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We chose this cruise for a number of reasons. One, we could board at Montego Bay and return to Montego Bay, and since we were already in Jamaica on vacation, it made for very simple logistics. Two, we knew American cruise ships were just at the point of making Cuba a destination, and we really wanted to visit Cuba before it was overrun with Americans. Three, the cruise was very reasonable, and we knew this was because the ship was old, and probably not up to the standards we have become accustomed to (Regency, Crystal, etc.) but Cuba is an unknown and not investing too much seemed like a good idea. We booked the cruise through a Canadian travel agency. As we discovered when we booked in early September 2015, the ship's best cabins were already sold out, and we were forced to commit to an interior cabin. We arrived early at the port in Montego Bay. Embarkation was very simple - we were among a handful of people boarding in Montego Bay. We boarded early so we could request an upgrade, and as it turns out, that was a very good impulse - our inside cabin was the size of a large closet, with a mural of a white sand beach on the back wall. We decided not to unpack, but enjoyed the departure party and then dinner, and when we got back to the cabin, discovered a note requesting us to see reception. Happily, they had a larger cabin with an outside porthole, and with help we moved our stuff into the cabin and settled in. We had very low expectations for the cruise. Before our departure, I had jokingly described the cruise as Holiday Inn of the Sea, and I wasn't far off. We had read reviews where it was noted that putting anything which hadn't been eaten into the toilet was verboten. Gah. Really?! Everything else had to go into the bathroom waste basket??? Yes, that's true, but we got over our squeamishness and discovered there was little if any odor, and the waste was taken away regularly by our cabin steward. Except for one day, and we complained and it was rectified immediately. Our cabin was serviceable, but not wonderful, and we had imagined that would be the case so weren't disappointed. Just like a Holiday Inn. There was enough room to put away a week's worth of clothes and store our luggage under the bunk. There was enough hot and cold water, OK pressure, and our tiny bathroom met all our needs. We had also read that the food was boring, the service disinterested and the entertainment not up to par. Well....since it was kind of like a Holiday Inn, I think the food was fine. Not 5 Star by any means, but we didn't starve. Most of the staff on the cruise were young people from Cuba. The main dining room staff were lovely - young, sweet, enthusiastic and ever ready to make our experience as good as it could be. Likewise the entertainment staff, who put on a fully costumed, fully choreographed show just about every night with surprisingly good dancers and singers - all from Cuba. Yes, it was definitely a little hokey and not the Las Vegas extravaganzas experienced on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean. But the dancers always stuck around after the show to play with passengers and teach Samba or something. The entertainment director looked like a nerd, but he was genuinely funny and boy, could he move and get the crowd into the swing of things. A lot of dancing and parties took place on the pool deck, which wasn't large, so it frequently felt cramped with the daily line dancing which took place. The salt water pool was full each time we were in port for the day, or cruising, but it was emptied every night. Every time we arrived at a new port, we had to have our temperatures taken, per Cuban authorities. A drag, but what to do? Disembarkation for shore excursions was always crowded and felt disorganized. People who got off independently returned through the same ID scanner as people leaving, so there was that. But people seemed fairly relaxed about it all, and soon it became a shared inconvenience to be standing on the stairs with half the ship waiting to get outside to our tours. It always amazed me that a ship like Allure of the Seas with her 6,000+ passengers could manage crowds so easily and expertly and little Celestyal Crystal got bogged down with a fraction of the passengers. Cuba was a revelation. Havana is like a dystopian Paris. Cuba is probably one of the most photogenic countries in the world, filled with color, architecture, artists - street musicians, street actors and artists. The ambiance is of a country in a time warp, the evocative streets and beautiful architecture of old Havana forces one to dream of what life was like before the revolution. Today's Cuba, because of its poverty and priorities, has ironically preserved much of that elegant bygone era, even in its shabbiness, dustiness and hopelessness. Imagining a prosperous Cuba able to restore and bring back to its former glory the dreams of that Caribbean wonderland fills the visitor with excitement. The shore excursions made an effort to put certain aspects of modern and historical Cuba on display, but they were frustrating because Cuba is amazingly colorful, exciting, evolving and beautiful and there was so little time. The circumnavigation of Cuba was just a taste, an appetizer. I recommend cruising Cuba for anyone interested in seeing a lot in a short time. l learned there are homes which are open and available to foreigners, a Cuban version of Air B&B, and for anyone wanting more Cuba, that is definitely a route to take. I know a lot of Canadians and Europeans stay in the all inclusive government owned beach hotels, but being Jamaican and knowing how the all inclusives suck the life out of truly experiencing the island and the culture, I wouldn't recommend doing that. Cuba is very safe - be brave! And please go before the notorious signage advertising Starbucks, Sheraton and Steve Madden, etc. etc. start going up all over.

Cuba: The Sleeping Beauty

Celestyal Crystal Cruise Review by Exotikat

6 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2016
  • Destination: Cuba
We chose this cruise for a number of reasons. One, we could board at Montego Bay and return to Montego Bay, and since we were already in Jamaica on vacation, it made for very simple logistics. Two, we knew American cruise ships were just at the point of making Cuba a destination, and we really wanted to visit Cuba before it was overrun with Americans. Three, the cruise was very reasonable, and we knew this was because the ship was old, and probably not up to the standards we have become accustomed to (Regency, Crystal, etc.) but Cuba is an unknown and not investing too much seemed like a good idea.

We booked the cruise through a Canadian travel agency. As we discovered when we booked in early September 2015, the ship's best cabins were already sold out, and we were forced to commit to an interior cabin. We arrived early at the port in Montego Bay. Embarkation was very simple - we were among a handful of people boarding in Montego Bay. We boarded early so we could request an upgrade, and as it turns out, that was a very good impulse - our inside cabin was the size of a large closet, with a mural of a white sand beach on the back wall. We decided not to unpack, but enjoyed the departure party and then dinner, and when we got back to the cabin, discovered a note requesting us to see reception. Happily, they had a larger cabin with an outside porthole, and with help we moved our stuff into the cabin and settled in.

We had very low expectations for the cruise. Before our departure, I had jokingly described the cruise as Holiday Inn of the Sea, and I wasn't far off. We had read reviews where it was noted that putting anything which hadn't been eaten into the toilet was verboten. Gah. Really?! Everything else had to go into the bathroom waste basket??? Yes, that's true, but we got over our squeamishness and discovered there was little if any odor, and the waste was taken away regularly by our cabin steward. Except for one day, and we complained and it was rectified immediately. Our cabin was serviceable, but not wonderful, and we had imagined that would be the case so weren't disappointed. Just like a Holiday Inn. There was enough room to put away a week's worth of clothes and store our luggage under the bunk. There was enough hot and cold water, OK pressure, and our tiny bathroom met all our needs.

We had also read that the food was boring, the service disinterested and the entertainment not up to par. Well....since it was kind of like a Holiday Inn, I think the food was fine. Not 5 Star by any means, but we didn't starve. Most of the staff on the cruise were young people from Cuba. The main dining room staff were lovely - young, sweet, enthusiastic and ever ready to make our experience as good as it could be. Likewise the entertainment staff, who put on a fully costumed, fully choreographed show just about every night with surprisingly good dancers and singers - all from Cuba. Yes, it was definitely a little hokey and not the Las Vegas extravaganzas experienced on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean. But the dancers always stuck around after the show to play with passengers and teach Samba or something. The entertainment director looked like a nerd, but he was genuinely funny and boy, could he move and get the crowd into the swing of things.

A lot of dancing and parties took place on the pool deck, which wasn't large, so it frequently felt cramped with the daily line dancing which took place. The salt water pool was full each time we were in port for the day, or cruising, but it was emptied every night. Every time we arrived at a new port, we had to have our temperatures taken, per Cuban authorities. A drag, but what to do? Disembarkation for shore excursions was always crowded and felt disorganized. People who got off independently returned through the same ID scanner as people leaving, so there was that. But people seemed fairly relaxed about it all, and soon it became a shared inconvenience to be standing on the stairs with half the ship waiting to get outside to our tours. It always amazed me that a ship like Allure of the Seas with her 6,000+ passengers could manage crowds so easily and expertly and little Celestyal Crystal got bogged down with a fraction of the passengers.

Cuba was a revelation. Havana is like a dystopian Paris. Cuba is probably one of the most photogenic countries in the world, filled with color, architecture, artists - street musicians, street actors and artists. The ambiance is of a country in a time warp, the evocative streets and beautiful architecture of old Havana forces one to dream of what life was like before the revolution. Today's Cuba, because of its poverty and priorities, has ironically preserved much of that elegant bygone era, even in its shabbiness, dustiness and hopelessness. Imagining a prosperous Cuba able to restore and bring back to its former glory the dreams of that Caribbean wonderland fills the visitor with excitement. The shore excursions made an effort to put certain aspects of modern and historical Cuba on display, but they were frustrating because Cuba is amazingly colorful, exciting, evolving and beautiful and there was so little time. The circumnavigation of Cuba was just a taste, an appetizer.

I recommend cruising Cuba for anyone interested in seeing a lot in a short time. l learned there are homes which are open and available to foreigners, a Cuban version of Air B&B, and for anyone wanting more Cuba, that is definitely a route to take. I know a lot of Canadians and Europeans stay in the all inclusive government owned beach hotels, but being Jamaican and knowing how the all inclusives suck the life out of truly experiencing the island and the culture, I wouldn't recommend doing that. Cuba is very safe - be brave! And please go before the notorious signage advertising Starbucks, Sheraton and Steve Madden, etc. etc. start going up all over.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 4209
Our cabin on Poseidon Deck was quite adequate. It seemed well maintained - no obvious stains, rust or broken items. It included a queen size bed (two singles pushed together), plus a chair, and sofa which probably folded out, but we didn't check. The cabin has a large rectangular window/porthole. There's an angled vanity with large mirror next to the bed on the bathroom side, with drawers on each side of the knee cubby. The bathroom is small, with a shower stall and one sink. Water was always available and the pressure was adequate. There was enough closet and drawer space to accommodate a week's worth of warm weather clothing for two people, although my husband lay his suitcase open on the sofa. They don't say in the literature, but there is an embargo on what you can put in the toilet. A dedicated waste container is provided for anything which hasn't previously been eaten (a delicate description of what can actually go into the toilet). The waste container is removed twice daily and I can say with complete honesty I never detected any unpleasant smell, and I'm an extremely fastidious person. Our cabin was very close to the aft elevators, but we never had any issues with noise.