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25 Celestyal Cruises Cuba Cruise Reviews

We were planning on an extended stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica and this cruise was offered as a gift to break-up that stay. We always enjoy staying there and Doctors' Cave Beach in particular. The beach is an easy walk to Margaritaville ... Read More
We were planning on an extended stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica and this cruise was offered as a gift to break-up that stay. We always enjoy staying there and Doctors' Cave Beach in particular. The beach is an easy walk to Margaritaville but you pass a lot of shops with aggressive sales people. If you stay for several days, they recognize you and are very respectful. The embarkation was remarkable. we were one of two couples in the terminal for registration which went quickly after we paid the Jamaican government $35 each because we stayed in the country prior to boarding the ship. It was made quicker because we did not register our credit card until we were on the ship. No wait there either. At 25,000 tons it is the smallest ship we have sailed. We have always liked the 80,000 to 110,000 ton ships and we were delighted that we were not forced to sacrifice anything cruising this ship. The tiny pool was drained most of the week because of rough waters. If the pool was tiny the casino was miniscule, six slot machines. Everything else was up to par with any ship. Lots of reviews have talked about how well kept the old ship is. We were in cabin 7009, a junior suite.The balcony was a recent addition and turned an oceanview into a suite. My wife was so pleased with it that she refused to let me pay the small upgrade fee for a full suite. If you can make the same deal, take it. The shower was great and the bath roomy, for a ship. With less than 240 passengers, the ship was at about one third capacity. The official passenger capacity is 1,200 but that puts a body in every bed, bunk and sofa-sleeper. Only one of the two MDRs was open and on lido only one of two serving lines was open. The food was pretty clearly a real effort by some hard working chefs to make the best of a limited budget. The wait staff tried hard to sell the beef and seafood upgrades. The nightly shows were fantastic and all of the lounge acts were great. The shows used performers from all over the ship to put on Cuban themed shows with Cuban born performers. No language barrier. Trivia, games,crafts, dance lessons were all there with photogs everywhere. Captains' party was short and short. Service here was the best ever, probably because they were staffed for almost three times the guests. My wifes' native language is Russian so she was delighted that nearly half of the staff spoke Russian. Most spoke several languages and wore ID badges with flags of nations which indicated their proficiency. All were very good English speakers. Since we are US citizens we did not technically purchase a cruise but we paid to participate in an educational "People-to-People program". The excursions were manditory and included in the price, along with all tips and a drink package. The result was a cruise a little more pricey that we generally buget for a week. To everyone who wants to rush to Cuba before it turns into just another tourist trap ... too late. The Tropicana night club show was remarkable, but it rained in middle of the outdoor performance and our guide remarked that it was cut short as a result. Every bus was made in China and modern, clean and comforable. Every excursion included a shopping stop with many other things obviously made in China. There were no country of origin labels so no evidence they were manufactured in Cuba but lots of evidence that the vendor did not "carve this myself from the best woods". All that said, this was probably the best way to see Cuba under the newest rules . A day in Santiago, overnight in Havana and a day in Cienfuegos. Lectures on the ship were entertaining. This ship rotates to Greece in March and I don't think a return is certain. A lot of things had to line-up for us to take this cruise and I don't think I would do it again. We did not talk with many of our fellow passengers to get their opinion but we never encountered an informal gripe session. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
This cruise was highly recommended by friends and we decided to try it for our annual Christmas Vacation. I have to say the entire experience was amazing. The nightly shows exceeded my expectations, the staff was friendly, kind, courteous ... Read More
This cruise was highly recommended by friends and we decided to try it for our annual Christmas Vacation. I have to say the entire experience was amazing. The nightly shows exceeded my expectations, the staff was friendly, kind, courteous and extremely helpful. The food and service at the restaurants were exceptional. I also liked the photo shoots and the fact that they were able to capture most of our memorable moments. Of course,I spent close to $100 collecting pictures of special moments with my family, but it was worth it. The cabins were as expected and the housekeeping staff did an amazing job cleaning them twice daily. Loved the daily activities, the zumba, yoga and dance classes. The only improvement I would recommend, however, is to the breakfast menu - having the same menu items every morning was not very appealing for a 7 day cruise. But overall, it was a great first time experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We just returned yesterday, having flown in to Havana and out of Havana (from Miami from/to Dallas). Rather than go in to Montego Bay (not a huge fan of Jamaica, and have been there a few times) and get on the ship, I wanted to go the ... Read More
We just returned yesterday, having flown in to Havana and out of Havana (from Miami from/to Dallas). Rather than go in to Montego Bay (not a huge fan of Jamaica, and have been there a few times) and get on the ship, I wanted to go the Havana route. We got in 2 days early to really see Havana and get a feel for the city. We wanted a smaller ship and one that hit more than just Havana for a day. It was definitely worthwhile and we are very happy we did it. Being from the U.S., we were part of the people-to-people program, which meant that we had different tours (don’t know why) and a couple of different presentations on the ship. The ship stays 2 days in Havana, 1 day at sea going counterclockwise around to the central city of Cienfuegos, then down to Jamaica, then back up to Cuba to hit Santiago, then another day at sea to keep on the way to Havana. We had tours that were part of the cost—in Cienfuegos, in Havana, in Santiago. The buses were really nice and the tour guides were perfect—Cubanacan tour company. English was great, they answered our questions, and did not shy away form tough questions about poverty, the government, etc. It was nice having the drinks as part of the package. There really isn't much of a reason to upgrade to the gold package (the standard is the blue package). The wine was fine, not great. The gold package has some better wines, some better scotch (although my husband the scotch-drinker said that he did not think that Glenfiddich was a premium scotch--it is on the gold package). The ship has a buffet eating area, the Leda, as well as the Amalthia formal dining room. There is also the Olympus dining room, which was not open. There was a variety of food possibilities in the buffet, as well as the dining room. The food was good, not exceptionally wonderful. This did not bother my husband and me since we went on this trip to learn about Cuba, not eating all day. Cienfuegos was interesting, although not that much to see. Still……a nice little tour and time to just sit in the square and soak things in. Better was Santiago………the battle of San Juan Hill, the wonderful Spanish fort/castle that guards the bay there, etc. The rooms on the ship were fine, rather similar to ones we have been on with RC, Celebrity, Princess. The turn on/off on the shower took some figuring out. Nice, small balconies. We were on the port side, and so we faced land all of the time..…..great location. Our cabin 7028 was way at the back of the ship, right in the best area to quickly get down to the restaurants, pool, lounges, etc . Cabins 7029 and 7030 would be great also, although 7030 would be the best because its balcony was the biggest (because of the slope on the back of the ship). Amazingly enough, we had entertainment every night, except for the 1st night (lots of people went to the Tropicana cabaret). The band, the singers, and the dancers were all Cuban-----really good, every night a different 1 hour special—Afro-Cuban music/dances, fiesta, a story about the revolution (that one was a bit of a stretch, though), etc. And the musician/singer duo called Duo Jaleo in the Eros Lounge every night was really good. I did all of the dance lessons (salsa, meringue, mambo, bachata, cha cha) as well as Zumba. Martha, the main instructor, was a blast. Charming, funny, good instructor. Her classes with Cuban music were great. My husband even got in on a couple of the dance classes. All sorts of other 1 hour presentations were going on—documentaries about Cuba, everything about Cuban music and instruments, everything about cigars, how to make Cuban dishes, Cuban drink making, etc. Many of them were put together by our resident Havana-born expert, Dr. Jorge Arocha. I did not go to bingo, to making animals with towels, or anything like that. During those times when there was nothing I wanted to go to, I just hung out with my book reading in a lounge or on the deck, or by the pool. The crew was a head above any other cruise line in being nice and welcoming. Absolutely went out of their way to be helpful as well as just talking about their daily activities. Remember that this ship is small, made for around 1000 people only (although there were probably around 250-350 on it during our stay. I like the size of the ship better than the huge ships with 3000 people and up. The pool is small, but fine for me. Of course, there are some pluses on a big ship—more choices of activities at any hour of the day, a multitude of various kinds of bars, and food entities. If you are the kind of person that needs to have 6 different options of entertainment at any given hour, this is not the ship for you. And also realize that it is an older boat, built in the early 90s. And the ages of the passengers varied from mid-twenties up to eighties, most most being in the 50-60 age area. If anyone is concerned about being from the U.S., I can tell you this was a non-issue. Actually, I think that any danger you hear about are hyped to scare people. Our visas were not a problem getting in/out of the country, and when we went through customs in Miami, they could have cared less about the fact we came form Cuba. Not even a question about opening up a suitcase to look inside. A total nothing. We had no crime perpetrated on us, no dangers we faced, no sonic booms, or anything. Just really nice people who like Americans, and other tourists. I'd travel on this ship again, probably more likely in Greece. If I go to Cuba again, it would be a land tour. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I wanted a cruise that was basically exclusive to Cuba. The people to people program was very rich although I was disappointed that a cigar factory tour, Castro's grave and a rum factory (not just the store) were included. The ... Read More
I wanted a cruise that was basically exclusive to Cuba. The people to people program was very rich although I was disappointed that a cigar factory tour, Castro's grave and a rum factory (not just the store) were included. The staff on the cruise were exceptional at every level. They made the entire cruise enjoyable. This is an older ship without many amenities but it was worth taking for the port stops. The ship is not kid friendly. They have a few hours for small kids on the sea days and an hour of Wii time for teenagers. That's all. There is a ping pong table and a gym or the very small salt water pool (max 10 people). So my kids - ages 14, 17, 18 didn't have a lot to do on non trip days. The only problem I had was that food was limited and getting drinks was complicated. The ship was 1/2 full so there was only 1 place to eat for each meal, and the time span was short. This was limiting especially when we disembarked for tours. You can only order drinks on their very limited menu. Even if all of the ingredients were available, they would not make a drink not on the menu. If you are ok with limited amenities I would recommend the ship because it was worth all of the time spent off of the cruise to have an authentic experience. Would recommend upgrading to a suite or you will be very, very cramped in the cheap rooms. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
The cruise was part of an all inclusive package from TripCentral. Most Canadians go to Cuba for the beach and then maybe fly to Havana. The Celestyal cruise offered an opportunity to see more of Cuba, from Havana to Cienfuego, then ... Read More
The cruise was part of an all inclusive package from TripCentral. Most Canadians go to Cuba for the beach and then maybe fly to Havana. The Celestyal cruise offered an opportunity to see more of Cuba, from Havana to Cienfuego, then Santiago plus a stop in Montego Bay along the way and we were not disappointed. The excursions offered a rich cultural experience. The tour buses were new and air-conditioned. The tour guides spoke very good English. The nightly shows, though not very elaborate, but were fabulous. The entertainment team and singer were all very talented. Each excursion was topped off with a stop at a popular bar and we were given free mojitos or margarita. The food in the ship was not 24/7 which was good because we did not gain much weight after the trip. I love the daily Latin dance lessons. The crew were friendly and very hard working. I would recommend this trip to anyone who would want to experience and see more of the Cuban culture. During the transfer from Havana to Veradero, our taxi broke down and so we were out there on the highway under 36Celsius heat. I was worried that we will have to wait a long time for a replacement taxi to come pick us up but another car came within 10 minutes and we still had plenty of time at the airport to relax and buy some souvernis. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
U.K. Couple boarded in Havana on Monday 22nd May We arrived in Havana at Jose Marti airport on Monday afternoon and transferred straight to the cruise terminal. The embarkation procedure was easy and straightforward, we dropped our ... Read More
U.K. Couple boarded in Havana on Monday 22nd May We arrived in Havana at Jose Marti airport on Monday afternoon and transferred straight to the cruise terminal. The embarkation procedure was easy and straightforward, we dropped our luggage at the drop-off point downstairs and was advised it would appear outside our cabin within 30 mins, there were no queues and getting through Cuban Customs to board was very quick. Once on board we were guided to our cabin by the staff located by each lift on every floor. We stayed in 6015 which is an XBO cabin with a large window not obstructed by a lifeboat, but does have partial obstruction from the ship's structure. Nonetheless I still managed to get some very good pictures through the window (although it was a bit dirty). The room itself is small and has two single beds with one upper pull down bed, a stool, double chest of drawers, wardrobe and plenty of storage space on one side of the cabin wall. The bathroom is impossibly small and the shower area is too small to even stand in with the curtain around you, as a result the whole floor area got wet and as there was no floor area drain, the water that enevitably ended up outside the small shower area pooled underneath the toilet. This holiday was to celebrate the O.H's 50th birthday, so we decided to ask the question as to whether an upgrade to a larger cabin would be possible in light of such a tremendous occasion. Yes, we were told, no problem, by the man on reception who disappeared into the office behind the reception desk. He came out a few minutes later with a piece of paper in hand, on which was written 350-600 dollars depending on which cabin we wanted. Disappointed, we declined having already spent 2200EUR for the cruise, we felt this was enough. It was even more disappointing when we discovered after a couple a days that there was less than 250 people on board, there must have been so many empty cabins. We then went straight to the bar to try out the local beer before deciding whether to upgrade to the premium drinks package that included Heineken & Bud etc. The draught lager is Greek and in our opinion doesn't taste very nice. The local beer Cristal is a good beer, in small 330ml tins, it's what we call a good slurper, comparable to Fosters, Carlsberg or Carling. Bucanero is the local premium beer at 5.4%, again in 330ml tins and is also a good beer comparable to Kronenberg, Pilsner etc. Also tried a couple of cocktails which were ok, they didn't have very large measures of alcohol, but they were ok. We decided not to upgrade and stuck with the blue drinks package that was included in our cruise package. We attended the safety briefing as soon as we got there in order to get it out of the way. It was quite amusing as everything was very important. Literally every sentence started with very important. They never did an actual lifeboat muster drill. I can't really remember anything from the safety briefing other than very important lol!! The buffet restaurant was never opened due to low numbers on board, the main restuarant on deck 8 was used on a daily basis and as a result lunch and dinner was always a-la-carte. There was an early bird breakfast 6-30-7am on deck 9 with coffee and pastries otherwise breaksfast was also in the main restaurant on deck 8, which was buffet on excursion days and a-la-carte on sea days. The food in general was very good, never had anything we did not like and although the portions were quite small you could always ask for more if you wanted it, not a problem, even the desserts! Didn't do the captain's cocktail party, not really our thing or the late night cake party either, so can't comment on either or those. All of the staff were excellent, in the restaurant quite lieterally falling over themselves to help you. One would seat you, another would put the napkin on your lap, another would hand you a menu, another would fetch water it was quite funny sometimes. This was mainly due to the fact there were such low numbers on board, the staff outnumbered the guests. The cruise itself was fantastic, we had a half day tour included for Havana and Santiago both of which were very good. We were separated from the Americans on the tours as they had separate iterneries and had other things included on their tours that we didn't have. The half day in Havana was very good and covered most of the main tourist attractions, our guide Havier was excellent and shared his very thorough knowledge of the history of Cuba in an informative an engaging manner. The tour lasted just over 5 hours and ended in Floridita with a Hemingway Daquiri cocktail. For the stops in Cienfuegos and Mo-Bay we did our own thing and headed out on our own, Cienfuegos was beautiful and very enjoyable with lots of markets and sourvenirs. Mo-Bay was dreadful, very run down, lots of beggars and dollar shops, people constantly trying to hustle you, insisting they were your luggage handler at the airport or they worked in the kitchen on your cruise ship then asking you for a few dollars to feed their children etc. Couldn't wait to get out of there to be honest. Santiago was great, although our guide was not as a good as Havier, he just walked around pointing at things and telling you key facts and dates, it just wasn't as memorable as he made no effort to engage with you, which is a shame as Santiago has a great story to tell. We visited the Cemetery where Fidel's tombstone is and queued for about half an hour to walk past it, constantly being told to hurry up and move on by the guards, you couldn't even stop for more than a couple of seconds to take a proper photograph. The weather was very hot and humid, not one day was less than 30 degrees or 70% humidity, once on board the ship it was nice and cool and the air conditioning worked very well both inside the cabin and in the bar and restaurant areas. All of the staff were always pleased to see you and nothing was too much trouble for them. This was a first cruise for me, so I had very few expectations, I found the ship to be very pleasant and it was clean and tidy throughout. The pool appeared to be rather small, although we never used it and the jacuzzi was full with 4 people in it. We only attended 1 show and we weren't very impressed, it was rather amateur. Upon arrival we were quite fortunate as the ship was in dock in the harbour and stayed there until it was time to leave at 10pm on Tuesday. This meant you were free to come and go as you pleased. However, upon our return into Havana on the following Monday we were told that we had to be off by 9am as the ship had to withdraw from the port and anchor in the bay to make way for other cruise ships, not returning into the port until 6pm. They did put on a bus shuttle at 11:30am to take those passengers with late departures to lunch at the Grand Theatre, we didn't bother with this as we were booked into a Havana hotel for the rest of our stay. Later on that afternoon we bumped into a couple who we knew from the ship that had boarded in Mo-Bay and they said that they had also been told that the same thing was happening the next day, only this time you had to be off the ship by 06:30 and couldn't get back on till 9pm or you stayed on board. Glad we never experienced this, it definitely would have spoilt things for us. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We were pleasantly surprised about how good the food was on board, and how lovely the staff were, both in the dining room and the cabin stewards. We went on this cruise because we had never been to Cuba and we both love cruising so ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised about how good the food was on board, and how lovely the staff were, both in the dining room and the cabin stewards. We went on this cruise because we had never been to Cuba and we both love cruising so thought this was a good way to see a few parts of Cuba in one trip. The food far exceeded our expectations and the shore excursions that were included in the price were very good. All alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were included too, which was very nice. We would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone who wanted to see Cuba (not just go to an all-inclusive for a week) although it is not meant for people with children - - the average age was about 50 to 75. It was not deluxe like Crystal Cruises, but also was very good value for the money. There were quite a few activities on board and a hot tub and pool so you certainly don't get bored on the couple of days at sea. The entertainment was absolutely fantastic - - so talented. Obviously we loved this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
Picked this cruise as it is the only itinerary that circles Cuba and makes 3 major port stops: Santiago, two full days and overnight in Havana, and Cienfuego. Originally, the itinerary included Maria Gouda but that was replaced with stop ... Read More
Picked this cruise as it is the only itinerary that circles Cuba and makes 3 major port stops: Santiago, two full days and overnight in Havana, and Cienfuego. Originally, the itinerary included Maria Gouda but that was replaced with stop at Punta Frances, which was dropped from the itinerary. We were not notified of this until two days before departing. Would have been nice to know but it actually turned out fine. Punta Frances is a marine preserve and Cuba is evaluating the impact on the environment because of the increased cruise ships. In the end, the itinerary was packed full and wonderful in any case. This is a fabulous cruise, especially for Americans who have to participate in the People-to-People experience. DO IT! You will be immersed with Cuban artists, dancers, musicians throughout. Entertainment on board each night is spectacular -- first rate!!! All performed by Cubans, who love to talk about Cuba and learn about USA. The excursions gave many opportunities to interact with Cuba culture and talk to people. All guides were Cuban. We had THE BEST lectures on board done by a young Cuban professor -- he was fun, full of information, dedicated to "teaching" us, answered all kinds of questions and spent endless hours talking to us about anything and everything. A big THANK YOU to him and all the performers and cruise director, Danny, and whole animation team. What a great trip and experience. Cabin great. Stayed in 7001 with two other friends. Two-room suite, lots of closet space, great bathroom, spacious balcony. Food sometimes really good; sometimes only fair. Wine list very lacking. Buffet breakfast food always cold, but you can have omelets or waffles made and they were hot and great. You don't take this cruise for the food. Pool small, most of the trip not operational because of netting over it because of waves; never saw anyone in it. No place to sit in loungers after swimming anyway. You don't take this cruise for the pool, but that doesn't matter. You take this trip to see CUBA! and see and enjoy you will. I've been all over the world and this visit to Cuba was powerful. GO! And go on this cruise for a full, real Cuban experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Going to Cuba has been a life-long dream of mine, which I realized this past February onboard Celestyal Crystal. I did lots of research on here which helped with my decision. I hope my long review helps some of you! This was my 30th ... Read More
Going to Cuba has been a life-long dream of mine, which I realized this past February onboard Celestyal Crystal. I did lots of research on here which helped with my decision. I hope my long review helps some of you! This was my 30th cruise, and I will admit that I am a big fan of smaller, more traditional ships. The Celestyal Crystal was perfectly-sized for the smaller ports of call in Cuba such as Santiago and Cienfuegos. I consider this less a mainstream cruise than a casual learning experience with like-minded passengers. Unlike the Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean ships that are now starting to visit Havana, this wasn't about a fun-and sun vacation and quite frankly I was glad to be there just ahead of the cruise ship invasion. While this is sold as a "5-star ship" it is clearly not; it is a comfortable, unassuming vessel which I became quite fond of but will not appeal to everyone. You can either board the ship in Havana, or in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I opted for Jamaica mostly because by doing so, there is more time for you to enjoy in Havana as a passenger, versus boarding the ship in Havana and losing a significant part of the overnight stay. I will also point out that on our sailing the guests embarking in Havana did not get to embark until probably 9pm...meaning the whole day that we had just enjoyed in Havana was a waste to them. Additionally, Montego Bay has an excellent airport with a great VIP lounge, Club MoBay, which I highly recommend. As an American passenger, I was signed up for the People to People program sold as yourcubacruise.com. Due to US Treasury restrictions, US passengers can only visit Cuba for 12 specific reasons, the most lenient being the previously-mentioned P2P program. While there were Cuban entertainers, lecturers, etc. onboard, the primary "requirement" of the program was participating in the included shore excursions in Santiago, Havana, and Cienfuegos. At the end of the trip, you receive a certificate which you are advised to hold onto in case you are ever asked for it by the US governement. I doubt very seriously if this would ever happen; accordingly, there were passengers who participated fully, some did not. In the case of Havana, there is a tour both days. On the second day the excursion was over around noon, and then I spent quite a bit of time walking by myself all over Havana. I will say, there are quite a few tourists in Havana; some areas of old Havana near the dock and the central squares were downright crowded. When you got out of that locale, it was much more casual. Cuba's largest economic engine is now tourism. The Celestyal Crystal Cuba cruise is interesting in several ways (to me at least)...first and foremost it wasn't a typical cruise environment although the ship had really good facilities for her size (25,000 tons). The passengers onboard were there primarily to see Cuba and the ship was secondary; a form of transporation. The ship does NOT have the mainstream cruise amenities like rock walls, water parks, etc. This is a traditional cruise ship which has been, among other things, NCL's Leeward, and a Silja Line Scandinavian cruise ferry. Much of the ship is dated in that 1990s fashion, with the reflective ceilings of that time and more pastel colors and brass. I loved many things about the Crystal, such as the real teak decks, the ability to walk completely to the bow (on most days, and especially spectacular when arriving or leaving port), and the great bar and terraced decks overlooking the stern. Recently, a number of balcony cabins were added to the ship. In addition to American passengers, the Crystal attracts an interesting cross-section of Cuba-centric travelers: lots of Canadians, and in Havana a large number of Germans arrived. The split boarding also means a portion of the passengers will change out during the voyage. In many ways, this was an EXCELLENT value trip: I went single occupancy, and was originally booked in an outside cabin at the usual 2x premium. Later, there was a single special offered with no single supplement...to take advantage i moved my departure date forward by several weeks and moved to an inside cabin vs. an outside one. Also, tips were included as was a beverage package. This all added up to a really great value. Haven't had an inside cabin in forever but the savings made it a no-brainer; while it was rather small it had been recently had some renovation. One important consideration is that the cabins don't have many electrical outlets. Mine for example had one US fixture and one European one...accordingly I carried an adapter and could use both outlets which is important on such a photo-centric itinerary where you need everything to be charged and ready! The bathroom is rather small and dated but the shower was really nice with a curved glass door. Some reviewers have mentioned the moody plumbing onboard, but I had no issues with my cabin toilet...I suspect this problem exists in certain areas of the ship, for example lower decks. As I mentioned, the Crystal is a small ship, 25,000 tons, about 500 feet...it is extremely easy to get around from day one...there are two elevator/stair towers which you can almost see from each other...there is a pool with glass cover, which stayed semi-open the entire trip...there is a tiny jacuzzi at the stern near the bar which perhaps could fit 4 people. There is a surprisingly large 2-story show lounge and a tiny casino which I never saw a soul in. The dining situation onboard is as follows: compared to a mainstream megaship, there is less food availability, which wasn't an issue for me. There are two smaller dining rooms (one each on Decks 5 and 8) which operate with the same menu. Additionally, there is a small buffet restaurant on the port side near the pool (with another one on the starboard side for overflow seating). I doubt that each restaurant seated more than 100 people. I ate in the sit-down restaurant several times...you can arrive between 6 and 8:30 or 9; you are seated at random with other passengers. At the buffet, it was easier to have your own table. The dining room menu offered a Cuban specialty each night. I got quite frankly bored with the food at the buffet...basically it was either: chicken legs, pasta, and a fish fillet. Each night, the preparation of the three changed. There was also a carving station. Other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your other dining option onboard is free room service, which looked nice. I honestly didn't miss the usual mountain of food usually found on cruise ships. I could bore you with all sorts of Cuba info but I figure you are primarily here for the ship info! I will say that Celestyal Crystal is the perfect-sized ship for Cuba. In fact, the size of most Cuban ports thankfully exclude the new mega ships...the largest ships going to Cuba seem to max out around 70,000 tons. I saw three other cruise ships in Havana, the European MSC Opera one day and MSC Armonia the next. Also, the tiny Hamburg was there. Being that there is only one currently-operating pier in Havana, we had to play musical ships on our cruise...on our first day in Havana, we had to arrive at the dock, disembark all the passengers, then the ship had to anchor in the harbor to make room for another ship...during which time the Cuban government wouldn't allow tender access. This made for a very long day in Havana: we weren't able to reboard the ship until around 9pm that night...in fact we were scheduled to reboard earlier but there were issues which delayed that. Also, the People to People shore excursions were quite good (there's nothing I hate more than a bus tour usually). The guides were generally open and frank about life in Cuba. To compensate for the additional time in Havana which we couldn't access the trip, a nice lunch was added to the trip. I will be glad to answer any Cuba-related questions you have. The most important thing I will tell you is to absolutely positively have your passport on you at all times as well as your Cuban visa, which is included in the ticket price. You will also need CASH, as US credit cards (with one exception, those issued by Stonegate Bank in Florida) do not work. There are currency exchanges at all three ports, which will charge you about 10 percent. It is also very important to remember there are TWO currencies...a Cuban peso and a tourist peso. Be careful receiving your change as they have vastly different values. In conclusion, the Celestyal Crystal is a great way to see Cuba as you circumnavigate the entire island. The size of the ship is, for me, perfect. You won't have to worry about the expensive (and mostly subpar) hotels available in Cuba...and in the instance of my sailing the prepaid gratuities and beverage package were nice bonuses. Your fellow passengers will be a more worldly lot, primarily interested in the uniqueness of discovering Cuba versus having a traditional tropical cruise experience. The food onboard was OK but there was one fantastic Cuban waiter who constantly smiled and seemed to sincerely enjoy his job. I'm trying to remember his name. Alberto maybe? I found the staff to be really great onboard, although some were initially more reserved. Both the cabin attendants were perfect and took great care of the room. During my voyage there were several issues at the reception desk...my problem got fixed immediately, however a friend onboard go the runaround for 6 days regarding his issue. I think this was a personality issue on both his behalf and whomever helped him. Other than that glitch, I really liked the staff; one day, it struck me that every single crewmember I encountered had greeted me with a smile and a "good morning" etc. I thought the senior management onboard however was distant and treated passengers as an imposition on their ship. Maybe this was my perception. Overall though, the general friendliness level was much greater than the impersonal megaship I cruised on several months earlier. If you aren't expecting a spanking new, huge resort-style ship, and you want to make a historic trip to Cuba in an intimate setting with passengers interested in the same, Celestyal Crystal is a good value, especially for small-ship lovers not expecting the latest amenities. Next year, Celestyal is adding the Celestyal Majesty (at one time NCL's Norwegian Majesty) to the Cuba lineup. I am seriously considering taking another trip onboard Celestyal Crystal to Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Let me start by saying I am not a frequent cruiser. So my review is not a comparison to other cruise ships. Our objective was to see Cuba in different ports above and beyond just Havana with the convenience of having our accommodations ... Read More
Let me start by saying I am not a frequent cruiser. So my review is not a comparison to other cruise ships. Our objective was to see Cuba in different ports above and beyond just Havana with the convenience of having our accommodations follow us around the country and not deal with hotel jumping. My wife and I really enjoyed our week on the Celestyal Cruise around Cuba. We were happy with the 3 ports of call and we knew going into this that the ship is older and somewhat dated so our expectations were in accordance. We were pleasantly surprised at the comfort of our cabin (6013 SBJ), the extreme cleanliness of the ship and the overall great service! The food was plentiful and delicious. It was certainly not gourmet but it was good quality. The evening entertainment was great and the Cruise director, Danny, was fun and very energetic! It was nice that the whole cruise was of a Cuban flavor, from the food to the Cuban entertainment to the authentic Cuban cocktails! For us US Citizens this cruise was a convenient way for us to see the country according to our travel restrictions. The guided tours were thorough, comfortable and educational. They do have some room for improvement but everyone wants different things out of their tour so you can get it 100% for everyone. It was great that we were able to spend two days in Havana and that us US passengers had some free time to get out and around on our own. My wife and I took full advantage of that and explored quite a bit of Havana beyond the included excursions. Be sure to take an Old Car taxi tour. For about 40 CUC pesos ($45) the driver will take you around Havana for about a hour. Try for a convertible if possible. Great way to see the sites!! So overall we loved our trip and the cruise ship. Manage your expectations and have a great time!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
My husband and I jumped at a last minute opportunity to join George Mason University’s week-long cultural cruise around Cuba in January. We joined approximately 500 other passengers who boarded the Celestyal Crystal in Montego Bay, ... Read More
My husband and I jumped at a last minute opportunity to join George Mason University’s week-long cultural cruise around Cuba in January. We joined approximately 500 other passengers who boarded the Celestyal Crystal in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This was our first cruise and we were happy with our outside cabin though not large, with only had two twin beds, also had a small writing desk, wardrobe, and bathroom. We found it worked for us and we were well-cared for by the staff. We enjoyed exploring the amenities found on each of the nine decks, named after Greek gods, and easily accessibly by elevators and stairs fore and aft. Other amenities included the Muses Lounge area where we enjoyed presentations by Professor Jorge Arocha about various aspects of Cuban culture, as well as the nightly entertainment. There was also a vary small pool, a bar, spa, gym, and two restaurants. We preferred eating at the Leda Buffet because it was quicker, but many people liked the chance to sit down and chat during at the more formal Almathia Restaurant. The food was pretty run-of-the-mill, but we had plenty to eat and had not signed on to the cruise for fine dining, we were there to see Cuba! Everything did not go as planned. The Celestyal Crystal was not allowed to dock in Havana due to some combination of high winds and too few berths for ships. After a whirlwind tour of of the historic city center, Morro Castle, San Juan Hill, an African-Cuban cultural center, the Moncada Barracks Museum, and a Bacardi Rum Factory in Santiago de Cuba, we ended up docking in Cienfuegos. The tour company then rented buses to ferry us into Havana where we visited the Jose Marti Museum overlooking Revolution Square, an enjoyed a Cuban meal, and were given 15 minutes in a large covered market. None of this, however, was worth the three and half hour bus ride to and from Cienfuegos. There were some silver linings to this unexpected itinerary change. We had more time on our own to visit the UN Heritage city of Cienfuegos and its environs. We were able to rent vintage old American cars for a trip to Cienfuegos’ Botanical Garden with friends from the cruise where we got a fantastic guide to tell us about the half a dozen different kinds of bamboo, palm and other indigenous plants. Our little group also walked around La Reina Cemetery, a national monument. We also hired a horse drawn taxi for a trip back to the town square to buy rum and cigars. This unexpected adventure was my all-time favorite day of the trip! Another silver lining was a trip to Trinidad, another UNESCO Heritage site, courtesy of our tour company, as a small compensation for not being able to dock in Havana. Once again, we had a great tour guide who told us about the sugar plantations and lead us through the twisting, cobble-stoned streets past pastel colored mansions once owned by slave traders. It was a great place to for street and architectural photography which pleased my husband, and we wished we had more time this enchanting town that wasn’t even on the original itinerary. We enjoyed our introduction to Cuba aboard the Celestyal Crystal in spite of not being able to dock in Havana. The George Mason Cultural Tour was a wonderful experience! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We choose the cruise because it was essentially the only way we could see Cuba in a family group. That said, we got to see much less of Cuba and much more of the cruise than we hoped. This was through no fault of the cruise however. We ... Read More
We choose the cruise because it was essentially the only way we could see Cuba in a family group. That said, we got to see much less of Cuba and much more of the cruise than we hoped. This was through no fault of the cruise however. We were supposed to spend an afternoon at a snorkle beach (something like Punta Frances) and the Cuban government closed the port so we spent an extra day at sea. We also got into Havana 3 hours later than expected so we did not get to walk around much there either. That said, the cruise did a very nice job attempting to keep us entertained. I cannot say enough about the amazing and sweet percussionist from the Buena Vista Social club named Lazaro. Be sure to visit with him - he will give you lessons! Also loved the band leader Nidia who plays bass and sings like an angel. I got a kick out of the performers who put together some very respectable shows with multiple props and costume changes considering how challenging their acts let alone on a swaying stage. I would also suggest you go to the cooking demonstrations - both Cuban cooks were a delight. The restaurants are way better than the buffet. We loved our waiters - a delightful team from Indonesia - Wayan. They also performed in an incredible crew talent show that they must repeat if possible.I also got a kick out of the dance lessons. Another nice feature were the on board lectures (for example about rum or cigars or music) and films about Cuba they showed. All of the staff was very sweet and our chamber maid was lovely - Dunia also from Cuba. Our kids (ages 6-13) liked the entertainment - the crew was very nice with them playing Wii and teaching them napkin folding, paper flower making, and fruit carving. Mahelys spent time entertaining my daughter and making a souvenir book with her. We liked our excursions to see 2 Cuban cities but again, would have benefited from spending more time on shore and less time on board. Also our toilet was not functioning optimally but the rest of the cabin was fine. Daniel the cruise director was super organized and helpful. Ultimately, it was a very nice family get together with some fantastic music and art on the side. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
After reading so many negative things about this cruise, we were constantly surprised by the quality of the trip. The size of the ship was perfect for such an important destination. We chose this cruise because of the number of ports ... Read More
After reading so many negative things about this cruise, we were constantly surprised by the quality of the trip. The size of the ship was perfect for such an important destination. We chose this cruise because of the number of ports visited in Cuba. It did not disappoint. It only wet our appetite for another visit to this amazing island nation. And we're glad we went when we did. The people and culture will begin to change quickly. It's a sleeping culture with lots of entrepreneurs just waiting for the chance to take off. The staff was amazing, the ship was clean and just the right size. Had all amenities on a limited scale. And the beverage package and shore excursions included were great. The required cultural lectures were an added bonus. The young PhD from the University of Havana was extremely knowledgeable and open to all our questions. The entertainers (all Cubans) were amazing. So talented. And the music performed by the orchestra was perfect. Had lectures on everything from history to cigars, salsa dancing to economics. We found the food to be good and plentiful. Only a dining room and buffet, but both open for breakfast lunch and dinner. Also pasta bar and hamburgers set up poolside. The chef was Jamaican so that affected the selections. Some definitely had jerk seasoning. Enjoyed the chance to be with fellow passengers while dining. But enjoyed a table for 2 at dinner. Came to trust our waiter for his pick of the menu. He never steered us wrong. The passenger mix was amazing. Canadians, Europeans (with lots from northern Europe), Caribbean islanders, Mexicans, and very few US citizens. We all had the common interest in discovering this fascinating culture. Lots of ribbing about our recent election. Made some good friends. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose this cruise last minute because the cruise we had booked to Cuba was cancelled. We originally discounted this cruise line because of the negative reviews, but then I remembered that dissatisfied customers usually post more often ... Read More
We chose this cruise last minute because the cruise we had booked to Cuba was cancelled. We originally discounted this cruise line because of the negative reviews, but then I remembered that dissatisfied customers usually post more often then satisfied customers. Last review before mine had a totally different view on almost all the same things, however we went about our trip differently. The food was definitely not the best I have ever eaten, however if you went into the main dining room for meals, breakfast was the same buffet, but you could also order from your waiter and your omelettes, eggs or even pancakes could be make fresh for you. Lunch was also ordered off the menu unless it was a disembarkation day. The choices were limited, true, but you could always find something good. The appetizers were made as main courses for us throughout the cruise, if that is what we preferred. The soups, both hot and cold, were always delicious, salads fresh. We received our meat at the medium rare temperature we preferred and were served french fries with our hamburgers at request. They could use fresh fish options for sure, but I was not dissatisfied with the food at all and came home 3 lbs extra. The staff was amazing and unlike the prior review, we arrived as late as 7:15 for dinner and they always found us a table for 3. We did upgrade to the gold drink package and the choices were much more plentiful. We were in a balcony suite, so not an inexpensive choice, however the nicest suite I ever had on a ship. Our private bedroom was as big as most balcony suites we have had in the past, with a separate living area, very large triple bathroom. It was fabulous. The tours, the people, the shows on board all A+++++. Loved the ship, the staff, especially our head waiter. Will probably travel again with Celestyal to the Greek Islands! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We just returned from Cuba. The reviews of the ship were "iffy" Not true, the ship was great. Very clean, our cabin was fine. The shower was very, very small. Our air was just o.k.. Mohammed in the dining room was amazing. He ... Read More
We just returned from Cuba. The reviews of the ship were "iffy" Not true, the ship was great. Very clean, our cabin was fine. The shower was very, very small. Our air was just o.k.. Mohammed in the dining room was amazing. He did gluten free for me daily. The beverage package is well worth it. One woman in the pool complained about the food. The people in Cuba have a bare subsistence. Please don't be the "ugly American". The lectures were very good, don't miss them. Take a good book for the sea date as there is not much to do other than the lectures unless you like folding napkins. We booked with "Legendary Journeys" Tammy was are tour guide (she was nonexistent) We did hook up with a Friendly Planet Guide who was great. Legendary said they would pay the 95 dollar fee.They did not. Also, we booked a trip to Trinidad (not to be missed) There were 10 English Speaking guests and the rest German. The night before the morning tour we were told that there would be two separate buses. When we got on the tour they said it would be bi-lingual. The guide was excellent but this was problemetic as we were past the site she pointed out by the time she translated to English. The same was true in the square as she did German first for 20 minutes then let them explore for 30 min, by the time she did English we only had ten minutes.to explore. We asked for a partial refund but were told no. I would recommend this tour to anyone. There were different groups coming and going all the time. Rhodes Scholars used Celestial Some guests got on in Havana and off in Havana some as we did in Jamaica. The Tropicana can be skipped. Great costumes but no substance. Not very good voices. The ships local entertainment is great. The funeral procession went right past where our ship was docked Happy Helen Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Basically: Cuba has only moderately good roads; passable Chinese buses and long roads and distances. This is why it is fantastic to travel to Cuba by ship. You drive especially in the night and you have time in the day for sightseeing. ... Read More
Basically: Cuba has only moderately good roads; passable Chinese buses and long roads and distances. This is why it is fantastic to travel to Cuba by ship. You drive especially in the night and you have time in the day for sightseeing. The ship, the Celestyal Chrystal is a very good three stars - plus ship. After 41 years of cruising I can say that quite in comparison. If you are looking for a luxury vessel for a reasonable price, this will be difficult. In comparison (from cheap ferry boat to Queen Mary 2 in the "Queens" class I've already done a lot of cruises): great value for money and a nice ship. Pleasantly small; You feel partially "yacht-like". Ship well through and easy to walk through. What more do you want? We had a larger interior cabin (deck 3); It was relatively spacious with enough boxes and a desk. That the bathroom in this class is small, one must know and accept. The TV offers "exterior view" as well as ship and travel information; Unfortunately no outside temperature was displayed Friends were with us and had the newly built suite with balcony (deck 6). Very beautiful! And almost 5-star! In ship evaluations, three weak points were sometimes mentioned: quality of the meat, tightness of the buffet at the pool and long waiting times on "all inclusive" drinks. I can not confirm. Here the shipping company may have reacted: The meat quality is excellent; As at all the food is rich and tasty. There is a breakfast buffet in the restaurant and the top deck café; Lunch restaurant served or top deck buffet cafe; In the evening the same. In reviews it was criticized that the buffet is not 24 hours on duty; I found with these food amounts funny, because afternoon snack is also available! The "narrowness" of the buffet on deck I found not problematic, as it was only once during the trip the buffet as a BBQ outside the pool and the pool was locked. Otherwise, the buffet is at the upper deck inside and you can sit outside or inside and also the bathers have enough space. As for the "all inclusive" drinks, there is now the sun bars waiter, who can help and you can take the drink right away. Incredibly nice ship personnel; Both from the "ships crew", as well as from the restaurant service, bar service, entertainment team. In addition, a first-class professor was on board, who gave interesting lectures in English. The pool: well, adapted to the size. But you do not go on a vessel for swimming. Entertainment: an excellent revue theater on board; All great Cuban artists; Like a small branch of the Tropicana: dancers, singers; Show actors; Liveband etc. 5 different performances in 7 days! Very interesting lectures. The excursions - as always with cruises - quite interesting, although dependent on the quality of the respective guide. Cuba is a friendly and safe country. One can see much, especially In Havana on foot. Many interesting museums; Also the Museo de la Revolucion! Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
Cuba badly needs American tourists in order to finance rebuilding of it's infrastructure, but in the short term this means that the first waves will struggle to find housing and food that meets expectations. You can pay a lot for the ... Read More
Cuba badly needs American tourists in order to finance rebuilding of it's infrastructure, but in the short term this means that the first waves will struggle to find housing and food that meets expectations. You can pay a lot for the few good hotels and search out the emerging private restaurants, but this requires effort. The easiest solution is to take this cruise around the island relying on it for the basics. Then in order to really experience the island you must be willing to add your own walking adventures to the bus tours offered by the cruise. And since the ship always docks in the oldest, most important parts of the cities, this is simple. Furthermore, Cubans are friendly, polite,and welcoming and we have never been in a country where we felt so safe. What we would most advise is to get out and absorb the distinctive cultural atmosphere and do what you can to learn about this society that does some things much better than we do. And when we refer to the basics, we mean very basic comforts travelling Americans are used to such as restrooms that are free. And restrooms that are equipped with toilet seats and paper. You may not find these even in costly hotels and must rely on the generosity of restaurants and bars to provide very basic facilities most often for a price. Once you encounter this reality it will make you more appreciative of the small bathroom in your cabin and the even smaller ones on the tour buses. As most every report on Cuban tourism advises, bring your own toilet paper and be prepared to lower expectations. But sense we knew these things in advance, we had less problems than we had feared. The People to People programs throughout the cruise provided excellent educational and cultural programs on the ship and on land. Two young and very interesting professors from the University of Havana provided a number of lectures on Cuban history and politics and musical groups from the island entertained each evening. Others provided Cuban cooking and dance lessons too. The Celestyal Crystal is a good ship to do this trip on. It's small and friendly and well maintained and due to it's size can get into all of the city ports around the island. We had read reviews saying it was old and needed to be retired, but that is not what we experienced. It was clean and appeared newly painted with some apparently new flooring as well. Some public areas appeared dated with 1980's era furnishings and decor, but they were comfortable and in good order. Our cabin on deck 5 was adequate with a large window and close access down the hall to the deck which in the back offered a great bar and viewing area. The staff was friendly and efficient and made an effort to please and be courteous. Some people stood out. Our head waiter, Mohammed, sincerely wanted to hear if we and others were being served well and the few times we had a complaint he patiently listened and asked questions. Most servers at the bars and in the two fine dining areas performed well, too ,and one stands out in our memory - Shane, He was always scanning to see who needed service or what needed to be done and when we complimented him toward the end of the trip he said sincerely that he loved doing his job. Impressive. And our two Cabin attendants kept ours clean throughout the day and were wonderfully warm and gracious. The one negative for this cruise was the food. We had read lots of reviews warning about the mediocre dining on board and concluded at the end, that they had been too complimentary. Breakfast at the buffet was the best and we could put together a satisfying meal each morning with lots of choices. The weakest link was the bread and this was true during all of the meals. Selection and quality were poor. Lunch entrees were often an artfully prepared mush of leftovers and by the last few days we learned to have a cheeseburger, which was always available, and a self crafted salad. Dinners were provided in elegant settings with good service, but they never satisfied. We cannot recall a single item in the five course meals throughout the trip that was very good. In particular, soups were always thin and lacking in taste and entrees often involved inferior meats and vegetables. The last entree we selected was the very worst. It was an eggplant dish that was so barely cooked and with such little flavor that one bite was all we needed. We filled up on the desert. And the deserts were always wonderful. But mediocre food is not the real story of this cruise. Bottom line - we came back sensing this was the trip of a lifetime. Who knows how Cuba will be transformed by changing relations with the U.S.. Now it offers quite a contrast and that contrast is enlightening, but as it gets transformed by us, it will be a more comfortable place to visit, but a less challenging and engaging one. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
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
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
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
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
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
Overall, this first Cuba Cruise of the season was amazing, despite some ripples along the way. First, set reasonable expectations—this is not a fun in the sun, lounge around the pool type of trip. What it is, is an affordable way to ... Read More
Overall, this first Cuba Cruise of the season was amazing, despite some ripples along the way. First, set reasonable expectations—this is not a fun in the sun, lounge around the pool type of trip. What it is, is an affordable way to easily get a taste of Cuba. PRE-CRUISE Before the cruise, we stayed three nights at the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay. This was 10 minutes to the airport, had a lovely beach areas including a little island you could walk to. Food and drinks were just so-so, but this is one of the cheapest all-inclusive resorts we found. What we did love, were the jerk chicken hut on the beach, quiet places to sit by the water away from the main pool, some Jamaican dishes on the buffet, and the view from our ocean-view room. Rented a car and drove to Falmouth for a quick visit, but opted to not drive further because Jamaicans really do drive crazy, and on the left. EMBARKATION Cruise terminal is about 15 minutes from the airport. We picked up a taxi at the rental car place to the pier for $20 total. We needed to pay a Jamaican departure tax since we’d been there for more than 24 hours (I think $27 per person). Afterwards, getting on was as simple as filling out the standard health form and picking up our key cards. You resister a credit card on board at the reception desk. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:30 a.m. and were on within about 15 minutes. THE SHIP The ship is older but does not feel dated. It was kept spotlessly clean. Our cabin (#5115) was tiny, but the beds were comfortable. You do need to dispose of toilet paper in the trash and sometimes, you need to flush twice for everything to go down. Being on deck five was handy and our favorite bar was in the very back of deck five, outside and with a hot tub. Compared with modern mega-ships, we enjoyed that we could be anywhere on the ship within a couple minutes. The ship did lack the stabilizers of more modern ships and we felt a pretty constant rocking. We never had trouble finding seats in the shows, at dinner, in the buffet or in the bars. THE PASSENGERS We spent far more time getting to know our fellow passengers than we usually do. What a fascinating group. We met people from all over the U.S., Asia, and Europe and learned about everyone’s travel adventures and places they have lived. As a group, passengers were more traveled and more likely to have lived abroad than on any other cruise we’ve taken. DINING While I like that the menu included Cuban and Jamaican dishes, the food did not seem terribly authentic. For instance, the jerk chicken had almost no spice! As noted by others, dinner was incredibly slow; we really didn’t mind as the people we were seated with were usually very interesting. We are not normally big drinkers on cruises, but we did enjoy working our way down the list of Cuban cocktails and coffee drinks. I would recommend for dinner, picking up a drink at the bar and bringing it with you. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet were both fine. They did have wonderful baklava at the buffet the first day, but unfortunately we never saw it again. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES The entertainers changed midway through the cruise with those who did the transatlantic crossing changing with Cuban performers when we got to Havana. We enjoyed the Cuban performers and Cuban themed shows, while other shows were just average. The lectures as part of the P2P program weren’t outstanding but did add to our knowledge of Cuba and appreciation of the trip. Those in the P2P program should note, the activities guide delivered to your cabin does not list all the activities. If you want to see non-P2P activities, you’ll need to pick up the complete copy at the reception desk. ITINERARY We loved all of the Cuban ports. Unfortunately, weather delays dramatically cut our time in Maria la Gorda and Cienfuegos. Also, gathering for excursions took place on the ship rather than at the pier and then the buses didn’t seem to leave until the last person was off. We don’t normally do ship tours and this reminded us why! We wasted a ridiculous amount of time waiting for the tours to begin, and might have been happier just hiring taxis for private tours. MONTEGO BAY – Nice beaches but not a highlight of the trip. SANTIAGO DE CUBA – Our first introduction to this wonderful country! Right outside the gates of the port, we saw every imaginable form of transportation from horse carriage taxis, motorcycle taxis, bicycle taxis, to old car taxis. Tour included a visit to the Revolutionary War museum, Revolutionary Square, African Cultural Center with a dance performance that I ditched so I could walk around, and original Bacardi rum factory. After the tour, we did have some time to walk around on our own. I would highly recommend doing this so that you can visit the town square and commercial district. The residents were very friendly and interested to learn about the U.S. and tell about Cuba. Kids will come up to you asking for pens, and women approached looking for shampoo, soap and lotion. Consider asking kids to sing a song in exchange for pens. Residents filled the pedestrian street, out doing Christmas shopping. Overall, we found shopping more interesting here, and in Cienfuegos, than in Havana were items seemed more mass produced. HAVANA – As part of P2P, we discovered that the included tours had been swapped for different ones. The cruise line canceled our Maria la Gorda tour and instead, we had a morning walking tour, afternoon bus tour, and second day museum visit. Since we stayed overnight, we did have plenty of time to wander on our own. The morning walking tour included a couple of squares in the historic area and a visit to a graphics studio. I found the afternoon tour less valuable because it was just on the bus, except for a stop at a crafts market. Places visited could be easily reached walking or by private taxi instead. That night, I joined John from the P2P program and others, for a taxi ride to see Opera de la Calle. Really talented singers and dancers doing a mix of Cuban songs and more know songs. Admission was a bargain at $30. Taxi cost $10 each way, which we split with others from the cruise. The second morning in Havana we were free to wander and have lunch in the city. We walked out to the produce market hear the capital building. I recommend wandering away from the main tourist streets to see streets more typical of where the Cubans live. In the afternoon, the trip included a bus tour to the wonderful Museum of Fine Arts. We were also given the option to go to the Museum of the Revolution instead. For those wanting to see both, this is a reasonable walk or an easy taxi ride from the port. MARIA LA GORDA – Our excursion to Cabo de San Antonio was canceled by the cruise line because we were P2P, so be rebooked the tour ($63 per person). We arrived quite late to port due to weather, so a trip through the park that should have taken 5 hours with stops was cut to about 3 hours. Still, the scenery along the coast was stunning, with blue water, limestone coated shells and rock on one side, and jungle on the other. At the end was a private beach. If we’d had more time there, I did notice a hiking trail across from the beach. CIENFUEGOS - Cienfuegos seem wealthier and more cosmopolitan that the other ports. There is a pedestrian promenade that had lots of shopping options. Unfortunately, weather cut the length of our visit here, and this was the worst guide of the trip. Our guide did not speak great English and said that this was the first tour she led. The City however was stunning, magnificent theatre, waterfront walkway, restaurants along the water, artist studios, etc. We definitely would have liked more time since we didn’t get any time to walk around on our own. Many people left the tour early on. DISEMBARKATION Getting off the ship was a disaster. We arrived back in Montego Bay late, again due to rough seas. They then let the Montego Bay tours off ahead of those with planes to catch! They unloaded luggage through the same exit as passengers, further jamming things up. To make matters worse, they gave most people the wrong Jamaican customs form, so people had to redo the paperwork in the terminal. At least getting a taxi was no problem man, with a shared van costing $10 per person. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
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