We arrived in Havana around 1 pm, the funny thing was, since we purchased the air/flight packages, pretty much everyone on our flight from Toronto was going on the Cuba Cruise! Once we arrived, there were representatives with Cuba Cruise ... Read More
We arrived in Havana around 1 pm, the funny thing was, since we purchased the air/flight packages, pretty much everyone on our flight from Toronto was going on the Cuba Cruise! Once we arrived, there were representatives with Cuba Cruise signs, showing us where to go to catch the bus to the terminal. Don’t feel pressured to exchange your money at the airport, there is a currency exchange at the cruise terminal, before you get on the ship. The bus was an air-conditioned coach, and the guide explained what we were seeing during the ride to the cruise terminal (about 45 minutes).
When we arrived, we had to leave all of our luggage on the dock, including our carry-ons (so don’t assume you can put a change of clothes in your carry on). We went to get our Cruise cards, go through the ship’s customs, and got to our cabin, all in under half hour. Our luggage showed up very quickly (less than an hour).
We then went out to explore Havana. Since we hadn’t arrived early enough to do the Cruise excursion, I had arranged ahead of time to have a 55 Chevy with driver and tour guide pick us up at the terminal (OldCar Tours). This was well worth the 40CUC per hour. They drove us around the city and the guide was very informative.
We boarded the ship once again in time for dinner, which was a buffet on the first night. We weren’t impressed with the food that night, but we were pleasantly surprised that it did get better (more on this later).
We met our cabin steward (Yasnay) and she was so friendly and fantastic the whole week. They clean the rooms twice a day, replacing the towels if you want, and even making up the bed twice. I was a bit concerned about the fact you can’t flush toilet paper, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal, there’s a can with a lid and they changed it twice a day. If you forget out of habit, nothing happens! It still flushed!
The one thing we noticed almost immediately is that the majority of the people were seniors. We are in our 40s and felt like we were the youngest couple there. Eventually we did see a few younger couples with kids but we felt sorry for the kids because there really wasn’t much for them to do. I would NOT recommend bringing kids on this cruise, my kids would have been bored most of the time.
The evening shows were fantastic! We really enjoyed the “cirque” type performances, and they had a team of fantastic dancers. The Havana Moon band played nightly and were very talented. One of the musicians played the flute, sax, clarinet, and something else! The main singers, Freddie and Hector were great! Freddie should have his own record contract, he’s that good. They also had other entertainment in the various lounges throughout the evening if you didn’t want to go to the main show.
The service on board was impeccable. The waiters and drink servers were always there when you wanted them. All of the staff on board were friendly, and you got to know some of them by name.
Excursions: We did an excursion every day, but if we were to do it again, we would probably do some exploring on our own.
When you get to Holguin, I would definitely recommend the swimming with the dolphins. We all agreed it was the highlight of our trip. At this port (it wasn’t even a port, we had to use the ship’s tenders to get to shore) there was really only a tiny town with nothing to do, so definitely take an excursion here (Antilla).
In Santiago de Cuba, we did a city tour, but they spent too much time (in my opinion) at a cemetery and not enough time at the beautiful fort (we only had 20 minutes at the fort, not even enough time to take the steps down to the beach). We also made a stop at the former Bacardi Rum factory and were thrilled to buy bottles of rum for 7CUC, but later on, we saw it even cheaper at the Duty Free shop at the Havana airport!!! I recommend that you do this city on your own, research on Trip advisor what you’d like to do and do it.
In Montego Bay, we took an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls, but wish we had just rented a taxi on our own after we saw that several others did so. The excursion was overpriced and the tour bus was way less comfortable than the busses in Cuba (no leg room at all). Anyway, the falls were fantastic and I’d highly recommend a visit.
In Cienfeugos, we did the El Nicho waterfall excursion. I would NOT recommend this excursion to ANYONE! First of all, you ride on the back of an old Russian army truck, open to the wind and sun, very uncomfortable, for 2 hours to the waterfalls! Then we ate a meager lunch and only had an hour to do the trail and waterfall. Then a 2 hour ride back. Definitely NOT worth 4 hours of driving. Also, it was the “dry” season so the falls were a trickle and some of the river areas were dried up.
At Punta Frances we thoroughly enjoyed the beach day. We found many seashells and just enjoyed the warm waters and hot sun.
Cabins: Our cabin was 3029, at the very back of the ship. The engine rumble and vibrations were VERY loud and I would NOT recommend being anywhere near the back of the ship, especially at the lower levels. Thankfully we brought earplugs and we got used to the vibrations. It was nice to have a window, and we took the two single beds and pushed them together so we could sleep together. The room was small, but we didn’t spend much time in there anyway so it didn’t matter. The shower sucked, it would not give any hot water, ever. I had so many lukewarm showers and even a couple of cold ones! There was plenty of space to unpack your suitcases, several drawers, many hangers in the closet, etc. We didn’t use the safe, but just kept our wallets on us. We left electronics (iPhones, laptop, cameras) in the room but had no issues.
Disembarking: Pretty painless, you had to leave your room at 8 am, but could then go eat breakfast. We then had to wait until about 9:30-10 to actually get off the ship. Once off, you went to find your luggage (they gave you tags the night before, take note of the colour of the tag, and the letter on it) and boarded the tour bus to the airport.
Wifi: The wifi was very unreliable, I wouldn’t recommend paying the $12/hour. We only ended up using 20 minutes the whole week because it usually didn’t work. We had hoped to use it to book our seats on our return flight but we weren’t able to get online. The good news was, that our entire flight was on this ship, so no one booked their seats early! First come, first served at the airport. Don’t forget your 25CUC/person to pay at the airport.
Dining: We usually did the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the sit-down restaurant for dinner. The one thing that bugged us about the sit-down meals is that they constantly put us at tables with people who didn’t speak English. We would even request a table with English speakers, and they still couldn’t manage to get it right. This is why we just did the buffet at breakfast and lunch. We eventually met a couple we liked and arranged to meet them for dinner each evening. I’m sure the Maitre D’ could figure out a way to seat people in a way that wasn’t awkward for everyone at the table. The meals at the restaurant were great! We are foodies, and didn’t have any complaints. The buffet meals are “ok”, but nothing special.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time on the Louis Cristal and would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to really see different areas of Cuba, rather than stay in one place at a resort.