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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: April 2017
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a ... Read More
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a colloquial manner . Each and every one of the towns visited was a vivid picture that solidified the historical, architectural and cultural presentations made on board. All shore excursions were perfectly geared to the presentation on-board, providing a platform for us to interact with the people, the music, the culture itself. This jelling experience is The Authentic Cuban Experience. As for the ship experience itself, I was pleasantly surprised. Dining Room Exp: Food was delicious and authentic. I really enjoyed my lunch and dinners, when time permitted, at The Almanthia. Jose Luis, "Rest. Captain" has a welcoming smile and handshake for everyone which makes you feel "at home". Monica and Luis are excellent members of the wait staff but they also have the quality of making you laugh, which is medicine for the soul. That's an A+ in my book. I must mention Edel and Ricardo, "Rest Capt." from LEDA Deck Rest. Also gracious hosts with a sunny disposition. Our Cabin was impeccable every day, with special towel art presented by Vivianne and Ernesto. (5th Deck) All special requests were acted on immediately. They both were so attentive, always providing service with a smile. Entertainment on board were spectacular, thematic shows, provided by a team of polifacetic artistic acrobatic-singers, MC'd by Danny-from Romania, Cruise Director. Based on this experience, I'm already planning my next Cruise with Celestyal - Crystal...Thanks for the opportunity to share, Kudos to these people who make cruising fun as well as a learning experience. 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
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Picked this cruise as it is the only itinerary that circles Cuba and makes 3 major port stops: Santiago, two full days and overnight in Havana, and Cienfuego. Originally, the itinerary included Maria Gouda but that was replaced with stop ... Read More
Picked this cruise as it is the only itinerary that circles Cuba and makes 3 major port stops: Santiago, two full days and overnight in Havana, and Cienfuego. Originally, the itinerary included Maria Gouda but that was replaced with stop at Punta Frances, which was dropped from the itinerary. We were not notified of this until two days before departing. Would have been nice to know but it actually turned out fine. Punta Frances is a marine preserve and Cuba is evaluating the impact on the environment because of the increased cruise ships. In the end, the itinerary was packed full and wonderful in any case. This is a fabulous cruise, especially for Americans who have to participate in the People-to-People experience. DO IT! You will be immersed with Cuban artists, dancers, musicians throughout. Entertainment on board each night is spectacular -- first rate!!! All performed by Cubans, who love to talk about Cuba and learn about USA. The excursions gave many opportunities to interact with Cuba culture and talk to people. All guides were Cuban. We had THE BEST lectures on board done by a young Cuban professor -- he was fun, full of information, dedicated to "teaching" us, answered all kinds of questions and spent endless hours talking to us about anything and everything. A big THANK YOU to him and all the performers and cruise director, Danny, and whole animation team. What a great trip and experience. Cabin great. Stayed in 7001 with two other friends. Two-room suite, lots of closet space, great bathroom, spacious balcony. Food sometimes really good; sometimes only fair. Wine list very lacking. Buffet breakfast food always cold, but you can have omelets or waffles made and they were hot and great. You don't take this cruise for the food. Pool small, most of the trip not operational because of netting over it because of waves; never saw anyone in it. No place to sit in loungers after swimming anyway. You don't take this cruise for the pool, but that doesn't matter. You take this trip to see CUBA! and see and enjoy you will. I've been all over the world and this visit to Cuba was powerful. GO! And go on this cruise for a full, real Cuban experience. 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
Celestyal Crystal Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.5 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0
Rates N/A N/A

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