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We were happy to be on a smaller ship. The rooms had great storage, the food was very good for the most part and the service was fantastic. Because we were on the inaugural Cuban cruise for Pearl Seas, we had extra staff on board to ensure that things went smoothly. When things went wrong, they did their best to fix it. As an example, one group went to Trinidad for a half day. There was a Cuban tour guide but no staff member from the cruise (that person had to go to the hospital with a guest who had broken their hip).The streets were cobblestoned and in horrible disrepair. They spent about an hour at the model of the city, with each detail of the model being explained by a non-English speaker whose words were then translated by the tour guide. The tour guide never counted heads and one of the guests got lost and the group had to spend two hours on the bus until the guest was found. They didn't arrive back in Cienfuegos until 4:30 (instead of 12:30) and they missed the amazing concert that the rest of us experienced. Amazing response from staff! They listened to the guests' constructive criticism and as a result, those of us who went to Trinidad the next day were warned about the condition of the streets so that we could wear proper footwear. We only spent 10 minutes at the model of the city. A staff member came with us and counted heads at every stop. And best of all, they got the Cienfuegos musicians to play the concert again for those who had missed it. As for shore excursions, we got to see 4 cities: Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. We did spend a lot of time on buses which were comfortable and air-conditioned. We were on a people-to-people tour, which is one of the allowed categories for US citizens to visit Cuba. We met artists and musicians in each city. The concert in Cienfuegos was a highlight of the trip. We had the opportunity to purchase CDs and pieces of art at each place. Havana is tragically beautiful; poverty and sea air have destroyed most of the buildings. We enjoyed the National Hotel, the show at the Tropicana, a visit to Hemingway's house, lunch at a palador and a half day ride in a classic car, which drove us through many different neighborhoods in Havana. I wish that we had another full day to spend on our own in Havana-it may not be allowed by the government, not sure about that. Cienfuegos was next. Tour of the botanical gardens was much better than we expected because the guide was entertaining and informative. The city center is beautiful and we had a long delicious lunch at a palador. We stayed in port that night and took a bus to Trinidad the next day. The city wasn't much (although we had another great palador lunch), but it was so interesting to see the countryside between Cienfuegos and Trinidad and see how people live outside of the city. So much poverty. Our tour guides were all Cuban and really did a good job of explaining their society and culture. Santiago was the most modern city overall (which really isn't saying much). We did tour for half the day and then instead of going back to the ship we stayed ashore to wander around on our own and had lunch at a hotel rooftop restaurant. All restaurants and hotels are government owned. Compared to the palador (privately owned restaurant) the food was mediocre at best but the view was worth it. We had to change our money when we arrived in Havana and just before we got back on the ship for the last time in Santiago. We changed USD which has a 10% penalty on the front end of the exchange. No penalty for euros but my bank fees etc kind of made it a wash in terms of sheer convenience. It was very easy to do the exchanges. The ship's staff was very helpful. I think that they will able to further refine the experiences in Cuba because they are so responsive to the guests needs.

Inaugural Cruise to Cuba

Pearl Mist Cruise Review by mommser

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2017
  • Destination: Cuba
We were happy to be on a smaller ship. The rooms had great storage, the food was very good for the most part and the service was fantastic.

Because we were on the inaugural Cuban cruise for Pearl Seas, we had extra staff on board to ensure that things went smoothly. When things went wrong, they did their best to fix it. As an example, one group went to Trinidad for a half day. There was a Cuban tour guide but no staff member from the cruise (that person had to go to the hospital with a guest who had broken their hip).The streets were cobblestoned and in horrible disrepair. They spent about an hour at the model of the city, with each detail of the model being explained by a non-English speaker whose words were then translated by the tour guide. The tour guide never counted heads and one of the guests got lost and the group had to spend two hours on the bus until the guest was found. They didn't arrive back in Cienfuegos until 4:30 (instead of 12:30) and they missed the amazing concert that the rest of us experienced. Amazing response from staff! They listened to the guests' constructive criticism and as a result, those of us who went to Trinidad the next day were warned about the condition of the streets so that we could wear proper footwear. We only spent 10 minutes at the model of the city. A staff member came with us and counted heads at every stop. And best of all, they got the Cienfuegos musicians to play the concert again for those who had missed it.

As for shore excursions, we got to see 4 cities: Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. We did spend a lot of time on buses which were comfortable and air-conditioned. We were on a people-to-people tour, which is one of the allowed categories for US citizens to visit Cuba. We met artists and musicians in each city. The concert in Cienfuegos was a highlight of the trip. We had the opportunity to purchase CDs and pieces of art at each place. Havana is tragically beautiful; poverty and sea air have destroyed most of the buildings. We enjoyed the National Hotel, the show at the Tropicana, a visit to Hemingway's house, lunch at a palador and a half day ride in a classic car, which drove us through many different neighborhoods in Havana. I wish that we had another full day to spend on our own in Havana-it may not be allowed by the government, not sure about that.

Cienfuegos was next. Tour of the botanical gardens was much better than we expected because the guide was entertaining and informative. The city center is beautiful and we had a long delicious lunch at a palador. We stayed in port that night and took a bus to Trinidad the next day. The city wasn't much (although we had another great palador lunch), but it was so interesting to see the countryside between Cienfuegos and Trinidad and see how people live outside of the city. So much poverty. Our tour guides were all Cuban and really did a good job of explaining their society and culture.

Santiago was the most modern city overall (which really isn't saying much). We did tour for half the day and then instead of going back to the ship we stayed ashore to wander around on our own and had lunch at a hotel rooftop restaurant. All restaurants and hotels are government owned. Compared to the palador (privately owned restaurant) the food was mediocre at best but the view was worth it.

We had to change our money when we arrived in Havana and just before we got back on the ship for the last time in Santiago. We changed USD which has a 10% penalty on the front end of the exchange. No penalty for euros but my bank fees etc kind of made it a wash in terms of sheer convenience. It was very easy to do the exchanges. The ship's staff was very helpful. I think that they will able to further refine the experiences in Cuba because they are so responsive to the guests needs.
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