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85 Holland America Cuba Cruise Reviews

My wife and I (as well as most others) was to visit Cuba. The other ports, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Because we had been to the three ports, we didn't spend much time in the ports. Here is a recap to the cruise: ... Read More
My wife and I (as well as most others) was to visit Cuba. The other ports, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Because we had been to the three ports, we didn't spend much time in the ports. Here is a recap to the cruise: Embarkation - We took the air program thru HAL. Best move we could have made. We left Hartford in snow - on time. Our connection was in Charlotte where it was also snowing, Things looked good until we got out of the terminal. It took over 2 hours to de-ice our plane, needless to say we are now on borrowed time to get to the ship. We got to the ship 5 minutes before it left. HAL's shore people were outstanding. They waited for us at the airport, had a bus waiting and got us to the pier with no time to spare. Cruise personnel were waiting and rushed us on the ship. Rating: A+ Entertainment - Spotty at best. We usually go to the evening shows but I think we made 2, the others seemed to just kill time. Rating: C- Food - Dining room food was good, the servers seemed to be spread thin, we never got a chance to get to know them. We ate at the Pinnacle and the Italian restaurant, Both were very good. The Lido's choices were limited, unless you liked pork. No real food lines. Rating: B- Room: We had a balcony. Everything worked and the staff were excellent. Rating: A Excursions: Only tours taken where in Havana. The car tour was just fair, drove around 2 hrs with a driver who spoke no English. We did a p to p stop both days which were very interesting. The next morning we took the walk around Old Havana. Fair, some people walked around on their own which would have been better. A lot of people were unhappy because HAL never notified anyone that they added tours later in the year. Therefore they didn't get to see much of Havana. Rating: C+ Debarkation: Excellent. Rating A+ All in all, glad we went but next time will go for a longer period and go on a cruise that had a lot more to do. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We were in a Neptune suite thanks to an amazing last-minute offer of an upgrade. Given my husband and I must do some work while away, this was welcome, with room to stretch, great lounge, amazing staff. We visited Cuba, the highlight of ... Read More
We were in a Neptune suite thanks to an amazing last-minute offer of an upgrade. Given my husband and I must do some work while away, this was welcome, with room to stretch, great lounge, amazing staff. We visited Cuba, the highlight of the trip. We dined nearly every morning in the Pinacle Grill, an option available for suite customers. Honestly, this alone was nearly worth the cost of the upgrade to suite level. The demographics of the cruisers was typical of Holland America, mostly older adults, but also believe this was in part due to the time of year when no one is off from school, etc. While that might bother some, this did not bother us, though we were among the younger couples on board. (And we are not that young!) We are not gamblers, nor do we care for the big production entertainment, cannot really comment on casino, theater, but really enjoyed the violin and piano duo, jazz trio, etc. We have committed to another HAL cruise next spring. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We took this cruise because the dates worked out well for out schedule. We also had never been on a Holland Ship before and thought that might be interesting. The ship itself is older and smaller but is well maintained. We found the food ... Read More
We took this cruise because the dates worked out well for out schedule. We also had never been on a Holland Ship before and thought that might be interesting. The ship itself is older and smaller but is well maintained. We found the food in the dinning room to be comparable to other cruise lines. The Lido cafeteria had food prepared for you rather than sitting out. This made the food fresher but also slowed down the eating process at busy time. Overall, I liked the Lido system better than other ships. The ports of call were very lacking but we new this when we booked the cruise. We stopped at the private island but it rained all day so we didn't get off. We had a sunny day on our stop at Grand Turk Island. There is not much to do there but it was a nice day on the beach. Our stop at the Dominican Republic was cancelled due to rough weather. That left our final stop at San Juan. We toured a fort but being we've been to San Juan twice before, we chose to return early to the ship. I guess I found the smaller ship more confining. The staff were nice but at times it seemed they were under staffed. Usually on ships, the staff are picking up your dishes before your even done eating but here there were often tables that had not been cleared. This occurred around the ship not in the main dinning room. The fitness room was very small. They had a good number of treadmills and bikes but there weight machines were few and old. I think the small size of the ship made for a rockier ride. They said most days the seas were 6 feet with the last day being 12 feet. Overall not the best experience except for the food. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Full disclosure, not really a cruise person. Booked this as a reasonable way to see cuba. HA didn't have sufficient 'approved' excursions. They added a bunch later on and for ours and at least one other group, they ... Read More
Full disclosure, not really a cruise person. Booked this as a reasonable way to see cuba. HA didn't have sufficient 'approved' excursions. They added a bunch later on and for ours and at least one other group, they simply doubled existing capacity. Our 'Cuban Cusine in Old Havanna' turned into a 70 person chicken dinner in a banquet hall in new Havanna, a guided walk in old Havanna in the near dark, and a 70 person mojito demo (no mojito, rather rum bloody mary and rum collins) in a bar meant to hold maybe 20 people. Best part was a walk to a nearby plaza with cuban music and beer AFTER the excursion was over! If you want to do cuba (fly from Canada!), set up your own tours or simply walk around yourself. Don't believe any of the fear mongering about having to have an approved P2P tour (but fill out your multipage, confusing form to indicate you do). There's no US enforcement in cuba and the cruise line does no verification of your activities. The rest of this is standard review stuff in no particular order. I've taken 2 other cruises on 2 other lines. HA had the best buffet food, cabin was fine, service started great but deteriorated as the trip progressed (but perhaps this was a reflection of my own attitude). Constant push by the staff to spend a little more. Good gym, horrible dance music. Some problem with the gang plank kept us in the holding area for maybe an hour. If you want premium booze or wine, skip the drink package. Everything beyond well-class is priced just over the $9 limit. Good selection of beers to my taste (anchor, lagunitas, some other smaller crafty stuff) plus the normal swill but the beer's cheap enough to simply buy outright. If you wait-list on an excursion and room becomes available, you're automatically booked and charged. Our understanding was that you were contacted if you made it and given an opportunity to cancel. This took us by surprise and cost us $120 since we didn't want a repeat of the night before. Cayman is tendered and there's not much to do or see. Costa Maya is specific built for cruise ship so if you're looking for something authentic, forget it. Nice beaches and beach clubs tho'. You need to transport from the port to the old(er) town. Ridiculous shuttle into town (no taxis to be found, hmmm) was $3pp, taxi back was only $2pp. Cozumel was docked $8 from Cozumel town. Enjoyed the America's Cup excursion. Our cruise was pretty much over the night before. You need to pack you stuff and get your luggage outside your door. No ice or fruit service that night. The breakfast closed at 9 the next morning (latest debark was 10). Long lines at customs (in Ft. Lauderdale). Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I chose this cruise because of the overnight in Havana. I would suggest that HAL drop one of the Mexican ports for additional time in Cuba. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the day before embarkation so as not to feel rushed. We had a very ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the overnight in Havana. I would suggest that HAL drop one of the Mexican ports for additional time in Cuba. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the day before embarkation so as not to feel rushed. We had a very pleasant overnight at the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port. The taxi fare from the airport was very reasonable at only 15.00. We arrived before Noon, but were very pleased to find a room available. The location of the hotel is within walking distance of stores and restaurants. On the day of embarkation, there was some confusion regarding transportation to the port. We were able to get a refund and took a taxi for half the cost of the van. We arrived at the pier at 12:00PM where our luggage was taken immediately. Going through security was fairly quick, but the actual check-in took a while, because of forms that needed to be filled out because of the Cuban leg of the trip. Once we checked in, we were sent to a waiting area, before being allowed to board the ship. We were on level 10, Cabin 78 Aft. Our luggage was in the room when we arrived. Went to the dining room to check our table for 2, then headed for the Lido for lunch. I found the ambiance of a smaller ship to be perfect for this trip. Where ever we went on the ship, we were greeted by very polite crew members. The staff in the both the Lido and main dining room were exceptional. Always willing to offer extra service. Day 1, At Sea: A bit rough, I was glad that I was wearing Scapalomine patch. There were enough activities to keep me busy. Also a chance to just wind down. We were at 2nd seating for dinner. Food was very good, with extras available. Day 2, Cayman Islands: Tender Port. Had to be bused into town, though not a problem for me. Wandered around in the various shopping plazas and shops in the morning, Went back to the ship early for an uncrowded Lido lunch. After we set sail, there was an announcement that due to a medical emergency, we had to return to Grand Cayman to get a passenger to the hospital. Day3, Costa Maya: Because of the medical situation in Grand Cayman, we were about 2 hours late in arriving. Captain delayed our departure from Costa Maya by one hour. Very easy to get off the ship and wander around the shopping area. Some vendors can be a bit aggressive. Day4, Cozumel: The shopping area is almost identical to Costa Maya. Really don't need to have the same experience two days in a row. I would suggest that HAL add an additional stop in Cuba. I must say that the waters in the port area were very clear. Day 5, Havana, Cuba: Very exciting entrance into the port. We waited in the theatre to be released for our various tours. Passport control was actually fairly quick, compared to what I was expecting and with almost everyone getting off the ship. There were plenty of money exchange booths open. We were on the walking tour of Old Havana. I found the people to be very friendly and open. We saw many of the iconic sights that you always see in travelogues. I would certainly like to go back on my own and take more time. We were taken to Sloppy Joes for a Cuba Libre and a Cubano sandwich. Day 6, Havana: Since we were departing at Noon, we were able to leave the ship briefly on our own and wander about the port area. Havana Club rum is very inexpensive. We had no problem changing the Cuban money back to US. Now is the time to visit Cuba before it becomes too commercialized. Day 7, Fort Lauderdale: Because we had a late flight, we took an Everglades air boat tour. It certainly beats sitting in the airport all day. Because of the tour, we were in one of the first groups to disembark. This was the easiest disembarking I have ever experienced. Luggage was loaded onto a bus, we had our tour, then back to the pier for those who were in transit, then to the airport where the driver offloaded the luggage at the terminal. I am a fan of HAL and will certainly sail with them again! Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
The Veendam is a nice ship, great size for comfort and friendliness of cruisers. the staff is great, friendly and helpful. The chocolate night was fun and there was a nice variety of treats. As usual for Holland America, the food was ... Read More
The Veendam is a nice ship, great size for comfort and friendliness of cruisers. the staff is great, friendly and helpful. The chocolate night was fun and there was a nice variety of treats. As usual for Holland America, the food was of a high quality. However, there is very little to do on board. There are too many "Art Auctions," which are simply sales pitches. I have been to auctions on board before and these were not in that class.Nothing was bid on because all of the reserves were so high. Also, there was very little in the shops. On my Alaska cruise there were a lot of items suitable for souvenirs and gifts. In this shop there was mostly clothing and overly expensive Oprah-themed objects. there was nothing to bring back for my grandchildren, and almost no Mexican or Cuban goods.I wanted to buy things ans was actually unable to do so. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I overlooked the fact that the Veendam is HAL's least desirable ship because I wanted the opportunity to experience Cuba. Unfortunately, the circumstances for our visit to Havana were complicated by the current administration's ... Read More
I overlooked the fact that the Veendam is HAL's least desirable ship because I wanted the opportunity to experience Cuba. Unfortunately, the circumstances for our visit to Havana were complicated by the current administration's revision of its Cuba policy, which required redoing all the shore excursions. HAL was remiss in communicating these revisions to customers to let them know when new options opened up. Furthermore, the Havana excursion I booked was a great disappointment -- it did not go to some of the places promised, e.g. the famous mosaic art installation, and emphasized public squares, a fortress and a cemetery. There was no attention to art or architecture. The people-to-people segment was poorly explained. The tour did include a surprisingly nice lunch in an attractive restaurant. After an eight-hour tour, I was too tired to go out again after dinner for the Tropicana tour, which I regret because I heard good things about it. In Cienfuegos, the botanic garden turned out to be an arboretum with nary a flower in sight. The other ports were all places I had been before. The chocolate making and wine pairing excursion in Cozumel was very enjoyable. The tea at Good Hope Great House in Montego Bay was pleasant but poorly organized. The Veendam is showing its age. One aft elevator was out of service throughout the cruise and a second was broken for several days. A broken pipe forced me to change cabins. Fortunately the ship was not sold out. Cabin steward service was excellent. The onboard activities were sparse with little to engage the mind. The food in the dining room was excellent, significantly better than I had experienced last June on the Maasdam. Judging from my experience, I would not advise anyone primarily interested in seeing Cuba to book a HAL cruise. One day (even less on some itineraries) is not enough time to spend in Havana, especially with inferior shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Having sailed Holland American three times before, twice in the last year, we had been pleased so we did not have second thoughts about the Christmas/New Year Cuba inauguration cruise. We have sailed other cruise lines numerous times and ... Read More
Having sailed Holland American three times before, twice in the last year, we had been pleased so we did not have second thoughts about the Christmas/New Year Cuba inauguration cruise. We have sailed other cruise lines numerous times and enjoyed newer ships. However, we opted for services, activities, entertainments, dining, ports of call, and excursions. All of the aforementioned, except the ports of call were a disappointment. . Resolving issues such as additional charges after receiving final bill at disembarkation is a hassle. Room attendant reported Mini bar charges that we did not consumed. We did not think to check inventory on embarking or disembarking simply because we did not consume any. Lesson learned check inventory and or ask for removal so as not to incur disputing your bill changed after after disembarkation to no avail. First time ever experience on 20 or plus cruises. Our cabin did not have hot water until the second night of the cruise, entertainment and activities on the ship were a let down - everyone waked around looking at one another and or complaining to each other. Excursions are the highlight of cruising and we ended up cancelling one because of time constraints so that was a bitter sweet taste in booking others. Observing other's agitation compoundedand hearing their complaints with our experiences prompts this review. Holland American is better than this so it is most difficult for me to think that complaints will not be addressed. I understand and make allowances for some let downs. I understand that attendants are very busy and I give them the benefit of the doubt. However, so many let down experiences added up on this cruise worthy of making note. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I have always wanted to go to Cuba. I wish I had gone before all the restrictions now in place even if it meant going with another cruise line. I waited for HAL and I now regret it. The "required" shore excursions were too long ... Read More
I have always wanted to go to Cuba. I wish I had gone before all the restrictions now in place even if it meant going with another cruise line. I waited for HAL and I now regret it. The "required" shore excursions were too long with not enough time at the stops and way too much time riding a bus around and around the city. I was too exhausted once returned to the ship to go out on my own in the dark and explore. There were a lack of English speaking guides at the museum and botanical gardens in Cienfugos. The Veendam is old and showing her age in places. Broken seating between pool and bar, fire suppression systems held together with string along with dirt and crumbs in between cushions in the Crow's Nest. At least 2 if not 4 elevators were broken at all times. Service is great as always but there seems to be less crew. Entertainment is really cut back fleet wide. Kareoke is gone along with everything else except Trivia. Getting aboard was easy but upon return we were delivered to a dock far from where our cars were parked. A shuttle bus was provided but the whole point of paying outrageous port parking fees is the ease of exit. If I had wanted to shuttle I could have parked way cheaper off port. This may explain an unexpected refund of $20.51 on the last days room charges. Overall I would not take this ship again and I would not take any ship to Cuba right now. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We took care of the kids and grand kids over Thanksgiving We decided to "get out of Dodge" over Christmas and New Years. Also wanted to see Cuba. Only negative is you have to spend 8 hours in Havana on a people to people tour ... Read More
We took care of the kids and grand kids over Thanksgiving We decided to "get out of Dodge" over Christmas and New Years. Also wanted to see Cuba. Only negative is you have to spend 8 hours in Havana on a people to people tour which we did (USA regulations). That same night we went to the Tropicana show which was tooooooo much for one day. Didn't get back to the cabin until 1:00AM. I will tell you that we have been on over 20 cruises including some of the more expensive ones like Seabourn and Silver Seas the food and cabin service was the BEST on the Veendam. A little plus was a first class NY Pizza bar for lunch. The other ports such as Cancun, Costa Maya, Jamaica were "ho hum" for us...been there done them many times. The entertainment was OK for a mid sized ship. Nice 12 days...perfect weather. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
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