We decided on this re-positioning cruise from Europe to the Caribbean as it was something we hadn't done before. The price for the suite (stateroom no. 6000, Presidential suite, Venus Deck) was very competitive and we booked before reading any reviews.
We should have read the reviews before hand and we would have been better prepared.
We boarded in Genoa which was a bit of a farce as the staff were sending people up to the first floor and then telling them that boarding was on the ground floor. The majority of the passengers were in their later years and the escalators weren't working which wasn't a very good 1st day experience. Checking in on the ship was OK but with only approx. 80 guests we wouldn't expect any different. There was a bit of confusion about the ship's currency. Previous information (internet) had given the currency as CAD or EUR and when we arrived we were told it was USD.
The ship itself is what we expected. It's an older ship but the public rooms are tastefully decorated and nothing can fault the cleanliness. The choice of bars and entertainment is what can be expected for a ship of this size.
Approx. 80 persons boarded the ship in Genoa and a few more boarded in Barcelona. So until the first Cuba Cruise guests boarded in Jamaica, there were very few passengers. On the first day the restaurant manager tried to "herd" the passengers to one corner of the restaurant. Long tables for 10 people set out in rows. The tables were so close that it was difficult to get between the rows - for passengers and staff. This changed after a few days as the guests complained and said they would like a choice of seating.
Breakfast buffet was medioca. Not well cooked or presented.
Lunch and evening dinner, a la carte: We visited the restaurant once for lunch on the first day. We were uncomfortable about the seating arrangements and then when we saw the food, we left the restaurant - mixed grill with 3 pcs. of black grilled meat which were inedible.
After this we ate only in the suite or at the bars. The food offered on the 2 menu cards was excellently cooked and very reasonably priced. Pizza, hamburgers (freshly made, not frozen like on the a la carte menu), chicken, shrimps, steaks, lobster etc. Why couldn't they cook the same for the othe guests?
After more passengers boarded in Jamaica a second buffet style restaurant was opened. The food was the same as in the other a la carte restaurant but the buffet was more like a self service cantine. Forget about being there on opening time, they weren't ready for the guests anyway.
The staff in the bars and restaurants were fantastic ( as were the stewards). Without them the ship wouldn't run as it does. Some of the management, in their nice white uniforms, could take a leaf out of the service staff's book and learn something about good customer service.
The excursions on offer were sufficient but in a lot of the places it was easy to visit them individually. The ship stopped at Barcelona, Tangier, Madeira, Barbados, St. Lucia, Montego Bay, Santiago de Cuba and disembarkation was in Havanna. The Atlantic crossing took 6 days and was very comfortable. Disembarkation in Cuba took some time but we had been warned about this and it seems that what you read in the internet and what actually happens can be completely different. Having our temperature taken on board ship but nobody taking names or checking cabin numbers was a bit strange. How could they check that everybody had been checked? Apart from that the chance to arrive in Cuba by ship was fantastic. Both coming in to Santiago and Havanna was worth the trip.
During our stay on board we talked to the Hotel Manager and Guest Relations Manager about our experience on board. We were surprised when the Hotel Manager said he didn't read any internet critique about the ship. But he agreed on a lot of the points we complained about. Compensation was a bottle of sparkling wine in the cabin which we returned as this wasn't our aim. We would just liked to have seen some inprovements made. This is a shame as we are sure there could be a lot of improvement made with very little effort. Just making an improvement in the food would make a lot of difference.
On the whole we enjoyed the cruise. The ship and staff were good. The places visited fantastic. We would gladly go again in the same stateroom but only if we could only pay bed and breakfast!
Stateroom no. 6000, Presidential suite, Venus Deck
The stateroom lovely with a roomy bathroom with a bath, seperate bedroom and living room, and a very large terrace (with jacuzzi) at the front of the ship. If it hadn't have been for the repairs that had to made during the first few days, the suite would have been perfect. Loose light fittings, cupboard doors and drawers which opened and closed with the movement of the ship, noisy ventilation, loose taps and sharp edges round the jacuzzi and the broken wooden railing and screw sticking through it on the terrace. The repairs were made quickly due to the attention and excellent service from the stewards. The only problem we had after that was after the Cuba Cruise passengers boarded in Jamaica - approx. 400 guests. This was when the toilet flushing system started to have problems. The vacuum system just isn't up to standard.