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15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
Cuba is fascinating, and this is the best overall way to experience various cities and themes. Cheaper and easier than hotels or private homes, more variety of cities, with bonus of excellent Cuban lectures, entertainment and staff. ... Read More
Cuba is fascinating, and this is the best overall way to experience various cities and themes. Cheaper and easier than hotels or private homes, more variety of cities, with bonus of excellent Cuban lectures, entertainment and staff. Older ship design, a bit quirky, but once used to it, compares favorably to the dozen or so larger, newer ships on which I've sailed. A small ship has big advantages. Officer passed me as I was headed for door leading outside, turned around, went back and held it open for me! We had 45 knot winds one day, closing the pool and promenade deck, but did not bother me in middle of ship. 18 cabin categories!!! Size and layout vary widely, so do your homework in booking. I tried to attend every lecture and every show. The music/dance was not quite as polished as on megaships, but you felt more a part of the show. All the performers stood at exit of theatre to talk with us after each show. Lectures by Dr. Arocha were hilarious and insightful, and he spent as much time as I wanted with him privately discussing points of Cuban history. Food was very good, drink package a real deal. Am now addicted to double caramel macciados. Excursions on Cuba cruises (I've come on two cruise lines) are unique answers to US regulations, Cuban conditions and cruise ship needs. They are included in price for US citizens, cover a wide range of history, culture, shopping and onshore dining (included in price). Remember you are in the tropics and the streets are hot and humid.. Buses are modern, with a/c and bath. Guides work for the government agencies but are often quite candid about conditions in Cuba. One is free to come and go, especially on the overnight in Havana. There are adequate tourist police on the streets but no heavy-handed guards or guns. You will see much more security in US airports. Only complaint was that a/c varied from room to room and sometimes had trouble keeping up with the tropics. But crew moved our friends to another cabin to accommodate them. I am planning to return soon to Cuba on this same ship. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We chose this cruise specifically to visit Cuba, and embarked in Montego Bay. Embarkation was quick, no queues. We were not expecting much with regards to the ship, but we were pleasantly surprised by how new and luxurious it turned out to ... Read More
We chose this cruise specifically to visit Cuba, and embarked in Montego Bay. Embarkation was quick, no queues. We were not expecting much with regards to the ship, but we were pleasantly surprised by how new and luxurious it turned out to be. For some reason, this cruise was particularly empty, with only about 200 cruisers on board, which was definitely an advantage, as no crowds anywhere. However, the fewer numbers meant that the ship did not open all the restaurants and buffets due to lack of guests. But the two main restaurants were always open for mealtimes. Our cabin was a Junior Suite with Balcony on deck 6, no complaints there, all in good working order. Cabin staff were very attentive at all times. Due to the few number of guests, it was very unfortunate that there were no optional excursions offered, other than the evening Tropicana one in Havana. We specifically wanted to visit Trinidad, but they only ran an excursion in German for the German speakers, so we were really disappointed about that. The 3 excursions that were included all went ahead as planned, these were included in the cruise price. The last one in Cienfuegos was a bit slow and drawn out. A specific highlight for me was Dr Jorge who did all the lectures - these were truly outstanding! Loved the ones on the Cuban Music, Cigars, History and Culture. The entertainment was great, the Cuban Band very good, all shows lively and well performed. And the entertainment director can really participate, lost count of how many languages he spoke. A good variety of drinks and cocktails, we attempted to try them all, but did not make it! Waiters and Waitresses always to hand for orders. A couple of minor niggles: - The seating in the buffet at breakfast was too cramped, and food not always fresh. - Could not understand why there was an extra charge for Orange Juice and Ice Cream? - We only discovered at the end of the cruise that we were entitled to a $50 cruise credit each, and this caused a last minute flurry and an accounting error on the bill. - More could have been done to ensure that the excursion to Trinidad was available, even if some private arrangements had been engineered etc We were not the only ones affected by this. So, in summary, if you want to see Cuba in reasonable depth (the classis cars alone are worth the visit) we can verify that its awesome, then you could do a lot worse than take this Cruise.......! Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
While there were many things I enjoyed about the cruise, there were a number of major problems. The main reason I was going to Cuba was to experience Havana. I was expecting to have 2 days in Havana. When I asked in advance when I could ... Read More
While there were many things I enjoyed about the cruise, there were a number of major problems. The main reason I was going to Cuba was to experience Havana. I was expecting to have 2 days in Havana. When I asked in advance when I could get on the ship, I was told a few times that I would be able to board the ship around 1pm. I arrived early on Monday in Havana, and was then told that we could not get on the ship, and not told why. I was sent to lunch and then had to wait around until we could get on the ship that night because the ship was not allowed to dock at the port. I lost a full day of exploring Havana and enjoying the ship. The second day we had to get up at 6:15am to leave the ship early and be on a bus tour until 8:30pm. I thought there was a typo on the schedule, but, no, we really had to disembark very early. Our ship was bumped off the dock for a larger vessel. These things happen but I was also told that they knew about this problem at least 10 days prior to my arrival. We had to out until 8:30 at night, when we were allowed back on the ship. While we saw a lot of sites, it was not an enjoyable day. I booked this cruise a little over a week in advance, so at the time of my booking the company knew this was an issue. Had I know this was going to happen, I would not have booked this trip, or would have booked at a different time. I arrived on the ship and was told the wifi was not working. I was also then told that they knew the wifi was down a few days before I arrived. Again, had I known in advance that this was a problem, I would have made arrangements for being totally out of communication before arriving on the ship. The food was surprisingly mediocre, the wine very bad, and the bartenders did not know how to make mixed drinks. The Pros: The staff on the ship was wonderful, and the educational program was excellent. The best part of the whole ship experience was Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD. I attended all his lectures. He was entertaining and very knowledgeable. Quite a treat. I loved Cuba and am eager to go back to that island. These big issues impacted my overall experience on this vacation. I expected that the cruise line would have offered something to make up for all these inconveniences -but nothing was offered. The ship was less than half full but no upgrades were given. I also wrote to the company's customer service but never heard back. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We took this cruise for our birthday celebration and to see Cuba. We upgraded to a suite, which was well worth the extra price. The cabin was very large and comfortable. The housekeeping staff was exceptional and a joy to have. The staff ... Read More
We took this cruise for our birthday celebration and to see Cuba. We upgraded to a suite, which was well worth the extra price. The cabin was very large and comfortable. The housekeeping staff was exceptional and a joy to have. The staff was superior. The nightly shows were above average for a cruise ship. This is a smaller ship with mainly non-American passengers. This made for very interesting and enjoyable conversations. We are dancers. There was plenty of opportunity to dance for several hours after the nightly show to live bands or DJ's. Karaoke was available, Zumba, dance lessons, pool/party games. The entertainment staff was superior. The shore excursions in Cuba do need some work. The tour guides only know the history they are told and do not like getting into political discussions. Their English is marginal and difficult to understand. This is still a communist nation where "everything is great". The Museum of the Revolution indicates how much they mistrust and dislike Americans. They blame Americans for almost all bad things that have happened to them since 1959. The food also needs some upgrading. Very little seafood on board. Almost all meals had pork or chicken. The servings at dinner were adequate only with limited variety from night to night. There was no late night dining, except for one night of the 7. The captain's cocktail party night did not include the choice of surf and turf, which is usual on a cruise. The duty free shop was expensive, mostly full retail pricing. The embarkation and disembarkation procedures were very easy. The cruise director was excellent. Danny, Marta, Vladamir, Ramona were superior. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We wanted a true Cuban Experience and Celestyal Cruises are the only ones we knew of to provide that as most other cruises simply visit Havana. However, Celestyal take you to Cuban Ports and enhance your experience in the country. ... Read More
We wanted a true Cuban Experience and Celestyal Cruises are the only ones we knew of to provide that as most other cruises simply visit Havana. However, Celestyal take you to Cuban Ports and enhance your experience in the country. Embarkation was probably the simplest we have ever experienced in our 20+ cruises with various lines. We were aware that the ship used to be a Car Ferry but is has been refurbished so well that you just would not realise that fact. Our cabin was very spacious and immaculately clean, and yet again, probably larger than cabins on other cruise lines. We could not fault the food on board other than to say that the breakfast finished far too early and the food could be tepid most of the time. Other than that - you could not get late night snacks anywhere. The quality, even in the Buffet Restaurant, could not be faulted. On Deck, sunbathing was a joy as there were always plenty of sunbeds available. Probably the most memorable thing about our wonderful cruise though was the staff. Despite being on numerous cruises, the staff on this ship were the friendliest, most helpful we have ever experienced. We had 2 tours included in our package and they were absolutely excellent. The guides knew their stuff and made the experience very interesting. We had a Drinks Package and Pre-paid Gratuities which was an absolute bonus as I hate the situation on other ships when the staff are virtually begging for tips. The Drinks Package covered everything and the drinks were of good quality We had reservations about joining this ship due to its history (Car Ferry) plus the fact that we had never even heard of Celestyal before we researched cruises around Cuba but without doubt we would not hesitate to book with them again. Our only criticism apart from the tepid breakfasts was the fact that communication with the passengers could do with improvement as quite often you were left wondering what was going on. If you book this ship, avoid Deck 2 as your accommodation as occasionally there can be a strong smell of diesel. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Wow, I have much to say here. The experience was a mixed one, but I got what I wanted to get out of the trip. No one goes on a cruise to Cuba to be on a ship, so I will cover the excursions first. I am a US citizen, so my itinerary was ... Read More
Wow, I have much to say here. The experience was a mixed one, but I got what I wanted to get out of the trip. No one goes on a cruise to Cuba to be on a ship, so I will cover the excursions first. I am a US citizen, so my itinerary was pre-planned as is required for the visa. Note that all tour guides were happy to answer questions, but they were well-indoctrinated. Coaches were clean and air conditioned and were like rolling castles compared to the life that the citizenry experienced. Throughout Cuba, you see crumbling homes and buildings with rusting corrugated steel. Be prepared for lack of toilet seats and paper everywhere, even with a 1 CUC restroom fee. Expect fees to take photos of almost anything, including the old cars. You will see music and dancing almost everywhere. The pride of Cuba is around their art/music/culture and it is deservedly so. Some of the other things that they are proud of is their social services, and that is probably misplaced from the view of western visitors. You won't see much graffiti. In the "tourist bubble" of coaches and tour guides, I felt safe all the time. Santiago is the first experience on this schedule, and it is a levelsetter for your Cuban visit. As you pull into the port you see the small boats and crumbling buildings. San Pedro de la Roca castle in Santiago is a must-see, as is San Juan Hill where I would have enjoyed more time. Additionally, in Santiago, you can get a guided tour of Moncada Barracks with a lesson on Castro, and see a community center with teenagers putting on a dance show. You may also be taken to a rum distillery that was pretty much worthless for me, an opportunity to separate your CUC from you. My suggestion: get rum and cigars in Cienfuegos on your last day in Cuba. 2 days or so in Havana. Old Havana is somewhat restored and is highly tourist-oriented, along with a price premium for everything. Some "fine" hotels and restaurants can be found, including a hotel where Hemingway stayed. Architecture is pleasant and wrought iron is beautiful (almost "New Orleans" level). You can find an edible meal with live music for lunch and supper. The walking tour was a bit rough on my 83 yr old father and after being shown the 5th city square/plaza, he was spent. I enjoyed the Craft/Souvenir market though most of the wares were not too exciting, the market itself is an experience. Must See's: Fusterlandia house (buy a tile if you can), Havana's art museum (no photos at all allowed), and the Cabana evening show (extra excursion). The cabana show was PG rated, but I don't think children are allowed.. the dancers were amazing and the band was as good as any US big band of old. Old cars with new engines are everywhere, we didn't take a ride as the coach had already shown us the same sights. Havana is worth experiencing and I feel like I just got a small taste of a complex, tragic, lovely city. 1 day in Cienfuegos Cienfuegos looks to be a resort town that has seen better days. We were given a bit of a song-and-dance about the government-provided pharmacy, food markets, dry goods, etc. We were again treated to a pleasant town square (which would be a good place to purchase cigars and rum, had I waited). We also were shown a city theatre building for what seemed like no reason. Must Sees: We were driven out to see a restaurant called palacio del valle that was picturesque. Finally, we hit 3 artistic spots, two of them that are worthy of leaving some money at...the most salient being the Graphical Society of Cienfuegos (works with down's syndrome artists). Crew and services First know that this ship employs MANY native Cubans, and they are rightfully proud of that. The crew on board the ship were friendly and helpful. I was happy with their efforts to keep things clean and to care for passengers. I purchased the full drink package. Drink and food service was very good. I never went hungry or thirsty. I did find that pleading for water bottles wasn't the most fun experience, especially if I wanted a few extra for excursions. I eventually resorted to filling up a thermos from the workout room's large water cooler. Stateroom was well-kept by maid service with towel folding art. The massage that I had was good-not-great. Meal service was great, the waitstaff were attentive, friendly, and well-informed about the options. I felt disturbingly guilty retiring in the evenings to a good meal after having seen the conditions in Cuba. Note that the ship's mixed drinks were not particularly liberal with the alcohol, but I could have as many as I wanted. The administrative staff at reception and excursion desks were also reasonably helpful. Cabin and amenities The ship is old and it shows. We did not have a good time with shower temperature. Additionally, having been on a newish RC ship with shower doors, the shower curtain clinging to my body was not pleasant. The soap and tray placement in the shower did not help things. Eventually I ended up showering in halves with one foot out. Other than that, the bathroom was as reasonable as any other on a ship, yet still old. Hint: take a shower at the gym/spa for some elbow room. The beds were twins/bunks with older electrical fixtures, but adequate. Cabin electricity was present, along with a reasonable closet, plenty of shelves, some drawers, and under-bunk storage. really only complaint about cabin was shower/watertemp. The pool was smallish for a ship and very few people used it, I did not. The hot tub appeared reasonable too. Though it was small, I did see people using it. Comments were that it was not particularly hot, but still acceptable. The casino was all electronic and was pretty empty throughout the cruise. The library was also empty. Decks and deck chairs were good. My phone (ATT) did get ATT at sea, but the other party could not hear me. Internet was not great, but it was available, I did not try it. Additionally, the internet area was near the smoking area, so some 2nd hand wafted over. One night, outdoors, I did clearly smell marijuana; this is not surprising as the ship sails from Jamaica. I am not sure if it was coming from passengers or crew, nor am I sure of the ship's policy on that as it is becoming acceptable in the USA in places. Entertainment etc. The "shows" were not good. Each night, was the same performers dancing and singing, and synchronization among dancers was not good. The band was also pretty weak. Intonation would be something that the singer and the sax player could learn. Thankfully, the shows were short (45 mins) and they all included scantily clad women so I was at least distracted from the performance. A few people would go up to the disco/karaoke bar later at night, but it was not exactly crowded either. There were also a few lounge-act type singers and a classical pianist. Some small classes which I'd say more like interactive "demos" were available such as food carving and napkin folding, and towel folding. Additionally some cuban dance and cooking demos. They seemed well enough for the at-sea days. In contrast with the dance/music shows, the ship had a cuban expert, a mid-30s PhD in Cuban history who was excellent. I cannot say enough good words about him. He gave daily lectures. He explained the history of how Cuba got to where it is today. He taught me much about Cuba and her international relations that I did not know prior to the cruise. Unlike the excursion tour guides, he was happy to answer ANY question, including difficult ones such as "Cuba gives every citizen a food ration card, but can the citizen actually turn that ration card into food?" His contribution made this trip very worthwhile. He joked that on one side he was being bugged by the CIA and on the other by the Cuban military; he presented Cuba in a good light with a balanced view. Other/leftovers: The excursions for US citizens are NOT resort-type excursions, do not expect to swim with dolphins, snorkel at a reef, or relax on a beach with umbrella-drinks at your demand. The excursions are primarily intended to be educational with a bit of tourist shopping, and for the most part, they were. On the excursions, do not expect any discussion about the missile crisis or GTMO. The shipboard "view" of GTMO was after dark and pretty far away, but it was lit up. Remember that GTMO is a huge military base and only a small part of it is the infamous prison. A family that had relatives in Cuba was able to visit them, and that family left all sorts of goods with the relatives, OTC meds, towels, shoes, t-shirts, extra CUCs, etc, if you are in a similar spot, you may want to do that. The economic situation is complex and troubling. It isn't as bad as Juarez with beggars on the street, but still difficult to see with our western lens, the tour guides and waiters earn more then the MDs. You may only exchange money at the ports, everyone says to bring Euro or CAD rather than USD, and I can agree with that, a few vendors accept USD and there is a premium for USD exchange to CUC. Do not expect an ATM or credit card acceptance. This trip had few teenagers or families or 20-somethings. It was adults and seniors. Spend the $12 at reception and schedule a bridge tour, it's worthwhile. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2017
Wanted to see Cuba without a lot of hassle and long bus trips so chose a 7 day cruise which included 3 Cuban ports. (Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago) Some of the entrance channels are narrow and shallow which will prevent larger ships from ... Read More
Wanted to see Cuba without a lot of hassle and long bus trips so chose a 7 day cruise which included 3 Cuban ports. (Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago) Some of the entrance channels are narrow and shallow which will prevent larger ships from stopping at these ports. In fact leaving Cienfuegos the ship was causing mud and sand in its wake as the water was so shallow and the channel appeared no more than a couple of hundred yar ds wide. I would rate the cruise overall as excellent. The included tours were very good on nearly new high quality air conditioned buses with restrooms. (Chinese). The food was of a wide variety and very good. US citizens on the ship were in a minority with many French, German and Canadians. The crew and service was outstanding. Our cabin was kept in immaculate condition by our Ukrainian and Uzbeckisani cabin attendants. The ship is older and small by todays standards but has recently been refurbished and is in excellent condition. Our tour was advertised as a People to People tour as per US requirements. There were numerous and informative programs to meet these provisions at which attendance was invited and encouraged but never required. Dress was casual and a jacket and tie is not required. The all inclusive drink package was included in our price and it is a very good program. The nightly shows were very good. Highly recommended Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We chose this for a true Cuban experience before it all changes. Embarkation and Disembarkation was a breeze. The best in a long time. Don't go on this ship if you're expecting all the bells and whistles of a megaship. ... Read More
We chose this for a true Cuban experience before it all changes. Embarkation and Disembarkation was a breeze. The best in a long time. Don't go on this ship if you're expecting all the bells and whistles of a megaship. The capacity is around 920 passengers--a little cramped for this size ship but still manageable. The decor of the common areas is mid-century modern to 60's but very clean and well-maintained. The swimming pool is salt water and in the middle of the outside dining area. The hot tub is in the aft bar area. There is a full-service spa as well as a small gym and a ladies' and a men's sauna. Since the food is the same no matter if you eat in the restaurants or at the buffet, it's your choice for atmosphere. I personally prefer the Olympus Restaurant (Deck 5). The layout allows for the service to run like a well-oiled machine. Our waiter, Eduardo, and our drink steward, Tatiana were the best--always friendly and always accommodating our requests. Mind you, it's open seating, but we always gravitated to their serving area. The Amalthia Restaurant (deck 8) had mostly tables for 8, seemed very cramped, and did not lend itself to the kind of service as at Olympus. The food is not "Top Chef" worthy, but it is very good and always served hot as opposed to other ships where it may be only lukewarm. I would advise the drink package. The mainstage shows were quite professional given the size of the shop. Vladimir, the cruise director, always kept things hopping with his high energy, and the Latin dance instructors, Marta and Sonny were great, and they all kept it fun. All in all, the service was great. My only complaint was the Reception Desk staff. They got the job done but were less than friendly. The upper echelon of officers were not friendly either, but I guess their job was to get us there not to smile or say hello. We were with a group so our excursions were already booked for us. One nice thing--there was a professor from the U of Havana (PhD) on board who gave talks and lectures about his country and it history which was great. This is not a cruise for children as there are no activities geared especially for them. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Our cruise was part of a package booked through Air Transat. We expected it to be a direct flight from Vancouver to Havana but instead we stopped at Santa Clara, got off the plane, and got back on to fly to Varadero. Then we were bussed ... Read More
Our cruise was part of a package booked through Air Transat. We expected it to be a direct flight from Vancouver to Havana but instead we stopped at Santa Clara, got off the plane, and got back on to fly to Varadero. Then we were bussed for almost three hours to Havana and boarded the ship after travelling for twelve hours. This is the fault of Air Transat, not the Cruise Line so I would recommend you look for a direct flight as you lose the first day of the cruise and miss out on the optional excursions that are offered. I was with a group of friends and this cruise exceeded all of our expectations. The food in the dining room was excellent, as was the wine, breakfast and lunch in the buffet were very good and there were specialties offered on the pool deck every day. The ship has a little age on it and is not as glitzy as the larger lines but we really liked the size of the ship and how easy it was to get around. It was also very clean. There is a lovely theatre where the entertainment every evening was outstanding and lots of fun. There were free excursions included in every port and they were very informative and enjoyable. I celebrated my birthday on the ship along with one of my friends and we were presented with birthday cakes and the singing of happy birthday by our wait staff. The same servers looked after us at the same table every night and we really appreciated that they went the extra mile for us and remembered that at the end of the cruise with a good tip. The pool is tiny with a retractable roof and was hardly used. I tried the hot tub but it wasn't hot enough for me. There was lots of entertainment like cooking classes, dancing lessons and games offered during the day. Please pay attention to the request not to put anything in the toilets, including toilet paper, as you wouldn't want to clog up the system. All in all, I recommend this cruise. It was one of the best cruise experiences I have had. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Sailing Celestyal is a great way to visit Cuba if you are eager to go now, especially if you’d like to explore beyond Havana. The “Authentic Cuba” program ensures you will meet conditions for U.S. cultural exchange. Celestyal makes ... Read More
Sailing Celestyal is a great way to visit Cuba if you are eager to go now, especially if you’d like to explore beyond Havana. The “Authentic Cuba” program ensures you will meet conditions for U.S. cultural exchange. Celestyal makes it pretty easy. I've rated the cruise "very good" overall *only* because of the Cuba itinerary. Upsides to sailing with Celestyal, include: ease in obtaining Cuban visa and navigating customs and immigration; documentation to satisfy the U.S. government; simplicity in logistics; consistency in accommodations; the assurance of a culturally-rich experience; a nice variety of Cuban entertainment, food and drink on board. Evening shows exceeded our expectations, performed by an entirely Cuban staff (in Spanish). The itinerary was especially good, with an overnight in Havana and two additional cities, both of which we enjoyed at least as much as Havana. We have few substantive complaints. Many of the downsides to sailing with Celestyal may be attributed to restrictions imposed by Uncle Sam on U.S. citizens! Among those attributed to the company itself: clunky website lacks important details; uneven and inaccurate call center support; small and aging ship -- clean but a clunker; primarily elderly clientele; limited social space and entertainment venues; tiny pool (only 1) and minuscule hot tub (only 1, poorly placed); mediocre dining with open seating (ugh); most staff are surface-friendly, not highly engaged, not service oriented, many would not last long on big brand ships; company exerts no effort to build brand loyalty (i.e. no perks and special attention). Find more details about our experience -- including lots of photos and individual posts on each port of call at northcountry[dot]seasons[dot]com Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Great Cruise Office/Animators team! You won't be disappointed if you join Martha, Victor, and/or Mahelys for fun. Dynamite personalities, and they always give you the extra effort and big smiles. Nightly shows were excellent, and ... Read More
Great Cruise Office/Animators team! You won't be disappointed if you join Martha, Victor, and/or Mahelys for fun. Dynamite personalities, and they always give you the extra effort and big smiles. Nightly shows were excellent, and tied into culture/history. People to People (P2P) sessions very informative, and it added to my overall visit to Cuba. If embarking in Havana, which I highly recommend, come 2 two early so you can explore before joining on board P2P program built for Americans. Cruise port is in Old Havana, and that's where you should stay. Casa particulars available, or hotels, of course. I rated embarkation as average, not because of the process itself, but there were issues in the port that day and it was a few hours before a Celestial representative arrived to talk to those of us who were wishing to embark. They don't appear to be responsible for issues at hand, but they should have had reps in the terminal first thing in the morning to assist/answer questions. They should consider hiring a ground operations reprsentative who lives in the area to assist guests before other staff members arrive off of the ship. It would be good as an improvement to guest services. Also marked excursions average, only because yours are pre-selected in the P2P program. Another reason you should fly in a few days early, so you can pick your own fun. Cabin was a good one, smartly decorated, bright considering inside cabin, thanks to design. Buffet had good something for everyone and the restaurant on level 5 had better seating arrangement than on 8, in my opinion. Helios deck on 9 had lots of activity, and I loved the seating/bar area on the back of the boat, deck 5. Check it out, especially if sun is setting in the horizon. Smaller ship, amenities align with that fact, but you get out of your vacation what you put into it. Keep in mind, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba are shorter port days, but they expose you to different areas of the island that you wouldnt see in a week long vacation unless you are okay with driving to both ends on your own. For me, this was a great introduction to Cuba. Happy to have had the opportunity to visit and engage with the team at Celestyal. Thank you! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
My friend and I chose this cruise after hearing glowing reviews from another mutual friend who went last year. He said this cruise was a "MUST!". It sounded interesting from his description so we decided to go for it. I'm ... Read More
My friend and I chose this cruise after hearing glowing reviews from another mutual friend who went last year. He said this cruise was a "MUST!". It sounded interesting from his description so we decided to go for it. I'm so glad we did! We booked through Air TransAt as a package, and would hesitate to go that route again as we found they wasted HOURS of our limited time in transit from airport to the ship. Because of that, we had way less time in Havana (our embarkation/debarkation point) than what we expected, or could have had. Other than that, embarkation onto the vessel itself was smooth. Celestyal did its part right. The ship had pretty much all the amenities I required, and was kept neat and clean. The cabin was a reasonable size as long as you weren't planning on remaining in there (and who would want to do that anyhow?) It was well appointed to house your clothing with very reasonable hanging and drawer space, with in-cabin bathroom/shower, hair dryer. The extra electrical plug was 110 (bring a power bar for multiple outlets), and the hair dryer was plugged into what appeared to be a 220, so both were available. Room had a stuffed couch and chair, and small round table. No bedside tables, but lights over the beds. Mattresses were a bit hard for me, but bedding was otherwise very satisfactory. Housekeeping did a great job! Cleanliness was emphasized; staff sanitized surfaces daily; guests were encouraged everywhere to use hand gel. The buffet food variety and quality aboard was fabulous, as was the food and service in the white linen restaurants. The activity schedule was distributed to cabins the evening before. Programs were marvelous - lots to choose from - wine/rum/ouzo tasting, paper flower making, folding towels in a fancy way, learning how to cook Cuban cuisine, to learning salsa or cha-cha (or dancing in general in the lounges or disco), playing games, attending interesting lectures, listening to various musical ensembles, and seeing the fabulous shows (Cuban flavour) in the evening. The folks who were hired to engage people in activities, called 'animators', were amazing and really helped to mold our experience. Kudos to Martha, Vladimir, Sonny. I don't know how you can keep up such energy and positivity! There was no way we could be bored with you folks drawing us into activities! Also, entertainment boss Danny was incredible in keeping entertainment together. I don't know how many languages he speaks, but he could rattle off just about anything in at least five or six languages and was a well spoken, radiant and energetic host for the evening shows. Highlight for me was meeting the musicians and having had the opportunity to play with them! Thank you so much for your generous sharing: Juan, Lazaro, Nidia, Julio and Michel. The tours offered during the day were also high quality. All tour guides were very good and knew their history and surroundings well. Our tour guide in Montego Bay, Candy, was incredibly funny and had us all splitting a side. What a great tour! All staff aboard were courteous, helpful and very friendly. They all seemed to take a very genuine interest in your needs. There were only some minor shortfalls. For example, some water taps aboard in shared bathrooms were difficult to get the water flowing. Our in-room one worked fine. Another is that we had absolutely no idea how much money to convert. And while the ship cannot really advise that, what they might suggest is that if you're busy on bus tours, there really aren't too many opportunities to spend - at least, that was my experience. I'd say don't convert much - unless you know you'll be spending a reasonable amount of time in Havana. There is really not enough time in ports after leaving Havana to spend much, unless you maybe choose to tour completely on your own. Also, there are not many places that will take Visa or Mastercard, either, so don't count on your credit card - yet. (But you CAN use Visa, Mastercard, or USD$ easily enough on board by setting up an account with your all-important ship's card that you receive when you board.) Since we had a full day in Montego Bay in Jamaica and about 6 hours of free time, it was actually easier to get out and spend some USD$. I'm not a high roller. I took $100 USD and found that plenty, and converted $150 CDN to CUCs, which was more than enough for my needs - just little gifts and a drink out in a bar in Havana during free time. I'm a young retiree and traveled without children so I can't comment for parents, except that I only saw a couple of kids on board. I'd very highly recommend this cruise to anyone. For me, it was fun filled, educational, vibrantly cultural, and has given me many 'once-in-a-lifetime' memories. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
The embarkation was 6 hours late, the ship was waiting a few miles from Havana Port because there was no place for the ship in Port. I understood the problem and accepted it wasn't there fault, the think I had a problem with was a ... Read More
The embarkation was 6 hours late, the ship was waiting a few miles from Havana Port because there was no place for the ship in Port. I understood the problem and accepted it wasn't there fault, the think I had a problem with was a lack of information for the waiting passengers to board the ship. I cruised bigger ships and I wanted to experience smaller ship, no regret I really enjoyed it. The age of passengers are mostly retreated peoples. My cabin was very clean ( thank you Diana ) smaller than expected. The balcony nice size Didn't like the fridge in the closet, it took away some storage for our clothes and shoes. We always had our meal in dining room, the food was very good. Supper Even was our waiter, the group was always happy to see him. The two last days the sea was very rough, when you got to the dining room the staff at the door would help everybody who had difficulty with balance walk to their table. I never seen that on any other ships. Special thank you to Maître D' Mohamed, during my trip I have problem with my health and needed special diet for few days and Mohamed made certain that I received the special attention. Thank you again Maître D' I really appreciate it. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We chose the Celestyal Crystal for our Cuba cruise due to their multiple Cuban ports, their experience and history offering People to People programs in this market, and the ease of flying into and staying in Montego Bay pre-cruise. There ... Read More
We chose the Celestyal Crystal for our Cuba cruise due to their multiple Cuban ports, their experience and history offering People to People programs in this market, and the ease of flying into and staying in Montego Bay pre-cruise. There are lots of mixed reviews, so I will give my opinion and my recommendations, as a participant in the Authentic Cuban Experience program for US citizens. This cruise exceeded my expectations, and exceeded my experiences with the larger mass market cruise lines with their Tea Time buffet, their Gala Tropical Buffet, their recognition of a birthday with “free” birthday cake and a serenade by 3 waiters and a guitarist in their dining room, their nightly Chef’s (Cuban) specialty entrees, their desserts, the nightly productions shows 6 out of 7 nights, the variety of specialty (Cuban) cocktails and the easy availability of bottled water for shore excursions in their Blue Drink package, the educational lectures, the announcement of our sailing past Guantanamo Bay, the pleasant and stimulating fellow guests, and the modern safe and comfortable coach busses used for shore excursions. We were glad that we booked, emailed and communicated directly with Celestyal, as others who booked through agencies complained of poor communication, despite having group coordinators on board. We were also glad that we embarked in Montego Bay, as those who embarked in Havana missed a day of the ship sponsored shore excursions, and the lecture series seemed out of sequence for them. Regarding the ship, wifi speed fluctuated during busy times. Our stateroom had one US-type electrical outlet located under a small shelf at the desk, and we brought a multi plug adapter device but did not use it, preferring to take turns charging our devices. We also brought 2 plastic over the door hooks that were helpful for hanging items on the closet doors, and extra hangars. Even thought the schedule is busy, don’t miss the lectures on Authentic Cuban Orientation, Cuban Cigars, Culture and on History. Regarding excursions, we exchanged $200 USD cash for 173 CUC at the convenient exchange shop in our first port, and had 40 CUC left that we exchanged for USD at the booth in our final port. Guests with Canadian dollars and Euros seemed to have a harder time exchanging currency. There is limited running water and limited toilet facilities in the ports, so bring tissues, hand sanitizer and wet wipes on excursions. Some of the days are long and hot. You each can bring one water bottle. Food is not allowed to be brought on shore, but I was told that one sealed granola bar might be allowed for a medical condition. I did see one guest stopped at the debarkation temperature screening station in the medical tent due to a fever. I wish that I had printed out and brought small maps of each port area, so that I could have been better oriented to each city. Remember that you must be flexible, and recognize that Celestyal may not have control over itinerary changes due to what I see as increased demand exceeding the supply of Cuban resources. Our beach stop was cancelled months prior to the sailing, and our berth at the port in Havana was revealed to be “triple booked” on the day of embarkation, but Celestyal did an excellent job of making adjustments resulting in an excellent cruise experience that I would highly recommend before Cuba gets even busier. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
I chose this ship as an easy way to visit large areas of Cuba on a US approved people to people program. The company really covered every aspect of Cuban culture from Cuban staff, Cuban professor on board, Cuban food specialties on the ... Read More
I chose this ship as an easy way to visit large areas of Cuba on a US approved people to people program. The company really covered every aspect of Cuban culture from Cuban staff, Cuban professor on board, Cuban food specialties on the menus, Cuban music, dance lessons, a wonderful Cuban entertainment company, films, lectures, demonstrations, tours and drinks. The programs were at a high level, well organized and well done. The food was mostly very good to excellent and certainly abounding. The cabin was lovely even for an inside space and it never felt cramped with the tv turned on to the bridge so one could see the weather outside and follow the map of where were were. I loved it. My only criticism is of the internet service on board. It is not only spotty but expensive and very difficult to use. More time is used up trying to log on or log off than is actually used on line. A very small criticism compared to a wonderful experience over-all Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
What can be said about a seven day cruise to Cuba which includes an overnight in Havana along with stops in Cienfuegos and Santiago? To simply say this was a great cruise would be an understatement which would not do justice to this ship, ... Read More
What can be said about a seven day cruise to Cuba which includes an overnight in Havana along with stops in Cienfuegos and Santiago? To simply say this was a great cruise would be an understatement which would not do justice to this ship, the welcoming crew, the entertaining cruise director Danny, the amazing and talented entertainers, the restaurant staff, housekeeping, and the first class People to People Program developed by Jerry Pagoulatos and Dr. Jorge Arocha. We are seasoned cruisers who had waited patiently for many years for the privilege to travel to this mysterious country located less than 100 miles from the U.S. Since Celestyal offered the choice of embarkation in Havana or Montego Bay, we chose Mobay since we could easily fly from Orlando on SW airlines and immediately board the ship. The ship was lovely in a retro kind of way. It reminded us of cruising in the 80s, prior to the construction of mega ships. The Crystal provides an intimate ship experience which works especially well on this Cuba itinerary. We had cabin 6029 which has an obstructed outside view, twin beds, a small chair, adequate storage, and a small bathroom. The room was spotless and well cared for by our cabin steward and her assistance. The main stairway is located in the middle with two elevators for those of us who returned to the ship after full days of touring, and were too tired to climb the stairs. The Leda Buffet is located on deck nine along with a small pool and covered deck area for dining. The Amalthia Restaurant on deck 8 served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the Olympus on deck 5 was also available for dinner only. After reading other reviewers who complained about the quality of food, we were somewhat worried but found the food to be very good in all dining venues. There was a wide variety of Cuban dishes and we especially enjoyed the barbecue buffet one afternoon at sea and the late night dessert extravaganza. All of the staff made sure we felt welcomed, so much so that we felt like a small part of the ship's family by the end of the cruise. The cruise director Danny was the best we have ever met on any of our 36 cruises. Dealing with a multi-cultural ship full of passengers from many countries can't be easy but since Danny speaks 8 languages, he handled all with charm and charisma. As I write this I can imagine to those who read it, one might wonder how this cruise could have been so special. I'm trying to save the very best for last while trying to cover everything. So, I'll now review the entertainers which again, were the most talented we have ever had the pleasure of seeing on a ship. The twelve entertainers all come from Cuba and performed at every show, danced with the passengers after the show, and were available to interact with the guests during the cruise. We even saw one of the performers checking in guests during the Havana embarkation. Don't miss the shows if you go on this cruise! The house band Latin Souls and Duo Curerdas de Crystal entertained during various times and were also exceptional. Since we are Americans with restrictions on how we travel to Cuba, I have now reached the best part of this cruise. Imagine our excitement when we sailed into Santiago de Cuba on our second day. The developer of Celestyal's People to People Program, Jerry Pagoulatos should be commended for developing this program. We toured with others in a large, modern (yes these busses do have bathrooms) bus to El Morro Castle, an African Cultural Center where we had a dance performance, San Juan Hill, and the Moncada Barracks. Our tour guide provided a good overview of the history of this fascinating country. Next stop was Havana for two full days with tours throughout the city, cultural events and performances along with trips to the Museum of the Revolution, Havana Art Museum, and Revolution Square. One of the highlights of our visit to Havana was visiting the neighborhood where Jose Fustar, the mosaic artist, turned his neighborhood into a colorful, vibrant display of mosaics. Our last stop was Cienfuegos, known as "The Pearl of the South" where we toured this quaint city by the sea and visited Project Tranzos Libres which supports local artists and performers. To us, the very best part of this trip was the educational component which was provided by our knowledgeable tour guides and the informative lectures given by Dr. Jorge Arocha from the U. of Havana. His enthusiasm and love for this beautiful country was infectious. We cannot wait until we return and feel so blessed by the experience. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Being American it is a little harder to see Cuba(as we cannot go as pure tourists). Upon researching ways we discovered Celestyal and their People to People Program. Leaving out of Montego Bay Jamaica was effortless, we had a direct flight ... Read More
Being American it is a little harder to see Cuba(as we cannot go as pure tourists). Upon researching ways we discovered Celestyal and their People to People Program. Leaving out of Montego Bay Jamaica was effortless, we had a direct flight and it was a 30 min cab ride to the port. Embarkation was the easiest I have ever experienced with just a few checkpoints where you showed passport and signed for your Cuban Visa. Our luggage was actually on the ship about the same time as we were. We had originally booked room 3113(an interior cabin on deck 3) . the room was fine but when I saw that they had upgrades available we decided to take advantage and pay 400.00 add'l to get an outside cabin. Glad we did we ended up in Room 3209 right by the elevators midship, also on deck 3. Room was fine a little worn and the bed was saggy but no real complaints. Our room steward serviced the room twice daily and it was always neat and clean. I had just been on the Carnival Esctasy over the holidays which was also an older ship and the Celestyal definitely had better service. Both ships are showing wear but the Crystal appeared cleaner. The Food while not a tremendous amount of options was good, I always managed to find something to eat and the desserts were amazing, some more than others. There was not a lot of traditional cruise fare but they incorporated the Cuban cuisine. I did not like the wines offered with the all-inclusive Blue package but I am not a big wine drinker anyways so I i usually had water or a soda with my meal. most others liked the wine. The tours were informative and I think as Americans we got a very nice overview of the different cities. The evening in Havana we went off on our own and had a nice dinner in the city but others did the Tropicana and said it was fun. We did get to watch the Superbowl on Sunday night and it seemed the Americans bonded over Football. People were very friendly and the good thing about a smaller ship is getting to meet new people. I would definitely recommend this cruise if you want to see Cuba. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
My wife Coco chose this cruise because of the Cuba experience and the Jamaica connection. We enjoyed Runaway Bay Jamaica for 3 days before boarding, so we were rested and ready for our first ever cruise. We were not ever disappointed! ... Read More
My wife Coco chose this cruise because of the Cuba experience and the Jamaica connection. We enjoyed Runaway Bay Jamaica for 3 days before boarding, so we were rested and ready for our first ever cruise. We were not ever disappointed! The food was very good, with lots of Cuban cooking thrown into the mix. We ate in both the buffet and restaurant venues and always felt delighted and satisfied. Drinks from the various bars featured lots of Cuban influence, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Our suite cabin was very comfortable and cleaned/freshened at least 3 times a day. Shore excursions were well organized and meant to maximize our contact with the Cuban people. Entertainment and activities revolved around the "People to People" program that is re-acquainting North Americans with the Cuban way of life. In all, Coco & I thoroughly enjoyed our week's cruise around the wonderful island of Cuba! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
First of all, hats off to Danny the cruise director and the entire entertainment crew. Danny is very enthusiastic, full of energy, and speaks probably at least eight languages. He is an asset to the company. The Cuban musicians are ... Read More
First of all, hats off to Danny the cruise director and the entire entertainment crew. Danny is very enthusiastic, full of energy, and speaks probably at least eight languages. He is an asset to the company. The Cuban musicians are fantastic, especially enjoyed getting to talk with the bongo, etc percussion player. The cast of the shows are also an excellent group of entertainers and we enjoyed the shows immensely, some shows better than others, of course. The education program for the people to people program was well prepared and presented and the professor also had a nice sense of humor. Learned a lot. The included tours off the ship were also good. Lots of other activities on the ship also, many more than the average cruise. Our inside cabin was roomy enough, except the bed was too low to put the luggage underneath and the beds were not that comfortable, sinking a little in the middle. Our cabin attendants did a great job and were very friendly. The waiters and serving staff were quite efficient and friendly. The biggest downfall was the food. The first few days the lunches were very good, including really nice european style tarts for dessert. As time went on, except for the salads and soups, the lunches were not as good. Breakfast was pretty standard for a cruise. The dinners were hit and miss. The appetizers and salads were good, but the entrees were hit and miss. A few really good, the rest not too great. I would recommend this cruise around Cuba and am very glad to have gone there with Celestyal Crystal. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Embarkation was good but not enough signs directing you to the check-in desk or to the ship (MSC was also docked here and their signs were everywhere which made it a little confusing). Disembarkation was very smooth. The cabin was ... Read More
Embarkation was good but not enough signs directing you to the check-in desk or to the ship (MSC was also docked here and their signs were everywhere which made it a little confusing). Disembarkation was very smooth. The cabin was clean and good size but not enough room to put your luggage. The bed was comfortable. The toiletries were good. The towels were OK, a little coarse. Housekeeping was good and helpful. The public area was clean but the decor and furniture were dated and updates are needed. There was only one pool and was very small. The poolside seating was good but the floor was often wet and slippery. The staff at the bar, the lounge and the dining room was friendly and attentive. The drinks were good and they did not cheap out on the alcohol. Good selection in their drink menu. The food at the buffet was good but the selection was limited. The breakfast choices was the same everyday (pretty boring). The food at the dining room was average and not enough choices to choose from. The desserts were below average. There were 2 restaurants but only one was opened. The gym was very small with a just a few equipment. The running/walking track was narrow and short and part of it usually closed. The entertainment was above average. The director was very energetic and entertaining. The on broad activities were average but the staff was pleasant and fun. The staff at the reception was helpful but unfortunately we had 2 unpleasant incidences with 2 of their staff (one of them got offended when we told him he gave us wrong information. The other one blamed and argued with us on the port entry issue) The ports and shore excursions were good. The local guides were very knowledgeable. Unfortunately the ship was not allowed to stop at one of the ports as per the itinerary (Isle of Youth or Punta Francis). Even though they knew about this in advance, they did not make any plans (e.g. stop at other ports) and we just stayed longer in Havana (got quite disappointed). We were party of 4 with no children. Our overall experience was good. We enjoyed mingling with the staff and some fellow travelers, their all inclusive drinks and shore excursions. We would like to try their Greece cruise. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
We are first time cruisers so read with appropriate caution. I thought this was a great way to see Cuba. We sailed on January 1st. from Montego Bay with a "People to People" educational program. The ship and food were deemed ... Read More
We are first time cruisers so read with appropriate caution. I thought this was a great way to see Cuba. We sailed on January 1st. from Montego Bay with a "People to People" educational program. The ship and food were deemed "below expectations" by the experienced cruise passengers we sailed with but both were perfectly adequate in our opinion. You take this cruise for the destination, not the ship. The crew was above all earnest, but overworked. I'm not sure the ship is staffed well enough when the vessel is full. There were concerns with elevators that frequently did not work and, "ahem" the toilets of questionable quality. The ship is on the smaller side so meeting people was quite easy, especially given that most on board were there for their first Cuba experience. I thought that the entertainment on board was great. It was not "polished" but the entertainers were clearly energetic and invested in putting on a good show. As others have mentioned the cruise director "Danny" was great and made sure that everyone was having a good time! What I most loved about this cruise was the port of calls and the educational sessions offered by the two University of Havana professors who were on board with us. They gave a fascinating overview of the history, politics, culture, and flora/fauna of this great land. I felt sorry for the cruise guests who were not "required" to attend these sessions as they were quite informative. You ideally go on this cruise to learn and there were many opportunities to do so. Shore Excursions: Santiago de Cuba - our first shore excursion offered a decidedly pro-Castro view of Cuban history, an exposure to Santeria dancing, and unfortunately not lunch. Eat a good breakfast before this one! There is, however, a stop for coffee and beer at a local gallery that had exquisite ceramics for sale at very reasonable prices in the gift shop. Havana - the reason that most of us took this cruise. Havana is amazing but the quality of the shore excursions was, at best, uneven. I might skip them entirely. The ship docks in Old Havana and there are great squares and historical buildings that can likely be experienced better with a good guidebook. Your ship will stay here for one full and one partial day. I would spend the first day exploring Old Havana and having dinner in one of the many Paladares, or private restaurants. Hemingway had many talents, but the bars he frequented has only one - ripping off tourists with substandard Mojitos. Skip these. For the second day take a taxi to the National Museum of Fine Arts for their spectacular modern collection. Have lunch at "Habana 61" and still have time for the Museum of the Revolution and a leisurely walk back to the ship. The formal excursion would make you choose between these two museums but this is not at all necessary. Maria la Gorda - We almost skipped this excursion as those who boarded the ship before us proclaimed the nature preserve as a total bust and because we are not beach/hot weather people. This stop turned out to be one of the most fun. First of all, tenders run between the cruise ship and the beach continually so you can spend as much time or as little as you would like. I would suggest the first non-tour tender. Once you exit on the pier move as far to the right as you can as this is where there are beach umbrellas and a Cuban BBQ sponsored by your ship. You may purchase drink/food coupons in advance but these are not required. For a short queue you can simply sign purchases to your cabin account. This made for a most relaxing day and a great counterpoint to the urban Havana. Cienfuegos - the most beautiful port and excursion of them all. Known as the "Pearl of the South" from colonial era the architecture was well preserved and the most common tourist sections were closed to vehicular traffic. Your first stop will be in the main square to see the Teatro Tomas Terry theater and the gorgeous Palacio Ferrer. Save your money from the street vendors in this area because for us the next two stops were at artist collectives where there was an abundant amount of original art for sale and the opportunity to meet the artists. Definitely a highlight of the trip! This excursion ends at Punta Gorda, where the wealthy of the area once congregated, and Palicio de Valle, a former Batista casino, turned into a restaurant with beautiful views of the bay. I'm not sure we would take a cruise with this company again for a non-Cuban destination. Having said that, our costs were considerably less than competitive offerings and we had a great time overall. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
Here is a "summary" of our Cuban trip "a la carte" 12 nights in total (2 land + 7 cruise + 3 land) ... Many details may interest CC members as this was our first time in Cuba ... And it’s the first time I’ll make ... Read More
Here is a "summary" of our Cuban trip "a la carte" 12 nights in total (2 land + 7 cruise + 3 land) ... Many details may interest CC members as this was our first time in Cuba ... And it’s the first time I’ll make such a long post… So 7 nights on the Louis Cristal (25,000 ton ship chartered by Cuba Cruise). We are French speaking Canadians but think our report can be useful to our neighbors from USA as much as those from Canada. I made all efforts to translate, so please be understanding… Saturday 14: Hotel shuttle at 3:00 am for an early flight Montreal / Varadero, arriving around 10:00 ... but the start will be delayed ... There, the plane remains at a distance, and after waiting on the stairs, we are piled with our hand luggage in fairly shabby bus to the terminal ... The fun begins ... We had to wait 3 or 4 lines up before moving to customs, but not a couple at the same time, we have to pass one by one, with picture taking, thorough review of our passports and tourist visa. Forget the slightest smile (I naively imagined that in Cuba, Quebecers would be entitled to a little smile ... Well no, well, no! A custom officer is a custom officer!) In short, it was long, more like us wondered what was going on, the lines were not moving! After more than 1½ hour, we end up almost the last, and then the X-ray ... and then, curiously, the lady employee, poker faced, have no patience and exhort us, rudely and with great sweeping arm gestures to put our cabin baggage, and other belongings in the tray and push on the conveyor (Push! Push !!!) What a coarse welcome to Cuba! Transfer Varadero to Havana at NH Capri (4 *) for 2 nights. The transfer of some 1h30 goes well, by 7 seat minivan, fraternize with a couple of Quebecers who also go to this hotel. At the hotel reception, lukewarm reception, the lady’s obviously afraid of showing us her beautiful teeth ... The room is much too hot, because there is a widget that needs us to insert our key card to get electric current in the place... So rush, please give us come air conditioning! Short tour of 1410 room: it is clearly not in a typical 4-star hotel ... but hey, you're in Cuba and 2 nights, it will not kill us. An important detail for us (we are told that in Cuba and many other places in the Caribbean it is the same): don’t look for facecloths, well this simply does not exist ... Changing money (CUC! follows the USD to nearly $ 0.80) did not have time at the airport, the hotel can: 1.37 CAD for 1 CUC ... nice profit margin ... A good point for the hotel though: the breakfast (included) was of surprising quality! Meeting with a representative of the tour operator in Cuba, Eduardo, friendly and with a quite decent French speaking.It gives us a city map and shared some info, etc. He sold us an interesting guided city tour for the next day, and a dinner and show package for the evening, which included a cocktail Mojito, a good Cuban meal and a fairly exotic show, Cuban nights of the '50s with music, dance, around 15 musicians / singers on stage, dancers, etc. to the "Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro" (29 CUCs pp). Beautiful evening, if not later around us people will begin to smoke cigars ... The taxi to and from the hotel will cost 20 CUCs and will be 30 minutes late (the driver insisted on taking us back to the exact time ...) Finally, between all that, I summarize, with our friends we will felt quite safe in that part of Havana and walked around… but not after sunset ... For drinking water, we found a small kiosk store that sold spring water in 500ml bottles for 0.45 CUC: Affordable, though, at least more than the hotel ... But his landlady quickly shows impatient if we do not seize easily his “rough” Spanish ... Monday 16: We salute our friends after lunch to prepare to leave the hotel, our transfer to the port should take us around noon (Cubanacan) ... finally, it will be somewhat later ... Direction Cruceros Terminal (Cruise Terminal) ; we pass to have our luggage labeled ... and boarding for the cruise on the Louis Cristal (CubaCruises) around 14h ... Welcoming and reception rather cold, somewhat contrasting with what we were used to at Celebrity’s ...; scheduled departure from Havana at 23:30 ... Finally this will occur at 00h30 ... and we'll be in bed at that time! By the way, before entering the ship, we pass through customs, scan / X-ray ... and upon return to earth 30 minutes later to explore the area of the port, we must return to the customs, remonstrate credentials (even with the ship’s ID card in hands) ... Passport, the customs guy told me! - Really? A color photocopy is not OK? - No, the original! ... Well, we go back on the boat, but given the extreme importance of the visa, a little paper we’d better not lose, and since the customs guy only asked for passports, we decided to leave our visas in the cabin safe ... Error !!! Back downstairs, the same guy leafs our passport, frrttt ... - Where is your visa ???... – Hey sir, you did not tell a word about the visa! ... Now it’s too for us! Tired of their ceremonies, we went back on the boat and stay there! Adios, Havana! We spend a little snack at Leda buffet bridge 9. Not bad for a little sustenance ... Do not ask too much, after all! Dining: now: at Almathia MDR, Deck 8, were assigned to a table of 8, with other French-speaking Quebecers, 2 pairs of nice friends,at which table will be added some other nice fellow passengers ... Good point for MDR reception staff who made the effort to group Francos together ... Oh, one other thing: to dine at the first service, we had to show up between 18:00 and 18:15 or it would go to the second service. We are not used this rigor, as we were used to in previous cruises, since with "Select Dining" we could get to MDR between about 18h and 21h, or something near, I remember. Our servers, Sanjeev and Ruwel, as friendly as effective, make our dinner lovely and memorable! Monica always brought us cocktails and wines with kindness and smile. Food in the dining room for dinner: very good and varied in general, except in our opinion for salads, including lettuce, which often lacked freshness (edges "rusty", etc ...) All in all, good points for this cruise! Entertainment on board: good points again. Evening shows at the "Muses Lounge" are entertaining thanks to the excellent performance of singers, dancers and "gymnasts". The cruise director was very good and proactive. One thing negative is that if every evening the content is different, the formula is quite the same. Oh I forgot ... the layout of the room is poor, with too large tables and chairs all stuck ... more cabaret style than theater. Internet access near reception desk: simple and affordable. . Tuesday 17: At Sea. At dawn, our toilet got “shortness of breath” and did not aspire at all. Well, we never experienced this problem elsewhere; however a technician quickly changed the faulty valve. After lunch, explore the new boat ... Short and simple. The ship is clean, but actually ordinary (the travel agent had warned me well, so I cannot blame her), and somewhat banal and childish decoration with these colorful flowers appliques glued everywhere ... We meet our nice maids (well, this is new to us, as during the 6 previous cruises we’ve had men). Like in Havana, no face cloths in the bathroom, but friends give us a hint: we just must ask to our maids. Successfully, we had some every day but I don’t know where they found them, as each facecloth was different in thickness and size… Oh!, I was about to forget: the XD outside cabin is quite small (around 165 sq.ft.); for the safe, well, it is not included in the cruise fare ... An option of $24 CAD for the week ... Which means the loan of a small magnetic "key", and not as usual our free and simple 4-digit PIN ... And do not lose this key, as you owe them $75! The bed: correct comfort, without more, and it is too low, as our luggage this time do not come under the bed. Tomorrow, the first stop. Ah !, an health issue: Cuba does not lace with tourists, as before landing, medical staff (2-3 people) embarks to take our body temperature, thanks to God, they used a digital forehead thermometer ... We go there all in single file, and no one debarks until all passengers and staff have been checked (we’ve never seen that before) ... No matter about the time it will take! Wednesday 18: Antilla (Holguin). Anchor is thrown near Antilla, a small village quickly passed by in small bus to travel to Holguin. But before, our guide stopped us going, face of a small bank and asked whether we would need to get some convertible pesos (CUC) ... I summarize a little, since this is part of a series of Cuban unpleasant anecdotes... We will therefore be two down, it will not be long, I told myself ... Well no, the cashier, kind, however, has been for an eternity with the gentleman in front of me, and then, my turn ... But once back on the bus, the guide calls me to return at the bank, apparently there is a problem with one of the 8 bills I gave her (the brand new polymer 20$ polymer bills I got from the bank!). One of these has an unfortunate defect, as one of the corners is "cut off" approx. ¼ inch ... and the bank will not accept it! I did not have another one and the cashier could not change nor cancel the transaction! Thanks to another passenger who had four 5$ CAD to fix the deal! The bus then starts again to Holguin for the excursion "Life Cuban way" ($ 100 / person, lunch included). Overall, we enjoyed the visit, the native dances and meals on a covered terrace with live music! On the downside, though, and it will happen many times in our visits to Cuba, in some places, such as in a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, there is a “covercharge” of 5CUCs (over CAD $ 6.50) to allow us to take pictures! A first for us, which leaves a bitter taste ... We felt like squeezed lemons. Thursday 19: Santiago de Cuba. Chosen tour "Panoramic Santiago", part of which is in a comfortable bus. A welcome visit with a qualified guide; the changing of the guard near the mausoleum of Jose Marti is a bit disappointing (at the change of the presidential guard in Athens, Greece, we were more enthralled). Friday 20: Montego Bay, Jamaica. Selected tour: Greenwood Great House & Falmouth. Interesting guide during the trip he also teach us about the socio-economic situation in Jamaica. In Falmouth, the ride was cut short, with free time to visit by our own we ended up in a street just in front of a quarrel between two questionable looking guys ... and the parish church which was closed that day. Saturday 21: Cienfurgos. Chosen tour "Tour of Cienfuegos." Again an interesting and varied tour with a friendly and knowledgeable guide, with a last stop at the Palacio de Valle, beautiful building, then close we are given a cocktail and a hellish spectacle on a huge covered patio, near water. Sunday 22: Punta Frances (Isle of Youth). Tender. No tour (in fact, only one is proposed to go snorkel). Beautiful long beach is the only thing if you don’t go snorkeling. Monday 23: Return to Havana; disembarkation. Late by more than an hour, we take the transfer bus to the hotel Melia Peninsula (4½ *) in Varadero for a 3 night stay all inclusive, joining friends who arrived a week before. Hotel check in: really a mess, causing a time waste of 1h30! Beautiful location, paths lined with vegetation, palm trees, etc, a paradise. Bland room, decor zero, needs renovation, including exterior, balcony, etc. Very good service, especially the maid’s. Food: The buffet is large but the dishes are pretty much the same day after day; not suitable with a 4½-star. 24 and 25: The relaxing, beautiful huge swimming pool, a little animation, just enough ... Eating à la carte: the Japanese restaurant is good, we had a lovely evening with our host cook. For other restaurants, our friends had tried them and it was poor (Asian, Mexican and French, I think.) Thursday 26: Up early to catch our hotel transfer bus to the Varadero airport scheduled for 7am ... but arrived at 8:15! Then, at the airport, do not forget to go pay our tax 25 CUC. Soon after, we pass the customs with yet taking pictures, everything goes well for our friends and my wife, but I, well no, the lady customs officer checks my passport and visa, little frowning, made a phone call, then me says - Please go back and wait there five minutes - There is a problem? - No, no, no problem ... Then another lady comes and goes with my passport and visa ... Then she comes back, and customs officer, hands them to me with a simple "It’s OK" ... Do not try to understand! As for the cruise, my wife and I have discussed among ourselves and with other passengers: Overall it was good but if it is your first cruise you could be delighted, as we were in 1984 on a ship half the size! ... I do not say that with condescension, it's just that it can be difficult to imagine what it is to end up on a newest ship, more luxurious, much larger, with many public spaces where entertaining or relaxing and larger cabins ... (The ships photos are great but that's not all, we must have your feet in it!) This ... for a better quality / price ratio, all things considered ... For now, US cruise companies do not go to Cuba ... That could change in the medium term, but is what it will be for the better? Not sure ... Finally, except for pleasant visits, knowledgeable and friendly guides who knew how to take us to beautiful sites, for good Mojitos, I am disappointed in Cuba. We had to have unrealistic expectations from many points of view, first about the Cuban people, whose kindness reputation, overrated, is far from omnipresent, and yet, it is not generally disinterested ... And over all, we never thought we were going to be subject to so frequent and harassing controls, with time loss as important. The numerous transfers (most with Cubanacan company, which nevertheless has beautiful vehicles) are usually very late and poorly organized; before boarding they do not want our e-tickets, and once in the bus then we lose 10 minutes to get the lists checked and take attendance on the bus, etc. A ridiculous and unsafe way of doing.Basically, we combined a cruise with 2 short land stays for an overview of Cuba, but we realize that this formula does not suit us, especially not in Cuba! Mea culpa! Finally, I’ll say one more thing: think twice before booking a similar voyage to Cuba; over all, we spent nearly 8,000$CAD, for 12 nights! Way too expensive, for that price I would have been wiser to book Celebrity! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
I have been on more than 10 cruises with 6 different cruise lines. I was not prepared for our cruise with Cuba Cruise. The best thing about this cruise was the itinerary. I loved Cuba. I was disappointed in so many things. Free ... Read More
I have been on more than 10 cruises with 6 different cruise lines. I was not prepared for our cruise with Cuba Cruise. The best thing about this cruise was the itinerary. I loved Cuba. I was disappointed in so many things. Free coffee or tea was not available outside dining hours. I thought this was ridiculous. Every ship I have ever been on has a beverage station that offered coffee, tea, iced tea and water. If you wanted a cup of coffee you paid for it. I've never heard of such a thing. There were no snacks available between meals. I was starved between meals. Room service was costly. I had to ask a bar server for water. The food was very good but I was disappointed in the menu. Every cruise I have been on I have had lobster on formal night and a crab dish at least one other night. Not on this ship. I thought the menu very limited and found myself often struggling with what to order as the options were not too pleasing. I don't like the idea of a different table every every night. I like getting to know my waiter and my waiter getting to know me. The drinks were very expensive. The coffee was the best I've ever had a on a ship though. The entertainment was great the 1st night. The dancers are incredible. But after every night it got a little old. We ended up skipping a few nights. I think they should try to supply a little variety, maybe a comedian or game show or something. The ship itself was small and quaint, very clean. Staterooms very clean. I went into the gift shop once and found everything so expensive I never went back. This is unusual for me as I tend to shop a lot in the gift shops. Although the boat boasts about being Canadian and everything in Canadian dollars I was surprised that the casino only took Euros. The slot machines also had minimums which I found strange. Didn't go there again. My most disappointment was when we arrived 5 minutes late on formal night. Dinner was at 6:15 yet the website and our booking confirmation said 6:30. When we arrived at 6:35 thinking we were 5 minutes late we were not allowed in. We were in our formal wear and told to eat at the buffet. We ended coming back starved at 8:15 to try and find a table. I did not find that this ship offers a lot of the little perks and things that other cruise lines do so was quite disappointed. I will also mention that this was one of the most expensive cruises we have been on as well. Not good value for your money in my opinion. Having said that I thought it was a great way to see Cuba. Read Less
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