As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba.
As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the Caribbean but, instead, is a unique way to visit Cuba and, at the same time, affords the comforts of cruising.
First, the ship. An aging lady with an earnest international crew both the ship and the crew do their best to please. The vessel is far from large and is frayed around the edges but virtually all of us on the P2P program agreed- who cares. Some cabins have been upgraded, others have not but they will suffice. A note about the toilets. You will find a note in your cabin asking that nothing be flushed, and that means nothing except human waste. I do believe, however, that the staff is attempting to reduce the likelikhood of a breakdown and the less that goes down, the less likely a breakdown. So we did our best. We had no real problems although some times it takes a minute or two for the system to work.
The internet worked surprisingly well ($10 for one hour with lesser per hour costs as you increase the time) but is not available in the cabins.
All meals were open seating in one of two nearly identical restaurants. The buffet area was small but by using the near-by pool area, additional seating was available. We found the food adequate and the wait staff quite eager to please.
The on board entertainers worked incredibly hard, delivering 7 different shows twice a night. Kudos to all of them!
Cuba. You will learn that despite what you thought you knew, you have so much more to learn. The young college professors on board are throughly engaging and the programs are not to be missed. Lying at our doorstep, the Cuban people have endured a rugged history, both in their home land and with the US. Listen, learn and form your own opinion as we did.
The shore excursions are a work in progress, both for the Cuban tourist industry (which is now supporting US travelers) and for the P2P program. Some guides were good, others not so good. Keep your eyes and ears open.
My personal highlight was a brief taxi ride in Havana- in a taxi the same age as I am!
Finally some tips and notes:
We came prepared with medical insurance for Cuba and our letter from the P2P program for US Immigration on our return. Nobody asked for anything anywhere. I would not suggest,however, that you do not obtain the medical insurance. Its very inexpensive.
The Cuban authorities did take everyone's temperature before debarking in Santiago de Cuba and in Cienfuegos. It took three seconds. Not a big deal.
Maria La Gorda is a beach resort, but the beach is incredibly rocky and entrance to the sea takes patience. Bring water shoes if you have them.
We did not take the optional excursion to one of three night clubs in Havana as they return close to midnight. The ship had an excellent show that evening.
The newly-added balcony cabins are well worth booking.
Passengers get on and off at every port except Maria La Gorda.
In summary, at this point in time, I do not know a less expensive alternative to cruise and visit Cuba. And you will be a pioneer! Americans are just at the beginning of a new era in Cuba.
Adequate. Older furniture, twin beds that cannot be converted to a queen. Two overhead bunks can accomodate two more persons. No couch. Just a chair. Older style shower with curtain. Good close-up view of the waves at this level. Fair size closet. Excellent sun light and since the vessel is traveling counter-clockwise around Cuba this year, and this cabin is port side, you have the island out your window most of the time.