U.K. Couple boarded in Havana on Monday 22nd May
We arrived in Havana at Jose Marti airport on Monday afternoon and transferred straight to the cruise terminal. The embarkation procedure was easy and straightforward, we dropped our ... Read More
U.K. Couple boarded in Havana on Monday 22nd May
We arrived in Havana at Jose Marti airport on Monday afternoon and transferred straight to the cruise terminal. The embarkation procedure was easy and straightforward, we dropped our luggage at the drop-off point downstairs and was advised it would appear outside our cabin within 30 mins, there were no queues and getting through Cuban Customs to board was very quick. Once on board we were guided to our cabin by the staff located by each lift on every floor. We stayed in 6015 which is an XBO cabin with a large window not obstructed by a lifeboat, but does have partial obstruction from the ship's structure. Nonetheless I still managed to get some very good pictures through the window (although it was a bit dirty). The room itself is small and has two single beds with one upper pull down bed, a stool, double chest of drawers, wardrobe and plenty of storage space on one side of the cabin wall. The bathroom is impossibly small and the shower area is too small to even stand in with the curtain around you, as a result the whole floor area got wet and as there was no floor area drain, the water that enevitably ended up outside the small shower area pooled underneath the toilet.
This holiday was to celebrate the O.H's 50th birthday, so we decided to ask the question as to whether an upgrade to a larger cabin would be possible in light of such a tremendous occasion. Yes, we were told, no problem, by the man on reception who disappeared into the office behind the reception desk. He came out a few minutes later with a piece of paper in hand, on which was written 350-600 dollars depending on which cabin we wanted. Disappointed, we declined having already spent 2200EUR for the cruise, we felt this was enough. It was even more disappointing when we discovered after a couple a days that there was less than 250 people on board, there must have been so many empty cabins.
We then went straight to the bar to try out the local beer before deciding whether to upgrade to the premium drinks package that included Heineken & Bud etc. The draught lager is Greek and in our opinion doesn't taste very nice. The local beer Cristal is a good beer, in small 330ml tins, it's what we call a good slurper, comparable to Fosters, Carlsberg or Carling. Bucanero is the local premium beer at 5.4%, again in 330ml tins and is also a good beer comparable to Kronenberg, Pilsner etc. Also tried a couple of cocktails which were ok, they didn't have very large measures of alcohol, but they were ok. We decided not to upgrade and stuck with the blue drinks package that was included in our cruise package.
We attended the safety briefing as soon as we got there in order to get it out of the way. It was quite amusing as everything was very important. Literally every sentence started with very important. They never did an actual lifeboat muster drill. I can't really remember anything from the safety briefing other than very important lol!!
The buffet restaurant was never opened due to low numbers on board, the main restuarant on deck 8 was used on a daily basis and as a result lunch and dinner was always a-la-carte. There was an early bird breakfast 6-30-7am on deck 9 with coffee and pastries otherwise breaksfast was also in the main restaurant on deck 8, which was buffet on excursion days and a-la-carte on sea days. The food in general was very good, never had anything we did not like and although the portions were quite small you could always ask for more if you wanted it, not a problem, even the desserts! Didn't do the captain's cocktail party, not really our thing or the late night cake party either, so can't comment on either or those.
All of the staff were excellent, in the restaurant quite lieterally falling over themselves to help you. One would seat you, another would put the napkin on your lap, another would hand you a menu, another would fetch water it was quite funny sometimes. This was mainly due to the fact there were such low numbers on board, the staff outnumbered the guests.
The cruise itself was fantastic, we had a half day tour included for Havana and Santiago both of which were very good. We were separated from the Americans on the tours as they had separate iterneries and had other things included on their tours that we didn't have.
The half day in Havana was very good and covered most of the main tourist attractions, our guide Havier was excellent and shared his very thorough knowledge of the history of Cuba in an informative an engaging manner. The tour lasted just over 5 hours and ended in Floridita with a Hemingway Daquiri cocktail. For the stops in Cienfuegos and Mo-Bay we did our own thing and headed out on our own, Cienfuegos was beautiful and very enjoyable with lots of markets and sourvenirs. Mo-Bay was dreadful, very run down, lots of beggars and dollar shops, people constantly trying to hustle you, insisting they were your luggage handler at the airport or they worked in the kitchen on your cruise ship then asking you for a few dollars to feed their children etc. Couldn't wait to get out of there to be honest.
Santiago was great, although our guide was not as a good as Havier, he just walked around pointing at things and telling you key facts and dates, it just wasn't as memorable as he made no effort to engage with you, which is a shame as Santiago has a great story to tell. We visited the Cemetery where Fidel's tombstone is and queued for about half an hour to walk past it, constantly being told to hurry up and move on by the guards, you couldn't even stop for more than a couple of seconds to take a proper photograph.
The weather was very hot and humid, not one day was less than 30 degrees or 70% humidity, once on board the ship it was nice and cool and the air conditioning worked very well both inside the cabin and in the bar and restaurant areas. All of the staff were always pleased to see you and nothing was too much trouble for them. This was a first cruise for me, so I had very few expectations, I found the ship to be very pleasant and it was clean and tidy throughout. The pool appeared to be rather small, although we never used it and the jacuzzi was full with 4 people in it. We only attended 1 show and we weren't very impressed, it was rather amateur.
Upon arrival we were quite fortunate as the ship was in dock in the harbour and stayed there until it was time to leave at 10pm on Tuesday. This meant you were free to come and go as you pleased. However, upon our return into Havana on the following Monday we were told that we had to be off by 9am as the ship had to withdraw from the port and anchor in the bay to make way for other cruise ships, not returning into the port until 6pm. They did put on a bus shuttle at 11:30am to take those passengers with late departures to lunch at the Grand Theatre, we didn't bother with this as we were booked into a Havana hotel for the rest of our stay. Later on that afternoon we bumped into a couple who we knew from the ship that had boarded in Mo-Bay and they said that they had also been told that the same thing was happening the next day, only this time you had to be off the ship by 06:30 and couldn't get back on till 9pm or you stayed on board. Glad we never experienced this, it definitely would have spoilt things for us. Read Less