We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We booked back to back cruises on this ship, so had the advantage of taking the tours on the first trip and doing our own itineraries on the second trip.
The ship does rock and roll more than we're used to. There are stabilizers but they are apparently not being used. The ship is well maintained and clean.
The cabins are pretty small, but also impeccably clean and there's enough storage for a large suitcase and 2 backpacks.
They really don't want guests to place used toilet paper into the toilet and we found this to be the case in every public toilet that we had to use at our ports.
There are no specialty restaurants and the food service hours are limited. The food is pretty basic but we gained 10 lbs. each so there's that.
Bad news: a small casino that's hard to find and only 1 or 2 bingo games the whole time. Shocking!
There are people embarking and disembarking from Havana as well as Montego Bay and Cienfuegos, so there is the disruption to the crew 3 times a week with new guests and lifeboat drills.
Our package included unlimited drinks for a very reasonable price of $59/person/per week.
That included Havana Club 7 year rum, Bombay gin, Jameson whiskey, bottled water, beer, wine, sparkling water, mixed drinks like pina colada's, daqueries, margaritas,mimosa's, cappucino's, lattes, etc. We've never seen a drinks package like that and believe me when I say that they lost some money on us!
The staff and crew are very friendly and helpful and there really is a no tipping policy. The cruise director made a point of saying that no one expected a tip and of course, we tipped more than we expected to.
A production show every night with aerial acrobatics and a fabulous band. That dance crew did not get a night off! I thought the shows were really good and was surprised that there wasn't the usual comedian or magic act show to give the dancers a night off.
The guest lecturers were local professors from the Univ. of Havana and were very interactive with guests, both on and off the ship. They had a rum tasting (no extra charge), a lecture about cigars, a guest speaker who was a retired govt. official.
The musicians on board were local Cuban bands and were absolutely awesome. "Latin Soul", in particular, was the band for the production shows and they played dance music and jazz afterwards to a largely empty room. Gifted folks.
We were pleasantly surprised by our visits to Havana, where we found lots of shopping and places to eat near the port. There were a few beggars and people trying to sell black market cigars but they did take no for an answer. We didn't feel that Santiago de Cuba was a good place to wander around in on our own due to the harassment of people begging or trying to sell taxi rides, black market cigars or the general seediness of the area. We took the tour on our first visit and ended up regretting going out on our own on the second visit due to the harassment. We don't dive so Maria la Gorda was just a beach visit that required tendering. Cienfuegos is a beautiful city with it's seediness but there are beautiful as well as ugly things to see there and we felt very safe there, not bothered by beggars, etc.
You just have to have an open mind about this trip and not expect too much from the ship. It's small and a bit outdated but the folks really seem to be trying hard to please.
Very small on deck 4 near the Medical office. Noisy outside due to activity of the port crew. Enough storage for our 1 large suitcase and 2 backpacks.