We found a cruise on Celestyal Cruises advertised for a low price, so we decided to go to Cuba. Because of the price we did not expect much, but we were very pleasantly surprised. I’ve cruised all the mid-range cruise lines and a few of the higher end cruise lines; Celestyal Cruises ranks among the best of the mid-ranged cruise lines. The staff was beyond wonderful. There were plenty of things to do during the days at sea, including craft classes, cooking classes, video game competitions, trivia contests, dance classes, and bartending classes. The ship was very clean and well maintained. The rooms were typical of all cruise ships, and very clean. The food at the dining room was great. There were five to six entrees offered each night (including a vegetarian option) and the options changed each night. We all gained weight during the trip. The evening entertainment was the best that I’ve seen on any ship. Probably because of our destination, there weren’t many people under 21 on the ship. Again, because of our destination the people on the ship are from all over the world. This ship was smaller than most I’ve been on and because of this there isn’t the fanfare that you see on a cruise line like Carnival. Because the ship is smaller there is more personal attention. My only complaint was with the People 2 People tour portion of the trip. I expected propaganda and I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised to see that capitalism is alive and well and living in Cuba. We attended the orientation meeting on the ship and we were told that the best cigars and rum were to be found in Santiago de Cuba (translation- the biggest kickback was paid to the tour guides in Santiago de Cuba). They ended up taking us to a dive bar and tried to convince us that this was a government run cigar store. All of the shops that we were taken to by the tour guides were overpriced and with a limited selection of goods. The “experts” hired by People 2 People were very long winded and boring. People were actually getting up and walking out of a lecture and this was during a rum tasting lecture where they were giving away free samples. If we were in a port for 6 hours, People 2 People managed to use up all of our time. The tours would start at 9:00 and end at 2:30 and they wouldn’t even stop for lunch or a snack. The same trip through a private tour company is more expensive, but seemed to be worth it. These people were shown better places while at port, were allowed time to shop, and were actually fed lunch. Luckily, we learned to ignore Dr. Jorge and the other People 2 People employees and we found that the best place to buy souvenirs was at San Jose market, a 15 minute walk from the pier in Havana, and the best place to buy cigars was at Calle Mercaderes, no. 102, about 2 blocks from the pier in Havana. Stop for churros on the way to buying cigars. There’s a man making them on the street corner. He’s hard to miss- look for the 20 people standing in line. The best churros I’ve ever had. You can buy rum anywhere; the prices aren’t that different. You just need to decide how far and for how long you want to carry the rum around with you. I finally bought it on the ship. It was $1 more per bottle, but I didn’t have to carry three bottles of rum through Havana. It seemed worth the extra cost. The most interesting places we saw in Cuba we found on our own. We paid 5 cuc for a day pass on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. This took us to the tourist areas, but also through neighborhoods. You can catch the bus right outside the pier in Havana. All in all, this was an awesome trip. So glad that I went.
Response from TimL, Passenger Services @Celestyal Cruises