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78 Celestyal Cruises Cuba Cruise Reviews

We booked this cruise in order to see Cuba - an economical and convenient to see 4 ports. The cities we visited were very interesting, especially Havana, and we were not disappointed in any way. The tours we booked from the ship were ... Read More
We booked this cruise in order to see Cuba - an economical and convenient to see 4 ports. The cities we visited were very interesting, especially Havana, and we were not disappointed in any way. The tours we booked from the ship were excellent, and allowed us to learn about the Cuban culture. Unfortunately, most of what we saw was in pretty bad shape, with buildings and roads crumbling and needing significant updating. The ship itself was what we expected: an older ship with no real character or amenities. The food was pretty bad, especially breakfast. Meals were served at specific times with nothing available in between the 3 daily servings. Most of the time the meals were overcooked and dry. The shows and lectures were surprisingly good. Some of the bars would close at 8 pm in the evening and tell you to go elsewhere if you wanted a drink. The the "all inclusive" drink package was odd: they would take your room card and leave, then bring you a drink sometimes up to 30 or 40 minutes later. A couple times we gave up and had to hunt down the waiter in order to get our room key back. Bartenders were not allowed to serve you a drink unless you found a waiter and gave them your room card. Very odd and inconvenient. Good service in our room which was very adequate. Overall, a great way to see Cuba; just do not expect much from the ship. Read Less
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
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
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
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
Sail Date March 2016
This is one way to get to Cuba - which is still challenging for Americans. The People to People program and the on-board entertainment were very good. 1. The system for on boarding was VERY disorganized - and no one was there was ... Read More
This is one way to get to Cuba - which is still challenging for Americans. The People to People program and the on-board entertainment were very good. 1. The system for on boarding was VERY disorganized - and no one was there was competent to answer questions. I blame this on Celestyal Cruises. It was very unclear what paper work and extra costs would be charged. Jamaica charges an exit fee. You need a Cuba Visa. etc. The Cruise Line could put a little more effort into explaining the process. Rate this a 1 star for disorganization. 2. Cruise Director - nice guy - but TWICE did on-board announcements for 15 minutes in 5 languages that TOTALLY interrupted two of the People to People lectures. Thanks a lot. How about you coordinate that? Also - stop the upwelling - buy - buy announcements - THEY Are not appreciated. 3. Cabin - 1 star. - Drawers were falling off and would not shut. Moldy carpet. 4. Cleanup crew - 1 star. She kept wanting to come in and "do her thing" when I wanted to be in the room - this happened at least 4 times. 5. Food - and Dining - 1 star. - The cooks work hard - but very little variety and most meats and fish were very over cooked. Cold coffee by the pool. Also - only milk - no soy or cream available. No options if you can't have dairy. If you buy the All Inclusive - they do not have enough bar tenders 6. Entertainment - 4 stars - they were very good. 7. Crew staff - most nice - but as someone else noted the Greek staff seem to have an attitude - but when asked for help with the visa - the Prosser was very rude and the wine steward was also rude. 8. Excursions - they need more explanation - how long they will be - what is available and not available, etc. 9. WIFI - 10.00/HOUR - serious rip-off. 10. Pressure washing the swimming pool during dinner hour - not a nice idea. Not very considerate. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We have previously cruised quite widely on ships of a similar size to this from a number of cruise lines (mostly Fred Olsen, Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic and less recently, P&O). We always choose a cruise because of the ... Read More
We have previously cruised quite widely on ships of a similar size to this from a number of cruise lines (mostly Fred Olsen, Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic and less recently, P&O). We always choose a cruise because of the itinerary, choosing unusual destinations and smaller, less visited ports. Hence, I am writing this from a different angle than most other reviews of Cuba Cruise and will focus on the differences and similarities we saw with the ship and this specific cruise. We went on this cruise as part of a month in Cuba, with ten nights in a Havana Hotel, (one of which we spent in a casa in Vinales) and 11 nights in Varadero. It was our second visit to Cuba. We arrived at Havana port about 3pm and there were very few other people around, which allowed us to pass through the embarkation procedure speedily. There was no one on board to direct us to our cabin as we are used to, but we knew where our cabin was located so had no problems finding it. Other queries/requests had to wait until that evening when cabin staff appeared. We just managed to get a quick lunch, which was served until 3.30pm in the buffet. We then registered our credit card easily as there was no one else at reception and our bags had arrived in the cabin by the time we returned. Our cabin benefited from one of the new balconies and we found the cabin in good condition overall. The wardrobe space was sadly lacking from our point of view, as there was very little hanging space and most of the fixed position hangers were in a section of the wardrobe where the hanging rail was only about a foot above the top of the fridge so that wardrobe and those hangers were not useable. We were able to manage by utilising our cases for extra storage and we had brought some spare hangers with us. For someone who was only away for one week the space would have been OK, (though not what we are used to finding on similar ships). Our cabin stewards Zulema and Quarry were good. Muster drill was very interesting. Our muster station was on the open deck at the very front of Prom deck, so a really good place to be in the event of an emergency! As we arrived there was some gabbled information in about 3 different languages – even the English was so indistinct it was hardly audible. Very swiftly we were dismissed. Certainly not giving confidence on how the ship would be managed in a real emergency. The public rooms were well presented, but the accommodation was not sufficient for the number of people on board. This was not helped by the lack of tables and chairs in areas which could have been used (e.g. the large open deck to the rear of the self service restaurant which had no furnishings whatsoever). The pool deck was constantly overcrowded as there were far too many tables and chairs crammed together there to use for both buffet meals and a bar. The pool deck also had a cover over the top, part of which could be retracted, but was usually partly closed making the area very hot, humid and smelling of cooking fumes if food was being cooked there. There were very few sun beds available on the ship as most were tightly tied in piles and there was little space for them to have been put out anyway. We were not on the AI, drinks and trips package so were able to eat at less busy times during the day and were very thankful of that. We had no wish to sit in the lounges because of the overcrowding so tended to bring soft drinks on board and drink them on our balcony when we wanted to relax. So I cannot comment on bar service. Overall the service in the restaurants was lacking. The staff in the buffet were OK, but most were not particularly friendly or efficient. Many of the waiter service staff were slow, completely disorganised and there were occasions when staff were distinctly rude, like the time my husband asked for a knife and fork and was gruffly told to ask someone else! One day we sat in a restaurant for half an hour and had not even had our orders taken – we left and went to the buffet. As a very marked contrast to this, there was one member of the restaurant staff who clearly surpassed the other staff by his ability, efficiency, speediness of service and persistent hard work. He also had an extremely pleasant personality. This was Sahil Dishiraj Haurheeram, who was from Mauritius and he worked at the far end of the Olympus Restaurant with Renaldo. They worked well as a team under Sahil’s guidance. They also worked in the buffet restaurant during the day. Other staff on the ship were mixed, but the ship did not have the normal hard working, friendly staff that we are used to seeing on cruise ships. This may well be because tips were include or pre paid for many passengers. We booked this cruise as soon as it went on sale, as we were sent an alert, which we had requested from the Canadian company who were then running it. Sadly the itinerary changed the next day, with less time in both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos and the loss of Antilla, (from where we had hoped to do a trip). There was also a beach day, (as was previously the case), which was a waste of time in our opinion and also in the opinion of a number of other passengers. We did not rush for a tender on the beach day and proceeded to go ashore after there had been an announcement that tender tickets would not be needed and that tenders would run every half hour. A tender left at 10.45am for a trip and there was then a decision that they would not bother sending another open tender at 11am (when one was due), but would leave it until 11.30am. This was typical of the management of the ship – a could not be bothered attitude. Tenders back were equally chaotic with lengthy queues building up. There were no port talks at all and neither information on the ports or port maps were available on Board. It was not easy to find information ashore either, so we were pleased we went equipped with information and maps. Food was OK, but certainly not up to the standard of other cruise ships or the hotels we stayed at in Cuba on either of our visits. Entertainment was typical of the entertainment we would expect on cruise ships with a daily show and lounge musicians. We did not think it particularly had a Cuban feel to it, like we had experienced ashore. The ships we had previously travelled on have been the same age and many even older than the Crystal and we have never before been asked to put toilet paper in a bin. The French version of the cabin sign about this said the pipes are too narrow. The rest of the ship has been maintained, so I see no reason for them not to change the piping. In fact we only used the bin if the paper was just wet and we had no problems whatsoever, although I usually flush ship’s toilets twice if there is solid waste present. Sometimes old ship’s plumbing does get blocked but they then send a plumber along within about ten minutes to sort the problem from the plumbing access cupboard in the corridor. I think it is quite possible that Celestyal just cannot bother sending plumbers to maintain the system. They are only able to get away with this in the summer season as Greece is well known for it’s plumbing problems, so there will presumably be different expectations there. Disembarkation was better than our previous experiences. We had to be out of the cabin by 7am, which was earlier than usual, but the restaurants stayed open for a long time after that and we were not rushed to disembark. In fact, we were allowed to go into Havana and spend some more time there before returning for a quick lunch and then disembarking at leisure. We have experienced this before if on a cruise company’s flight, but Celestyal were very good letting us, (as independent travellers), disembark so late. We did need to collect our cases on the way out that morning, but there were staff at the port who could look after our cases and one of our hand luggage bags until we wanted them, for 2 CUC’s per bag. This worked well. There was someone at the port who was able to arrange a taxi transfer to Varadero at a reasonable cost. We originally asked the Cubanacan rep at the port when we embarked and she introduced us to him as she was not going to be present the next week. Snag was that it was an old American car, but luckily it did get us there and the driver stopped where we had asked for him to stop for a break. We do not speak Spanish, so help in arranging this was appreciated. Overall we did get enjoyment out of the cruise, but it could have been much better. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
I took this cruise as an opportunity to see Cuba without paying the high prices of P2P groups from the US. The trip met my expectations. The ship is small, older, and has its issues. The food was adequate at best. The entertainment was ... Read More
I took this cruise as an opportunity to see Cuba without paying the high prices of P2P groups from the US. The trip met my expectations. The ship is small, older, and has its issues. The food was adequate at best. The entertainment was basic. But I wasn't on this ship for the cruising. I SAW CUBA!! I saw more than friends I know who went on other P2P trips. I did it for about a third of their price. So, for that part I would give the trip 5 stars. We had free drinks, free tips, and all excursions covered in the price. We stayed in a small place near the airport for the pre-night. Toby's. A perfect spot. Clean, nice facilities, and close to some restaurants and shopping. It was pouring when we embarked. Considering that unusual weather, I had no complaints about the procedure. Our first stop was Santiago. Loved this city and the excursions. If you do this trip, as soon as you disembark go the kiosk to change your money. Second was Havana where we overnighted. The first day was full of sightseeing and we paid $144 to go to the Tropicana that night. The latter was nice but not worth the price. If doing again, I would have found a good restaurant and spent the night wandering through the city. The second day was a bit disjointed. I would have preferred going to Revolution Park and then being let off at the museums for time on own. We were rushed and had to chose one museum over the other to do justice to it. The art place we were taken to was not worth missing the museum. We had a beach day at Maria le Gorda. BEAUTIFUL. Cienfuego was a good day, too. We saw art colonies and ended up at the city's square. Again, if I had to do over, I would have maximized the time around the square instead of going to more art places. But no complaints...more a now I know and would have done differently. The entertainment was focused on Cuba culture and dance. Too much acrobatics. That seems to be the modus operendi for cruises right now. The two men running the P@P lectures were very good. And all the presentations were valuable. I made some suggestions but overall worthwhile. Staff friendly and helpful...in restaurant and cabins. General staff not so much. Disembarkation was fine...only because I just walked off the ship. People were sitting in various lounges waiting to be called. No need. I am thinking this was because Montego Bay was a stop for those who embarked at Havana and the ship was more focused on them than those who were leaving. Again, use this way to see Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Our cabin was #4000, the farthest forward on the port side. It has a window perhaps 5 square feet, deeply recessed in the wall. (You can actually crawl up in there to get a wide view.) Other reviews have done a good job on the ship, ... Read More
Our cabin was #4000, the farthest forward on the port side. It has a window perhaps 5 square feet, deeply recessed in the wall. (You can actually crawl up in there to get a wide view.) Other reviews have done a good job on the ship, but it's funny that the "no TP in the toilet" seems to get more mention than anything. We live in Mexico where you NEVER flush TP outside of some luxury hotels. (And nothing less than the Queen Mary 2 makes exactly the same request!) Everyone compliments the ship's crew and we will too. Universally friendly and helpful! Highly recommend buying at least the "unlimited no alcohol" package, because you don't drink the tap water and every bottle of water is charged for. If you're a drinker, may as well bump up to an alcohol package. MONEY: Cuba's dual-currency system is CONFUSING. Biggest warning I can give is that anytime you get change (for example, from a cab driver) MAKE SURE the money you are getting back is in CUC's (the "convertible peso" used for tourists) and not CUP's (aka "moneda nacional") used by Cubans. The difference is 25 to 1, so check every bill and coin you get back! It was a great week; a totally eye-opening experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
There are pros and cons to this cruise and line Pros: People to People lecturers from Univ of Havana onboard ship were very informative Troupe of 12 entertainers were all high quality, as were were their nightly shows Cruise ... Read More
There are pros and cons to this cruise and line Pros: People to People lecturers from Univ of Havana onboard ship were very informative Troupe of 12 entertainers were all high quality, as were were their nightly shows Cruise Director Danny was great Most crew members nice and helpful Cons: cabins basic, ours an XE food mediocre...mystery fish at lunch and dinner, all meats dry and overcooked some of Greek crew members rude, Shore excursion desk rarely manned, so hard to get questions answered, especially for mobility impaired, as to what we could expect on each city tour Contracted food poisoning last dinner which hit at end of flight home, noro virus ( suspect mystery fish) but nowhere to report it as weekend and only way to report it by phone. Lost 10lbs and still weak 48 hours after...As you know, there is nothing to eat on flights. Had to be from cruise food,within 24 hours after last dinner onboard...what a send off. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Considering the negative reviews I read on this ship, especially for Greece, I was concerned about taking this cruise at all. But my brother talked us into it & I am so glad! It was an excellent way to see parts of Cuba without ... Read More
Considering the negative reviews I read on this ship, especially for Greece, I was concerned about taking this cruise at all. But my brother talked us into it & I am so glad! It was an excellent way to see parts of Cuba without staying on a resort for a week. It was a very busy schedule - a tour at every port (5) & lasted four hours or more. No lunch was provided as it was so extensive stopping at various spots. But we managed to survive, eating in the buffet when we returned to the ship each afternoon. I enjoyed the stop in Cienfuegos the best; our tour guide was very helpful & informative & kept an eye out for stragglers. We had two 'free' drinks on this tour; one on the rooftop of a fancy hotel, originally owned by one family. Then we stopped at a yacht club for a relaxing hour, with rum punch & a Cuban band entertaining us even with mambo dancing lessons! We compared notes with others & found our guide had been exceptional. We also enjoyed Santiago de Cuba with many stops; our guide was a retired history professor who shared his knowledge of his country's history & was always eager to answer any questions. The ship is older but in constant repair & cleaning. Our stewardesses were very cute & helpful & kept our cabin spotless. The dining room was good some days but not always happy with the choices on the menu. The service was excellent though; everyone was polite & friendly. The buffet was adequate but nothing special. The entertainment was excellent; the dancers were amazing - different show each night. The cruise directory, Danny, is a 'gem'. Hopefully they appreciate him. He can speak 8 languages fluently & was always so personable. Only 'con' review I would give to the tour guide in Havana whose English was spotty & we lost her at one point - taken to a bar that Hemmingway frequented for a free daiquiri. By the time we found the group, there were 4 bus loads jammed inside. We opted to stay outside & sight see. I called her on waiting for slower people at the next stop & was rewarded with a strange look....spoiled an interesting tour. Was glad to return to the ship. Other than that, every other tour guide was excellent & informative. I would heartily recommend this cruise to anyone looking for a challenging busy tour of Cuba before it changes. And what made it memorable for me was sharing it with my brother & his wife. Excellent trip! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Eight retirees including our travel agent who arranged the entire expedition took this cruise as part of the "Authentic Cuban Experience Program" in hopes of taking advantage of recently relaxed guidelines for such things. We ... Read More
Eight retirees including our travel agent who arranged the entire expedition took this cruise as part of the "Authentic Cuban Experience Program" in hopes of taking advantage of recently relaxed guidelines for such things. We also wanted to get to Cuba now in the event that the possibility might close in the near future. I don't have anything to compare our trip to as this was our first cruise. I really didi not know what to expect but I need not have worried. I would be hard pressed to find any real complaints about the ship, the food and beverage, or the tours we participated in. The whole trip was a good introduction both to cruising and to Cuba. I'm sure we just skimmed the top layer in both regards. Our inside cabin amidships was perfectly adequate to our needs with good storage, good lighting and excellent care from the cabin steward. Even the necessarily smallish washroom was adequate for my tall, somewhat wide person. There was an sign on the commode that led one to believe that NO paper of ANY kind should be flushed. I'm pretty sure they meant that no trash paper or packaging should be flushed but it was unclear. We flushed TP which I hope was OK. Our cabin steward put out whimsically styled pool towels in the form of swans, snakes and starfish nightly. Very fun. He was in the room at least twice per day with cleanup and turndown activities. Very personable. Meal choices were plentiful and generally very good. We mostly used the Leda Buffet for breakfast and lunch and used the Almathia Restaurant for those evening meals we ate aboard. The chef and his staff graciously organized a special anniversary surprise for one of our couples. We were delighted that it could be accommodated. We enjoyed having the magnetic swipe card for drinks and the like although each of us mislaid theirs a one time or another. The cashless nature of ship board purchases was welcome. The evening entertainment in the Muses Lounge each night except dark Monday were varied and well performed by the resident performers. Each night was a different theme and they all managed to work in some very fine aerial work by several of the performers. Some of the storylines were thin, but the performances were enthusiastic and enjoyable. The ACE Program was led by Cuban national Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD, from the University of Havana and Lecturer of Cuban History and Culture. His multiple presentations over a variety of topics was well-ordered and most informative. He went out of his way to inform his audience. He also accompanied a couple of our tours and was available for Q&A during them. We enjoyed meeting him. We also had several other tour guides on our busses who had varying levels of skill but were informative nonetheless. Our shore excursions were kind of a mixed bag. Much time was spent on very nice tour busses but often we would ride for a long time to only have a short time at the specific attraction. It felt a bit rushed. Disappointing that in Santiago de Cuba we could not gain access to the central plaza due to New Years Eve preparations. We were glad that once we got to Havana, we did have some spare time to just wander on our own for several hours over two days. We were able to get to a couple of local restaurants and bars, toured Castillo de La Real Fuerza and several other locations. Unfortunately we were unaware that most museums are normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and so we were shut out of a couple we would have liked to see. Much was closed for New Years celebrations as well. We enjoyed our first taste of cruising and will definitely consider doing another in the near future Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
First of all, I am very happy to have taken this cruise to see Cuba. We took part in the People to People Program which gives Americans the ability to travel to Cuba under the humanitarian exemption. The stops in the 3 city ports were ... Read More
First of all, I am very happy to have taken this cruise to see Cuba. We took part in the People to People Program which gives Americans the ability to travel to Cuba under the humanitarian exemption. The stops in the 3 city ports were awesome. Side trips you can take on your own or through the Celestyal Crystal (CC) are very interesting. I would give a positive recommendation for the People to People program and using CC to get to Cuba. I thought the beach day stop at Maria la Gorda was a bit of a waste of time and would have rather stayed an extra day in Havana. Having said that, here are my suggestions for cruising on the CC. I had read so many reviews with complaints about the ship that I was prepared for the worst...Happily I was favorably surprised on all counts. Yes, this is not a luxury cruise and it will not be up to the highest standards of the big cruise lines...but our purpose was to see Cuba, not to have the cruise experience of a lifetime...having said that, the ship was very clean and our on board experience was very positive. We had cabin #6107. I was very nervous about having an inside cabin with no window. That was a first for us, we usually do balconies. As it turns out, yes, they are small but we settled into the space and did very well. I was pleased to see the large mural covering showing two hills and the ocean covering the wall at the end of the room BUT the thing I was most pleased about was the shower...It was roomy with a slider door, not a curtain. Our friends paid more for an outer cabin with window and their shower had a curtain and very little space plus some upper berths that were folded up. I think we got the better deal. The 6th level is a very quiet one with little traffic and you don't hear the elevator noise at all. About the cabins and what we did that made our cruise better: 1. After reading a review that talked about odors in the cabin, I threw in a Renuzit Odor Neutralizer to put in our cabin which ended up having no odors but I was happy to put it into the bathroom anyway. 2. I took several hangers to supplement the closet allotment. 3. There is one plug socket 110 and one 220. I took a multi-plug adaptor not more than 2.5" wide and a European 2 prong adaptor so we ended up having 4 possibilities for our American plug-ins instead of just one. If you have a CPAP, take an extension cord as the plug is across the room. 4. We bought the premium drink package (middle package, blue) which gives you unlimited bottled water and cappuccinos, etc and many types of mixed and on the rocks alcoholic drinks--there are 2 wines white and red--ship's red wine is a drinkable but variable Tempranillo. Mind you the drinks vary wildly in taste depending on who makes them. The top drinks package (gold) did not seem worth the extra charges. 5. If you are used to walking after dinner, you will not find a large circular path around the top of the ship like most have. There is a small one but it is lined with deck chairs during the day...night or early morning walking is much easier. My favorite workout walk was at the rear of the ship. You can walk up stairs outside from one deck to the next for about 4 or 5 decks. 6. If you are a photographer, get up for the entry into Havana harbor slightly before 7 on Sunday then go up again Monday to catch the sunrise and that light on the buildings. Sunset leaving Havana also gives particularly good light on the buildings. Arrival at Cienfuegos very similar but with interesting mountains...(we missed Santiago arrival so can't comment) 7. I had read complaints about the food but I would say on the average, the food was good with a nice selection at each meal. There were a few FABuLOus dishes including all the chilled soups and then there were a few really not so good including the soggy skinny Cuban sandwiches. We found that the sit down meals on decks 5 and 8 were great (with service that could be quite slow but you meet so many interesting people it does not seem to be a problem) while the cafeteria style on the 9th deck left us feeling a bit like we were back in high school. 8. Don't worry that when you enter your room it seems hot and the air conditioning doesn't seem to work. Once you get underway for a few hours the AC will kick in. Halfway through the first night we found ourselves diving under the covers. 9. The counterclockwise cruise around the country will take you past Guantanamo Bay but that will be at night-time and they will announce when you are passing it. (not knowing this, we spent the afternoon with binoculars looking for it!) It was pretty much smooth sailing but the rough water came on the northern coast a bit but definitely a lot of roll on the way from Havana to Cienfuegos each night. 10. Yes, you can not put TP into the toilet...they have a little pedal operated waste-can which which they empty throughout the day. It never seemed to be a problem. 11. There are three little drawers and also two littler drawers inside the closet for storage. There are also 2 shelves in the closet. You get one stool to sit on...no chairs. I used my standing up suitcase wedged between the bed and the wall for a nightstand on the far side of the bed. There is also a 4 inch shelf all along the wall above the beds that was good for placing glasses, small items...the push-on nightlight I took along for reading and maneuvering in the middle of the night... 12. When entering Havana a heavy oil/fuel smell came into the cabin...maybe from the refinery burning off gasses at the top of its smokestack across the harbor? Reception said it was from the air intake and that was what was outside... 13. It is hot in Cuba and humid. You might want to use a light jacket or sweater at dinnertime in the dining areas but otherwise, bring your HOT weather clothes. An umbrella can serve as a rain or sun shelter. (We threw in 2 small folding umbrellas) 14. If you want to bring school supplies for children, there are two professors with the People to People group who will make sure they get to deserving schools. Pencils, pens, markers, crayons, and other supplies are always needed. 15. Concern about the Zika virus had us hauling all our "buzz off" and other bug repellent clothes along with our deet-based repellents. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We had cruised this same cruise last year only we boarded in Jamaica. This year we boarded in Havana. The difference is if you book with Air Transat you loose the first night in Havana as you arrive quite late in the evening. We had a ... Read More
We had cruised this same cruise last year only we boarded in Jamaica. This year we boarded in Havana. The difference is if you book with Air Transat you loose the first night in Havana as you arrive quite late in the evening. We had a broom closet for a room which was ridiculously small, twin beds although double was requested, same room category as last year and that of 2 couples traveling with us. We had problems with air conditioning and flushing toilet and little hot water. We had the engine sound all the time or at least that's what it sounded like. After several complaints we were moved when we got to Montego Bay! We thought we went to heaven, hot water, flushing toilet and air conditioning! The food was no where near as previous year! Our food was mostly Luke warm at best and never got a hot cup of coffee! Most meals the severing staff missed one of our group of 6 meals and didn't really seem to care. They were much shorter staff in the dinning room for all meals and the servers only did what their particular task was i.e. Pour water etc. entertainment was fine. Much the same as previous year. Disembarking in Havana was not very organized as people hunted for their luggage and trying to figure out prearranged transportation with port staff. The excursions now included were ok, much the same as last year but they charged for them last year. Overall we were very disappointed and have now gone from recommending this cruise to suggesting it is in need of much improvement. I would recommend boarding in Jamaica as Havana is a wonderful city full of history and culture and fantastic nightlife that you don't want to miss! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Most aspects to our experience on board were positive. The cabin was kept very clean and the service was beyond complaint. The entertainment was generally good, with the Cuban band, dance troupe, and singers always well rehearsed for ... Read More
Most aspects to our experience on board were positive. The cabin was kept very clean and the service was beyond complaint. The entertainment was generally good, with the Cuban band, dance troupe, and singers always well rehearsed for the five nights we attended. The informational enrichment presentations I attended were interesting. The only exercise group I attended was a Zumba class. I felt excluded from an on-going contest started with a small group on a previous day, and the two minute lesson that followed the contest was not enjoyable and no value for exercise. The excursions were time well spent, and left us wanting to slow down and savour more. We were left with a much broader knowledge of the sad yet interesting history of Cuba. As expected, the food was not five-star quality, but at best tasty and seldom unappetizing. The American breakfast is something they have yet to master, but the wide selection left something for all to fill up on. Table service was at times slow, but every waiter was smiling, polite, and patient without fail. The only real let down was disembarkation. We were unceremoniously ejected from the ship shortly after a quick breakfast at seven AM as a large group of about 250. Our luggage was left on the dock with questionable security. We were promised access to the ship for the day (until midnight) but when we returned we had difficulty getting lunch on time (in American funds which we didn't have), before catching a shuttle at 12:45 for departure from Veradero. The experience left us with a bad taste from what was on other days, a very pleasant trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba. As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the ... Read More
As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba. As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the Caribbean but, instead, is a unique way to visit Cuba and, at the same time, affords the comforts of cruising. First, the ship. An aging lady with an earnest international crew both the ship and the crew do their best to please. The vessel is far from large and is frayed around the edges but virtually all of us on the P2P program agreed- who cares. Some cabins have been upgraded, others have not but they will suffice. A note about the toilets. You will find a note in your cabin asking that nothing be flushed, and that means nothing except human waste. I do believe, however, that the staff is attempting to reduce the likelikhood of a breakdown and the less that goes down, the less likely a breakdown. So we did our best. We had no real problems although some times it takes a minute or two for the system to work. The internet worked surprisingly well ($10 for one hour with lesser per hour costs as you increase the time) but is not available in the cabins. All meals were open seating in one of two nearly identical restaurants. The buffet area was small but by using the near-by pool area, additional seating was available. We found the food adequate and the wait staff quite eager to please. The on board entertainers worked incredibly hard, delivering 7 different shows twice a night. Kudos to all of them! Cuba. You will learn that despite what you thought you knew, you have so much more to learn. The young college professors on board are throughly engaging and the programs are not to be missed. Lying at our doorstep, the Cuban people have endured a rugged history, both in their home land and with the US. Listen, learn and form your own opinion as we did. The shore excursions are a work in progress, both for the Cuban tourist industry (which is now supporting US travelers) and for the P2P program. Some guides were good, others not so good. Keep your eyes and ears open. My personal highlight was a brief taxi ride in Havana- in a taxi the same age as I am! Finally some tips and notes: We came prepared with medical insurance for Cuba and our letter from the P2P program for US Immigration on our return. Nobody asked for anything anywhere. I would not suggest,however, that you do not obtain the medical insurance. Its very inexpensive. The Cuban authorities did take everyone's temperature before debarking in Santiago de Cuba and in Cienfuegos. It took three seconds. Not a big deal. Maria La Gorda is a beach resort, but the beach is incredibly rocky and entrance to the sea takes patience. Bring water shoes if you have them. We did not take the optional excursion to one of three night clubs in Havana as they return close to midnight. The ship had an excellent show that evening. The newly-added balcony cabins are well worth booking. Passengers get on and off at every port except Maria La Gorda. In summary, at this point in time, I do not know a less expensive alternative to cruise and visit Cuba. And you will be a pioneer! Americans are just at the beginning of a new era in Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We joined Celestyal Crystal in Montego, Jamaica and she appeared smart and freshly painted on first impression. We were not disappointed once onboard as despite her age Crystal was very well maintained. Our cabin was one of the new ... Read More
We joined Celestyal Crystal in Montego, Jamaica and she appeared smart and freshly painted on first impression. We were not disappointed once onboard as despite her age Crystal was very well maintained. Our cabin was one of the new balcony additions on Deck 7, added to the ship in 2015 Our cabin steward was attentive and friendly. Both embarkation and disembarkation were without delay. The wifi package was in line with other ships and whilst we unable to access connectivity in our cabin, there was a strong signal in all public areas and downloads were quick. The pool is small as is the case on older ships and is located outside the Hedra casual dining/buffet restaurant and has an optional retractable roof with table and chairs either side. A food station preparing dishes to order such as omelettes at breakfast and speciality dishes at lunch time made it a popular setting to dine, however it did not encourage many passengers to swim in it. Given the itinerary had only one day at sea and it was not considered an issue. What makes this cruise so appealing is it is themed as a Cuba cruise and that is what Crystal delivers. There was a Professor from Havana onboard who provided daily lectures on the Cuban history and culture. Spanish language and Cuban dance lesson were part of the daily programme and the drinks list with various spirit and Cuban rum offerings was impressive and affordable. As Australian citizens we were travelling independently and not on the People to People programme. The ship docks in Old Havana where you can easily walk around the historic area. Being in port for 2 days allows you to eat locally in the evening and enjoy some Cuban music, the Centro area where the museums and classic American cars are found is a 20 minute walk or short ride away. In both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos it was is an easy walk to the town centre if you were not on tour. Maria la Gorda is a tender port and a chance to swim if not doing a tour, diving available. There is limited facilities aside from a couple of bar/restaurants. We dined at different tables each evening in the main dining rooms and met an interesting mix of people, mainly from Canada and the US. Food was not exceptional but it was varied, offered Cuban specialties and the service was polite and staff were friendly. The buffet selection at lunch was adequate and our least favourite place to eat. We were impressed by the nightly shows onboard, for a small ship they were professional and entertaining. The cruise surpassed our expectation. It was an old ship and we were prepared for that, it was our preference over cruising on a bigger more modern ship, we went for the Cuban experience and Celestyal delivered. We read books on the history and culture but we came away with a far greater insight into this country than we had hoped for. The ship is in keeping with going back in time which is what a visit to Cuba is about. A cruise we would recommend. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
My wife and I traveled with another couple on several occasions in the past. Over dinner we discussed possible destinations. Cuba was the winner, we all wished to visit Cuba before it became too “Americanized.” After researching the ... Read More
My wife and I traveled with another couple on several occasions in the past. Over dinner we discussed possible destinations. Cuba was the winner, we all wished to visit Cuba before it became too “Americanized.” After researching the possibilities, we decided to cruise with a 2 day pre-cruise stay in Montego Bay. The Celestyal Crystal was the only act in town. We read all the Cruise Critic reviews, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We were prepared for anything, it would be an adventure. The Celestyal Crystal was certainly very different from the other ships we had been on. It was a delight, the staff was attentive and our every need was met with a smile. We were part of a People to People Program that included talks about Cuban culture by a young professor from Havana University and his associate. We had the opportunity to meet with members of the cruise staff that were Cuban nationals. We were able to talk with them one-to-one and develop empathy for the Cuban citizens. In addition to the P-2-P programs, there were shows every evening. The entertainment crew was energetic and talented. The shows were colorful and active. We enjoyed each one. The food was good but not outstanding. There were omelet stations and a specialty lunch bar each day on the pool deck. The excursions were another opportunity to experience the culture of Cuba. We had a 2 night stay in Havana with excursions on both days. Other ports were Santiago de Cuba, Maria la Gorda and Cienfuego with excursions at each. Each excursion was lead by a knowledge local guide. The excursions provided the opportunity interact with the Cuban people and to see loads of "Classic" cars and trucks. Embarkation and Disembarkation were smooth and without problems. All in all, a cruise to remember and I can recommend the Celestyal Crystal without reservation. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We ... Read More
We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We booked back to back cruises on this ship, so had the advantage of taking the tours on the first trip and doing our own itineraries on the second trip. Issues: The ship does rock and roll more than we're used to. There are stabilizers but they are apparently not being used. The ship is well maintained and clean. The cabins are pretty small, but also impeccably clean and there's enough storage for a large suitcase and 2 backpacks. They really don't want guests to place used toilet paper into the toilet and we found this to be the case in every public toilet that we had to use at our ports. There are no specialty restaurants and the food service hours are limited. The food is pretty basic but we gained 10 lbs. each so there's that. Bad news: a small casino that's hard to find and only 1 or 2 bingo games the whole time. Shocking! There are people embarking and disembarking from Havana as well as Montego Bay and Cienfuegos, so there is the disruption to the crew 3 times a week with new guests and lifeboat drills. Good points: Our package included unlimited drinks for a very reasonable price of $59/person/per week. That included Havana Club 7 year rum, Bombay gin, Jameson whiskey, bottled water, beer, wine, sparkling water, mixed drinks like pina colada's, daqueries, margaritas,mimosa's, cappucino's, lattes, etc. We've never seen a drinks package like that and believe me when I say that they lost some money on us! The staff and crew are very friendly and helpful and there really is a no tipping policy. The cruise director made a point of saying that no one expected a tip and of course, we tipped more than we expected to. A production show every night with aerial acrobatics and a fabulous band. That dance crew did not get a night off! I thought the shows were really good and was surprised that there wasn't the usual comedian or magic act show to give the dancers a night off. The guest lecturers were local professors from the Univ. of Havana and were very interactive with guests, both on and off the ship. They had a rum tasting (no extra charge), a lecture about cigars, a guest speaker who was a retired govt. official. The musicians on board were local Cuban bands and were absolutely awesome. "Latin Soul", in particular, was the band for the production shows and they played dance music and jazz afterwards to a largely empty room. Gifted folks. We were pleasantly surprised by our visits to Havana, where we found lots of shopping and places to eat near the port. There were a few beggars and people trying to sell black market cigars but they did take no for an answer. We didn't feel that Santiago de Cuba was a good place to wander around in on our own due to the harassment of people begging or trying to sell taxi rides, black market cigars or the general seediness of the area. We took the tour on our first visit and ended up regretting going out on our own on the second visit due to the harassment. We don't dive so Maria la Gorda was just a beach visit that required tendering. Cienfuegos is a beautiful city with it's seediness but there are beautiful as well as ugly things to see there and we felt very safe there, not bothered by beggars, etc. You just have to have an open mind about this trip and not expect too much from the ship. It's small and a bit outdated but the folks really seem to be trying hard to please. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff in all areas. Our cabin was excellently maintained by the cleaning crew, and had lots of drawer and hanging space. A nice surprise were the Happy Birthday balloons. The dining rooms presented excellent menu choices, with very good quality food. We liked everything. Entertainment was top notch. Saw every show. Cruise director Danny does a fantastic job. Has so much energy, and speaks many languages fluently, flowing from one to the other without effort. The tours onshore were interesting and informing. The only one I would skip is the Maria La Gorda trip to Cabo de San Antonio. Long bus ride, and not much to see or do. Would rather sit on the beach and relax. My husband wasn't very keen to go on a cruise, this being his first. On our last night aboard he said he was sorry it was over. We will definitely go on a cruise again, and highly recommend Cuba Cruise with Celestyal Crystal to anyone who wants to see more of Cuba than just a resort. It was an excellent holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Note: This review will be written from the viewpoint of an American traveller. I note this due to the unique situation of Americans travelling in Cuba. First a little background, my wife and I are very experienced cruisers. We have ... Read More
Note: This review will be written from the viewpoint of an American traveller. I note this due to the unique situation of Americans travelling in Cuba. First a little background, my wife and I are very experienced cruisers. We have lost count of the number of cruises we have taken. We have been on many lines. While we like some ships and lines better than others, we have never been on a cruise we did not enjoy. We do not like to nitpick cruises, and we try to avoid passengers who do. We look for the positives, of which this ship and its educational program had more than can be mentioned in a short review. If you are an avid Cruise Critic reader, you will note that this ship gets very spotty reviews, at best. CC says something like “57% loved it”, a very low score. Be advised that the reviews need a much closer reading, however, as the rating is a composite score for the Mediterranean and Cuban cruises. A close look shows that, while the reviews in the Mediterranean are not very good at all, the reviews while in Cuba are generally quite good. Perhaps it is due to the Canadian management while in Cuba, but not while in the Greek Isles? The strong Cuba cruise reviews made us take a look at their pricing. Cuba Cruise prices are per cabin, not per person, so the prices are much lower than they appear at first glance. In addition, the prices are quoted in Canadian dollars, so take about a 40% discount if paying with American dollars due to the present rate of exchange. If you do the math, this is a very good deal for Americans in particular. With an exceptional itinerary, good prices, and strong reviews we booked. The booking experience will give you the impression that this company is a small operation and is learning as it goes. I think that is an accurate appraisal, but the experience was easy and personal. Do your homework before leaving! Cuba is a very different country to tour, so read up on those differences. As an example, you will need to bring cash to use in Cuba, as credit cards are useless. Here’s a tip: See if your bank can get you Canadian dollars without charging an exchange fee. In Minnesota, this was easy to do. American dollars have a surcharge in Cuba. Canadian dollars do not. Take Canadian dollars to use in Cuba, if possible. Once booked with money in hand, it is strongly recommended that passengers come into Montego Bay a day early. Montego Bay is the only departure port that makes sense for Americans for a variety of reasons. We decided to come in a day ahead to avoid possible weather issues. We were fortunate we did as our plane was diverted to Atlanta due to mechanical trouble. We arrived in Montego Bay very late and would have missed the cruise had the event occurred on the day of sailing. Over twenty cabins sailed empty due to weather delays, etc. The cruise line bears no responsibility for such cases. Also, there is no easy way to go from Montego Bay to Santiago de Cuba to catch up to the ship, so you are just out of luck in such situations. Take out trip insurance, which is also required by the Cuban authorities. Boarding in Montego Bay, rather than Havana where the Canadians and Europeans board, is actually a distinct advantage. By boarding in Montego Bay, you will have two full days in Havana, perhaps the most interesting city we have ever visited. Travellers boarding in Havana lose valuable time there due to flight connections, unless they come in early and have an extended stay. Most such travellers had only one full day there, which was unfortunate for them. If you do come in early, Khastle Khodero in Montego Bay is strongly recommended for your stay. Embarkation was easy. Actually all of the housekeeping issues were well handled. Even the Internet was above average in speed and cheaper than other lines. All shipboard matters are handled in US dollars, by the way, so you will need your credit card. You will be going back in time while in Cuba, so the Celestyal Crystal matches that theme perfectly. It is an old NCL ship with a most interesting history. Google it and be amazed. The Crystal has no ice rink, climbing walls, ice bars, artwork, or even an atrium. You will find no mints on your pillows. What you will find is a meticulously maintained, attractive small ship. Cabins are comfortable. The staff is stellar. You will love your fellow passengers and, due to the ship’s size, you will often run into your new friends. By the way, our positive outlook on the ship and the experience seemed to be shared by virtually every passenger we encountered. Food on board was good to excellent. The ship has gone to great lengths to bring the Cuba experience on board with an array of Cuban treats at all meals. Every passenger gets caught up in questions about comparing food on lines, so take the following with a grain of salt. We thought the food was somewhere between NCL and Celebrity without factoring in the Cuban influence, which made the dining very interesting. Cuban dancers and singers provided the entertainment. They were very good. There is other musical entertainment on board that was also quite good. A special mention goes out to Danny, the cruise director. This fellow is pretty amazing. Americans are required to attend the People to People program while on board. Tours are also through this program. The shipboard portion of it was unbelievably good. Although for Americans, anyone can attend these presentations and many non-American passengers helped enliven our discussions. I learned more in two days than in all our other cruised experiences put together. The shore excursions, while very good, were a little over scheduled, not allowing for enough time to tour on your own. They are tweaking their tours to solve this problem, but it is a governmental matter rather than a cruise line issue. While in Havana, optional tours are available through the ship, which are not part of the People to People program. You can also just walk about in any port. Havana has a large covered marketplace where you can buy souvenirs. Cienfuegos has a large open-air market and art houses for souvenirs, as well, which my wife felt surpassed what we saw in Havana. Ports and Tours Montego Bay This is not my favorite port in the Caribbean. Time is best spent here at a beach, staying at a good B&B visiting with people, and eating at Scotchies, which is famous for its authentic Jamaican food. You can also get away from the city and climb Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, which is a great experience. Walking in the tourist area will be disappointing. Santiago This city is deep into the history of the Revolution. Think of it as a Cuban Alamo or Valley Forge with a different political leaning. The People to People tour in Santiago needs tweaking, as it was too time intensive. Havana Did the first day tour, which was a very nice walking tour. We skipped the second day tour in order to concentrate on spending time in Old Havana. We ate at the Paladar Los Mercaderes, which was exceptional. In the evening, we went to the Tropicana. We would love to come back to Havana for a visit, a wonderful place. Maria La Gorda This is a leisurely beach stop. You can swim or walk on a long beach, or just get a drink, sit back, and enjoy the view. Cienfuegos This city has a lovely town square and active business district. It was highly enjoyable. We were on our own, but passengers also mentioned a very good People to People tour here. It should be noted that you will meet and openly share with many Cuban people both on the ship and ashore. The Cubans we encountered were warm and welcoming. Those ashore were surprised to encounter Americans and were openly delighted, despite living in economic conditions caused in no small part by our country’s embargo. They will speak freely and, quite frankly, seem to have great regard for Fidel Castro and their government. All call Castro by his first name, as a term of affection. This was clearly not put on for show. They hope for future economic improvement, which is badly needed, but not at the expense of losing their form of government, which has brought them food, shelter, 100% literacy, free world class health care, and free education through advanced degrees. You will find that Cuba is very safe with little crime. There is virtually no military presence. The few police officers we saw carried no weapons. Eye opening. In summary, a good deal, a nice, but not fancy, ship, great staff, unique well-prepared meals, tremendous shipboard programming, fun entertainment, and a wonderful itinerary – Who could want for more? See Cuba before it changes forever and see it on the Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We chose this cruise for a number of reasons. One, we could board at Montego Bay and return to Montego Bay, and since we were already in Jamaica on vacation, it made for very simple logistics. Two, we knew American cruise ships were just ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a number of reasons. One, we could board at Montego Bay and return to Montego Bay, and since we were already in Jamaica on vacation, it made for very simple logistics. Two, we knew American cruise ships were just at the point of making Cuba a destination, and we really wanted to visit Cuba before it was overrun with Americans. Three, the cruise was very reasonable, and we knew this was because the ship was old, and probably not up to the standards we have become accustomed to (Regency, Crystal, etc.) but Cuba is an unknown and not investing too much seemed like a good idea. We booked the cruise through a Canadian travel agency. As we discovered when we booked in early September 2015, the ship's best cabins were already sold out, and we were forced to commit to an interior cabin. We arrived early at the port in Montego Bay. Embarkation was very simple - we were among a handful of people boarding in Montego Bay. We boarded early so we could request an upgrade, and as it turns out, that was a very good impulse - our inside cabin was the size of a large closet, with a mural of a white sand beach on the back wall. We decided not to unpack, but enjoyed the departure party and then dinner, and when we got back to the cabin, discovered a note requesting us to see reception. Happily, they had a larger cabin with an outside porthole, and with help we moved our stuff into the cabin and settled in. We had very low expectations for the cruise. Before our departure, I had jokingly described the cruise as Holiday Inn of the Sea, and I wasn't far off. We had read reviews where it was noted that putting anything which hadn't been eaten into the toilet was verboten. Gah. Really?! Everything else had to go into the bathroom waste basket??? Yes, that's true, but we got over our squeamishness and discovered there was little if any odor, and the waste was taken away regularly by our cabin steward. Except for one day, and we complained and it was rectified immediately. Our cabin was serviceable, but not wonderful, and we had imagined that would be the case so weren't disappointed. Just like a Holiday Inn. There was enough room to put away a week's worth of clothes and store our luggage under the bunk. There was enough hot and cold water, OK pressure, and our tiny bathroom met all our needs. We had also read that the food was boring, the service disinterested and the entertainment not up to par. Well....since it was kind of like a Holiday Inn, I think the food was fine. Not 5 Star by any means, but we didn't starve. Most of the staff on the cruise were young people from Cuba. The main dining room staff were lovely - young, sweet, enthusiastic and ever ready to make our experience as good as it could be. Likewise the entertainment staff, who put on a fully costumed, fully choreographed show just about every night with surprisingly good dancers and singers - all from Cuba. Yes, it was definitely a little hokey and not the Las Vegas extravaganzas experienced on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean. But the dancers always stuck around after the show to play with passengers and teach Samba or something. The entertainment director looked like a nerd, but he was genuinely funny and boy, could he move and get the crowd into the swing of things. A lot of dancing and parties took place on the pool deck, which wasn't large, so it frequently felt cramped with the daily line dancing which took place. The salt water pool was full each time we were in port for the day, or cruising, but it was emptied every night. Every time we arrived at a new port, we had to have our temperatures taken, per Cuban authorities. A drag, but what to do? Disembarkation for shore excursions was always crowded and felt disorganized. People who got off independently returned through the same ID scanner as people leaving, so there was that. But people seemed fairly relaxed about it all, and soon it became a shared inconvenience to be standing on the stairs with half the ship waiting to get outside to our tours. It always amazed me that a ship like Allure of the Seas with her 6,000+ passengers could manage crowds so easily and expertly and little Celestyal Crystal got bogged down with a fraction of the passengers. Cuba was a revelation. Havana is like a dystopian Paris. Cuba is probably one of the most photogenic countries in the world, filled with color, architecture, artists - street musicians, street actors and artists. The ambiance is of a country in a time warp, the evocative streets and beautiful architecture of old Havana forces one to dream of what life was like before the revolution. Today's Cuba, because of its poverty and priorities, has ironically preserved much of that elegant bygone era, even in its shabbiness, dustiness and hopelessness. Imagining a prosperous Cuba able to restore and bring back to its former glory the dreams of that Caribbean wonderland fills the visitor with excitement. The shore excursions made an effort to put certain aspects of modern and historical Cuba on display, but they were frustrating because Cuba is amazingly colorful, exciting, evolving and beautiful and there was so little time. The circumnavigation of Cuba was just a taste, an appetizer. I recommend cruising Cuba for anyone interested in seeing a lot in a short time. l learned there are homes which are open and available to foreigners, a Cuban version of Air B&B, and for anyone wanting more Cuba, that is definitely a route to take. I know a lot of Canadians and Europeans stay in the all inclusive government owned beach hotels, but being Jamaican and knowing how the all inclusives suck the life out of truly experiencing the island and the culture, I wouldn't recommend doing that. Cuba is very safe - be brave! And please go before the notorious signage advertising Starbucks, Sheraton and Steve Madden, etc. etc. start going up all over. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I recently took the Jan 1 voyage from Montego Bay to Cuba as part of the People to People organization. Good: The ship is actually in pretty good condition and the public areas are kept up well. The intimate size allows passengers to ... Read More
I recently took the Jan 1 voyage from Montego Bay to Cuba as part of the People to People organization. Good: The ship is actually in pretty good condition and the public areas are kept up well. The intimate size allows passengers to get to know each other and mingle. The food was mostly pretty good although there were some misses with quality. The crew, overall, is very friendly, although they seem a bit overworked. The Cruise Director Danny does an incredible job and he was very helpful to our group. Photo prices are very reasonable - $5 each. Boarding and disembarking is very smooth, although Jamaican Immigration can be a bit slower. If you have a departing flight at 12:30 or after, you should be in good shape. We got to the airport at 9:30am. Neutral: There sometimes was confusion at the Reception Desk, where employees were not sure of procedures or how to answer detailed questions. One must register their credit card at the Reception Desk for onboard expenses. Do this as soon as you can or while the desk is not busy. There can be a long queue if you wait until everyone has had lunch on the boarding day. Try to settle affairs the afternoon of the day prior to disembarkment because the desk gets busy in the early evening. Needs Improvement - Be Forewarned: There are a few risk management issues passengers show know about: First, the complete room number is printed on your key card. The front desk sells lanyards but you may wish to be prepared with your own method of keeping your card secure. The room safes do not use touch key pads where you create your own code. One must secure a key fob from the Reception Desk (and leave a $50 security deposit on a credit card.) The key fob also has the room number on a tag attached to it. Be prepared to manage this. It is also very important for U.S. passengers to let their credit card company know to expect a charge from Greece for on board purchases prior to leaving. My credit card company initially declined the charge for suspected fraud and then declined subsequent transactions. (I had notified for Jamaica and Canada, thinking the Cuba Cruise company was still Canadian. It is not, apparently.) Also be forewarned about the toilet: Passengers received a letter stating they could not flush used toilet paper down the toilets and to deposit it in a can that was in the bathroom. This was quite the topic of discussion even among strangers and it made many Americans uncomfortable. Most people I spoke with decided to be disobedient but took efforts not to flush *too* much toilet paper. Entertainment: The cruise entertainers try hard but the shows miss the mark. But that is what one expects on a smaller vintage ship. There was one number, an interpretive dance about Afro-Cuban slavery, that was a bit awkward. Montego Bay Airport Tip: Check your credit card or if you have Priority Pass to see if you can enter Club Mobay VIP lounge. They assist you through Immigration and security and the club itself (by gate 9) is a welcome relief to the hustle in the terminal. There is good food, free drinks, and even service from Margaritaville. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
In the past, when I saw one star reviews for vacations I asked myself how people can do that for 5 star hotels. Well, here I am writing my one star (or should be 0) for this Cruise. First of all, I have to say that I loved Cuba. I went ... Read More
In the past, when I saw one star reviews for vacations I asked myself how people can do that for 5 star hotels. Well, here I am writing my one star (or should be 0) for this Cruise. First of all, I have to say that I loved Cuba. I went to cuba with very low expectations, I was in a resort in Varadero the week before the cruise and the experience was excellent, including the resort, the people, the service, the room and even the food. My main purpose for the cruise was to visit Cuba after a week in the beach...but I didn't see much of cuba. Excursions were completely disorganized. The Cruise Director is a clown, and a bad one. And when you put a Clown together with a Salsa dancer that only knows how to count to four to organize 120 people in 4 buses, that's what you get. A hour and a half delay. In addition the boat was always delayed. They always blame the weather (even the day that the cruise didn't sail). The only day that we were on time the joker woke us at 7:20am to call everybody take the temperature even if the disembarking was at 9, and they didn't even took our names or cabin numbers. The end of the story is that you lose most of your time in port because they are extremely disorganized, plus Cuba customs. They take you on a 3 hours tour where they want them to take you and you don't have extra time to do anything on your own. One example of what to expect was at Maria la Gorda. Like many other people, I was prepared with hiking gear to go to a natural reserve. Instead, we were 3 hours on a bus that took us to a place that was...nothing. Only and old lighthouse on the other side of the fence. I asked about changing that excursion for diving, it was u$s 165 for only one tank on a choppy day, when regular price for 2 tanks is $49 in Cuba and they will refund you if there's bad weather. About the cruise. This is a refurbished ferry that was burned and crashed an oil tanker (Do your own research on this one). It might be ok as a ferry, but It cannot handle very well the conditions in Cuba, it was a little bit windy but it was sunny all the time, standard weather for Cuba at this time of the year. I can't imagine it with a real storm, even a minor one. So expect it to move, and a lot. First I got an inside cabin, if you can call it a cabin. It was not even half the size of a small cruise cabin. I upgraded (after having to pay, and they are very good at getting your money) to an outside cabin. The carpets were stained and didn't look modern. the washroom had problems most of the time. Also the air conditioning was unpredictable. Food was college cafeteria grade. At the buffet, there were always the same, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food seemed to come from Greece more than a month before, nothing was fresh at all. Fruits were mainly canned. They advertise that they serve Alberta beef, but I only seen overcooked pork and chicken. Also they changed the dinner plan to open seating. First day I was refused to enter one of the restaurants. They said it was booked by a group for the next 5 days, but other people got in. I got in the next day. Both restaurants serve exactly the same. Sometimes you have to wait 45 minutes, or go to the buffet. Entertainment was always the same, not much entertaining. On the positive side. After the shows, the band stayed playing and they were really good. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
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