My friend and I chose this cruise after hearing glowing reviews from another mutual friend who went last year. He said this cruise was a "MUST!". It sounded interesting from his description so we decided to go for it. I'm so glad we did!
We booked through Air TransAt as a package, and would hesitate to go that route again as we found they wasted HOURS of our limited time in transit from airport to the ship. Because of that, we had way less time in Havana (our embarkation/debarkation point) than what we expected, or could have had. Other than that, embarkation onto the vessel itself was smooth. Celestyal did its part right.
The ship had pretty much all the amenities I required, and was kept neat and clean. The cabin was a reasonable size as long as you weren't planning on remaining in there (and who would want to do that anyhow?) It was well appointed to house your clothing with very reasonable hanging and drawer space, with in-cabin bathroom/shower, hair dryer. The extra electrical plug was 110 (bring a power bar for multiple outlets), and the hair dryer was plugged into what appeared to be a 220, so both were available. Room had a stuffed couch and chair, and small round table. No bedside tables, but lights over the beds. Mattresses were a bit hard for me, but bedding was otherwise very satisfactory. Housekeeping did a great job! Cleanliness was emphasized; staff sanitized surfaces daily; guests were encouraged everywhere to use hand gel.
The buffet food variety and quality aboard was fabulous, as was the food and service in the white linen restaurants.
The activity schedule was distributed to cabins the evening before. Programs were marvelous - lots to choose from - wine/rum/ouzo tasting, paper flower making, folding towels in a fancy way, learning how to cook Cuban cuisine, to learning salsa or cha-cha (or dancing in general in the lounges or disco), playing games, attending interesting lectures, listening to various musical ensembles, and seeing the fabulous shows (Cuban flavour) in the evening. The folks who were hired to engage people in activities, called 'animators', were amazing and really helped to mold our experience. Kudos to Martha, Vladimir, Sonny. I don't know how you can keep up such energy and positivity! There was no way we could be bored with you folks drawing us into activities! Also, entertainment boss Danny was incredible in keeping entertainment together. I don't know how many languages he speaks, but he could rattle off just about anything in at least five or six languages and was a well spoken, radiant and energetic host for the evening shows. Highlight for me was meeting the musicians and having had the opportunity to play with them! Thank you so much for your generous sharing: Juan, Lazaro, Nidia, Julio and Michel.
The tours offered during the day were also high quality. All tour guides were very good and knew their history and surroundings well. Our tour guide in Montego Bay, Candy, was incredibly funny and had us all splitting a side. What a great tour!
All staff aboard were courteous, helpful and very friendly. They all seemed to take a very genuine interest in your needs.
There were only some minor shortfalls. For example, some water taps aboard in shared bathrooms were difficult to get the water flowing. Our in-room one worked fine. Another is that we had absolutely no idea how much money to convert. And while the ship cannot really advise that, what they might suggest is that if you're busy on bus tours, there really aren't too many opportunities to spend - at least, that was my experience. I'd say don't convert much - unless you know you'll be spending a reasonable amount of time in Havana. There is really not enough time in ports after leaving Havana to spend much, unless you maybe choose to tour completely on your own. Also, there are not many places that will take Visa or Mastercard, either, so don't count on your credit card - yet. (But you CAN use Visa, Mastercard, or USD$ easily enough on board by setting up an account with your all-important ship's card that you receive when you board.) Since we had a full day in Montego Bay in Jamaica and about 6 hours of free time, it was actually easier to get out and spend some USD$. I'm not a high roller. I took $100 USD and found that plenty, and converted $150 CDN to CUCs, which was more than enough for my needs - just little gifts and a drink out in a bar in Havana during free time.
I'm a young retiree and traveled without children so I can't comment for parents, except that I only saw a couple of kids on board.
I'd very highly recommend this cruise to anyone. For me, it was fun filled, educational, vibrantly cultural, and has given me many 'once-in-a-lifetime' memories.
Not large, but functional and well-appointed (not extravagant), and just fine for our needs. It met with my own personal expectations. Besides, we didn't need to spend a lot of time in it - we were out enjoying ourselves! ;-) It was kept very clean by housekeeping. Mattresses were a tad firm. Nice to have an in-room safe for small, important things. We were happy with it.