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23 Havana to Caribbean - Western Cruise Reviews

We choose this cruise, to see Havana, as it was docked for two night followed by several islands. Good : We had a all inclusive, so the unlimited drinks were great. The food variety at dinner was ample. Embarkation was good. ... Read More
We choose this cruise, to see Havana, as it was docked for two night followed by several islands. Good : We had a all inclusive, so the unlimited drinks were great. The food variety at dinner was ample. Embarkation was good. Cabins were fine, mattress was fine, storage space was fine. Staff were nice. Bad: Saltiest food I have ever tasted, blech ! We were rushed at dinner; lights were turned on bright to rush us out for the next seating. There was never coffee served after dinner. Breakfast was monotonous. The entertainment was not the greatest, this is likely due to so many non-English speaking guests, that all entertainment was non-dialogue. Announcements were in 5 languages, and this got a bit tiring by the end of the trip. For my daughter, the choices of Gluten Free food was dismal, no pasta, no pizza.. My other daughter complained that the teen club (the younger age group) never had any activities, she never saw any staff there doing activities. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose this cruise because bus trips aren't my thing. We also wanted to see Cuba before the American economic invasion. The ship can hold 49 people but we were only 13 passengers - ideal! Since there were so few of us, they put ... Read More
We chose this cruise because bus trips aren't my thing. We also wanted to see Cuba before the American economic invasion. The ship can hold 49 people but we were only 13 passengers - ideal! Since there were so few of us, they put everyone in a main deck cabin, which had windows instead of port holes. Crew walked by, as I discovered to my surprise one afternoon lounging on my bed, but it was nice to have more of a view. The cabins were on the small side, which seems to be usual with small ships. It was impossible to put the luggage under the beds because they were on wooden platform although the crew could store luggage elsewhere if you wished. We ate breakfast & dinner on the ship, with lunches ashore in privately run restaurants. The breakfast was the usual: eggs, oatmeal, dry cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc. Dinners always had a fish entrée & a meat entrée. There were courses for appetizers, soups, entrée, and dessert; often we just had the entrée because of having a large lunch ashore. The last night we had a buffet of Greek food that was great. We ate on a covered top deck, but many nights, when we were usually anchored, it was very warm. There was a bar on the main deck with cocktails, wine, or beer on offer, and drinks could be ordered with dinner as well. All the sightseeing, which was mandatory under the rules for visiting Cuba, was included, and we went to many art galleries, a choir, a Tabaco farm, etc. The towns of Trinidad and Cienfuegos were my favorites. The crew could not have been more helpful. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We are a british couple that flew from London to Havana on 10/02/16, we went to Varadero & spent 6 nights at the Blau Varadero before joining the MSC Opera. We knew the ship wasn't due to dock until around 3pm from the previous ... Read More
We are a british couple that flew from London to Havana on 10/02/16, we went to Varadero & spent 6 nights at the Blau Varadero before joining the MSC Opera. We knew the ship wasn't due to dock until around 3pm from the previous weeks' cruise & had heard that people flying in & arriving before 18.30 were not able to get on board, so we decided to stay at our hotel for the day & booked our cab for 19.30 which meant we got to the ship around 21.30. As soon as the cab stopped we had 2 chaps opening up the boot & taking out our luggage then taking it through to the drop off & we had to tip them - we would prefer to have been asked if we wanted this service as we often don't, preferring to do things ourselves. Checking in was very quick but told it we had to register credit card on board. Went through passport control & they took the exit part of our visa which concerned us a little as we thought we needed it to leave Cuba the following week?? found out later on board that as we were effectively leaving Cuba & then returning on the boat, we would be issued with new visas which would be charged to our account which was an additional 15 euros we hadn't allowed for. To register your credit card you have to do this on one of their machines (2 of these by the guest service desk) so we did this immediately to get it done out of the way. Our cabin was ready for us to go to immediately. It was an inside which wasn't massive but there seemed to be plenty of storage. The bathroom was small & compact but we soon found out the shower was quite small once you are using it! Unfortunately the toilet did would not flush so we had to report this & whilst it did work eventually it did this a few times throughout the week. Our luggage appeared about an hour after we boarded. There was food available from around 21.30 which we didn't need to have as we ate at our hotel before leaving. The daily news that had been left for us was in French, we went to the service desk to ask for an English version & to request this was passed on to our cabin steward - no, it was still in French the next day so repeated our journey/request to reception desk, saw our cabin steward the next day so mentioned it to them, when it was left on the 3rd night it said ENG in top right corner but the content was in a different language & the inside was a complete mish mash!! 4th/5th/6th night got the correct version !! Buffet/main dining room - the buffet is a small area that gets crowded very easy & during busy times you will struggle to find somewhere to sit. We don't like the hustle & bustle of the restaurant so prefer to go the main dining room for waiter service, however, we went for breakfast, was offered a menu but there was a buffet there which nearly everybody was using so what was the point of offering a restaurant/waiting service?? we ordered fruit & eggs which was brought to us on the first morning, but the second morning we were told we should go over & help ourselves to the fruit - same hustle & bustle as the buffet on deck 11 so no real alternative ?? The waiting staff would bring coffee immediately but waited a while if asking for tea/hot water, the second morning was really slow waiting for drinks. We gave up on the restaurant & used the buffet on deck 11. We requested 2nd sitting not knowing that it was at 9.30pm, would have changed but as we had been put with a very nice couple we decided not to change. The food was very good, but, if you wanted water they brought a bottle over which you had to pay for & there was no tea/coffee after the meal which we thought was very wrong - if you ate in the buffet on deck 11 you have access to free water as well as the tea/coffee, a little unfair we thought. We were on the allegrissimo package which included water but we wouldn't have been happy to have to pay for it every night if we hadn't had the package. There was a good selection of drinks included so made the package worthwhile having - only draft beer was included which was only Heinekin except in the sovetto pub where you had a couple more choices. The entertainment wasn't our type, saw one show but as our cabin was 2 decks directly above the theatre we did hear most of the other shows! wasn't too keen on what was going on around the ship. Smoking - there is smoking allowed on one side of the Sovetto pub, which just happens to be the access point for the library/card room/internet room - on the sea day the smoke was coming out of there along the deck & was not pleasant when I wanted to go in to the library. Disembarkation at end of cruise, communication should be better. On previous cruises the ships have always been docked by 9am on the morning at the end of the cruise so luggage has been left out night before, as this cruise docks around 1.30pm - 2pm we were not sure if luggage could have been left out on that morning so looked out for information in the daily news. We went to our cabin around 7pm, not news re when the luggage should be left out & no labels, we showered, went upstairs for a pre dinner drink, went to dinner, had an after dinner drink with our table companions, then going back to our cabin around 12.45am saw all the luggage outside the cabins - went in to ours to find luggage labels but the daily news was the one due to be left for customers coming on board the next day, nothing about luggage, cabin check out or disembarkation time, a little panic set in & my husband went to the reception desk whilst I hurriedly started packing. He came back saying luggage was to be out by 3am & cabin check out 2.30pm. The next morning we took the daily news we had been left to the reception who apologised that we had not been left the correct information & promptly gave us the correct newsletter we should have received. We complained this communication was not good enough, besides the fact that we had been given the incorrect newsletter, people should have been informed of the luggage arrangements earlier as leaving it until the bed turndown time people like us on late dinner wouldn't be seeing this until around 12am!! Overall, we thought the Opera was a nice ship, had some nice lounges, service was good in some areas not so good in others, food was very good, but they could also improve on the terminal area for leaving the luggage on disembarkation. Havana, good to see but hated all the people constantly trying to get you to use the taxis, classic cars etc, you get bombarded as you walk out of the cruise terminal, Jamaica we went to Dunns River Falls & had a very nice lunch in Ochos Rios, Cayman Islands was beautiful & Cozumel, well, we felt a little ripped off after requesting a taxi to take us to Playa Azul (a free beach) sent us to Paradise Beach instead saying it was much nicer & whilst the cab fare was similar we had to pay $3 each to go on the beach & told we had to spend a minimum of $10 each at the bar, however, it appears if you don't spend this in the first couple of hours you could be asked to leave !! Wouldn't choose MSC if had other cruise line choices for an itenery we wanted to do . Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
I will start by saying this is my very first time writing a review and felt it necessary as this cruise experience was different than any other of the 14 cruises I have taken. We were quite excited to be getting this cruise at a ... Read More
I will start by saying this is my very first time writing a review and felt it necessary as this cruise experience was different than any other of the 14 cruises I have taken. We were quite excited to be getting this cruise at a great price with the Canadian dollar being so low and the itinerary looked amazing....which it was! Havana was absolutely beautiful with 2 days to explore this intriguing city....Jamaica was fun...laid back...people are kind......Grand Cayman was all about relaxing at the most beautiful beach that I know...7 mile beach...and lastly Cozumel as always found us on an excursion thanks to island marketing that was a complete day tour around the island in our own buggy..with many interesting stops, cold beer and an amazing Mexican lunch made by our tour guide himself!!! His name was Omar Abarca and kudos to Island Marketing to having such a fun ,informative and professional tour guide working for them.....sometimes you never know what you are going to get especially when booking on line. Now for the actual cruise experience.......The Opera is a smaller ship and was quite nice for its size and very clean..but lacking organization which you will notice especially on sea days..primarily at the buffet and on the deck..it's mad chaos!....... Fairly good food... With a special thank you to the most amazing waiter "Marine"who made our evening meals in the dining room an enjoyable experience.... There are two levels of staff on this ship and it is quite noticeable who is who...the cleaning staff...servers...kitchen staff..deck hands etc ..are so happy and always eager to help...never a complaint...the staff in the higher positions including the maître d....very rude at times...and serious.....and they seem unhappy in their jobs...which is sad because they make the most money on the ship..... Now the most IMPORTANT point I have to make...if you have never cruised with a European cruise line..you will be in for some culture shock...this cruise consisted of 90% Europeans and maybe 10% Canadians ...its is very loud and aggressive to put it mildly.....we felt very sorry for the serving staff and bartenders who worked so incredibly hard to please and just couldn't seem to keep everyone happy...but a big thank you to Randy at the pool bar and all the severs...you guys are great!!.........in short.....a very serious crowd that seemed to be lacking in social etiquette...or maybe it's just the culture ...not sure..but several of us noticed it and agreed we would not be cruising in this environment again....sad because the cruise would have been pretty typical otherwise .... If you are already booked you will be fine...just make the best of your amazing ports..eat in the restaurant...and wait a bit to get off at port to avoid the pushing and shoving...one last thing....the Allegrissimo package is amazing!! Many drink choices to make a sea day that much more enjoyable......Cheers... Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
This was supposed to be something different, and special since we would get to see Havana. In fact, there were a lot of disappointments, from the get-go. Somehow, our overall trip included the "drinks package", so that was ... Read More
This was supposed to be something different, and special since we would get to see Havana. In fact, there were a lot of disappointments, from the get-go. Somehow, our overall trip included the "drinks package", so that was great thing (first time ever that we took such a package). Before cruise communication with MSC was impossible: many emails, many attempts at phone calls, nothing worked. So, the stuff we needed to know we could not (eg., their booking number, how to get the loyalty points, getting different bed arrangement, etc.) After boarding the ship and checkin (which was quick), we had some food, and did some look around - very pleasant. Then we went to our room and discovered the smallest one we have ever had. It was not intolerable (we survived, lots of storage, etc), bu just small, and one has to get used to that. The entertainment was a bit of a surprise: much like a resort, the same entertainers (but different costumes and theme) every night: relatively good but just lacking a bit of pizazz compared to other cruises. Weird, too, one had to "reserve" a seat for the performance .. There were other matters (like, the ship was too small for the number of people, and this was particularly evident on the 11th deck on a sunny day) - but it was a vacation. Overall, the rating was between a 3-4 - but I chose the lower as we expected more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
First , I will comment on the good. The ship is lovely, the entertainment is great, the service in the L'Approdo Restaurant superb, Sotto Vento Pub, great servers but very slow in getting service due to lack of help. We ordered ... Read More
First , I will comment on the good. The ship is lovely, the entertainment is great, the service in the L'Approdo Restaurant superb, Sotto Vento Pub, great servers but very slow in getting service due to lack of help. We ordered sandwiches once and waited over an hour, so we left. Our cabin was very nice with balcony. Service was non existant with the cabin boy. He left our drink glasses and plates for days. The shower is very small but doable. We found the food very good except for breakfast (always cold) and the layout of the buffet could be more user friendly. For example, butter not beside bread and buns. We were shuffled around to get coffee, etc. Servers would not get you anything, just told you where it was located. Now the bad...We were a group of 14 Canadians, mainly women 45 to 82 years of age. One of our group needed a walker and she had great difficulty getting around. The ship is not user friendly for people with disabilities. The crew were very helpful, but the passengers were down right horrible. I was shocked beyond belief how they treated my friend with the walker. They would not move for her to get off the elevator. One time she had to go up to the 11th floor and back down to the 10th flr. as the man would not move and yelled obscenities leaving the elevator. If it weren't for our wonderful group, this cruise would have been a disaster. We all feel that if MSC wants Canadians to cruise with them they will have to address this issue. It is a new market for MSC in Cuba for Canadians and if they want us and the Americans to cruise they better address this sooner than later. The embarkation and disemarkation is horrendous. We arrived at 4 pm after an overnight flight from Vancouver via Toronto, only to be told we could embark at 7 pm. Very tired we waited until 6:30 and then the "passengers" attacked the staff. The lineup dispersed and it was "everyone on your own". We were told food would not be served until 10 pm but you could get pizza. The disembark was no better, no one to help with luggage and chaos was rampant. We disembarked in Havana and trying to get out of the terminal was very trying. Tour guides are badgering you as well as the sidewalks are not conducive to luggage. I took a very bad fall off a curb because of the mass of people blocking the area. I spent 2 days in bed at the resort in Varadero, but thanks to the wonderful doctor and nurse I received great care and would not hesitate to recommend medical care in Cuba to all travellers. My friend's took good care of me. My lasts words of advice are to the executives of MSC, come to Vancouver, BC and see how well the operations at our cruise ship terminal works. (NO COMPARISON) 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
Panorama (48 passenger maximum) may be the first small ship in Cuba; this was its first season and rumor has it that it will return next year. Avalon Cruises contracted with Group IST in New York to provide U.S. approved People to People ... Read More
Panorama (48 passenger maximum) may be the first small ship in Cuba; this was its first season and rumor has it that it will return next year. Avalon Cruises contracted with Group IST in New York to provide U.S. approved People to People trips to Cuba for American Citizens who have not previously been able to travel there. Off-ship activities were arranged by Group IST. Most People to People tours are land-based, so this one was unique, and since it was on a small ship, activities included beach time, snorkeling, and beach barbeques. Ship provided masks, fins, and snorkels, but receiving the stuff was not handled efficiently with everybody grabbing for equipment at once as we were about to leave the ship. Equipment to be loaned could have been assigned leisurely earlier in the week to avoid the chaos. On board, the service was excellent, even elegant at dinner. Unfortunately, the food did not match. The chef managed to cook fish, chicken, and beef to cardboard consistency. Best meals we had were at restaurants off ship. The ship was a bit careless in not keeping track of its passengers; it was the ship's responsibility to provide a list of passengers to the Havana port officials who checked each passenger's passport against the list provided. Names were there for three people who canceled the trip at the last minute, but the names of three passengers who were actually there were not on the list, which caused a 40-minute delay when we tried to leave the ship in Havana. We were assured that the ship would accept credit cards, but when it came time to pay, the hotel manager would not accept cards without raised numbers. The newest cards don't have raised numbers, and passengers who tried to use them had not been made aware that theirs would not be accepted, which caused grief for some people who were low on cash. Read Less
Sail Date April 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 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
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
How surprised and lucky were we when we arrived on "The Panorama " in Cienfuegos, (having been transported in a small comfortable bus from Havana.) to find that there had been a big cancellation and we were the incredible number ... Read More
How surprised and lucky were we when we arrived on "The Panorama " in Cienfuegos, (having been transported in a small comfortable bus from Havana.) to find that there had been a big cancellation and we were the incredible number of 8 passengers, our own private yacht !!! This did not deter from the excellent team's enthusiasm in helping us to have a wonderful cruise, which we did. We were lucky to get along very well with the other 6 passengers and a great time was had by all. Our cabin was spacious , well appointed and beautifully kept. The staff were always helpful and smiling. The seas were quite rough but we were in extremely competent hands and really enjoyed the exhilaration of it all. What an experience to see Cuba from the sea...the excursions were interesting and our guides very good. The fact that the ship actually moors up in Central Havana is a plus, making it easy to enjoy this vibrant city. We were sad to say goodbye, but, until the next time, thank you Variety Cruises for organising this exceptional cruise, what wonderful memories. 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
Sailed from Cienfuegos, 3 hours south of Havana, there is no such port of embarkation on the list above! Departed on 11 Jan 2015. All very smooth. Lovely weather, ship beautiful, Captain jolly, crew friendly and very efficient. Food ... Read More
Sailed from Cienfuegos, 3 hours south of Havana, there is no such port of embarkation on the list above! Departed on 11 Jan 2015. All very smooth. Lovely weather, ship beautiful, Captain jolly, crew friendly and very efficient. Food excellent. Spent the first day at sea sailing up and down......there is nowhere else to go, and get the impression Cuban officials are very firm about where they go. Each time they anchor to go ashore, or tie along side officials board and there is paperwork to trawl through. It must be very tedious to do every week. The day was Ok as new arrivals found their sea legs, and old timers relaxed after the dirty, noisy frantic city that is Havana. Its a pity SC cannot anchor in the bay, its enormous, and Cienfuegos would be an interesting city to tour. Most people arrived for the cruise and did not get to see the colonial French buildings (falling down, like much of Cuba). Day 2 At anchor off Ancona beach for Trinidad, we had already 'done' Trinidad so just went to the beach. Swimming good, watersports team there, so sail board, canoe, dinghy. Cuban style loungers free and shadefrom thatched umbrellas, a typical Cuban bar, and a loo. We had an hour there for a walk and went back to relax on the Flyer. There is a soviet era looking hotel, we did not venture in. After a week in Cuba we were happy to look but not enter! Days 3 and 4 to the Caymans......Cayman Brac first, an overnight sail, smooth and calm sea. Swimming off gangway good. Also snorkling good off beach in a small lagoon, and a wreck, though sea quite lumpy in the midday breeze. Entering the water from the tender not easy unless you are a competent snorkler, I am not. Island looked very nice, clean and British! Some people took taxis to sandy beaches on the far side. Taxis not cheap. Day 4 we were at Grand Cayman, along side the port, so easy access to the town. They take on food and drink here, there is none in Cuba. We went on the stingray trip plus turtle farm, by coach, it was worth every penny. Interesting guide, tour of Island and swimming with the rays memorable. You leave the Island at 3.30, could do with another day here maybe to see it properly, though some who did not do the tour said the beach was nothing special. We were lucky only 2 huge cruise ships at anchor with us, sometimes they have 5. Day 5 overnight to Cayo Largo, amazing white soft sand beach..bar if needed, and restaurant, also you can swim with dolphins if you like. A fairly long transfer as its shallow, so 40 mins in a tender, there is no other way ashore. Did not move anchorage for last day at Cayo Rico next door. Day 6 Beach BBQ, amazing work for the waiters and cooks, transferring lunch plus BBQ ashore. Tables and benches there and loungers and shade. In super covered bar, but beach only for paddling, some lay on mats in the water! Sea bright blue and amazing clear water. However transfers long....its too shallow even for tenders at the end, so local boats used. It took an hour to get to the beach so some complaints about this, but SC trying hard. Day 7 back to Cienfuegos and time to disembark. Sad to say bye to the ship, crew, staff and fellow passengers, a super cruise again, our 4th. Each time we anchored, or went into port in Cuba, had 4 doctors out to take temps of everyone on board (Ebola) plus loads of people checking papers again and again. All before Ship was cleared...so 6.30 to 7.30am! Paperwork is a career in Cuba. Overall it was lovely, a respite from Cuba which is terribly poor, the food terrible, hygene worse (11 people confined to cabins at first as had bad stomachs after eating Cuban food).the people seem friendly but only as long as tipped frequently, 2 people on our ship had been mugged in Havana in daylight. . We were 111 passengers, the next week there were only 70. Star Clippers are trying hard, but unless the US visitors are allowed I cannot see this continuing as an option. Pleased we did it, but as a cruise you do not sail far, and Cuba fairly limiting as a destination. We preferred the leewards and windwards. And Europe. As a luxury week in the middle of a Cuban holiday though it was ideal. Will not return to Cuba, but will return to Star Clippers! 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
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
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
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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