was SO happy at the end of the cruise that I already booked same cruise for 2017 : there are so many beaches, so many activities , so many true and authentic experiences that awaits you in these islands that you could easily repeat this cruise every summer . I nearly forgetted has was pleasurable cruising in the 70's,80's etc. on reals ships, not on standardizex condominum-styled Hyatt-like ships. Enjoy. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We wanted to sail the Aegean and visit Istanbul and Ephesus, and this was the perfect cruise. We sailed from Lavrion, which is about a half-hour from Athens Airport. It's far-less crowded than Piraeus, and our embarkation was fast, ... Read More
We wanted to sail the Aegean and visit Istanbul and Ephesus, and this was the perfect cruise. We sailed from Lavrion, which is about a half-hour from Athens Airport. It's far-less crowded than Piraeus, and our embarkation was fast, easy and stress-free. The Crystal is a lovely ship, spotless, with plenty of great open spaces. Our cabin was on the 7th deck, so we had a view! It was small but comfortable and cozy, and the housekeeping staff checked in and put everything in order twice a day - they were absolutely lovely. We enjoyed the food immensely - it was delicious. The buffets were endless and offered plenty of healthy options, and we loved the restaurant, the Amalthia, particularly after a hot active day - it was elegant without being stuffy, and the staff was wonderful, particularly as we usually had an exhausted five-and-a-half year-old with us. As for this particular five-and-a-half year-old, the activities were great (paper flowers, fruit carving), as was the music, both Greek and Latin - he was constantly dancing. The service was impeccable - we felt like royalty, and everyone was fantastic, and genuine, with our son. We did and saw so much, and it was organized and safe. Our stops included Istanbul, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Chios, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete (Agios Nikolaos and Heraklion), Symi (incredible!) and Mykonos. The highlights? Oia in Santorini, Knossos, Old Rhodes, Mykonos Town, Symi and the villages of Mesta and Pyrgi in Chios, hidden spots that astonished everyone on our excursion. Back on board, the gym and sauna were great. Would we go again? Absolutely! Opa. 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
63 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
My wife and I have been on more than 70 cruises and have lived/worked in or visited 108 countries around the world. We are Elite and Diamond Plus Members with several major ocean cruise lines. We have been on several river cruises and ... Read More
My wife and I have been on more than 70 cruises and have lived/worked in or visited 108 countries around the world. We are Elite and Diamond Plus Members with several major ocean cruise lines. We have been on several river cruises and land tours. Our recent voyage on the Celestyal Crystal was surprisingly pleasant. We were traveling with two other couples, and all agreed that the experience on the cruise ship was much better than expected. We thank the staff for their commitment and service. Cabin Accommodations: We had an deluxe outside cabin near mid-ship. Our cabin steward did an excellent job in cleaning the cabin. We experienced a problem with our air conditioning unit on arrival. The problem was addressed immediately. However, the resolution was not as we expected, and the engineers returned to make more adjustments, and the room was much more comfortable. While the cabin was a bit smaller, it was adequate to accommodate the eight-day cruise. The closet space was adequate, but the desk and bathroom were a bit small. Food / Service: The food served onboard was very nice. I prefer VERY spicy dishes that were not available, but there was always a selection that was acceptable. The selections were limited, but there was something that our small group of six found appealing and acceptable. We received EXCELLENT service at our dinner table from I Deket and at our morning buffet from Vinen. They were exceptional in managing our dining table and the buffet bar. Bar / Service: We had an unusual bar package that was arranged by our tour operator (Legendary Journeys). For a single fee, pre-paid before boarding, we were able to have unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (including coffee drinks) throughout the cruise. This option was a fantastic bargain for our small group of six: we had cappuccino and espresso in the morning, a beer in the afternoon and a few glasses of wine in the evening - a great bargain. All service personnel were excellent. However, two bar service personnel were outstanding: Alberto (Cuba) in the dining room was very responsive, and Maya (Ukraine) in the bar was especially friendly and efficient. If you meet them on board, I recommend you reach out to them for services. Internet: Both my wife and I signed up for 3-hours o internet connectivity at a price of $24 each. That was a great bargain for the 8-day cruise. I actually left 30 minutes unused on disembarkation. The speed was excellent, and I had little problem connecting to all my sources. The reception was very helpful in sharing instructions on how to sign-up for the service, log in and logout of the internet service. While I have 110Mb down at my home, the speed of the internet onboard was quite acceptable. Reception: I do not often comment on my interaction with the Reception / Purser Desk, but I have to say that Oana Rosu (Ukraine) was the most valuable staff member I met onboard the Celestyal Crystal. She was ALWAYS responsive to my inquires and accurate in guiding my actions. Oana’s commitment was quite obvious. It was her help that I will be most thankful and remember the Crystal Cruise Line. I think you will all the Reception Desk staff to be helpful, but Oana has a special commitment to helping passengers. Entertainment: There were many opportunities to stay for shows in the evening, and we did stay for several. Most often, we do not find the shows to be very interesting. However, the ship performers were committed to demonstrating some of the Cuban dance and song. They did a very fine job, and we enjoyed the shows we attended. Tours / Briefings: Our tours were arranged through the People-To-People Program. In most cases, we were very pleased with all tours and tour guides. It was the first opportunity to revisit some of the history from our young adult life. The tour guides in Santiago de Cuba, and Havana did a fantastic job reflecting on the history of the events of each location. The briefings we received from Jorge, a university professor were especially interesting and insightful. He was candid in speaking about the past and frank about the challenges of the future of the Cuban people. We truly enjoyed his presentations. Summary: Evaluate your expectation. If you want to see a Cuba that is emerging from the impact of a socialist economy - hurry, it is changing. If you want to see a Cuba of transition, wait another five years to arrange a visit. If you expect to see a fully restored relationship with America, wait ten years to visit Cuba after restoration is well underway. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
This tiny ship could be a small jewel---it is not. A sunken ferry, ra1sed and refurbished, the very small state rooms remain with the single beds joined into one. With no guard rails nor T-bar [to fit between the two mattress] the ... Read More
This tiny ship could be a small jewel---it is not. A sunken ferry, ra1sed and refurbished, the very small state rooms remain with the single beds joined into one. With no guard rails nor T-bar [to fit between the two mattress] the mattress separate, especially in turbulence, leaving a 4-5inch gap, making spooning with your spouse impossible. The cruise is made semi-successful by a wonderful crew [the arrogant Captain who crashed us into the Havana dock excepted]. The international staff was attentive and can not be praised enough. The food quality was appalling. Out of approx 100 servings between my wife and myself, only 3 were palatable [the lamb shank, the pasta carbonara, and the roasted Canadian bacon]. Most meat was mystery meat of uncertain origin. Even the hamburgers were at least 40% soymeal in the best scenario, 40% sawdust in the worst. At every corner you were nickeled and dimed --even pizza cost extra. Drink packages were required, even if you don't drink; the wine was of the lowest Greek quality. As a final blow, at least 50% of the passengers were ill at disembarkation. It was apparently not Noro virus but caused many trips to the infirmary. For $203 dollars, you received a CBC, flu test, exam and placebo meds. What a deal!! The PTP excursions were led by enthusiastic and well-educated guides. Most started early [8:30 AM] but then actually began after an hour of waiting, often on hard concrete. The Cuban people we met were personable but could not hide the misery and poverty in which they live. The largest portion of Havana is slums with poor water and sewage systems; the other cities are similar. So we do not expect to return to Cuba. If we do, it certainly will not be on this cruise line. Read Less
61 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
I read various cruise reviews and sometimes wonder how perceptions can be so different. Having made 250+ cruises over the past 50 years, and now in retirement spending 6 mo a year "at sea", I wonder how other passengers can get ... Read More
I read various cruise reviews and sometimes wonder how perceptions can be so different. Having made 250+ cruises over the past 50 years, and now in retirement spending 6 mo a year "at sea", I wonder how other passengers can get so upset about very little things and let them affect their entire perspective of the trip. Celelstyal Crystal is one of three older ships in the Celestyal fleet, a brand name of Louis Cruise Line, a long time provider of short Mediterrean cruises. In the winter they now operate this ship to/fm Cuba under a sub agency, Your Cuba Cruises, based in Canada, which provides a People to People option, thus allowing Americans to participate without violating current US restrictions. The ship was actually built in 1980 as a Baltic Sea Ferry for Viking Line, was rebuilt in 1992 as a full cruise ship which has been marketed since then under many lines and names, including as the Leeward for NCL some years ago. Today it is a 'modern" small (25,000 ton) ship holding for these cruises about 800 pax. Note that only "small" cruise ships can enter Santiago and Cienfuegos Cuba due to their narrow harbors. Complying with special requirements for Americans is easy, and well explained on the Your Cuba Cruise website. Membership in an approved "People to People" program is required, membership easily accomplished in return for a $95 "charitable donation", and a program of lectures aboard, along with excellent tours ashore with knowledgeable guides etc. is provided and required - although no one "took attendance". Americans sailing on main stream cruise lines do so mainly on ships that are marketed as the "destination", especially RCI, Carnival, NCL ships etc., with port calls etc. in the Caribbean almost an after thought This is not the case here. Here the sightseeing is paramount. For instance - If I go to "see" a city in the US or abroad, the sightseeing is primary, and my hotel is secondary. This is what a pax on this trip needs to keep in mind - the tour is paramount, the accommodations (hotel, or in this case the ship) secondary. I respectfully suggest that you keep that in mind when evaluating Celestyal Crystal. Aboard - the ship is modern, rooms adequately sized (but bathrooms are so small as to make RCI baths seem huge), food is better than RCI, not as good as Carnival, but meat is very poor quality. Menu is very "Cuban" flavored, and much of dining room staff are Cuban nationals. Laundry prices are 1/3 of US based ships, NO service charges are assessed. Fares for Americans are all inclusive - tours, lectures, full beverage package, all gratuities, Cuban Health Insurance, Visa fees etc. all included. You never hear a "word" about leaving extra gratuities, nor constant appeals to "come and spend" as on US main stream ships. NOTE - much is made of the policy aboard of depositing NOTHING in the line of paper etc. in the toilets and a small garbage type can is provided for used toilet paper. The ship is old, and the vacuum toilet system doesn't seem to have much suction, thus leading to frequent clogs. Personally I found that by flushing "frequently" as I did my "business" that the system worked fine, I never used the garbage can provided, and I had no toilet problems. Also in the European style found in non-American brand hotels abroad - no wash cloths are provided. If you want one, bring one. The ship was most hospitable in every way and on the last day those who had late flights were invited to return, use the ship facilities, have lunch etc. after going through Immigration and checking their luggage in the terminal Try that in Miami, Ft Lauderdale etc.!!! NOTE - that lecturers aboard, all from the University of Havana, as well as tour guides etc. always presented things with a very pro-Cuba slant, a very anti US slant. The same is true of evening "shows" etc. Philosophy seems to be that everything bad that has ever happened to Cuba, is the result of US interference. People are very welcoming to Americans and have great expectations about how their lives will improve when Americans are allowed free access to Cuba. Havana was "overrun" with tourists - German, French, Italian, Canadian etc. so they are well used to "tourists" and "tourist" prices are rising quickly as a result For example - a Cuban doctor is paid about 50 CUC's a month (roughly equivalent to US $50), but a short cyclo taxi ride in Havana is $5 for a tourist. It doesn't take long for the "locals" to "catch on"!!! I had a wonderful trip, and enjoyed everything aboard Crystal and ashore. Could I have found things to complain about, of course - for example poor quality meat in DR, but does a few small "quibbles" ruin a trip - of course not - look at the big picture. This trip was a wonderful opportunity to see Cuba "before" it all changes with unlimited American travel, which as it has in so many areas e.g. Caribbean islands, ruined the local experience and transformed the economy into one completely dependent on tourists, e.g. Bahamas, Jamaica etc. Such transformations are not, in my opinion, for the betterment of the "locals". Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
Took this cruise to go to Cuba as part of the People2People program. The boat is very small compared to other cruise ships I've experienced. Not good for children...the empty the pool everyday...during deck activities (very ... Read More
Took this cruise to go to Cuba as part of the People2People program. The boat is very small compared to other cruise ships I've experienced. Not good for children...the empty the pool everyday...during deck activities (very intrusive and disruptive) The food was just nourishment..though the Exec Chef Charles and Dwayne at the carving station were friendly and listened to our complaints...but overall the food wasn't great. You won't gain any weight on this cruise. Unlike most cruises, food IS NOT available all day...food is only available during meal periods..and ice cream on the deck is an extra expense(not part of the package)...how bizarre. Room service is not included either...you would think it would be since food isn't available all day...but nope! MARTHA is the life of the ship...she's a ball of energy and she develops a relationship with the guests. Everyone knew her name and had good things to say about her. She was fun and well liked by our group. MATHELYS the lady that handles the karaoke was liked until....she advertised that the winner of karaoke would win a cruise..but when the person with the highest score asked about the prize..she gave them a coupon for a free drink...which was useless because the person had the alcohol package already. She shouldn't advertise a prize she can't offer. The excursions we participated in were great not sure if they were organized by the ship or People2People..the only issue was our guide in Havana, Johnnie, he's too busy talking about the celebrities he's met rather than sharing information about Havana...we got more information about landmarks from the horse carriage driver we took than our tour guide Johnnie. THE TROPICANA EXCURSION WAS A DISASTER. We booked with the ship not P2P..we paid $149 but received the 75CUC ($75) offer once we got there...we had to sit in a very undesirable seat and they refused to move us without us paying extra. We had to turn our heads to see the show and after about 20 minutes our necks hurt and we stopped watching. Very disappointing experience...We were told that dinner would be provided...no way...and the 1/4 rum does not mean a bottle per person so don't expect a personal bottle..the bottle is to be shared with the other 4 people at the table Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
First time to Cuba. I strongly recommend this cruise to everyone! Very nice experience. The ports of call (check yourcubacruise.com) were outstanding. Weather was fantastic. Best music and entertainment on the ship and in Havana. ... Read More
First time to Cuba. I strongly recommend this cruise to everyone! Very nice experience. The ports of call (check yourcubacruise.com) were outstanding. Weather was fantastic. Best music and entertainment on the ship and in Havana. We went to a night club, Buena Vista Social Club, the best experience, ever! Martha (the entertainment manager) and the cruise director, Danny, were terrific. The entertaining crew were everywhere, engaging people. I hope I find them both there when we go back in March 2017. It was so good, we plan to go again in March next year! We embarked in Montego Bay. We stayed 3 days in Montego Bay before the cruise, we used Clive transport for transportation and trip to Mayfield Falls, which was unforgettable. We plan to embark in Havana next time, and spend few days there. The only bad feeling I have for the next cruise is that the cruise line eliminated the Maria la Gorda stop. That place was very, very nice for the beach and snorkeling excursion. 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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