Pearl Mist Cruise Review by AnneBonny1800
- Sail Date: April 2017
- Destination: Cuba
After being picked up at our hotel at 10:30 am and taken to the ship embarkation was quick and efficient and we were on our way by 1:00 pm.
Dining is open seating with multiple choices at each meal, and wine & beer are included at lunch & dinner. Given that everything that we were to eat or drink for 11 days (10 nights) had to be on board before we departed, the food was very good, and it was nice to be able to eat a fresh salad even on the last day. Room service was an option for breakfast. The complementary happy hour before dinner was sometimes outdoors on the top deck in nice weather, and the bar remained open after dinner until about 9:30 pm. Fresh cookies were always available in the morning, and afternoon tea was at 3:30 pm. Dining room and cabin service was excellent.
Pearl Mist is a great ship for people who are more interested in learning about their destination and conversation than fancy evening entertainment. We had several adult children traveling with a parent or relative, and it is a good ship for single travelers. Daily activities while at sea included excellent lectures from our two on board lecturers (Ted & Sylvia) about Cuba and the places we were to see. There was also time for a trivia game or two and some after dinner dancing to the music from two talented musicians (Stevie & Dustie).
Cuba is a big island to circumnavigate. It is the largest in the Caribbean. Port to port from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale is 1712 nautical miles, and while hard to believe, we had ONLY 3 full days at sea. On the other days we were either in port for a full or partial day. Cuban banks were available in every port to take care of exchanging money from US dollars into CUCs, the standard Cuban currency.
There are other cruise lines that go into the three major accessible ports – Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos/Trinidad, and Havana, but only the Pearl Mist spends more than a half day in all of them. I think at this time Pearl Seas Cruises has the only ship coming from the United States. Two fun nightclub options were available in Santiago de Cuba, and the late evening Tropicana Cabaret outside Havana in a magnificent wooded setting was excellent. As an extra treat we got an additional afternoon and evening in Havana as the ship that was scheduled to take our dock space wasn’t going to use it.
The only land tour company is run by the government. The guides I experienced were all good and some excellent and were informative interesting people. The “made in China” buses were new with AC and a restroom. What restoration that has been done in Cuba is beautiful, but that I saw only one gas station and not a single grocery store the entire time should tell you how far in the past the country still is. We did get to visit a “ration” store. Yes, Cubans have ration books for the very basic needs. While Cubans have free health care and education, they don’t make enough money in government jobs to survive so “underground” private enterprises are everywhere and rely on “tips”. These enterprises are mostly tolerated by the government. On our excursions we tipped constantly whenever appropriate in CUCs, knowing it would make a difference.
For every two to three vintage cars from the 50s that I saw on the road, there was some sort of “other” vehicle such as a horse drawn buggy, bike taxi cabs, 3-wheeled bright yellow Coco taxis, old trucks, double section long buses, tour buses and an occasional newer car. Cuba has opened up some under Raul Castro but still has a long road ahead. Our 4 cruise directors (Kevin, Kristen, Coryn & Kathleen) did an outstanding job of making sure the land touring process was very smooth. I was not disappointed even though we saw what the “government” wanted us to see. Wonderful musical performances of locals groups were included in our daytime shore excursions. The architecture is magnificent, but most of it is in ruin and falling apart. I only hope Cuban leadership restores not replaces those wonderful historical buildings.
The officers were all excellent and did amazing coordination with the Cuban officials at each port by expertly handling all the port logistics in the background. All our disembarkations and embarkations at each port were easy. Only Havana had a building that looked like a cruise terminal. The terminals in both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos were small free standing buildings several hundred yards or more from the ship. I was fortunate to dine with our Captain, George Ciortan, and after discovering his sea credentials knew that I was in very capable hands. It was interesting to hear that after being a Captain on a ship that carried thousands of passengers how much he enjoyed being the captain on a much smaller ship, the Pearl Mist, and how nice it was to have the “bridge” on the third deck rather than on deck 12 or higher. Akin, our Hotel Manager and Boro, our Food & Beverage manager were attentive and on point 100% of the time, I had suggested to Customer Service at Pearl Seas Cruises about a week before I left a particular bottle of wine that I thought could be the “signature” wine for Pearl Seas due to its name and presentation and was assured they would look into it. Boro let me know they couldn’t get it in time to have it on board, but to my delight three other bottles of wine from the same vineyard were in my cabin for me when I boarded in Ft. Lauderdale. One by one we enjoyed the wine at dinner. Akin, recognizing I was traveling as a single offered me a wonderful cabin upgrade, our second day of the cruise.
Our disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was easy and complementary transportation back to the hotel to get our car was efficient with the only delay being that US Immigration had only two lines open for the almost 200 of us. The few people with a Global Entry Pass got through more quickly.
Now that I am home I have been listening to Concerto Sur, Orquesta de Camara de Cienfuegos, the Chamber Music group of 8 musicians we were fortunate to hear. I’m so glad I bought the CD, as the classical sound has a definite Cuban edge to it which I love. Thankfully I purchased all the CDs of all the musical groups we heard.
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