5 Havana First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

This was our first cruise, so although I have nothing to compare it to, I did expect a bit better. The first problem we encountered was a note in our stateroom saying the excursion we had booked for the following day was cancelled due ... Read More
This was our first cruise, so although I have nothing to compare it to, I did expect a bit better. The first problem we encountered was a note in our stateroom saying the excursion we had booked for the following day was cancelled due to lack of take-up. I had until 23:00 p,m, to book something else. Not very helpful when you don't embark until 23:45 p.m. so to late to re-book. The stateroom (8203) was spacious with a large comfy bed. The bathroom was adequate but the shower curtain was a pain, as it kept sticking to your legs. The maid attended twice a day, making up the room in the morning and preparing the bed in the evening. With fresh towels left on both visits. Our meal time was changed from 20:30 to 21:30 (a bit too late). The restaurant service was very slow. Our waiter seemed to be serving several tables whilst the rest of the waiters swarmed around the Italians seated in the corner. The meals were of average quality, but not very filling. I left the restaurant on the two occasions we used it still feeling hungry. There was quite a variety of food available in the buffet, but most of the "hot" food was barley warm. The hamburger bar and pizzeria were the best places to eat. The crew were all friendly and helpful. This was spoiled by pushy European travellers who thought there needs must be met before anyone else's, I will not let this put me off booking another cruise, but it won't be with MSC next time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff in all areas. Our cabin was excellently maintained by the cleaning crew, and had lots of drawer and hanging space. A nice surprise were the Happy Birthday balloons. The dining rooms presented excellent menu choices, with very good quality food. We liked everything. Entertainment was top notch. Saw every show. Cruise director Danny does a fantastic job. Has so much energy, and speaks many languages fluently, flowing from one to the other without effort. The tours onshore were interesting and informing. The only one I would skip is the Maria La Gorda trip to Cabo de San Antonio. Long bus ride, and not much to see or do. Would rather sit on the beach and relax. My husband wasn't very keen to go on a cruise, this being his first. On our last night aboard he said he was sorry it was over. We will definitely go on a cruise again, and highly recommend Cuba Cruise with Celestyal Crystal to anyone who wants to see more of Cuba than just a resort. It was an excellent holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
My wife and I went on an MSC Carribean Cruise, the Cuba Special Cruise, from December 22nd to December 28th, 2015. On December 22nd when we arrived at Rome Fiumicino Airport we were welcomed by three very nice young ladies who helped us ... Read More
My wife and I went on an MSC Carribean Cruise, the Cuba Special Cruise, from December 22nd to December 28th, 2015. On December 22nd when we arrived at Rome Fiumicino Airport we were welcomed by three very nice young ladies who helped us to carry out the check-in procedures. So far so good, but as soon as we reached our gate the ordeal started. The Meridiana flight, coming from Milan, that MSC had booked for those who were going on the "Cuba Special Cruise" had a three-hour-delay; consequently we arrived in Havana three hours later than the scheduled time. Once in Havana we were pushed like cattle to the buses by people who only spoke Cuban-Spanish. BOARDING THE MSC OPERA SHIP: when we boarded MSC Opera Ship things got even worse: each of us was given a cruise card with our name and cabin number on it. Nobody helped us to reach our cabins on that big ship. There were some crew officers in their elegant white uniforms looking at us without even raising a finger to help us who were exausted and absolutely lost. Would it have been too costly for MSC to organize a Welcoming Committee to welcome their passengers on board, to make them feel at ease and help them to reach their cabins? When at last we reached our cabin, an aurea cabin which had cost us a lot of money, we saw that it was very small and with an extra bed on the wall. Of course, my wife and I didn't need that extra bed which dwarfed the cabin making it look even smaller and uglier that it already was. Dialing 99: at this point we had questions we wanted answered, so since on the Daily Planner it was written that we could contact "Reception" dialing 99, we called but got no answer. In the next couple of days, after dialing that numer several times without getting any answer, we realized that if on board we needed any kind of help we had to go to Reception Desk or/and to the Excursion Desk. RECEPTION DESK AND EXCURSION DESK: unfortunately, going there was like going to an Amateur Night Show; in fact most of the members of the staff were rude, impatient, uncaring and unable to solve most of the problems the passengers had on board. My wife and I had already booked and paid for two of the excursions we wanted to take but when we went to the ship Excursion Desk we were told that those excursions had been cancelled; then the next day they told us that those excursions had been arranged again. A very inconsistent behaviour! Once on the ship we also booked and paid for two additional excursions and they said we would have our tickets delivered in our cabin the next day. As a matter of fact, the next day we had the tickets delivered but, guess what, they had made a mistake giving us tickets for excursions we had not booked. When we went to the Excursion Desk to return the wrong tickets and to get the right ones, they were rude and impatient as if it had been our mistake and not theirs. Mind you, in order to speak with members of the Reception Desk and the Excursion Desk staff we had to stay in line 10 to 45 minutes depending on the day and on the time of the day. MSC made clear that they wouldn't take any responsibility for the excursions because they said: "the excursions are organized by independent third parties" but since MSC granted those "independent third parties" permission to operate on their ship and to deal with MSC passengers shouldn't MSC take responsibility for the way they operate? INTERNET SERVICE: At the Opera Reception Desk I bought a 24.90 euro packet in order to use Wi-Fi for 100 minutes. After sending only three messages and four photographs I realized that I had no credit left. Since I couldn't believe it and I thought I had made a mistake, I went to the Reception Desk where a very rude young lady told me: "You don't understand! Don't you realize you are on board a ship where a lot of passengers are trying to use Wi-Fi?" Since MSC are aware of that problem, shouldn't they charge 24.90 euro for a whole day instead of charging 24.90 euro for only 100 minutes? MEALS ON BOARD: buffet food was average but it was hard to find a free table and since waiters were slow in cleaning the tables , most of the times we had to eat at tables where the left-overs of previous passengers hadn't been removed. L'APPRODO: the only good restaurant on board was L'Approdo where the food and the service were excellent. We wish to thank here two highly qualified waiters: Mr Adiana and Mr Altamirano. Unfortunately, however, that Restaurant was only open for dinner. TEATRO DELL'OPERA: the evening and night shows at the Teatro dell'Opera were very enjoyable and the artists very talented. THE LAST TWO DAYS: the last two days and our return home were the worst part of our ordeal. The day before the end of the cruise, our cabin steward removed the bathrobes MSC had given us to use during our cruise. The problem was that, especially on the last day, we counted on those bathrobes to keep us warm while in our cabin because we had been asked to pack and leave our luggage outside our cabin the night before our landing. The day before the same steward locked our minibar that was supposed to remain unlocked until 9 a.m. of the next day. On the last day we waited, as we had been asked, from 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Piazza di Spagna ship lounge. At 7 p.m. they announced it was time for us to land, to collect our luggage that had been left the night before by MSC at the Port of Havana Customs Warehouse and to carry it by ourselves without any help whatsoever to the bus where a driver loaded it . When we arrived at the airport, however, the driver didn't help any of us to unload our luggage, so all of us, old and young, had to do it by ourselves. In a few words nobody took care of us. It was hard for us to collect our luggage, to carry it, to look for the check-in area and to find the gate whose number was changed at least three times. To make the disaster complete the Meridiana aircraft took off with about a four-hour- delay. I only wrote here a few of the things that went wrong!!! DECLINING THE CAPTAIN'S INVITATION: my wife and I wish to answer Captain Raffaele Iaccarino, the Commander of MSC Opera Ship, who wrote on MSC Opera Daily Program that he hopes to see us again on bord the ship, that we firmly decline his invitation because "ERRARE HUMANUM EST, PERSEVERARE AUTEM DIABOLICUM" Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
In the past, when I saw one star reviews for vacations I asked myself how people can do that for 5 star hotels. Well, here I am writing my one star (or should be 0) for this Cruise. First of all, I have to say that I loved Cuba. I went ... Read More
In the past, when I saw one star reviews for vacations I asked myself how people can do that for 5 star hotels. Well, here I am writing my one star (or should be 0) for this Cruise. First of all, I have to say that I loved Cuba. I went to cuba with very low expectations, I was in a resort in Varadero the week before the cruise and the experience was excellent, including the resort, the people, the service, the room and even the food. My main purpose for the cruise was to visit Cuba after a week in the beach...but I didn't see much of cuba. Excursions were completely disorganized. The Cruise Director is a clown, and a bad one. And when you put a Clown together with a Salsa dancer that only knows how to count to four to organize 120 people in 4 buses, that's what you get. A hour and a half delay. In addition the boat was always delayed. They always blame the weather (even the day that the cruise didn't sail). The only day that we were on time the joker woke us at 7:20am to call everybody take the temperature even if the disembarking was at 9, and they didn't even took our names or cabin numbers. The end of the story is that you lose most of your time in port because they are extremely disorganized, plus Cuba customs. They take you on a 3 hours tour where they want them to take you and you don't have extra time to do anything on your own. One example of what to expect was at Maria la Gorda. Like many other people, I was prepared with hiking gear to go to a natural reserve. Instead, we were 3 hours on a bus that took us to a place that was...nothing. Only and old lighthouse on the other side of the fence. I asked about changing that excursion for diving, it was u$s 165 for only one tank on a choppy day, when regular price for 2 tanks is $49 in Cuba and they will refund you if there's bad weather. About the cruise. This is a refurbished ferry that was burned and crashed an oil tanker (Do your own research on this one). It might be ok as a ferry, but It cannot handle very well the conditions in Cuba, it was a little bit windy but it was sunny all the time, standard weather for Cuba at this time of the year. I can't imagine it with a real storm, even a minor one. So expect it to move, and a lot. First I got an inside cabin, if you can call it a cabin. It was not even half the size of a small cruise cabin. I upgraded (after having to pay, and they are very good at getting your money) to an outside cabin. The carpets were stained and didn't look modern. the washroom had problems most of the time. Also the air conditioning was unpredictable. Food was college cafeteria grade. At the buffet, there were always the same, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food seemed to come from Greece more than a month before, nothing was fresh at all. Fruits were mainly canned. They advertise that they serve Alberta beef, but I only seen overcooked pork and chicken. Also they changed the dinner plan to open seating. First day I was refused to enter one of the restaurants. They said it was booked by a group for the next 5 days, but other people got in. I got in the next day. Both restaurants serve exactly the same. Sometimes you have to wait 45 minutes, or go to the buffet. Entertainment was always the same, not much entertaining. On the positive side. After the shows, the band stayed playing and they were really good. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We arrived in Havana around 1 pm, the funny thing was, since we purchased the air/flight packages, pretty much everyone on our flight from Toronto was going on the Cuba Cruise! Once we arrived, there were representatives with Cuba Cruise ... Read More
We arrived in Havana around 1 pm, the funny thing was, since we purchased the air/flight packages, pretty much everyone on our flight from Toronto was going on the Cuba Cruise! Once we arrived, there were representatives with Cuba Cruise signs, showing us where to go to catch the bus to the terminal. Don’t feel pressured to exchange your money at the airport, there is a currency exchange at the cruise terminal, before you get on the ship. The bus was an air-conditioned coach, and the guide explained what we were seeing during the ride to the cruise terminal (about 45 minutes). When we arrived, we had to leave all of our luggage on the dock, including our carry-ons (so don’t assume you can put a change of clothes in your carry on). We went to get our Cruise cards, go through the ship’s customs, and got to our cabin, all in under half hour. Our luggage showed up very quickly (less than an hour). We then went out to explore Havana. Since we hadn’t arrived early enough to do the Cruise excursion, I had arranged ahead of time to have a 55 Chevy with driver and tour guide pick us up at the terminal (OldCar Tours). This was well worth the 40CUC per hour. They drove us around the city and the guide was very informative. We boarded the ship once again in time for dinner, which was a buffet on the first night. We weren’t impressed with the food that night, but we were pleasantly surprised that it did get better (more on this later). We met our cabin steward (Yasnay) and she was so friendly and fantastic the whole week. They clean the rooms twice a day, replacing the towels if you want, and even making up the bed twice. I was a bit concerned about the fact you can’t flush toilet paper, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal, there’s a can with a lid and they changed it twice a day. If you forget out of habit, nothing happens! It still flushed! The one thing we noticed almost immediately is that the majority of the people were seniors. We are in our 40s and felt like we were the youngest couple there. Eventually we did see a few younger couples with kids but we felt sorry for the kids because there really wasn’t much for them to do. I would NOT recommend bringing kids on this cruise, my kids would have been bored most of the time. The evening shows were fantastic! We really enjoyed the “cirque” type performances, and they had a team of fantastic dancers. The Havana Moon band played nightly and were very talented. One of the musicians played the flute, sax, clarinet, and something else! The main singers, Freddie and Hector were great! Freddie should have his own record contract, he’s that good. They also had other entertainment in the various lounges throughout the evening if you didn’t want to go to the main show. The service on board was impeccable. The waiters and drink servers were always there when you wanted them. All of the staff on board were friendly, and you got to know some of them by name. Excursions: We did an excursion every day, but if we were to do it again, we would probably do some exploring on our own. When you get to Holguin, I would definitely recommend the swimming with the dolphins. We all agreed it was the highlight of our trip. At this port (it wasn’t even a port, we had to use the ship’s tenders to get to shore) there was really only a tiny town with nothing to do, so definitely take an excursion here (Antilla). In Santiago de Cuba, we did a city tour, but they spent too much time (in my opinion) at a cemetery and not enough time at the beautiful fort (we only had 20 minutes at the fort, not even enough time to take the steps down to the beach). We also made a stop at the former Bacardi Rum factory and were thrilled to buy bottles of rum for 7CUC, but later on, we saw it even cheaper at the Duty Free shop at the Havana airport!!! I recommend that you do this city on your own, research on Trip advisor what you’d like to do and do it. In Montego Bay, we took an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls, but wish we had just rented a taxi on our own after we saw that several others did so. The excursion was overpriced and the tour bus was way less comfortable than the busses in Cuba (no leg room at all). Anyway, the falls were fantastic and I’d highly recommend a visit. In Cienfeugos, we did the El Nicho waterfall excursion. I would NOT recommend this excursion to ANYONE! First of all, you ride on the back of an old Russian army truck, open to the wind and sun, very uncomfortable, for 2 hours to the waterfalls! Then we ate a meager lunch and only had an hour to do the trail and waterfall. Then a 2 hour ride back. Definitely NOT worth 4 hours of driving. Also, it was the “dry” season so the falls were a trickle and some of the river areas were dried up. At Punta Frances we thoroughly enjoyed the beach day. We found many seashells and just enjoyed the warm waters and hot sun. Cabins: Our cabin was 3029, at the very back of the ship. The engine rumble and vibrations were VERY loud and I would NOT recommend being anywhere near the back of the ship, especially at the lower levels. Thankfully we brought earplugs and we got used to the vibrations. It was nice to have a window, and we took the two single beds and pushed them together so we could sleep together. The room was small, but we didn’t spend much time in there anyway so it didn’t matter. The shower sucked, it would not give any hot water, ever. I had so many lukewarm showers and even a couple of cold ones! There was plenty of space to unpack your suitcases, several drawers, many hangers in the closet, etc. We didn’t use the safe, but just kept our wallets on us. We left electronics (iPhones, laptop, cameras) in the room but had no issues. Disembarking: Pretty painless, you had to leave your room at 8 am, but could then go eat breakfast. We then had to wait until about 9:30-10 to actually get off the ship. Once off, you went to find your luggage (they gave you tags the night before, take note of the colour of the tag, and the letter on it) and boarded the tour bus to the airport. Wifi: The wifi was very unreliable, I wouldn’t recommend paying the $12/hour. We only ended up using 20 minutes the whole week because it usually didn’t work. We had hoped to use it to book our seats on our return flight but we weren’t able to get online. The good news was, that our entire flight was on this ship, so no one booked their seats early! First come, first served at the airport. Don’t forget your 25CUC/person to pay at the airport. Dining: We usually did the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the sit-down restaurant for dinner. The one thing that bugged us about the sit-down meals is that they constantly put us at tables with people who didn’t speak English. We would even request a table with English speakers, and they still couldn’t manage to get it right. This is why we just did the buffet at breakfast and lunch. We eventually met a couple we liked and arranged to meet them for dinner each evening. I’m sure the Maitre D’ could figure out a way to seat people in a way that wasn’t awkward for everyone at the table. The meals at the restaurant were great! We are foodies, and didn’t have any complaints. The buffet meals are “ok”, but nothing special. Overall, we really enjoyed our time on the Louis Cristal and would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to really see different areas of Cuba, rather than stay in one place at a resort.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015

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