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Celestyal Crystal Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
214 Reviews

Detailed Review of Celestyal Crystal in Cuba 11/25/2016

Celestyal Crystal Cruise Review by nansi

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Nov 2016
  • Destination: Cuba

The first part of this was posted on the message boards. I've added many more details here (scroll down to "more observations")

Well unfortunately for us, Fidel died the night before we arrived in Cuba, which totally altered the tone of the entire trip. All the music was cancelled on shore, and numerous restaurants and bars were shuttered. The country was in mourning for 9 days so our shore excursions had to be revised in many instances. For example we couldn't get anywhere near Revolutionary Square in Havana due to Fidel's ashes there, with thousands of people lined up to sign the book and write their last respects.

As for Celestyal Crystal itself, a couple of really big changes in the itinerary, which they relayed to us at the last possible minute. We were supposed to sail out of Havana on the second day at 5pm, but this was changed to 1pm, so we lost the afternoon there. Not sure where the blame lies, but as we sailed out of the harbor, we passed an MSC ship, waiting to take our berth, so someone (harbor master? Celestyal?) screwed up with the port schedule. Then we were told that we wouldn't be stopping at Port Francis, due to the govt. banning ships from anchoring on the coral. We learned that it was also cancelled (again at the last minute) the week before. So I suggest you leave the snorkel equipment at home and save your space for more clothing in your suitcase. I'd be surprised if the Govt is going to reverse this policy, and I'm curious to see how long it'll take Celestyal to delete it from the itinerary.

Food left a lot to be desired. They either need to buy sharper steak knives, or quit putting any kind of beef on the menu. Multiple disappointments with overcooked, tough meat. And cook the pork please! We did the buffet mostly for lunch and loaded up on salads. Would have loved a nice cup of soup, but they rarely had hot soups (cold cucumber, or chilled mango etc). They did have hot consomme a couple of times which we doctored up with a few croutons from the salad bar. Check out by the pool for a cooking station. Omelets and french toast out there for breakfast; variety of stuff for lunch, like tacos etc. We didn't find it until the 3rd day on board. Dining room on the 5th deck was closed due to the ship having less than 800 passengers.

All inclusive drink package (alcohol) was absolutely worth getting. No need to upgrade to the premium package. Included were Absolut, Johnnie Walker Red, Drambuie, Brandy, Frozen drinks, etc. House wine was actually good. You can't just walk up to any bar and order a drink; you have to order from the wait staff...couldn't figure out why this was.

The staff (with the exception of the front desk people who had quite the attitude) were fantastic, from the wait staff to the room stewards. The entertainers were very good, however, it was the same people every single night and it was somewhat repetitive after awhile. Cruise director Danny was great, but hearing the same speech in 4 or 5 languages is time-consuming and annoying: English, German, French, Spanish.

Wifi was surprisingly good, best wherever you have a Cisco router mounted on the wall. Look for them. We took 3 hrs for $18, which was plenty for us to check email etc.

Ship interior is a little worn, she's quite old after all, but she sails beautifully.

MORE OBSERVATIONS:

Dining:

No food available between meals, although there is a menu in the lounges which has items (burgers, pizza etc) you can PAY for, but not sure if you can order all the time. Main dining room: No more assigned seatings with specific times. However it is not conducive to open seating. It has mostly large rectangular tables seating 8+ people and they don't try to seat you with people who speak your language. They do have limited tables for 2, which you can request, however you may have to wait quite awhile to be seated. (Worth the wait in my opinion...they do let you sit in the adjoining Eros lounge and will call you). The main dining room also features items you can pay for: steak, lobster tails, etc. We did have the tails and they were excellent; $18 for one large tail. As I said above, the quality of food on the regular menu left a lot to be desired. Meats all very over cooked (lamb, beef) except for pork, which was nearly raw. Risotto was so undercooked it actually crunched! Waiters limited English doesn't help. We asked one to translate the description of the risotto, and he said it was with asparagus ...it turned out to be broccoli. At the buffet, the bacon started out VERY undercooked the first day; after that it was so overcooked you could barely chew it (too many times reheating perhaps?).

Cabin:

I can only comment on ours which was a Cat. XC on the 3rd deck. The window was a nice size, and nearly took up the entire outer wall....this will give you an idea of how NARROW this cabin was. A bed on either side against the wall with small night stand between them. Bed lamps were mounted so low on the wall next to the bed, that everytime you turned over during the night, you're arm would smack the lampshade (making so much noise it woke you up). Ridiculous set-up. Beds were VERY narrow and had a permanent gulley in the center, which you sort of fell into and stayed there for the whole night. Not enough room under the bed to stow a full size piece of luggage, but there were 2 big closets and you could stand the suitcase upright in one and thankfully it fit just fine (after moving the life vests elsewhere). Very limited drawer space. Safe deposit box easy to use and the fridge worked well (no mini bar in ours). Be aware that the bottles of water in the room are NOT included in the drink packages..if you use, you pay. Better to order your bottled water at the bar and stock up your room. There is only one outlet located over the desk. Bring a gang plug if you need to charge more than one item. The hair dryer is also here but uses a different plug, however they have screwed the wire onto the top of the desk so you can't steal it (not that you'd want to). Whether you use it or not, it takes up desk space all the time. A wall-mount would have made more sense. Don't plan on watching much TV. Limited channel selection and for news, only CNN with a lot of rerun segments. They should upgrade the ship map....the size of the ship icon on the screen makes it look like it's as big as the Isle of Youth, so it's hard to tell exactly where you actually are. The video on the live web-cam channel is very poor quality.

Bathroom:

On the plus side, there are lots of shelves for storage and a hand-held shower with a strong spray and ample hot water. However, the shower curtain was very worn with many of the top clips missing, making it easy to flood the whole bathroom floor. Try to organize your curtain as best as you can before turning on the water. We used a lot of towels soaking up the floods. They do supply liquid soap and shampoo dispensers. Be aware that the tiles in the shower become very slippery once the soap hits. By the way, we never had an issue with the tissue in the toilets.

Pool:

A small pool is located on the 8th deck completely surrounded by tables and chairs under a retractable roof, which was never opened all the way, in spite of great weather. The lounges were all located on the 9th sundeck. So when you got hot sitting in your lounge chair, you had to take the elevator down a deck to take a dip, and then go back up to lay out in the sun.

The hot tub is located on the 5th deck aft.....also surrounded by tables and chairs, no lounges. This area is partially under a roof, so there's lots of shade (for all those people getting skin cancer....and there are many). The portside half is smoking, and starboard is non. There's a small bar (Thalassa) where you can order a cup of coffee early in the morning and sit and enjoy the fresh air. They did have danish/muffins at the bar sometimes as well. This was our favorite place to sit on the ship; very quiet and relaxing and the hot tub was usually empty.

Public Areas:

The theater (called the Muses Lounge) is very attractive but very impractical. Visibility from most of the seating is terrible and if anyone is in front of you, you can't see the stage. Also, there are not nearly enough seats. Our sailing had under 800 people and it could never accommodate all of them....since they only had one show per night (at 9pm). Many people left when they couldn't find a seat. There is a balcony, also laid out so that only the front row can see the stage. The seats behind were elevated, but not enough to be able to see over the heads of the first row, so this section was always vacant. As is the case with the theatre seats and tables, the ones in the Eros lounge are also jammed packed together with no aisle space once people pull the chairs out and sit down, making it impossible for the wait staff to take drink orders. Less bulky furniture might be the answer.

Looking for the Library? It's a tiny room stuck in the corner of the "conference center" on Deck 8. If you are German-speaking you're in luck....tons of books for you. Other languages are there as well....Spanish, French, Greek, etc with quite a few books. If you're English speaking you'd better load up your iPad or Kindle because there are very few choices available.

Elevators are very slow, and there are only 4 of them. They also have weight limits and won't move if you're over (and it doesn't take very many bodies to tip the scale). If you're fit, the stairs are much faster. Especially when there is one out of order, which happened quite frequently.

Public announcements are not everywhere. Over 100 people were sitting in the Eros lounge waiting to be called for disembarkation, and never heard the announcements, and many had a plane to catch!

In spite of all the above criticism, we really enjoyed the ship and especially the crew (from a multitude of countries), who bent over backwards to give you good service. We would probably sail her again....hopefully when no one in Cuba dies and the music is playing once again in this beautiful country.


nansi's Full Rating Summary
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