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8 Celestyal Cruises Cuba Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because it was going to Cuba. We joined a Road Scholar group that was on the ship. We also wanted to go to more than one port in Cuba and the big ships are only going to one port. There were about 150 people on ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was going to Cuba. We joined a Road Scholar group that was on the ship. We also wanted to go to more than one port in Cuba and the big ships are only going to one port. There were about 150 people on board out of the 1200 that it will hold. Maybe because of this there were very few activities other than the mandatory Cuba lectures and activities. For some of the scheduled activities, no one from the cruise showed up. The casino was small and unexciting. The cabins were small and outdated. We had a junior suite and it was tiny. The toilets didn't work right and it was a joke that everyone shared. Everyone went to the common areas to use the toilets. The same group performed every night. They were quite good but it got really repetitive. The gym was good - it was small but given the number of people on the ship it was fine. All that said, the crew was very friendly and nice. The food was excellent. The cabins were clean. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
I was the Group Leader for 18 USA passengers on a People to People tour to Cuba in early January 2017. Most were between 60 and 75 years old. We selected cruising, in part to avoid long, cramped bus rides which would otherwise be needed ... Read More
I was the Group Leader for 18 USA passengers on a People to People tour to Cuba in early January 2017. Most were between 60 and 75 years old. We selected cruising, in part to avoid long, cramped bus rides which would otherwise be needed to see much of Cuba over a week. Celestyal represented we would have stops in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Punta Frances, and Cienfuegos with their voyage beginning and ending in Montego Bay Jamaica. Once aboard we learned from other passengers (not Celestyal) that Punta Frances had been deleted from the itinerary. Travel there had evidentially been prohibited by the Cuban government months earlier but no advance notice was given to me or members of my group. The company still falsely represents on their website that it is included as part of the trip. Then, the evening we sailed from Montego Bay to Santiago de Cuba, a crew member advised one of my group that it was unlikely we would go to Havana. it was, however, only after departing from Santiago that the ship advised that "technical reasons" linked to bad weather on the north coast of Cuba would preclude our ability to dock in Havana. We were advised that instead we would spend the balance of our trip at the port of Cienfuegos. So much for cruising! The solution Celestyal felt appropriate was to arrange 2 days of bus trips from Cienfuegos to Havana (8 hours of round trip travel time each day) in a bus without a working toilet. They also arranged a bus trip (3 hours round trip and again no working toilet) to the colonial city of Trinidad. The excursion included a welcome drink, a lunch, and a visit to one museum. No offer was made to compensate passengers for the meager, physically challenging, and educationally devoid substitute itineraries offered to replace the cruise we signed up and paid for. All of this said, the ship itself was clean and comfortable, the food was acceptable, and most of the crew did their best to make the best of a bad situation. I attribute the universal belief of my group (and almost certainly the balance of passangers) that they were grossly shortchanged by Celestyal to poor decision-making by company's senior decision-makers and owners. Passengers never did receive a complete and plausible explanation of w docking in Havana (the reason most had come on the voyage to begin with) was not possible. The alternative arrangements offered were worthless. And continuing to advertise an itinerary that includes Punta Frances ought to be illegal if there is no possibility of stopping there. he senior management of Celestyal was tested and found to be lacking. Future visitors to Cuba...forewarned is forearmed. A fish begins to stink at the head and 18 of us just spent a week holding our noses. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
There was a group of 18 of us from the US who wanted to see Cuba before it changes too much. I can remember when I was a little girl and Castro took over. For half a century, we couldn't go to Cuba and it was very isolated. Now ... Read More
There was a group of 18 of us from the US who wanted to see Cuba before it changes too much. I can remember when I was a little girl and Castro took over. For half a century, we couldn't go to Cuba and it was very isolated. Now it's open and it will change quickly. I was pleased that it was a small cruise ship and even more pleased that it wasn't near filled up, resulting in fewer lines and more seating. Our cabin was clean and very well maintained. The food was OK, but not outstanding. We preferred eating at the buffet because there were more options. We didn't have to let them know immediately what we wanted for an appetizer, main course and dessert. Once they found out, the food was brought quickly. I'm a very slow eater and the formal dining room made things happen too fast for me. Because the ship didn't go to Punta Frances or Havana, it wasn't near the experience I had been hoping for. I do understand that the Celestyal had known about not being able to dock at Punta Frances months prior to our cruise, but they had not given any of us that information prior to the cruise. When I found we couldn't go to Havana, but they had arranged bus trips for 2 different days, I thought I'd wait to see how things went the first day before deciding to go on the second day. I heard from some that they were on the bus for 4 hours in each direction, while other told me it was more like 4 1/2 hours in each direction and with a toilet that didn't work. No thanks -- I'll pass. I also heard that the bus returned after dark and that some of the trucks on the road didn't have lights. Also, there are a lot of horse carts on the roads. That's just an accident waiting to happen. Again, no thanks ! ! ! The theater was charming and I enjoyed the seating arrangements. The shows were fine, but I feel those long suspended pieces of material on which they did acrobatic stunts were used too often. The music in the lounge/bar area around cocktail time was always very sad. They had a female piano player and a female violinist. I just don't know why they always felt as though they had to play such slow, sad music -- I just stopped going there. The casino is a joke -- there are 25 various machines to play. I never saw even one passenger in there. Also, I never saw even one person in the swimming pool. Usually it was "closed," but even during the rare moments when it was open, no one used it. I'm retired from Delta Air Lines Sales & Marketing and I used to take travel agents on trips around the world. I can't even remember how many cruises I've been on -- for business and for my own personal pleasure. This was certainly a cruise I won't forget -- the cruise that sorta went nowhere. I'm just sooooo happy we had such a great group of friends. That ended up making it wonderful. I was also very happy to see first hand how happy and friendly the Cuban people are. It was a very pleasant surprise. I didn't know what to expect, but that made me very happy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We choose this cruise as it had been recommended by a friend & we really wanted to see Cuba, especially Havana. This sounded like a wonderful opportunity to see the whole island & get a sense for Cuba, the country, the cities, ... Read More
We choose this cruise as it had been recommended by a friend & we really wanted to see Cuba, especially Havana. This sounded like a wonderful opportunity to see the whole island & get a sense for Cuba, the country, the cities, the people & their culture. Havana was our #1 destination, unfortunately we, never got there. When we arrived we were immediately bussed to Cienfuegos, a 3 1/2 hour bus ride after a 6 1/2 hour flight, it was in the dark so saw nothing of the country side. Besides the fact that the port authorities had suggested our ship could not dock in the harbour due to congestion there was a storm which pushed us out, hence the bus ride. So we spent the first 3 days in Cienfuegos, a lovely small community, but not Havana. We had already tripped over, accidentally, on Celestyal cruises website that day 3, our beach day was not to be, due to environmental issues. Would be nice if they had let us know! An effort was made to compensate in a bus trip to Trinadad, 3 hour bus ride there & 3 back, which was a total waste of time, we really saw nothing but countryside. The next day they offered us a trip to Havana, a 4 hour bus ride there & 4 hours back, we declined having already spent far too much time on busses. Finally we left this port & headed to Montego Bay, Jamaica to drop off & p/up passengers. Montego Bay was a nightmare, we lasted in town for 1/2 an hour & immediately went back to the ship. On entering customs the first thing the gal said to my husband was, make sure you have your wallet. Pretty much sums up Montego Bay right there! Finally the next day we headed to Santiago a lovely city, thoroughly enjoyed a guided tour from a university student. Our last day on the boat was at sea, again. Arriving in Havana, we could have had time for a city visit but what to do with our bags, so off to the airport for a 6 hour wait in an airport with little to no seating. We will definitely go back to see Havana, but not on this cruise! One big huge disappointment! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
I found this company about 6 months ago while looking for companies that offer tours of Cuba. At that time we USA citizens still had limited access to Cuba and the tour companies offering tours usually charge $1000 per day for land tours. ... Read More
I found this company about 6 months ago while looking for companies that offer tours of Cuba. At that time we USA citizens still had limited access to Cuba and the tour companies offering tours usually charge $1000 per day for land tours. I then found Celestyal Cruises offering the "People to People" program for USA citizens and the all inclusive (gratuities, liquor and exclusions) cost for the 2 of us was $3400 for their 7 day package. So we were sold and looked forward to our first glimpse of Cuba. 1. The ship is old but spotlessly clean and well maintained. 2. The crew were wonderful and always available to assist. 3. Our cabin was small (no tiny) and the bathroom even smaller. All cabins were the same small size. The beds were more like cots, low to the floor. So low you couldn't put your empty suitcase under the bed to save space. OK the cruise was cheap and we stayed out of the cabin as much as possible. 4. The ship was not full at all and their second dining room was closed. There is one main dining room and one buffet room. It doesn't matter which one you go to, the food was barely edible. Breakfast, the same everyday. Warm fresh fruit salad bar, cold eggs, bacon, and all other foods that should have been hot. If you want omelets or pancakes you must go out to the pool area for these items, thankfully made to order & hot , must then go back inside for coffee and any other items like salt and pepper. I asked where the toaster was to make toast, but they had pre-toasted the bread & put it in with the danish and obviously cold and hard as a rock. Lunch, did vary but only slightly. They had a roast every day and a carver to serve you. But all roasts were so overcooked, they looked grey. We made a salad for ourselves and added some cold cuts (all room temp.) Cruise ships are famous for their hamburgers. But not Celestyal. So overcooked they were dry and hard. No french fries either. Dinner in the dining room was odd to say the least. We like a table for 2 but the room is set up like a cafeteria, 90% of the tables were long tables for 8/10. If you wanted a table for 2 you had to be one of the first 10 couples in line at 6:20 p.m. The menu offered a Chef Special every night of a Cuban specialty. The chef had no clue how to make any Cuban dish. Most folks would just send it back. By day 3, we tried to just have 2 or 3 starters and no main course offering . Our waiter tried but never got the concept that a starter could be a main course too. By day 4 we just went to the buffet. The bread offered at all meals were dry, tasteless and mushy, like our Wonder Bread, in roll form, or baguette form. 5. All inclusive drinks - You still had to present your ship's card, every time you asked for a drink, even a bottle of water. The "bartenders" are European trained and have no clue how to make a good cocktail/drink. And although all-inclusive they measure each and every pour. Quickly we realized we had to ask for a double measure to even taste the rum or whatever. The wine offered at dinner was just what they gave you and if you like sweet cheap wines then you have it made. If you want any other wine that is not their pick of the day, you then must pay extra. Our box wines are better then their offerings. 6. Excursions - Wonderful. The locals guides went out of their way to inform us and give us an eye opening experience in Cuba. We only had 3 ports of call with an overnight in Havana. 7. Entertainment - For long time cruisers we were pleasantly surprised that the ships entertainment was really good. Most ships now have lousy shows but the guys/gals on this ship were great. 8. Dress code - Don't waste your time with even one large suitcase for 2. Jeans were the norm at dinner. Their "Elegant" night was laughable. Jeans were still the norm. And yes, tee shirts were worn and dress up for guys was a clean polo shirt. Overall - The crew was great. We met fun people. We got what we paid for, a cheap 7 day trip to get a glimpse of Cuba. Yes, we definitely want to go back and especially Havana for maybe 3/4 days. But Never again will we waste our money on a Celestyal cruise anywhere. we both came home and I was the exact same weight and my better half lost a pound. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
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
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
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