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10 Celestyal Cruises Cuba Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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