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I chose this cruise because I wanted to visit multiple places in Cuba. My parents took this cruise in March, and loved it. It was my first cruise, so between that and the newness of the Cuba experience, I was not sure what to expect. It was amazing. Let me start out addressing critiques I've seen elsewhere -- yes, it's an older ship and it's small. If you're looking for a Quantum of the Seas type experience, this is not the place to look for it. The whole point of this cruise (at least for American travelers) is the educational experience -- the people to people itinerary for seeing Cuba. This was my first cruise, and I found the size of the ship perfect. It's easy to find your way around, and there are lovely back decks to hang out on as well as a sun deck on the top floor. It is IMPECCABLY clean -- cleaning staff are at work all the time, and the cabin crew serviced my cabin at least twice a day. I had problems with my toilet at checkin and it was fixed within a very short time. We only had about 200-odd people on our cruise between Montego Bay and Havana -- I would guess that went up to 300 or so when people embarked in Havana. (By the way, don't embark in Havana. You'll miss one of the two days the ship docks in Havana, plus, I don't think Montego Bay is all that great. Embark in Montego Bay, and be sure to book Club Mobay for your trip home. After all, you're booking a Cuba cruise, get the whole Cuba experience!) I think the low numbers were partly due to time of year but we were also told that numbers of travelers on this trip was lower this year -- due to the election? Due to terrorism? Whatever the reason, it's a good/bad situation. Good because those of us on the cruise got so much personal attention!!!! I felt bad for the many staff who were just standing around waiting to be helpful -- I am sure it was not fun for them. But they were unfailingly gracious and attentive. It felt like we had our own private cruise! (Shout out to Alina, Zdanek, and Zander!) Lots of space, lots of comfort. A lot of people I talked to at home were surprised Cuba travel is still allowed -- it is! This trip is totally legal, and I wish more Americans would take it. The professor (Dr. Jorge Arocha) who does the lectures is an energetic, smart speaker. I am a college professor, and I really admired his pedagogy and how he framed Cuban history and culture. He emphasized that the questions we ask are more important than the answers -- so true! The food is pretty good: not great, but pretty good and there is always a LOT of it. I mostly ate at the buffet which has a nice outside deck. The sit-down restaurant is also quite nice. There are lots of activities if you want, but also time to just chill (no one is required to attend the lectures or Cuba activities on board, but I highly recommend you do). The at sea days are perfectly times between the three stops: Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos. If you are American, don't worry about changing money to Euros or Canadian-- you can very easily change USD at every port right off the ship. Even though there is a 10% levy (87 cents to one CUC) I think by the time you exchange your money into Canadian/Euros and pay fees etc there it's not worth it. The excursions were great -- excellent guides and destinations. The first night in Havana, I purchased the extra excursion to the Tropicana from the ship. I think it was a little overpriced, but it was really fun. My point is: don't be afraid to find an excursion of your own for that first night in Havana if there is something that interests you differently. You also will have several hours to yourself in Havana the second day, which is great! Kids will not find this cruise very exciting: there were no kids on my ship (which makes it nice for adults) and I suspect they would not find the historical stuff interesting unless their interests really tended that way and they were teenagers. Age range of passengers: 40+; lots of retirees. I am 50 and made friends with some lovely people my age on the ship. Also: I am not a cruise entertainment kind of person: but the entertainment here completely won me over. The evening shows are utterly charming and so well done by the company! What else...had a facial that was great (yay Rose!) and not really too badly priced for the setting. There is a small but nice fitness center and steam/sauna. I had to pay an 80% upcharge because I was traveling alone. Even so, I think this cruise was an incredible value. And for people sharing a cabin, even more so. I would do this trip again in a minute.

A fantastic Cuba experience on a wonderful ship!

Celestyal Crystal Cruise Review by annfoxdavidson

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2017
  • Destination: Cuba
I chose this cruise because I wanted to visit multiple places in Cuba. My parents took this cruise in March, and loved it. It was my first cruise, so between that and the newness of the Cuba experience, I was not sure what to expect.

It was amazing. Let me start out addressing critiques I've seen elsewhere -- yes, it's an older ship and it's small. If you're looking for a Quantum of the Seas type experience, this is not the place to look for it. The whole point of this cruise (at least for American travelers) is the educational experience -- the people to people itinerary for seeing Cuba. This was my first cruise, and I found the size of the ship perfect. It's easy to find your way around, and there are lovely back decks to hang out on as well as a sun deck on the top floor. It is IMPECCABLY clean -- cleaning staff are at work all the time, and the cabin crew serviced my cabin at least twice a day. I had problems with my toilet at checkin and it was fixed within a very short time.

We only had about 200-odd people on our cruise between Montego Bay and Havana -- I would guess that went up to 300 or so when people embarked in Havana. (By the way, don't embark in Havana. You'll miss one of the two days the ship docks in Havana, plus, I don't think Montego Bay is all that great. Embark in Montego Bay, and be sure to book Club Mobay for your trip home. After all, you're booking a Cuba cruise, get the whole Cuba experience!) I think the low numbers were partly due to time of year but we were also told that numbers of travelers on this trip was lower this year -- due to the election? Due to terrorism? Whatever the reason, it's a good/bad situation. Good because those of us on the cruise got so much personal attention!!!! I felt bad for the many staff who were just standing around waiting to be helpful -- I am sure it was not fun for them. But they were unfailingly gracious and attentive. It felt like we had our own private cruise! (Shout out to Alina, Zdanek, and Zander!) Lots of space, lots of comfort. A lot of people I talked to at home were surprised Cuba travel is still allowed -- it is! This trip is totally legal, and I wish more Americans would take it. The professor (Dr. Jorge Arocha) who does the lectures is an energetic, smart speaker. I am a college professor, and I really admired his pedagogy and how he framed Cuban history and culture. He emphasized that the questions we ask are more important than the answers -- so true!

The food is pretty good: not great, but pretty good and there is always a LOT of it. I mostly ate at the buffet which has a nice outside deck. The sit-down restaurant is also quite nice.

There are lots of activities if you want, but also time to just chill (no one is required to attend the lectures or Cuba activities on board, but I highly recommend you do). The at sea days are perfectly times between the three stops: Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos. If you are American, don't worry about changing money to Euros or Canadian-- you can very easily change USD at every port right off the ship. Even though there is a 10% levy (87 cents to one CUC) I think by the time you exchange your money into Canadian/Euros and pay fees etc there it's not worth it. The excursions were great -- excellent guides and destinations. The first night in Havana, I purchased the extra excursion to the Tropicana from the ship. I think it was a little overpriced, but it was really fun. My point is: don't be afraid to find an excursion of your own for that first night in Havana if there is something that interests you differently. You also will have several hours to yourself in Havana the second day, which is great!

Kids will not find this cruise very exciting: there were no kids on my ship (which makes it nice for adults) and I suspect they would not find the historical stuff interesting unless their interests really tended that way and they were teenagers. Age range of passengers: 40+; lots of retirees. I am 50 and made friends with some lovely people my age on the ship.

Also: I am not a cruise entertainment kind of person: but the entertainment here completely won me over. The evening shows are utterly charming and so well done by the company!

What else...had a facial that was great (yay Rose!) and not really too badly priced for the setting. There is a small but nice fitness center and steam/sauna.

I had to pay an 80% upcharge because I was traveling alone. Even so, I think this cruise was an incredible value. And for people sharing a cabin, even more so. I would do this trip again in a minute.
Celestyal Cruises 1, Passenger Services @Celestyal Cruises has responded
Thank you for sharing your experience on board the Crystal with us and for choosing to experience the wonders of Cuba with Celestyal Cruises. Your compliments will be conveyed to the Master and crew. It will be our pleasure to welcome you once again on one of our future cruises.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of The Independent Traveler, Inc.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 4018
I had a cabin with a window on a lower deck (but still above water line), and was very happy with it. We ran into some choppy seas and my cabin felt more stable than the upper decks (makes sense). I was on the port side, which was especially terrific for views coming into the harbors of Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. Many of my friends upgraded when they got on the ship to even nicer cabins -- so when you embark, see what's available if this interests you!

Plenty of room for one in this cabin. Two should also be relatively comfy depending on how much you need to spread out -- if you do, upgrade, as there's not a ton of counter space. But there's a nice chair and couch and little table. TV, only gets CNN and AMC and some other random Celestyal channels. But then, you're not there to watch TV. (-: