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18 Celestyal Cruises Western Caribbean Cruise Reviews

This trip is not a standard cruise experience. And Cuba is not a “standard” country. This Cuba Cruise trip is perfect for people who are adventurous and like seeing unique things and having experiences that cannot be replicated ... Read More
This trip is not a standard cruise experience. And Cuba is not a “standard” country. This Cuba Cruise trip is perfect for people who are adventurous and like seeing unique things and having experiences that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Independent-minded travelers will love the chance to wander through Cuba’s enchanting cities. The people who enjoyed things the most were those who were flexible and open to doing things differently as well as those who were interested in experiencing the culture, history, vintage cars, architecture and people of Cuba. Those who were traveling for reasons related more to convenience or pricing seemed more disappointed. You need to be prepared to encounter some differences and difficulties. This is not a luxurious or “relaxing” cruise. It is, however, interesting and exhilarating. This is very much a ship that is booked for its itinerary, rather than for the onboard experience. In light of that, and especially taking the ship’s age into account (the vessel was first built in 1980, and completely rebuilt 10 years later after a fire), the ship generally exceeds expectations. Many passengers were very well-traveled and have been to destinations all over the world. Passengers on my sailing came from 32 different countries, and, accordingly, announcements were made in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish. A lot of the people who were frequent cruisers with whom I spoke were partial to Celebrity in particular, followed by Royal Caribbean and Princess. There was one couple in their 30s (?) traveling with a son (approximately age 10) who were first time cruisers and loved everything about the experience. It’s important to note that children are welcome, but the “kids’ program” consists of kids being allowed to attend the usual activities that are available for anyone on board, including karaoke, Wii games, and Spanish lessons. There were even a few young couples traveling with infants. The food onboard was mainly quite good (and occasionally excellent) at dinner in the dining room. A four-course menu was offered every night and there were generally two vegetarian main dishes to choose from in addition to the usual meat and seafood offerings. Dessert was ordered at the same time as the other courses. Lunch, offered as a buffet either in the main dining room or in the small buffet restaurant, was fine as well. Several Canadians told me throughout the trip that the food on this cruise is drastically better than what is served in the all-inclusive resorts in Varadero. On the beach day, a BBQ lunch is served with Caribbean items. Most days I was off the ship at lunch. Afternoon tea was disappointing, with substandard pastries. Breakfast was sorely lacking unless you like British items (black pudding, tomatoes, etc). I wound up having oatmeal and canned pears or pineapple every morning. Not good. The coffee the first night in the dining room was an atrocious instant/powdered type, but the rest of the time and in the buffet, Douwe Egberts drip coffee was available and quite good. There are two seatings in the dining room on Deck 8 every night, at approximately 6:15 and 8:30. Seating is first-come, first-served, and one night (the Captain’s reception night on Tuesday) the restaurant filled to capacity before I made it in for the second seating. Three of us from my group wound up having dinner with a crew member in the buffet on Deck 9. Fortunately I wasn’t too concerned about my formal night “gala” dinner! The segment from March 23 to the 27th had 877 passengers on board -- full capacity, and the most Cuba Cruise has ever carried. So this will not likely be an issue for future passengers. There is an entire restaurant, Olympus, located on Deck 5 that is not in use on these Cuba Cruise sailings. There is one specialty restaurant available, the Alberta Prime Steakhouse, at $35 Canadian per person. This “restaurant” is the other half of the Deck 9 buffet rather than being an enclosed dining room. Bar service was highly variable but tended toward the slow side. One drinks server in the dining room was very rude; fortunately, she was the only crew member all week who did not provide an acceptable (or better) level of service. Frozen drinks tended to be served already completely melted and alcoholic drinks were incredibly weak, at least those from the package we were given in our group (2 alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktails, 2 coffee drinks, 2 sodas or juices and 2 small bottles of water per day). This package is not available for sale, but would be a great option that would serve a lot of people well. The per-drink menu prices would add up quickly, so choosing one of the all-inclusive packages might make the most financial sense for many cruisers. Smoking is allowed on port side open decks and cigars are available for purchase at the aft bar on Deck 5. Smoking is also permitted in the casino/sports bar on Deck 8. Because the casino is fairly isolated, the smoke never seemed to present the usual issue with smells that occur when the casino is located in the middle of the ship (as on e.g. Carnival and Norwegian). The casino (strangely) operates in Euros rather than Canadian dollars like the rest of the ship. There is a nightly lotto for which the tickets cost 1 Euro, 1 Cuban convertible peso, or (a very poor deal) $2 Canadian. Entertainment was excellent, with many Cirque du Soleil style elements and a lot of Latin-inspired music. After the show a disco was available in the lounge on Deck 10, but things were normally very quiet in there. It was the only bar open until 2am most nights. The pool and hot tub were closed very early every day, at approximately 6 or 7. They claim it’s for safety so that no one is swimming alone late at night, but the pools closed well before sunset and frequently just as people were getting back on board from the day’s excursions. The roof over the pool deck is retractable and was closed most of the time in spite of the fabulous weather. The late night buffets were held on the pool deck and the roof was opened during those times to allow the cooking smoke to escape. Spa treatments, a steam room and beauty salon are available. The exercise room is fairly small and doesn’t have an ocean view. Occasionally Deck 5 was open to allow walking all the way around the ship, but usually the bow section was off-limits to passengers. This meant the only reliable place to see out the front of the ship was from Deck 11, accessible only by stairs up from Deck 10. I watched the ship enter and leave many of the ports from a perch in one of the two small areas up there. The helicopter landing pad was occasionally used as a spot for loungers. The rear portion of the ship was loud and had a lot of vibration from the engine. I normally prefer an aft location, but would recommend being midship or forward on this particular vessel. I was located near the front because I booked so late that nothing else was available, but I ended up happy with the location, and motion was never an issue. This is a smooth-riding ship. Deck 6 is a nice quiet deck in the forward portion of the ship and is well positioned between Deck 2, where you enter from the gangway, and Decks 8, 9 and 10 with the entertainment and dining. The multipurpose Deck 5 is just a quick flight of stairs away. It is no surprise, therefore, that the top two (Imperial) suites on the ship are forward on Deck 6. Rooms need to be updated. Beds cannot be fully pushed together and one of the two beds in my room needed a new mattress. I was able to tour the various cabin categories available on board, with the exception of the suites (which I managed to get a look at on the morning the ship was in Havana). The lack of consistency in the room’s decor and features was very unusual. Some rooms have received certain upgraded features (flat-screen TVs or digital display phones). The water temperature in the shower was too cold and the toilet (as mentioned in many other reviews) cannot tolerate paper being placed inside. Some showers had curtains rather than sliding doors. Face cloths are only available by request. The inside bathrooms need more storage beyond one narrow shelf below the mirror. The in-room TV was ancient and tiny with a very fuzzy picture and limited channel choices. No refrigerators are available in inside rooms. The hair dryer was weak, as usual for a ship. Only two outlets are available in the room (one 110 and one 220). No paper or pens were provided for making notes. There are a few odd “security” issues: The in-room safe costs $24 for the week, so I did not use it. The sea pass/room key had the stateroom number printed on it, which might be an issue if the card was lost. The room door does not have a deadbolt, chain or other extra locking measure. Pull up on the handle to latch the door securely. Laundry service was relatively inexpensive. You will become fully immersed in your surroundings in a way you likely have not experienced since the spread of mobile phones and internet access revolutionized the way we communicate and experience our daily lives. Very surprising to me, all of the Canadians and Jamaicans I spoke with could not get any kind of cell signal. I had an international SIM card and seemed to be the only one with any connectivity apart from the two people I heard of having Cuban SIM cards. Everyone all week kept asking me if my phone was working. Prepare to disconnect from the outside world! No clocks are visible in common areas. Only 3 of 8 computer stations were operational. Internet was very slow on the computers that charged by the minute (30 cents per minute). Even though the Internet is nominally much cheaper on this cruise than a regular cruise, the complete inefficacy results in probably the same ultimate cost. The computers do not permit you to access any free sites or any files you may have on an external drive, so anyone used to being able to compose messages before logging in will be disappointed. Wifi was almost useless. The only thing I could get it to do was sync the email app on the phone which took a minimum of 5 minutes each time. Gmail and other basic sites will not load over wifi. If you wanted to use wifi at all, the minimum purchase amount was $12 for an hour. I was very glad I only bought an hour’s worth. The photos were much more reasonably priced than the major line’s, at $14 for 3 photos. A nice touchscreen interface helped make locating photos easier than searching the gallery walls. A duty-free store is available with the usual items. The shore excursions staff were friendly. Tickets that were preordered confusingly did not get delivered to the room, but rather had to be picked up from the desk. No notice was given to that effect so some people arrived at the buses without tickets. For Montego Bay departures, only the first few days’ excursions tickets were available and you had to return to the desk to pick up the second batch on Tuesday after the new Havana sailing had departed. Excursions were, in keeping with my usual experience with ship-sponsored tours, too large and overpriced. Some tours had 42 passengers per bus, which made getting around the sites more difficult. Spending 2 1/2 hours stopping for lunch is not my idea of a good use of limited sightseeing time. Four options are offered by the ship in each city. It is possible for independent-minded travelers to explore these ports separately. ATMs and credit card machines are rare, so my usual methods of getting foreign currency did not come into play. Change cash at a bank on your first day in Cuba. U.S. currency is penalized 10% more than the 3% exchange fee levied on other currencies, so even though the Cuban Convertible Peso is technically the same value as the U.S. dollar, bring Canadian dollars or Euros if you have them. Currency exchange booths charge an additional 5% beyond what the bank takes, so skip the lines for those in each port. Only change enough for what you plan to buy, because the fees will be assessed again if you want to change money back at the end of the trip. Port impressions and suggestions: Cienfuegos: The third-largest city in Cuba, situated on an inner harbor along the southern shore. The nearby botanical gardens are worth a visit for their excellent collection of trees from Cuba and numerous imported species from the Southern Hemisphere. On my next visit, I’ll likely want to go to Trinidad, a 500-year-old colonial town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Trinidad is a 90-minute drive each way from Cienfuegos. Punta Frances, Isla de la Juventud: a beautiful beach with soft white sand and crystal clear warm water. Next year’s itinerary is bypassing this stop in favor of a beach in Maria la Gorda in Pinar del Rio province. Havana: Fantastic architecture, wonderful cafes, a picturesque setting in a harbor along Cuba’s northern shore, and tons of history. Very walkable, or you might opt to tour in a vintage American car from the 1950s or earlier. A beautiful place to experience, day or night. Watch a sunset from the malecón. Antilla: A small village in the northeast of Cuba in a heavily agricultural area (ox carts even ply the streets in town). Located a two-hour bus ride away from Birán, the birthplace of Fidel Castro. This port has been removed from next year’s itinerary in favor of an additional day in Havana. Santiago de Cuba: Cuba’s second-largest city. Home to several important historical landmarks including the oldest house in Cuba (built in 1515), the Moncada Barracks, national hero Jose Martí’s tomb, San Juan Hill, and El Morro Fortress. The city itself is far less inviting than the other ports. Located near the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where Cuba’s revolution began in the 1950s. I am so glad I got to experience this enchanting land that has been off-limits to U.S. travelers for the past fifty years. I hope that those who follow will have the same wonderful interactions that I was lucky enough to experience. I should also mention that this trip is an absolutely incomparable deal for U.S. travelers. The price I paid for this voyage [~$1,100 per person (double occupancy), including ALL expenses (except air): cruise fare, meals, entertainment, guided tours, tourist card/visa, people-to-people license, gratuities, souvenirs, ground transportation, internet] is anywhere from three to four (or more) times less costly than less-comprehensive land tours of the same duration offered by other operators. This ship, for all its limitations, seems to be the best choice for people from any country who want to see and experience Cuba. On a ship, you can bypass all of the inconveniences of the road journey and get right to the heart of the cities of Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Although we did enjoy our cruise around Cuba, we found our so called superior cabin very poor. It was small with beds at right angles to each other and my mattress was uncomfortable. We had expected far more local information to be ... Read More
Although we did enjoy our cruise around Cuba, we found our so called superior cabin very poor. It was small with beds at right angles to each other and my mattress was uncomfortable. We had expected far more local information to be available for each port visit rather than complete emphasis on expensive organised coach trips. The musicians were excellent and performers too but not much variety in the shows and music. Food excellent but why hold a late buffet on a day with some of longest trips ashore and was it Greekfor the benefit of the senior ships officers - we had expected something Cuban at least one night. Would recommend anyone booking to do their own homework first to get most benefit from sailing around Cuba.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Cuba Cruise on the Louis Cristal was one of the best cruises we have taken. The ship is smaller and older, with a classic nautical feel, much to our liking. The room was comparable to Celebrity cruises on their older ships. The food was ... Read More
Cuba Cruise on the Louis Cristal was one of the best cruises we have taken. The ship is smaller and older, with a classic nautical feel, much to our liking. The room was comparable to Celebrity cruises on their older ships. The food was hit and miss, sometimes approaching Celebrity standard. The itinerary was unique--circumnavigating Cuba with a stop at Montego Bay. The thing that stands out, though, is the entertainment. Their Cuban band and troupe of singers, dancers and acrobats are thoroughly professional and put on world class production shows every single night--amazing for such a small ship. I was expecting more of an eco-tourism, expedition cruise feel, from reading last year's reviews, but the cruise has now become quite popular as Canadians try to see Cuba before the floodgates of American tourism are opened up, and the product has consequently become very mainstream. We had one really good excursion to the back country in from the tiny port of Antilla. This showed the real Cuba, with fields being plowed by oxen and families travelling by horse and buggy. The tour in Santiago de Cuba was more in the line of propaganda, and the one at Cienfuegos deteriorated to souvenir shop streaming. The promised tour of the Palacio de Valle didn't even happen. I don't predict long lasting popularity of this cruise, as there isn't much in the way of glamour and shopping, the roads are terrible, the buildings decrepit and the officious Cuban immigration bureaucracy is endless--you will go through umpteen security checks and have your temperature taken at every port. We booked the land/sea/air package but the transfer to the ship never happened. After standing in the heat in our winter clothes for a couple of hours we took a taxi. The hotel manager was quite gracious about it and compensated us, promising they would get to the source of the problem to make sure it doesn't happen again. Disembarkation was a breeze, except for the long wait on the Cuban authorities. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We sailed of of Montego Bay and cruised Cuba. The ship is small but had big flavor with people from all over the world. We wanted to see Cuba before the big cruise ships and hotels invade the island and spoil the beaches and pristine ... Read More
We sailed of of Montego Bay and cruised Cuba. The ship is small but had big flavor with people from all over the world. We wanted to see Cuba before the big cruise ships and hotels invade the island and spoil the beaches and pristine water. The architecture is wonderful and they are trying to restore the old buildings in Havana. Taxi's are horse and buggy and are also the preferred mode of travel. The food on the ship was good. We ate in the dining room every day and I can't complain about the meals. The service was excellent. Being a small ship the amenities were not like a Princess ship, but we kept busy when we were on board. The entertainment was provided by very talented singers and dancers. If you want a leisure cruise with 5 star room and food, go somewhere else. There are only a handful of balcony rooms. If you want a big luxurious room that you can lounge in instead of seeing the sights, this cruise is not for you. If, however, you want to learn about the culture and the people of Cuba, go inside a cigar factory and talk to the workers, walk the cobblestone streets and take a ride in a 1950-1960 convertible then this is the cruise for you. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise. This is only the he 2nd year of this itinerary so they are still learning. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
We had such a good cruise last year we decided to go again & see what would be different with the ship fuller. DH wanted to wait for a 2 for 1 deal but I wouldn't take a chance on not getting an XE cabin again so booked in July ... Read More
We had such a good cruise last year we decided to go again & see what would be different with the ship fuller. DH wanted to wait for a 2 for 1 deal but I wouldn't take a chance on not getting an XE cabin again so booked in July through my TA who got us a package with Air Transat which included a nice little ( 2 of 4 different type drinks each) free drink package. We decided to embark again in Jamaica as it's easier & would allow us a full day in Havana to see what we missed last time. We flew in the same day which was a little scary coming from Toronto in Feb. but worked out okay. I must say those AIr Transat seats were the smallest I've had. I don't remember the A/C Rouge ones being that tight but maybe the pound or 2 I gained over the year made the difference.:-) Here is last year's review:http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=249972 in case you're interested. Embarkaton ~ we decided not to take the AT transfer ($15 p/p) as we wished to avoid the crowds so got a taxi at the airport. The driver quoted $35 which DH balked at since it was $30 last year to the airport from the port but turns out there is that discrepancy. The driver took the 2 of us in a vehicle as big as a school bus to the port. The receipt of our luggage tag & key was not as fast as last year since there were 5 or 6 people ahead of us. When we got on the ship who do I see taking pictures but Ricky! I yelled his name & he came over & welcomed me aboard with a big hug. Cabin ~ we proceeded to our cabin 6014 which was on port side just off the mid ship elevator lobby. It was a great location & we loved the cabin altho' it was a little shabbier than the one last year with the couch arm fraying & the window a bit rusty. It was nice to be on port side as we could see the statue of Christ in Havana from our window. The cabin was quiet except for the morning when passengers were disembarking in Havana as it seemed the luggage was stored in a room across the hall from us. My suitcase came quite quickly but not DH's. He was worried as we'd heard of a man's luggage that had gone missing in Varadero for the whole holiday (watch when they put the tags on at the airport as the luggage went to Panama)!! He went back to the terminal but couldn't find it but when looking in the starboard hall saw that the 4 was mistaken for a 9 so was at the wrong place. Sailaway ~ I don't recall what we did last year but this time a Cruise Critic friend invited us & another CC couple to enjoy it from their SI balcony. That is quite a suite they had, very spacious balcony indeed, even has a hot tub. It was so nice to finally meet these 2 ladies who I'd chatted with for a couple of years & their spouses. Dining ~ we went to the buffet for lunch & that was the 1st big difference. Last season with only 300 pax as opposed to this year being "sold out" (700?) no a la carte lunch was served in LaScala. Every day you could eat buffet for lunch & dinner too there or at La Traviata. I've come to enjoy being served as opposed to serving myself so was a little disappointed. One good thing about the buffet is that you get a tray which is unusual on ships these days. It was nice to have a choice of 2 dinner times & open seating so you could sit with new people each night. Food ~ I thought the food was better this year but actually missed some of the choices from last year such as cabbage rolls, spring rolls, little things like that. This time there was a cold soup some days & one day there was Floating Island, something I've never had on a cruise, quite nice. Entertainment ~ we really enjoyed the shows & went most nights at 8, a little early to get a drink & find a good seat. The Cuba Cruise Entertainment Team were really good & did most of the shows except one night when the Circo Nacional came aboard in Havana. Last year a Flamenco Troupe performed too & were really good. I found the shows excellent but with having the band, aerial artists & troupe all performing together it makes it awkward IMO to applaud for an instrumental solo or a particularly exciting move. Last year when exiting the theatre little snacks were served but not this time. We also attended most shows by Duo Mezzo who had ABBA, Bee Gees etc themed nights at 9, really enjoyable & well attended. I finally got to play BINGO this year wihen more than 10 people showed up. Cost was still only $7 for 2 games & I won $28 so was pleased. A nice additon this season was a Greek celebration one night by the pool. Shore excursions ~ this year I booked 3 excursions before boarding the ship. I noticed the cost had gone up a bit from 2014 & one that I had wanted to do (Havana Walk at Night) was no longer offered. I enjoyed the trip to Trinidad where we saw a variety of places, ate buffet at a former jail & had free time to walk around. The drive there was really beautiful. When we arrived back to Cienfuegos with a lovely sunset our guide had the driver take us around the square so we could see the beauty of her City. The day at Punta Frances we shared the beach with another ship as we had last year so never got to experience being the only ones there. Unfortunately I got sick after Havana so had to cancel my other 2 excursions which meant I had to get a doctor's note. He took my temperature twice, examined me then told me I had a virus & gave me 4 OTC meds. This was supposed to cost $50 but I still haven't received the bill nor my refund. I was glad of my comfy bed as I spent a lot of time in it. Internet ~ last season was on a card 30 mins $15, 60 mins $26, 90 mins $35 mins or 40 cents a minute. The prices were better this year at 1 hr for $12, 3 for $27, 6 for $42 or 30 cents a minute with no card, just sign on. I didn't use the internet much as didn't feel well enough to go up to a good spot for picking up the signal & when I had tried got a message that too many people were on it or some such thing. Photos ~ we didn't buy any this year as I didn't feel up to it. The prices last year were really reasonable, the quality good & extras like key chains & magnets cute. Cuban Visa ~ last year we had to pay $30 for it but there was no charge this time unless you needed a replacement. By embarking at Montego Bay you don't have an exit fee to pay if you fly in & out without staying longer than the cruise, whereas in Cuba you have to pay 25 CUC departure fee . Staff ~ everyone we dealt with was very nice & some I recognized from last year. Our cabin steward (Daniel) & assistant were great, making us some towel animals, keeping the room clean, the wastebaskets emptied & asking after my health. It was also great to meet 3 other Cruise Critic couples who I'd been chatting with on the Cuba cruise thread. Weather/seas ~ we didn't have a drop of rain either year & the only rough seas I recall was this year sailing from Mo Bay to Cienfuegos. The "bags" were out around the ship & I had one close to me in bed. I also put on my sea bands which I always take with me but have only used once before. FInal bill ~ it was so nice having a bill less than 1/2 of last year's & less than the amount for tips with my winnings & to see so many zero entries for drinks covered by our package. Disembarkation ~ was easy. We had to have our luggage out by 7:00 am instead of night before like last year. We had to vacate our cabin then too. We found our luggage in the terminal with no problem then caught a cab back to the airport ($30). The only thing I can think of that I didn't like is that your cabin number is on your room key so were you to lose it somebody could enter your cabin. To sum up, everything was great just a little different. I don't think we'll do it again next year but with the itinerary change we just might. We'll see, never say never! It's a great way to see Cuba.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
As I was composing this review and thinking of all the negatives that I wanted to write about, I realized that I was not making it clear that I think, even with its many flaws, this cruise was still the best way to visit Cuba. The ports of ... Read More
As I was composing this review and thinking of all the negatives that I wanted to write about, I realized that I was not making it clear that I think, even with its many flaws, this cruise was still the best way to visit Cuba. The ports of call were the real reason to take the cruise and they did not disappoint. Being able to visit Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago while traveling overnight and returning to the ship to sleep and eat worked out perfectly and I would recommend the idea to anyone. Unfortunately there was one important flaw in the cruise that I consider a complete show-stopper. Until this issue is resolved, I cannot imagine traveling on the Louis Cristal again. They do not permit the flushing of used toilet paper in the toilet. You are asked to place it in garbage cans found in every bathroom and it is emptied by your steward twice a day. I was shocked when I found this notice on my commode the first day of the cruise. I thought I had misunderstood but when I asked at reception, they confirmed it. I'm sorry but I've been on several vessels more than 20 years old in some very odd places in the world and this is the first time I've ever heard of a cruise line implementing this restriction. Now onto my review. Positive points: The ship had a nice look to it. The cascading aft decks are visually appealing and the ship seemed mostly shiny and freshly painted. The cabin was a good size, reasonably maintained for an older ship. It was less beat up than the Explorer of the Seas cabin I had a couple of years ago. There was lots of storage. The bed was comfortable. Food was good to very good with a varied selection and nice desserts . Entertainment was good. Particularly the house band, the singers when working in Spanish and the acrobats. Great ports of call. Less good: Mediocre maintenance on the ship: One out of 4 elevators was out of service for most of the week. The automatic mechanism for a door between the buffet and the rear deck was out of commission for 5 days. (Minor unless you are holding a plate and a cup of coffee, trying to leave the room) One of my fellow cruisers reported that the sound of the engines below their cabin at the aft end of deck 3 was so loud that they could not sleep and that they had to be relocated to another cabin. Service in the dinning room: Room is crowded, service is rushed. Orders are mishandled and coffee is sometimes forgotten. Wait staff can't describe what's on the menu - The sugar free dessert remains a surprise until delivery. (Even at the second sitting) Room steward: Wet towel changes are forgotten. Small requests are acknowledged, promised and then ignored. Rooms are entered without invitation, they knock and just come in. They caught my wife in her underwear once. Aggressively pushing for good reviews in their evaluation. Wait staff: There was miscommunication between a waitress and me when I ordered a coffee and I did not get what I was expecting. Most cruise lines would just replace my order but there was no question of that happening here. In fact she berated me for ordering the wrong thing. Then you could see that her patience was severely tried when I asked for milk in order to drink what she had served me. Costs: There are a couple of good deals - A beer special, a Greek wine package, the drink of the day. But everything seems to cost extra. The safety deposit box in the room is $25.00. There is nothing to drink at meals except for water. The ship's coffee is horrible instant unless you pay extra for the real stuff. Room service, including the cost of food, is extra. There is no snack bar or light refreshment available outside of meal hours or tea time at 4:00 pm. Internet: I couldn't use their internet connection to access my web based email system. It worked fine in my hotel in Varadero. I have two pet peeves that I would like to see addressed.  The cabin doors do not have a deadbolt or chain lock. Anyone with a key card can just enter. There should be an additional lock that I can use once I am in my cabin. The coffee sucks. I don't understand how a Greek shipping company can get away with feeding this brown hot water to their guests.  I believe that the battle of Thermopylae was caused by the Spartans seeking revenge on Persia for bad coffee. Louis Cruises should beware of Greeks bearing percolators. In conclusion: While I only have 9 lines of positive points and about 30 negative comments, I very much enjoyed my cruise and, if they ever fix their plumbing problems, I'd be happy to do this cruise again.  You just have to set your expectations and keep a relaxed attitude. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Getting there was the biggest problem. We had to fly to Varadero and spend two hours travelling to Havana. After that our experience was really good. The entertainment was outstanding, a different show every night, dance, music, ... Read More
Getting there was the biggest problem. We had to fly to Varadero and spend two hours travelling to Havana. After that our experience was really good. The entertainment was outstanding, a different show every night, dance, music, acrobatics. The food was good, the ship's crew was friendly and efficient. Passengers came from various countries. It was fun chatting with people from Germany, Denmark, Norway, Russia, United States, Jamaica and Canada. There was a great atmosphere and spirit on the ship. We liked a smaller ship after travelling on monster cruise lines where the long lines for food and the overcrowding in the entertainment venues were most disappointing. It took only minutes to find our way around the ship on the first day. The swimming pool was very small but then that is what happens on a small ship. All the facilities were very clean. Enjoyed the sauna and steam bath, Massage was really good.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
We chose this cruise based on all the wonderful reviews we read on Cruise Critic last year, the first year for the Louis Cristal Cuban cruise. Our anticipation level was so high that we wondered if we would be disappointed. I am very happy ... Read More
We chose this cruise based on all the wonderful reviews we read on Cruise Critic last year, the first year for the Louis Cristal Cuban cruise. Our anticipation level was so high that we wondered if we would be disappointed. I am very happy to say that we were not. This is first and foremost a destination cruise. The ship is comfortably modest, the crew amongst the friendliest we have ever cruised with. Food is adequate. The shows are excellent -especially if you want the entertainment to reflect that this cruise is all about Cuba. I have always felt that entertainment on most cruise ships is too generic. Before we sailed we spent a week in a Casa Particular (private home) in Vedado, Havana. It gave us a unique insight into the island, it's strengths and it's problems. By the time our departure date arrived, we wanted to see more, and this cruise allowed us to follow the course of history, after learning so much in Havana's many excellent museums. After learning a lot about Cuba's heroes, we went to Biran to see where Castro was born and raised. We left with a greater understanding of who Fidel was and how the Revolution came to be. After disembarking we spent 4 more days in Old Havana, in another Casa Particular. Our hosts were just as delightful and informative as the first, but we got the feel for life in a different part of the city. Because of it's current isolation, Cuba is like no other country in the world. I would not recommend this cruise to people who want 5 star luxury, but I would recommend it to people who want to understand a part of history, who want to meet the delightful Cubans and enjoy unique experiences. This is an experience for those who travel with an open mind and an open heart.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
If you are seeking a luxury four or five star American cruise line, then this is not your type of trip. However, if you are seeking a different type of cruise from the usual similar Caribbean ports I strongly recommend that you consider ... Read More
If you are seeking a luxury four or five star American cruise line, then this is not your type of trip. However, if you are seeking a different type of cruise from the usual similar Caribbean ports I strongly recommend that you consider this trip. The ship is older, granted, but immaculate with a friendly staff that does all possible to make you feel welcome.. Entertainment is really quite good with local Cuban performers, and the bar prices are quite reasonable. Food however, is not really up to American cruise line standards, and is more catering to a two star cruise menu. However, the vegetarian dishes are rather tasty.and the pastry is great. Cabins are nicely appointed, and a bit larger than on the newer ships, but a limited number of balconies. Annoucements are made in several languages which is a bit annoying, but the ship gets multi nationals so I guess it is necessary. The star of the trip is Cuba, and that is really the point of the trip and shore excursions are probably the only way to really see the island, since unlike other ports it is not possible to purchase excursions off the ship and you are at the mercy of cab drivers who do not always speak good English. All in all, the trip was wonderful and so much different that any other cruise we have taken in the Carribean and we easily overlooked the weaknesses of the food and other minor difficulties. Plus also consider that the cost is significantly less than the major US cruise lines, and for US citizens remember that price is in Canadian dollars with are discounted when compared to the US dollar. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
My husband and I have been on over 20 cruises, and this was the worst. Before booking this cruise around Cuba on the Louis Cristal, we went to a presentation by Cuba Cruise that was advertised in our local Toronto, Ontario newspaper. We ... Read More
My husband and I have been on over 20 cruises, and this was the worst. Before booking this cruise around Cuba on the Louis Cristal, we went to a presentation by Cuba Cruise that was advertised in our local Toronto, Ontario newspaper. We were shown a very slick movie highlighting the Louis Cristal, and many of the wonderful things that we could enjoy while on this luxurious cruise ship including two restaurants where we could enjoy formal dining. A warning, Don't believe everything you hear or see! We were told that the menu was developed by a French chef and he would be on board to oversee the kitchen. There was no evidence of any French influence in the food. We were told that we would be served a variety of wonderful dishes at every meal. Not so. Breakfast was the same buffet every day although we ran out of bananas after the second day. Only one restaurant was open for us and it was an Alberta steak house which cost $34.95 per person extra and had no ambiance and was adjacent to the buffet. La Scala, the other restaurant mentioned was closed the whole trip. We were told that the ship used Canadian Currency and that the two official languages of the ship were English and French. There were in reality three official lanaguages on the ship. English, German, and French and every announcement was made in all three languages which became tedious after a while. The entertainment was the same every night except that the entertainers wore different costumes which became boring after the third day. The food at times was almost inedible. Breakfast and lunch were always a buffet and the food was cold and of poor quality. The dinners were in the dining room and not much better than the buffets. Often food was returned to the kitchen as it was cold or inedible due to the quality of the meat or fish. When the buffet was closed, there was no choice but to go to the bar to purchase a hot or cold drink. Plus, no toilet paper was allowed to be put in the toilets, so the garbage cans in the bathrooms stank. The ship was old but clean. The ports were interesting. Oh, did I mention that in Cuba before we were allowed to disembark in the ports everyone on the ship had to have their temperature taken? The passengers and staff included which meant excursions were often late leaving port. The Louis Cristal offers you a means of transportation around the Island of Cuba. However, as a cruise it will disappoint. The Cuban people are very friendly and the island is certainly worth a visit. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Arriving in Havana Long queues at Havana Airport immigration - took 2 hours from disembarking plane to getting in a cab. They are individually testing each person for a temp being scared of Ebola. Even at each stop on the ship the Cuban ... Read More
Arriving in Havana Long queues at Havana Airport immigration - took 2 hours from disembarking plane to getting in a cab. They are individually testing each person for a temp being scared of Ebola. Even at each stop on the ship the Cuban health authorities come aboard and temp test every person on their forehead before going ashore. Paid for Cuban visa at Cancun airport $US25 cash only before departure. Booked business class on Air Cubana (an extra $100 per person) but skipped a 2 hour check in queue as a result - well worth it for this alone. We were not asked for our proof of insurance anywhere (although we did have it), not even boarding ship. Cabs are a fixed price 25 CUC to anywhere in Havana (about a 30-40 minute ride). Pay the driver at the end. Cabs at the airport were plentiful. Some (few) are airconditioned, otherwise the windows are open all the way! Currency $US is ultimately king but only in clean unmarked notes. Exchange rate at airport and most other places was 87.5 CUC per $US100. My Australian credit cards would not work if linked to more than 1 account - the ATM does not have the option of choosing an account (Chq/SAV/CR) so could not specify. One debit card we had between us worked OK (ANZ) as it was only linked to the one account. Put aside CUC25 per person for departure tax on day one as you will not leave the country without it (and it must be CUC, not $US). Plan your currency requirements carefully - converting excess CUC back to $US at end of trip results in an effective exchange rate of about 0.50 cents after all the extra commissions etc and only to the nearest $10 and only back to $US (no other options). Better to spend any excess CUC at the airport on duty free - plenty of good liquor, food, cigar, clothing and touristy type souvenir shops and bars in departures area at Havana International. Credit cards almost non existent in Cuba - do not plan on paying by credit card for anything (except on cruise ship in $CAD). There were currency exchanges set up at each port we visited, so you could convert more currency as and when you needed it. There were also ATMs at each city if you have a working ATM card (but take $US as a back up in case even if you don't need to use it). Toilets Beware - in Havana and many other Cuban ports AS WELL AS ON THE SHIP, you are not supposed to flush toilet paper but rather deposit it in a bin next to toilet. Bin is emptied often by cabin steward so not a real problem on the ship or in the Casa we stayed in, and after a few days you can get used to it. At cafes etc you often pay an attendant (eg cuc 1) to obtain a few sheets of paper in advance of entering the cubicle, toilets often had no seats. In Old Havana the sewage often seeps up through the ground so it has a distinct aroma!! We managed to bring our own toilet rolls in a backpack for emergencies. Not for the squeemish. Air quality 1950's cars means 1950's emission controls (ie none). The air quality in the busier parts of the various towns was stifling. Cars are spewing out almost pure petrol fumes and the engines are not "tuned" by any means. Traffic jams were common and there is no escaping the fumes. Be prepared for sore lungs, stinging eyes etc Massive pot holes in the road (even on the main route from the airport) help to add to the "experience". Embarkation A breeze - we arrived at Sierra Terminal at midday, no queues, you go upstairs, obtain your cruise card, complete a few bits of paperwork and boarding ship within about 5 minutes. [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7389/16297960628_7d726feeb0_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8677/16485995605_b2612493ea_b.jpg[/IMG] Drinks Package Was in 2 minds about buying the drinks package before embarkation with so many in port days so went on board to inspect drinks menu. Upon seeing bottled water at $5 per bottle, instantly bought the drinks package for $40 per day. Gives you unlimited water and alcoholic drinks but even using 4 bottles of water per day for room and shore excursions etc pays for half the drinks package already - the rest is a bonus. Hemingway Bar (Thalassa) at the stern of the ship was our absolute favorite [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7342/15865861273_834f87060e_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8561/16298560590_8bc720accb_b.jpg[/IMG] Food Quality and variety was great. It may not be Cunard standard, but really for the adventure that this cruise is it was fine (and the ingredients are fresh and identifiable unlike many places ashore in Cuba). Our cruise was probably only half full, so one restaurant plus the specialty Alberta Steakhouse and some snack venues were open. Breakfast and lunch were buffet but of decent quality. Dinner was a la carte and plenty of variety each night. The steak was some of the best I have had on a cruise, and plenty of fresh seafood etc. Jeans and a T-shirt Ok for dinner, rest of the time T-shirt and shorts and flip flops (Aussie thongs) were fine at any time in any location on board [IMG]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8585/16300090667_508a47c9eb_b.jpg[/IMG] Cabin We had a deluxe XF outside cabin on deck 7. Spacious (relatively) and nice bathroom with spacious shower and shower screen. Shower gel dispenser in shower. TV with limited Direct TV channels but mostly english speaking news, current affairs, sport and some soapie and movie channels. Nice furnishings, clean and well serviced. [IMG]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8682/15865861723_b267cb9f36_b.jpg[/IMG] Crew The crew were comprised of quite a few Cuban nationals (very nice, very friendly), and the usual mix of Phillipinos, eastern Europeans, Indians, Mauritians etc (also nice and friendly). All very pleasant and well trained in customer service. I would rate them even higher than the usual friendly crew on Princess cruises. Being a smaller ship they very quickly learn your name and drink preferences, and are only too willing to please. This was one of the highlights of the cruise to me. Language All announcements on board are made in English, then French, German and Spanish. One main officer did all of the announcements himself without a script. Very impressive to observe. English is the main language on board for menus, signs etc. In Cuba, Spanish is obviously the official language, but you can get by with some basic spanish phrases ("dos cervesas, por favor"), and most tourist orientated people have a command of some broken english. I had the Google Translate app downloaded on my phone including offline dictionaries which allowed for converting signs, menus etc, and typing messages in english to see the spanish translation. It also has camera real time text conversion - point at some spanish text or signs and the english equivalent pops up on the screen almost instantly. Demographics On our cruise there were 7 Australians in total, and the passengers were about 1/4 Canadians, 1/4 English, 1/4 rest of Western Europeans and the balance from all over the world. Average age range was 40 to 60 years with some younger and some older. Mostly younger than a typical Princess passenger profile Internet WiFi is virtually non-existent in Cuba. The ship's satellite WiFi was quite good (relative) and reasonably priced at approx $30 for an hour access (can't remember exact price) which was enough just to download emails once per day, go offline, respond then connect again to upload messages for the week. Not recommended for browsing. Entertainment We only managed to see 2 stage shows (Cabaret and Cirque) but they were both first rate (much better than Princess standard). Performers included national Cubans and the quality and variety was terrific. I would gladly pay to see both these shows at a theatre. The feedback on the other shows was that they were all great (but the lure of soaking up the atmosphere on the aft deck at the Hemingway bar after a satisfying dinner was too great for us most nights!!). The disco and Karaoke was held each night in the top level bar - this was fun to go to on a few nights when the next day was due to be a late port arrival. Also the usual daily trivia, arts and crafts, port lectures etc were on offer and were of sufficient quality for the purpose. Ship This would have to be the best maintained "old" ship I have been on. Everything works, the crew are constantly doing maintenance 24/7, and it smells and looks nice and spotless. The public areas and restaurants are pleasant. The aircon works (usually slightly on the warm side including in the cabin but sufficient to be comfortable) Again, it is not Cunard, and you should not expect it to be, but for the purpose of the Cuba Cruise it is very appropriate. Tendering at a couple of stops was no hassle at all. The ride is smooth and mostly vibration free. The seas were mostly calm so did not experience any rocking and rolling. The pool was good to cool off in, and the spas were warm and working well and welcome after a long day exploring the towns. [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7282/16298560380_3831c924ff_b.jpg[/IMG] Ports Havana Very close to Old Havana (terminal is across the road) and plenty to see and do just walking around the various squares and cobbled streets. No real need to do any organised shore excursion. There is a HOHO bus stops at the terminal for a very reasonable fare if you like, but easy enough just to walk everywhere that was of any interest. Antilla (Holguin) A very small port (tender), and the whole town can be seen in 10 minutes. Recommend a shore excursion at this stop. We had "swimming with the dolphins" booked but not enough takers so it was cancelled 24 hours beforehand (understandable). We were offered another tour and in hindsight should have taken one. Plenty of local performers willing to entertain with music and song, or horse and carriage rides around town, small market at jetty. [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7323/16485996165_23f3056f0a_b.jpg[/IMG] Santiago de Cuba Most fascinating entry to a port I have ever seen. Be sure to be on deck when you arrive at the port, it is mind blowing, especially as there were coral reefs barely metres from each side of the ship as we entered the very narrow channel. It was a nice hilly and vibrant town with plenty of shopping, markets, food and drink venues, etc. Ship docks over the road from the start of town, an easy walk. This was the most economically "wealthy" town that we visited (but also had the worst traffic and pollution) [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7348/16485996415_a43e7cf3e9_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7371/16299726749_c64161c577_m.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7347/16300091217_c5960e01d4_b.jpg[/IMG] Montego Bay What an experience was Montego Bay! $US10 in a shared cab for a hair raising 15 minute ride just to see a somewhat dirty town full of drugged up hippies, and shops selling Bob Marley souvenirs by the thousands - not to my liking at all. Would recommend an excursion out of town at this port. I suspect the only reason it is on the itinerary is to allow US passengers to embark without conspicuously "going to Cuba". Cienfuegos Very interesting stop with another somewhat interesting narrow port entrance. This town is very French influenced and the architecture is different from the other stops. Rather nice to walk around town which is very close to the port and along the esplanade out to the Yacht Club which was a nice place to end the walk for a drink before we got a long peddle cab ride back to the ship for 5 cuc (but we also tipped the young rider an extra 5 cuc which he thought was better than Xmas). [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7298/16485026402_d548b5e49a_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7288/16459998266_b781d89bdb_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8584/15865862443_6376b71168_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7284/16484246631_7c25830823_b.jpg[/IMG] This is the view from the Hemmingway Bar on board looking back across the ship spa to Cienfuegos town [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7419/16484246801_d193f4f194_b.jpg[/IMG] Punta Francis Nice beach stop for half a day. Great swimming in crystal clear warm water inside a reef, so calm water. Ship's crew organise some activities for those that wish to participate or else plenty of lounge chairs just to relax on. Ironically one of the only cloudy days on the whole trip but this helped to prevent it getting too hot or sunburning. Tendering process worked fine. [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7318/16484246921_4e8626ecc2_b.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8576/16299727899_2ae8333d6f_b.jpg[/IMG] Havana - Disembarkation day Why can't every cruise be this organised? Understandably we were asked to vacate our cabins at 8am so they can set up for the incoming passengers, but we were welcome to stay on board as late as 4pm and use the facilities, have lunch, get the last use out of our drinks package, etc. Large suitcases had to be left out the day before so the Cuban authorities can Xray them, but they were then kept in storage for as long as you wish. If you had a late flight you can leave your luggage all day, come and go from the ship, and even use a complimentary cabin for getting changed, or for $CAD50 you could "hire" your own late check out cabin for the day. This is the most relaxed disembarkation I have ever experienced. Combined with a cab ride to the airport in a 1950 Plymouth (or similar) it was certainly memorable and a great way to end this part of our holiday. [IMG]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7389/16297960628_7d726feeb0_b.jpg[/IMG] In summary - a great trip and adventure, well worth the cost. Do not go expecting 5 star luxury (it is normally a Greek ferry after all), but do expect great friendly service, comfortable surrounds, and lots of variety in scenery, as well as some extreme cultural experiences along the way. By normal Cuban standards the ship is relatively a super luxury way to see the country compared to the alternative ground transport and accommodation. If you have any queries, feel free to ask away.... 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Sail Date January 2015
SHIP: My wife and I are experienced cruisers who have sailed throughout the Caribbean, to Alaska, the Mediterranean and also along European rivers on modern cruise ships of various sizes. The Louis Cristal sits firmly in the position of ... Read More
SHIP: My wife and I are experienced cruisers who have sailed throughout the Caribbean, to Alaska, the Mediterranean and also along European rivers on modern cruise ships of various sizes. The Louis Cristal sits firmly in the position of the worst cruise ship we have sailed. This is John Cleese's "Fawlty Towers" at sea! In effect, you don't realize until it's too late that this is a very basic cruise where you pay only for your cabin and meals, and then are nickel'd and dime'd for everything else, from bottled water, soft drinks, a rudimentary internet service, all the way to dining at the only specialty restaurant on board, the Alberta Steak House, which experience I had no desire to test. On the subject of food, the on-board meals are below average for what one expects on a cruise ship these days, being no more than basic cafeteria fare (surprisingly overseen by a French chef!). In addition, several passengers complained about the delays being served in the main restaurant. This is an older ship, although there are a lot of young, inexperienced staff sailing this route for the first time. Our young stewardess who greeted us when we arrived on board placed us in the wrong line for check-in where after a long wait, she was corrected by a supervisor and we had to join another queue. Timings and schedules were not well organized, and very few of the advertised times for events (including sail away times) were adhered to ... I guess the idea was to put everyone on relaxed Caribbean time. There was poor coordination between the ship's tour staff and the tour organizers in Canada in relation to prepaid tours, often leading to frustration on what should be an enjoyable Christmas cruise. This 1,200 passenger ship sailed from Athens over the previous 21 days with only 90 European passengers, and stopped in Montego Bay, Jamaica to pick up 45 mostly Caribbean passengers for the Cuba leg of the cruise. On the first night of dining in the main restaurant, all of the mostly Black Caribbean new cruisers were herded to sit together at the back of the dining room. Regardless of whatever reasons Management would offer for this action, it was insensitive, looked and felt awful, and was reminiscent of sailings from Africa to Cuba across the Atlantic centuries before, in one of the worse atrocities committed by humans against each other. Inherited prejudices die hard. Entertainment on board was generally of a mediocre standard, although the entertainment team that joined the cruise from Havana were quite good, featuring some excellent acrobats. Sassanya Dawson of Jamaica stole the show with her solo performance on Christmas Eve. CUBA On the other hand, the destination was a real eye opener! Any preconceptions a first time visitor has of Cuba are scuttled. On display was a poor Caribbean country that took on all the odds for decades and still excels on the world stage, whether in sports, music or exportation of health care workers to countries in need. There is a mystique about this geographically large country with wide expanses of beautiful countryside, and a high level of discipline amongst its population. Amidst ruins of once beautiful architecture is the national commitment to restoration, the out-pouring of a breathtaking culture of music and dance, and the impression that all citizens could articulate the national strategy for survival. You are drawn to discover and understand this country's history, and to observe its recovery. Visit the famous Tropicana show in its 75th year, and you find it impossible to believe that you are in one of the poorest countries of the world, putting on a world class display to earn tourist dollars to assist with its recovery. As the curator of the Museum in Santiago de Cuba told us: "Cubans have sharp minds, but empty pockets". RECOMMENDATION At the moment this is the only cruise that sails around Cuba and it is in its second season. If you don't mind mediocre quality, service and organisation on board, you can get by with this particular cruise. Or you can prepare yourself by managing expectations. However, this type of cruise ship is an anachronism in today's modern world. Cuba will soon open up to better quality cruise ships offering this type of exploration of the country. In this way, you will be able to see Cuba, a fascinating and historic destination, in the level of comfort for which the modern cruise industry has become known.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We did a cruise around the Island of Cuba on december 26 2014 to January 2 2015. We boarded in Montego Bay (Jamaica) and then went to Cienfuegos (Cuba), Island of the youth (Cuba), Havana (Cuba), Antilla (Cuba), Santiago de Cuba and back ... Read More
We did a cruise around the Island of Cuba on december 26 2014 to January 2 2015. We boarded in Montego Bay (Jamaica) and then went to Cienfuegos (Cuba), Island of the youth (Cuba), Havana (Cuba), Antilla (Cuba), Santiago de Cuba and back to Montego Bay. We flew from Montreal to Montego Bay by Air Transat with a transfer from airport to port arranged by air transat and the same thing on the way back .....everything went smoothly (we had a small bus on the way in so we had to wait one hour for some people who were really late (no respect for people they are on time) but on the way back the guide put us on a taxi so we did not had to wait for late people.....it was greatlty appreciated). The ship is in very good condition (no luxury but very clean and nice), when we arrived employees were waiting for us to escort us for the chek-in which was very efficient (took about 10 minutes) then went to the reception to ask some questions and pay for the safe which is in the room and they give us an electronic key for the safe (took about 3 minutes)....then went directly to the room which was ready (deluxe interior room on deck 7 (category IE) , very clean and a lot of storage so we unpacked everything and we still had room for more if we needed, a large bathroom). They had 2 free restaurants opened the entire week (one on the 8th floor (breakfast was a buffet everyday, lunch and dinner was sit down service (they had at least 4 choices for the main course every day)....il was excellent) and the other one was the buffet for every meals on the 9 th floor (almost the same food as the other restaurant except as buffet) it was excellent too..) and 1 restaurant with a cover charge. They had at least 6 bars throughout the ship with a very good service. One the ship there is a small pool which was almost never used and a whirlpool at the back of the ship. The service by all employees was really excellent and always with a smile, they always try to help in the way they can. All excursions were very well organized. The shows were all excellent with singers and dancers every night (production shows) +++ live music to listen with two duos in different bars. We did not know what to expect from that cruise and it was excellent and we had more than expected. Ther is no luxury on that ship but they have everything with an excellent service, excellent food, etc...... Cienfuegos: Very nice town and we took a ship excursion tour to the botanical garden, tour around the town, tour to a palace with a drink and a local show. The guides were excellent with a very good knowledge (they always had an answer to any questions the were asked)...it was worth the money spent for that. Island of the youth: We had to take a tender but was very well organized. It's a very pretty beach for walk, swim or sunbath with a lot of chairs available. Havana: Very very nice town and we walked around the old town, took a drink on a terrace near the port. Went shopping in a big craft market. Bargain for a city tour on a carriage ride (they ask for 20 CUC/person and finally we had it at 5CUC/person). Antilla: We had to take a tender but was very well organized. We took a ship excursion tour for the cuba life of before and now (we went at the place where Christopher Columbus arrived, had a show by native indians the way it was before, went to a craft market and a beautifull beach at Guardavalaca). The guides were excellent with a very good knowledge (they always had an answer to any questions the were asked)...it was worth the money spent for that. Santiago de Cuba: Very nice town and we took a ship excursion tour called Santiago special and it was excellent. The guides were excellent with a very good knowledge (they always had an answer to any questions the were asked)...it was worth the money spent for that.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This was our first cruise and we loved it. We wanted a taste of Cuba and that is what we got. This is an older cruise ship but small and more intimate. 27 nationalitiess in the crew and 29 in passengers. Crew were fabulous without ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we loved it. We wanted a taste of Cuba and that is what we got. This is an older cruise ship but small and more intimate. 27 nationalitiess in the crew and 29 in passengers. Crew were fabulous without exception. Food in the Amalthia Restaurant great and after a first night sitting fiasco, all ran smoothly. Evening activities fun. Cabin small but adequate. Shower great. Ports of call all good. Would have liked a little more time in Havana and could have done without Punta Frances as I live on an island with beaches but great. Disembarking was smooth. I may even look at their other cruises now. We did no ship excursions as we prefer independent travel but heard they were good. My only quibbles... Very poor coffee and lack of drinking water available outside of Restaurants and bars unless purchased. Water should be freely available... A very good first cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
AVOID! We have done almost 20 cruises and this one is by far the worst one ever! If you are expecting the same quality service you receive with other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Viking, ... Read More
AVOID! We have done almost 20 cruises and this one is by far the worst one ever! If you are expecting the same quality service you receive with other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Viking, Cunard, etc., avoid Cuba cruises! Staff friendliness is in short supply! Not only is the large majority of the staff rude, you do not get good value for your money! We stayed in a suite (only 8 on the boat and we had 3 of them), which was nice and housekeeping was great; however, get ready to pay for everything extra, I mean everything, even your safe… It is an older ship and the tacky decals and lighting doesn’t do a good job of hiding its age. If you are looking forward to the food, prepare to be disappointed. It is terrible! On top of that they cram you into the dinning room like sardines. With a few exceptions of course, the dinning room staff is rude!!!! Drinks… if you want an “All-inclusive package” while your spouse does not, watch your bill as they WILL double charge you for both passengers in the cabin without telling you (it is their “policy”). It was a nightmare to cancel and the pool bar manager was extremely ill-mannered and unprofessional! The lack of organization on board is amazing! No one knows anything! Typical response: “I don’t know, that’s not my department.” No communication between anyone. It is beyond frustration! The staff just do NOT care! If you don’t want to pay the expensive laundry fee, pack extra as there is no self-laundry as many other cruise ships offer. Bring your own beach towel because you can’t take the ones out of the room. We did anyways but if you loose it get ready to pay $50 for an old 25 cent towel. The excursions are ok.. Nothing to brag about. The excursion staff are just as uninformed and careless as everyone else on board. I would NOT recommend Cuba cruises! Save your money and time and just don’t do it! Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
After numerous visits to Cuba in both hotel and private accommodation, taking a cruise has brought my Cuban experience to a completely new level. The ship is very well maintained and overall service, in my experience, was very good. The ... Read More
After numerous visits to Cuba in both hotel and private accommodation, taking a cruise has brought my Cuban experience to a completely new level. The ship is very well maintained and overall service, in my experience, was very good. The room service was exceptionally good, on par with five-star hotel. To my surprise, the room service was actually done twice a day, and staff was very prompt and courteous. Dining was a step up to standard Cuban hotel experience (e.g. Varadero)in terms of food selection, presentation as well as service. Overall quality ranges from OK/good to excellent. Several dishes at a la cart restaurant were a true gourmet experience. Buffet restaurant is convenient, with reasonable selection. Special event (a midnight Greek buffet) was excellent, with genuine Greek dishes (and I visited Greece many times) and wines. The desserts were delicious. I have taken four excursions: Paradise Island - a bit expensive for what it is, but very enjoyable nevertheless: catamaran ride, snorkeling, lovely island with great litle sandy beach, restaurant with live music; safari) Santiago de Cuba City Tour - the fortress; the Santa Ifigenia cemetery; Plaza Cespedes; due to disembarking delays (usual slow Cuban bureaucracy) a half-day tour felt rushed Greenwood Great House (Montego Bay, Jamaica) - great for history/culture buffs; nice vistas from the hills. Cienfuegos City Tour with Botanical Garden - my favorite; Botanical Garden is worth visiting on its own and the town feels as if French Riviera is transported to Cuba. All tours were well organized (minus Santiago, see above) in good, air-conditioned buses and knowledgeable guides. At this time, this cruise is the most comfortable way to sample Cuba from end-to-end. Having more Cuban content in terms of dining and evening entertainment would be a welcome addition. I would do it again.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This being a relatively new cruise program offered by a lesser-known company, we resolved to come aboard with restrained expectations, focusing, instead, on the novel opportunity to explore Cuba in an entirely unique fashion, likely before ... Read More
This being a relatively new cruise program offered by a lesser-known company, we resolved to come aboard with restrained expectations, focusing, instead, on the novel opportunity to explore Cuba in an entirely unique fashion, likely before some significant changes transform the island, its society and its people. We were delighted to see that it compared very well, indeed, to smaller-vessel offerings from the better-known brands in terms of amenities, staffing, itinerary, excursion opportunities, cleanliness and all-'round enjoyment. Some quibbles with some menus (e.g., breakfast buffet was okay, just - and made better with an omelette from the omelette bar, outside; meat servings tended to be overcooked for some tastes); but the dining room offerings and experience were just fine, we found. The wine service in the dining room needs attention, though, as that staff were too few and too susceptible to confusion. Same for the drink service at various shows. Speaking of the shows, they were all very much in earnest and included some fine talents; but in many instances their artistic inspirations and themes were less than distinct and engaging, while the repeat practice of having too much stage business happening all at once (e.g., acrobatics in front of dancers while singers belted out popular songs) kept getting in the way of a simpler and more satisfying experience. In this regard, less truly is more. Small wonder, then, that the band and the performers would lose synch too often and that the execution of the choreography would suffer, likewise. Except that we're both long-time dance parents with a keen interest in promoting arts and entertainment, there's every chance we would have given several shows a pass and be none the worse. A serious one-time investment in a no-nonsense and accomplished artistic consultant with a mandate to pull things together thematically and technically - and to incorporate more accessible content (e.g., a Cuba cruise with so little Cuban content?) - will pay large and worthwhile dividends, we believe. With better drink service to complement the festivities, that investment would be more than recouped via increased liquor sales without a doubt. Overall, however, our modest expectations were definitely exceeded. Our cabin was compact yet comparable to many cabins we occupied on competitor ships. The excursions we took in were all enjoyable, well-organized, informative and remarkably well priced, leaving us with far greater insight into a land and society customarily relegated to relative obscurity, if not outright ignorance. Yes, there is room for improvement, a comment that can be aimed at many another big-name offering with fewer excuses in their favour - save, perhaps, for the somewhat delicate topic of bathroom paper-waste disposal that requires some game-faced adjustment, to be sure. But the commitment to delivering highly competitive value for the money shows and will serve this offering well the more that the company sticks to it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I have been to Cuba many times before but taking the Cuba Cruise was a wonderful way to see it from a new perspective. The cruise was well organized from embarkation to disembarkation. The excursions offered are interesting and given by ... Read More
I have been to Cuba many times before but taking the Cuba Cruise was a wonderful way to see it from a new perspective. The cruise was well organized from embarkation to disembarkation. The excursions offered are interesting and given by competent guides that know their area and history inside and out. There was not one question they could not answer. Service on this boat shines. The ship is a smaller size one and you can feel that the staff are like a family on board and they extend this feeling to you the clients. Especially the staff from the dining room. The food was very good, international fare. The chef is French. A steakhouse offering Alberta steak (high quality beef and cuts) is available at an extra charge but I was quite satisfied with the quality and variety of offering in the main dining room. The boat amenities were basic but clean and well maintained. This cruise is one about the destination and great service, not a floating city with luxurious and modern amenities. Rooms were nice, quiet, clean and roomy enough that it never felt cramped. The bed was very comfortable. Entertainment and activities on board were in line with the theme of the destination with salsa, jazz, flamenco, circus show but there was something for every taste. Do not miss Ronny's show. A waiter from the dining room that sings just like Elvis and perform one night. What a voice. All in all, I loved this cruise so much I will return next year with family and friends when the ship returns. I recommend it whole heartily. Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
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