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78 Celestyal Cruises Cuba Cruise Reviews

Going to Cuba has been a life-long dream of mine, which I realized this past February onboard Celestyal Crystal. I did lots of research on here which helped with my decision. I hope my long review helps some of you! This was my 30th ... Read More
Going to Cuba has been a life-long dream of mine, which I realized this past February onboard Celestyal Crystal. I did lots of research on here which helped with my decision. I hope my long review helps some of you! This was my 30th cruise, and I will admit that I am a big fan of smaller, more traditional ships. The Celestyal Crystal was perfectly-sized for the smaller ports of call in Cuba such as Santiago and Cienfuegos. I consider this less a mainstream cruise than a casual learning experience with like-minded passengers. Unlike the Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean ships that are now starting to visit Havana, this wasn't about a fun-and sun vacation and quite frankly I was glad to be there just ahead of the cruise ship invasion. While this is sold as a "5-star ship" it is clearly not; it is a comfortable, unassuming vessel which I became quite fond of but will not appeal to everyone. You can either board the ship in Havana, or in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I opted for Jamaica mostly because by doing so, there is more time for you to enjoy in Havana as a passenger, versus boarding the ship in Havana and losing a significant part of the overnight stay. I will also point out that on our sailing the guests embarking in Havana did not get to embark until probably 9pm...meaning the whole day that we had just enjoyed in Havana was a waste to them. Additionally, Montego Bay has an excellent airport with a great VIP lounge, Club MoBay, which I highly recommend. As an American passenger, I was signed up for the People to People program sold as yourcubacruise.com. Due to US Treasury restrictions, US passengers can only visit Cuba for 12 specific reasons, the most lenient being the previously-mentioned P2P program. While there were Cuban entertainers, lecturers, etc. onboard, the primary "requirement" of the program was participating in the included shore excursions in Santiago, Havana, and Cienfuegos. At the end of the trip, you receive a certificate which you are advised to hold onto in case you are ever asked for it by the US governement. I doubt very seriously if this would ever happen; accordingly, there were passengers who participated fully, some did not. In the case of Havana, there is a tour both days. On the second day the excursion was over around noon, and then I spent quite a bit of time walking by myself all over Havana. I will say, there are quite a few tourists in Havana; some areas of old Havana near the dock and the central squares were downright crowded. When you got out of that locale, it was much more casual. Cuba's largest economic engine is now tourism. The Celestyal Crystal Cuba cruise is interesting in several ways (to me at least)...first and foremost it wasn't a typical cruise environment although the ship had really good facilities for her size (25,000 tons). The passengers onboard were there primarily to see Cuba and the ship was secondary; a form of transporation. The ship does NOT have the mainstream cruise amenities like rock walls, water parks, etc. This is a traditional cruise ship which has been, among other things, NCL's Leeward, and a Silja Line Scandinavian cruise ferry. Much of the ship is dated in that 1990s fashion, with the reflective ceilings of that time and more pastel colors and brass. I loved many things about the Crystal, such as the real teak decks, the ability to walk completely to the bow (on most days, and especially spectacular when arriving or leaving port), and the great bar and terraced decks overlooking the stern. Recently, a number of balcony cabins were added to the ship. In addition to American passengers, the Crystal attracts an interesting cross-section of Cuba-centric travelers: lots of Canadians, and in Havana a large number of Germans arrived. The split boarding also means a portion of the passengers will change out during the voyage. In many ways, this was an EXCELLENT value trip: I went single occupancy, and was originally booked in an outside cabin at the usual 2x premium. Later, there was a single special offered with no single supplement...to take advantage i moved my departure date forward by several weeks and moved to an inside cabin vs. an outside one. Also, tips were included as was a beverage package. This all added up to a really great value. Haven't had an inside cabin in forever but the savings made it a no-brainer; while it was rather small it had been recently had some renovation. One important consideration is that the cabins don't have many electrical outlets. Mine for example had one US fixture and one European one...accordingly I carried an adapter and could use both outlets which is important on such a photo-centric itinerary where you need everything to be charged and ready! The bathroom is rather small and dated but the shower was really nice with a curved glass door. Some reviewers have mentioned the moody plumbing onboard, but I had no issues with my cabin toilet...I suspect this problem exists in certain areas of the ship, for example lower decks. As I mentioned, the Crystal is a small ship, 25,000 tons, about 500 feet...it is extremely easy to get around from day one...there are two elevator/stair towers which you can almost see from each other...there is a pool with glass cover, which stayed semi-open the entire trip...there is a tiny jacuzzi at the stern near the bar which perhaps could fit 4 people. There is a surprisingly large 2-story show lounge and a tiny casino which I never saw a soul in. The dining situation onboard is as follows: compared to a mainstream megaship, there is less food availability, which wasn't an issue for me. There are two smaller dining rooms (one each on Decks 5 and 8) which operate with the same menu. Additionally, there is a small buffet restaurant on the port side near the pool (with another one on the starboard side for overflow seating). I doubt that each restaurant seated more than 100 people. I ate in the sit-down restaurant several times...you can arrive between 6 and 8:30 or 9; you are seated at random with other passengers. At the buffet, it was easier to have your own table. The dining room menu offered a Cuban specialty each night. I got quite frankly bored with the food at the buffet...basically it was either: chicken legs, pasta, and a fish fillet. Each night, the preparation of the three changed. There was also a carving station. Other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your other dining option onboard is free room service, which looked nice. I honestly didn't miss the usual mountain of food usually found on cruise ships. I could bore you with all sorts of Cuba info but I figure you are primarily here for the ship info! I will say that Celestyal Crystal is the perfect-sized ship for Cuba. In fact, the size of most Cuban ports thankfully exclude the new mega ships...the largest ships going to Cuba seem to max out around 70,000 tons. I saw three other cruise ships in Havana, the European MSC Opera one day and MSC Armonia the next. Also, the tiny Hamburg was there. Being that there is only one currently-operating pier in Havana, we had to play musical ships on our cruise...on our first day in Havana, we had to arrive at the dock, disembark all the passengers, then the ship had to anchor in the harbor to make room for another ship...during which time the Cuban government wouldn't allow tender access. This made for a very long day in Havana: we weren't able to reboard the ship until around 9pm that night...in fact we were scheduled to reboard earlier but there were issues which delayed that. Also, the People to People shore excursions were quite good (there's nothing I hate more than a bus tour usually). The guides were generally open and frank about life in Cuba. To compensate for the additional time in Havana which we couldn't access the trip, a nice lunch was added to the trip. I will be glad to answer any Cuba-related questions you have. The most important thing I will tell you is to absolutely positively have your passport on you at all times as well as your Cuban visa, which is included in the ticket price. You will also need CASH, as US credit cards (with one exception, those issued by Stonegate Bank in Florida) do not work. There are currency exchanges at all three ports, which will charge you about 10 percent. It is also very important to remember there are TWO currencies...a Cuban peso and a tourist peso. Be careful receiving your change as they have vastly different values. In conclusion, the Celestyal Crystal is a great way to see Cuba as you circumnavigate the entire island. The size of the ship is, for me, perfect. You won't have to worry about the expensive (and mostly subpar) hotels available in Cuba...and in the instance of my sailing the prepaid gratuities and beverage package were nice bonuses. Your fellow passengers will be a more worldly lot, primarily interested in the uniqueness of discovering Cuba versus having a traditional tropical cruise experience. The food onboard was OK but there was one fantastic Cuban waiter who constantly smiled and seemed to sincerely enjoy his job. I'm trying to remember his name. Alberto maybe? I found the staff to be really great onboard, although some were initially more reserved. Both the cabin attendants were perfect and took great care of the room. During my voyage there were several issues at the reception desk...my problem got fixed immediately, however a friend onboard go the runaround for 6 days regarding his issue. I think this was a personality issue on both his behalf and whomever helped him. Other than that glitch, I really liked the staff; one day, it struck me that every single crewmember I encountered had greeted me with a smile and a "good morning" etc. I thought the senior management onboard however was distant and treated passengers as an imposition on their ship. Maybe this was my perception. Overall though, the general friendliness level was much greater than the impersonal megaship I cruised on several months earlier. If you aren't expecting a spanking new, huge resort-style ship, and you want to make a historic trip to Cuba in an intimate setting with passengers interested in the same, Celestyal Crystal is a good value, especially for small-ship lovers not expecting the latest amenities. Next year, Celestyal is adding the Celestyal Majesty (at one time NCL's Norwegian Majesty) to the Cuba lineup. I am seriously considering taking another trip onboard Celestyal Crystal to Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Let me start by saying I am not a frequent cruiser. So my review is not a comparison to other cruise ships. Our objective was to see Cuba in different ports above and beyond just Havana with the convenience of having our accommodations ... Read More
Let me start by saying I am not a frequent cruiser. So my review is not a comparison to other cruise ships. Our objective was to see Cuba in different ports above and beyond just Havana with the convenience of having our accommodations follow us around the country and not deal with hotel jumping. My wife and I really enjoyed our week on the Celestyal Cruise around Cuba. We were happy with the 3 ports of call and we knew going into this that the ship is older and somewhat dated so our expectations were in accordance. We were pleasantly surprised at the comfort of our cabin (6013 SBJ), the extreme cleanliness of the ship and the overall great service! The food was plentiful and delicious. It was certainly not gourmet but it was good quality. The evening entertainment was great and the Cruise director, Danny, was fun and very energetic! It was nice that the whole cruise was of a Cuban flavor, from the food to the Cuban entertainment to the authentic Cuban cocktails! For us US Citizens this cruise was a convenient way for us to see the country according to our travel restrictions. The guided tours were thorough, comfortable and educational. They do have some room for improvement but everyone wants different things out of their tour so you can get it 100% for everyone. It was great that we were able to spend two days in Havana and that us US passengers had some free time to get out and around on our own. My wife and I took full advantage of that and explored quite a bit of Havana beyond the included excursions. Be sure to take an Old Car taxi tour. For about 40 CUC pesos ($45) the driver will take you around Havana for about a hour. Try for a convertible if possible. Great way to see the sites!! So overall we loved our trip and the cruise ship. Manage your expectations and have a great time!! Read Less
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
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
Sail Date January 2017
We chose this cruise because it offered us Americans the chance to see Cuba. We departed from Montego Bay, Jamaica and because we had been to Jamaica before and didn't care for it we didn't do any exploring. The check-in ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it offered us Americans the chance to see Cuba. We departed from Montego Bay, Jamaica and because we had been to Jamaica before and didn't care for it we didn't do any exploring. The check-in process to get on the ship was very efficient and easy and our stateroom was ready for us as soon as we got on board. In fact when we reached our stateroom our luggage was already there. Our cabin service was top notch. The food was just okay, nothing special but again our service was top notch. Due to weather the port of Havana was closed but the ship bent over backwards to bus us into Havana. They also included lunches on the tours. We were supposed to have a beach day at Punta Frances but that was also cancelled which didn't bother us because it didn't look like there was anything to do there. Instead they added Trinidad as a stop which was much better and more interesting. Saw one show and entertainment was fabulous. Disembarkation went smoothly. At the disembarkation meeting we were told we had to leave the ship at 9 am, go through Jamaican immigration, claim our bags, then we could return to the ship, have lunch and lounge until we had to leave for the airport. (Our flight wasn't until 5 pm) We went to the immigration desk, they stamped our documents and then the authories said since our documents were stamped we could not return to the ship. We then went to the airport at 9:30 am but our airline counter didn't open until 2 pm and we had bags to check so we had to sit in the front of the airport on hard metal chairs for 4 hours. Once we got through security the airport was very comfortable with lots of shopping and restaurants. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We chose this trip for the experience of cruising around Cuba, enjoying days at sea and admiring the coastline. On arrival in Montego Bay, men started grabbing bags as they were off loaded from the bus before we could get off. The company ... Read More
We chose this trip for the experience of cruising around Cuba, enjoying days at sea and admiring the coastline. On arrival in Montego Bay, men started grabbing bags as they were off loaded from the bus before we could get off. The company did not send out baggage tags ahead of time, we were to get them at the dock. It was scary and frustrating as these men had no identification, no shirts or caps to indicate they were legitimate. After sailing from the first port, Santiago de Cuba, we were advised we had been redirected to Cienfuegos rather than sailing to Havana. We had to endure a 3 1/2 hour bus ride in each direction to visit Havana and this eliminated any free time that the schedule overnight stay would have provided. It was a very long day. The people joining the ship in Havana had a 4 hour bus ride from the airport. We were told this was necessary due to technical difficulties in the port, then it was due to high winds. On our arrival in Havana the MSC Opera was docked and when she left at the end of the day, another vessel pulled in. We believe we were bumped to accommodate a larger vessel that paid more. We spent 4 days at anchor or docked in Cienfuegos, reducing out experience to one of a resort rather than a cruise. It would seem that Cuba is not ready for the influx of vessels interested in visiting Havana. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
My husband and I jumped at a last minute opportunity to join George Mason University’s week-long cultural cruise around Cuba in January. We joined approximately 500 other passengers who boarded the Celestyal Crystal in Montego Bay, ... Read More
My husband and I jumped at a last minute opportunity to join George Mason University’s week-long cultural cruise around Cuba in January. We joined approximately 500 other passengers who boarded the Celestyal Crystal in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This was our first cruise and we were happy with our outside cabin though not large, with only had two twin beds, also had a small writing desk, wardrobe, and bathroom. We found it worked for us and we were well-cared for by the staff. We enjoyed exploring the amenities found on each of the nine decks, named after Greek gods, and easily accessibly by elevators and stairs fore and aft. Other amenities included the Muses Lounge area where we enjoyed presentations by Professor Jorge Arocha about various aspects of Cuban culture, as well as the nightly entertainment. There was also a vary small pool, a bar, spa, gym, and two restaurants. We preferred eating at the Leda Buffet because it was quicker, but many people liked the chance to sit down and chat during at the more formal Almathia Restaurant. The food was pretty run-of-the-mill, but we had plenty to eat and had not signed on to the cruise for fine dining, we were there to see Cuba! Everything did not go as planned. The Celestyal Crystal was not allowed to dock in Havana due to some combination of high winds and too few berths for ships. After a whirlwind tour of of the historic city center, Morro Castle, San Juan Hill, an African-Cuban cultural center, the Moncada Barracks Museum, and a Bacardi Rum Factory in Santiago de Cuba, we ended up docking in Cienfuegos. The tour company then rented buses to ferry us into Havana where we visited the Jose Marti Museum overlooking Revolution Square, an enjoyed a Cuban meal, and were given 15 minutes in a large covered market. None of this, however, was worth the three and half hour bus ride to and from Cienfuegos. There were some silver linings to this unexpected itinerary change. We had more time on our own to visit the UN Heritage city of Cienfuegos and its environs. We were able to rent vintage old American cars for a trip to Cienfuegos’ Botanical Garden with friends from the cruise where we got a fantastic guide to tell us about the half a dozen different kinds of bamboo, palm and other indigenous plants. Our little group also walked around La Reina Cemetery, a national monument. We also hired a horse drawn taxi for a trip back to the town square to buy rum and cigars. This unexpected adventure was my all-time favorite day of the trip! Another silver lining was a trip to Trinidad, another UNESCO Heritage site, courtesy of our tour company, as a small compensation for not being able to dock in Havana. Once again, we had a great tour guide who told us about the sugar plantations and lead us through the twisting, cobble-stoned streets past pastel colored mansions once owned by slave traders. It was a great place to for street and architectural photography which pleased my husband, and we wished we had more time this enchanting town that wasn’t even on the original itinerary. We enjoyed our introduction to Cuba aboard the Celestyal Crystal in spite of not being able to dock in Havana. The George Mason Cultural Tour was a wonderful experience! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We choose this cruise as it had been recommended by a friend & we really wanted to see Cuba, especially Havana. This sounded like a wonderful opportunity to see the whole island & get a sense for Cuba, the country, the cities, ... Read More
We choose this cruise as it had been recommended by a friend & we really wanted to see Cuba, especially Havana. This sounded like a wonderful opportunity to see the whole island & get a sense for Cuba, the country, the cities, the people & their culture. Havana was our #1 destination, unfortunately we, never got there. When we arrived we were immediately bussed to Cienfuegos, a 3 1/2 hour bus ride after a 6 1/2 hour flight, it was in the dark so saw nothing of the country side. Besides the fact that the port authorities had suggested our ship could not dock in the harbour due to congestion there was a storm which pushed us out, hence the bus ride. So we spent the first 3 days in Cienfuegos, a lovely small community, but not Havana. We had already tripped over, accidentally, on Celestyal cruises website that day 3, our beach day was not to be, due to environmental issues. Would be nice if they had let us know! An effort was made to compensate in a bus trip to Trinadad, 3 hour bus ride there & 3 back, which was a total waste of time, we really saw nothing but countryside. The next day they offered us a trip to Havana, a 4 hour bus ride there & 4 hours back, we declined having already spent far too much time on busses. Finally we left this port & headed to Montego Bay, Jamaica to drop off & p/up passengers. Montego Bay was a nightmare, we lasted in town for 1/2 an hour & immediately went back to the ship. On entering customs the first thing the gal said to my husband was, make sure you have your wallet. Pretty much sums up Montego Bay right there! Finally the next day we headed to Santiago a lovely city, thoroughly enjoyed a guided tour from a university student. Our last day on the boat was at sea, again. Arriving in Havana, we could have had time for a city visit but what to do with our bags, so off to the airport for a 6 hour wait in an airport with little to no seating. We will definitely go back to see Havana, but not on this cruise! One big huge disappointment! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We chose this cruise line because we are Americans wanting to visit Cuba and at the time this was our best choice. Ship is old, windows were dirty, crew not helpful and unfriendly. Most unfriendly crew we have had in a dozen cruises. I ... Read More
We chose this cruise line because we are Americans wanting to visit Cuba and at the time this was our best choice. Ship is old, windows were dirty, crew not helpful and unfriendly. Most unfriendly crew we have had in a dozen cruises. I want to compliment the house keeping crew, they were extremely friendly and accommodating. Food was good considering only having one restaurant. Our mini suite was comfortable and large but wish we had booked a balcony room instead. Nightly entertainment was very good for size of ship. Cons are the use of plastic bottles every time you wanted water, surely they can have a more environmentally friendly way to serve water. The card swiping system is most irritating and dangerous system since the cards have your cabin number on them. Our cruise destination was modified and we were not able to visit Isla de Juventud. Instead of returning to Havana we were bused to Havana from Cienfuegos. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
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
Sail Date December 2016
After reading so many negative things about this cruise, we were constantly surprised by the quality of the trip. The size of the ship was perfect for such an important destination. We chose this cruise because of the number of ports ... Read More
After reading so many negative things about this cruise, we were constantly surprised by the quality of the trip. The size of the ship was perfect for such an important destination. We chose this cruise because of the number of ports visited in Cuba. It did not disappoint. It only wet our appetite for another visit to this amazing island nation. And we're glad we went when we did. The people and culture will begin to change quickly. It's a sleeping culture with lots of entrepreneurs just waiting for the chance to take off. The staff was amazing, the ship was clean and just the right size. Had all amenities on a limited scale. And the beverage package and shore excursions included were great. The required cultural lectures were an added bonus. The young PhD from the University of Havana was extremely knowledgeable and open to all our questions. The entertainers (all Cubans) were amazing. So talented. And the music performed by the orchestra was perfect. Had lectures on everything from history to cigars, salsa dancing to economics. We found the food to be good and plentiful. Only a dining room and buffet, but both open for breakfast lunch and dinner. Also pasta bar and hamburgers set up poolside. The chef was Jamaican so that affected the selections. Some definitely had jerk seasoning. Enjoyed the chance to be with fellow passengers while dining. But enjoyed a table for 2 at dinner. Came to trust our waiter for his pick of the menu. He never steered us wrong. The passenger mix was amazing. Canadians, Europeans (with lots from northern Europe), Caribbean islanders, Mexicans, and very few US citizens. We all had the common interest in discovering this fascinating culture. Lots of ribbing about our recent election. Made some good friends. Read Less
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
Sail Date December 2016
I choose this particular cruise to see some of Cuba, which was a most fascinating, educational, and interesting country. I would certainly return to see more. But - and I have to mention this way - the absolute unexpected delight of my ... Read More
I choose this particular cruise to see some of Cuba, which was a most fascinating, educational, and interesting country. I would certainly return to see more. But - and I have to mention this way - the absolute unexpected delight of my holiday was an unforgettable experience aboard the Celestyal Crystal. All of the crew and support staff were simply amazing! Their constant energy and enthusiasm bowled me over. They worked very hard and diligently to provide (me with) a great experience. And always in such a genuine manner. They love their work! This is a smaller ship, and I got to know the staff personally. They always seemed to take time out to 'engage' me and others in my group. Nightly stage show always full of energy, and often continued straight into dancing which involved the guests. Cabin was very comfortable. Housekeeping services were provided twice a day - over the top! General ship areas extremely clean and polished. Limited dining areas (2 closed - perhaps under renovation?) but always copious amounts of food. Shore excursions were of good content and extremely well organized. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose this cruise last minute because the cruise we had booked to Cuba was cancelled. We originally discounted this cruise line because of the negative reviews, but then I remembered that dissatisfied customers usually post more often ... Read More
We chose this cruise last minute because the cruise we had booked to Cuba was cancelled. We originally discounted this cruise line because of the negative reviews, but then I remembered that dissatisfied customers usually post more often then satisfied customers. Last review before mine had a totally different view on almost all the same things, however we went about our trip differently. The food was definitely not the best I have ever eaten, however if you went into the main dining room for meals, breakfast was the same buffet, but you could also order from your waiter and your omelettes, eggs or even pancakes could be make fresh for you. Lunch was also ordered off the menu unless it was a disembarkation day. The choices were limited, true, but you could always find something good. The appetizers were made as main courses for us throughout the cruise, if that is what we preferred. The soups, both hot and cold, were always delicious, salads fresh. We received our meat at the medium rare temperature we preferred and were served french fries with our hamburgers at request. They could use fresh fish options for sure, but I was not dissatisfied with the food at all and came home 3 lbs extra. The staff was amazing and unlike the prior review, we arrived as late as 7:15 for dinner and they always found us a table for 3. We did upgrade to the gold drink package and the choices were much more plentiful. We were in a balcony suite, so not an inexpensive choice, however the nicest suite I ever had on a ship. Our private bedroom was as big as most balcony suites we have had in the past, with a separate living area, very large triple bathroom. It was fabulous. The tours, the people, the shows on board all A+++++. Loved the ship, the staff, especially our head waiter. Will probably travel again with Celestyal to the Greek Islands! Read Less
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
Sail Date December 2016
We didn't fancy traveling over land to reach Cienfuegos & Santiago, cruising seemed to be the best way to travel. We didn't expect or want luxury so we weren't disappointed by this cruise. It was well organised with ... Read More
We didn't fancy traveling over land to reach Cienfuegos & Santiago, cruising seemed to be the best way to travel. We didn't expect or want luxury so we weren't disappointed by this cruise. It was well organised with friendly crew across all areas & lively entertainment. We arrived in Cuba on day 3 of Castro's mourning period but fortunately for us, music, dancing & alcohol were allowed on board, however, when ashore Cuba wasn't its usual vibrant self. We followed the cruise with a 3 night stay in Havana, fortunately this coincided with the end of the mourning period, so Havana came to life again during these 3 days, but still not as lively as expected. Given that our cruise coincided with such an historic period in Cuban history, this was a very enjoyable cruise and one we would recommend if you want to experience a flavour of Cuba. EMBARKATION After a 10hr flight from the UK, arriving at a chaotic Havana airport, it was a relief to arrive at the Cruise Port, although first impressions of the building in the dark weren’t very encouraging. We needn’t have worried though, the embarkation process was very efficient & calm, however, what this would have been like during the busy daytime period I cannot comment. There is a money exchange facility in the Port, although this was closed by the time we had checked in. A letter awaited us when we checked in to our cabin informing us that the cruise had a changed itinerary on days 2 & 3 – see Downsides below. CABIN Our cabin on deck 5 was bigger than expected & looked out across the promenade deck, which wasn't a problem as this part of the deck wasn't always accessible to passengers. When it was accessible passengers couldn’t see through the cabin window as the glass was one way view outwards. The cabin was cleaned every morning with a turn down service every night. FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT Food was as expected for a ship with multinational guests. We ate in the buffet most of the time so we could sit as a couple. Both restaurants were busy in the morning as everyone needed to be ready for excursions but during 'at sea' days, breakfast was more leisurely. There was food served pool side at breakfast & lunch which was a nice option and afternoon tea was available in the buffet restaurant. All the waiting & bar staff were very attentive and efficient throughout the ship. The all inclusive package made life on board very easy, we didn't incur any extra charges other than for the two optional excursions in Cienfuegos & Jamaica. The Thalasia bar on Deck 5 is a nice quiet spot to have an afternoon or early evening drink. We generally had pre dinner drinks in the Eros lounge listening to a very talented violinist. The after dinner entertainment in the Muses lounge was of a Cuban/Latin theme with a bit of acrobatics thrown in, which most of the audience seemed to enjoy. We ate later than most so only watched the last half hour from the back of the lounge, sometimes the audience participation afterwards with Danny was just as entertaining. After dinner we enjoyed listening to the Latin vibes in the Eros and watching the audience put to use their newly acquired Salsa skills. Guest nationalities were mainly Spanish, German & American with a handful of Jamaicans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders & only a few guests from the UK. EXCURSIONS Havana - Day 2 (our first day in Cuba) Old Havana tour (included in the cruise) A great guide and some lively conversations, but excursion cut short due to reduced time in port (see downsides below). Helped to orientate us for our 3 night stay at the end of the cruise. Cienfuegos - would have liked to have taken the City tour & Botanical gardens but not enough English speaking guests had booked to make this viable for us, so we just did the City tour. Because of Castro's passing, the City was very quiet with mainly tourist groups around. Easy walking distance into town from the cruise dock if you’re not a fan of excursions. Montego Bay, Jamaica - had a very amusing guide for the morning Greenwood Great House excursion, which also made a very quick stop in Falmouth on the way and a drive by Usain Bolt's old school! As Jamaica was a full day stopover being an embarkation port, it was a shame there weren't any afternoon excursions or more full day ones. Nevertheless we made use of the on board facilities during the afternoon and watched a lovely sunset over Montego Bay from the Thalasia Bar before departure. Santiago - highlight of the cruise for us - although this inclusive excursion was cut short due to Castro's ashes arriving later the same day, this meant we had more free time. We took advantage of the free guides (in yellow t-shirts) waiting at the port to take us around the town on this historic day. Our guide was very knowledgeable and didn't mind telling us about her life in Cuba and her hopes for Cuba's future. Needless to say we gave her a tip for a very informative walking tour of the town. DISEMBARKATION Suitcases had to be left outside the cabin by 12 midnight the night before and we had to be out of our cabin by 8am the next morning. At 7.30am we watched the ship come into the port of Havana then went back to the cabin at 8am to collect our hand luggage, but our key cards wouldn't open the door, fortunately George our housekeeper was nearby and let us in, he said security disable the card at 8am. We collected our hand luggage and headed to the buffet for breakfast. The disembarkation call came at about 9.30am. We had been told the day before that the Cuban authorities wouldn’t be in a hurry to clear the ship for disembarkation, so we were surprised by the early call. DOWNSIDES We knew our inbound flight timing meant day 1 was going to be a non-event for us so we were banking on a full day in Havana on day 2. However, a letter in to our cabin after checking in informed us that the cruise had a changed itinerary on days 2 & 3:- Day 2 – the cruise had to depart Havana early due to port congestion (only space for 2 ships at the port), so the included excursion had to be back at the ship by 12 noon with no free time afterwards to explore on our own. I don’t know if this happens every week or if it was just unfortunate that the Port authorities had overbooked the Port during our stay. Day 3 - Punta Frances port of call cancelled therefore day 3 would be a day at sea – reason given was ‘reviewing environmental impact of cruises’. If Punta Frances remains a no go zone for cruises, it will be interesting to see if Celestyal make changes to their published itinerary for the remaining 2016/17 season, or perhaps this too was just a one off for our cruise! Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We chose this ship for the ports that it offered and the programs with it, and loved every minute of it. But if you are expecting a luxury cruise line, this is not for you. We were on the second floor . The room was vey small but quiet. ... Read More
We chose this ship for the ports that it offered and the programs with it, and loved every minute of it. But if you are expecting a luxury cruise line, this is not for you. We were on the second floor . The room was vey small but quiet. The food I would call average, some very good, some fair, but all meals had something for everyone. All of our staff were fantastic! And the activities were very good. I was afraid I was going to get bored with all the educational presentations, but Jorge made them very interesting. The music was great, especially "Latin Souls" and "Duo Jaleo." The dance lessons were good but would have been more fun with some male staff helping! I thought the shows each night were good, considering the small staff they have to work with. Our ports were interesting. I would have liked to have gone into the city of Santiago, but the excursion was interesting. I loved Havana. We took a side trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad. It was a beautiful bus ride and a really nice trip. But those who stayed in Cienfuegos said it was really nice too. Unfortunately, we didn't got to go to Punta Frances. Not the ship's fault. Cuban authorities decided we couldn't. So we had an extra day at sea...the ship staff filled in well. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
I found this company about 6 months ago while looking for companies that offer tours of Cuba. At that time we USA citizens still had limited access to Cuba and the tour companies offering tours usually charge $1000 per day for land tours. ... Read More
I found this company about 6 months ago while looking for companies that offer tours of Cuba. At that time we USA citizens still had limited access to Cuba and the tour companies offering tours usually charge $1000 per day for land tours. I then found Celestyal Cruises offering the "People to People" program for USA citizens and the all inclusive (gratuities, liquor and exclusions) cost for the 2 of us was $3400 for their 7 day package. So we were sold and looked forward to our first glimpse of Cuba. 1. The ship is old but spotlessly clean and well maintained. 2. The crew were wonderful and always available to assist. 3. Our cabin was small (no tiny) and the bathroom even smaller. All cabins were the same small size. The beds were more like cots, low to the floor. So low you couldn't put your empty suitcase under the bed to save space. OK the cruise was cheap and we stayed out of the cabin as much as possible. 4. The ship was not full at all and their second dining room was closed. There is one main dining room and one buffet room. It doesn't matter which one you go to, the food was barely edible. Breakfast, the same everyday. Warm fresh fruit salad bar, cold eggs, bacon, and all other foods that should have been hot. If you want omelets or pancakes you must go out to the pool area for these items, thankfully made to order & hot , must then go back inside for coffee and any other items like salt and pepper. I asked where the toaster was to make toast, but they had pre-toasted the bread & put it in with the danish and obviously cold and hard as a rock. Lunch, did vary but only slightly. They had a roast every day and a carver to serve you. But all roasts were so overcooked, they looked grey. We made a salad for ourselves and added some cold cuts (all room temp.) Cruise ships are famous for their hamburgers. But not Celestyal. So overcooked they were dry and hard. No french fries either. Dinner in the dining room was odd to say the least. We like a table for 2 but the room is set up like a cafeteria, 90% of the tables were long tables for 8/10. If you wanted a table for 2 you had to be one of the first 10 couples in line at 6:20 p.m. The menu offered a Chef Special every night of a Cuban specialty. The chef had no clue how to make any Cuban dish. Most folks would just send it back. By day 3, we tried to just have 2 or 3 starters and no main course offering . Our waiter tried but never got the concept that a starter could be a main course too. By day 4 we just went to the buffet. The bread offered at all meals were dry, tasteless and mushy, like our Wonder Bread, in roll form, or baguette form. 5. All inclusive drinks - You still had to present your ship's card, every time you asked for a drink, even a bottle of water. The "bartenders" are European trained and have no clue how to make a good cocktail/drink. And although all-inclusive they measure each and every pour. Quickly we realized we had to ask for a double measure to even taste the rum or whatever. The wine offered at dinner was just what they gave you and if you like sweet cheap wines then you have it made. If you want any other wine that is not their pick of the day, you then must pay extra. Our box wines are better then their offerings. 6. Excursions - Wonderful. The locals guides went out of their way to inform us and give us an eye opening experience in Cuba. We only had 3 ports of call with an overnight in Havana. 7. Entertainment - For long time cruisers we were pleasantly surprised that the ships entertainment was really good. Most ships now have lousy shows but the guys/gals on this ship were great. 8. Dress code - Don't waste your time with even one large suitcase for 2. Jeans were the norm at dinner. Their "Elegant" night was laughable. Jeans were still the norm. And yes, tee shirts were worn and dress up for guys was a clean polo shirt. Overall - The crew was great. We met fun people. We got what we paid for, a cheap 7 day trip to get a glimpse of Cuba. Yes, we definitely want to go back and especially Havana for maybe 3/4 days. But Never again will we waste our money on a Celestyal cruise anywhere. we both came home and I was the exact same weight and my better half lost a pound. Read Less
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
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
Sail Date November 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
Sail Date April 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
Sail Date March 2016
I just returned from a very educational cruise to Cuba. I had read previous reviews and was a little hesitant about Celestyal Crystal. I was pleasantly surprised. The ship is very clean and the staff are extremely friendly! The ... Read More
I just returned from a very educational cruise to Cuba. I had read previous reviews and was a little hesitant about Celestyal Crystal. I was pleasantly surprised. The ship is very clean and the staff are extremely friendly! The food was good, not gourmet, but very substantial. Our room (7222) was very nice with plenty of storage. Our room stewards were excellent. The "People to People" program was very good and we had some very interesting excursions. The Cuban people are very friendly and welcomed us Americans. I had read previously to take Canadian money, as it was the easiest to exchange. This was not true! Canadian money has a poor exchange rate in Cuba. Many places in Cuba gladly took American money. There is a surcharge to exchange US money for Cuban pesos, but it is worth it. However, US credit and debit cards cannot be used there. I would highly recommend this cruise. If you want to learn about the history of Cuba, this is the best way! Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
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