We just returned yesterday, having flown in to Havana and out of Havana (from Miami from/to Dallas). Rather than go in to Montego Bay (not a huge fan of Jamaica, and have been there a few times) and get on the ship, I wanted to go the Havana route. We got in 2 days early to really see Havana and get a feel for the city. We wanted a smaller ship and one that hit more than just Havana for a day.
It was definitely worthwhile and we are very happy we did it. Being from the U.S., we were part of the people-to-people program, which meant that we had different tours (don’t know why) and a couple of different presentations on the ship. The ship stays 2 days in Havana, 1 day at sea going counterclockwise around to the central city of Cienfuegos, then down to Jamaica, then back up to Cuba to hit Santiago, then another day at sea to keep on the way to Havana. We had tours that were part of the cost—in Cienfuegos, in Havana, in Santiago. The buses were really nice and the tour guides were perfect—Cubanacan tour company. English was great, they answered our questions, and did not shy away form tough questions about poverty, the government, etc.
It was nice having the drinks as part of the package. There really isn't much of a reason to upgrade to the gold package (the standard is the blue package). The wine was fine, not great. The gold package has some better wines, some better scotch (although my husband the scotch-drinker said that he did not think that Glenfiddich was a premium scotch--it is on the gold package). The ship has a buffet eating area, the Leda, as well as the Amalthia formal dining room. There is also the Olympus dining room, which was not open. There was a variety of food possibilities in the buffet, as well as the dining room. The food was good, not exceptionally wonderful. This did not bother my husband and me since we went on this trip to learn about Cuba, not eating all day.
Cienfuegos was interesting, although not that much to see. Still……a nice little tour and time to just sit in the square and soak things in. Better was Santiago………the battle of San Juan Hill, the wonderful Spanish fort/castle that guards the bay there, etc.
The rooms on the ship were fine, rather similar to ones we have been on with RC, Celebrity, Princess. The turn on/off on the shower took some figuring out. Nice, small balconies. We were on the port side, and so we faced land all of the time..…..great location. Our cabin 7028 was way at the back of the ship, right in the best area to quickly get down to the restaurants, pool, lounges, etc . Cabins 7029 and 7030 would be great also, although 7030 would be the best because its balcony was the biggest (because of the slope on the back of the ship).
Amazingly enough, we had entertainment every night, except for the 1st night (lots of people went to the Tropicana cabaret). The band, the singers, and the dancers were all Cuban-----really good, every night a different 1 hour special—Afro-Cuban music/dances, fiesta, a story about the revolution (that one was a bit of a stretch, though), etc. And the musician/singer duo called Duo Jaleo in the Eros Lounge every night was really good.
I did all of the dance lessons (salsa, meringue, mambo, bachata, cha cha) as well as Zumba. Martha, the main instructor, was a blast. Charming, funny, good instructor. Her classes with Cuban music were great. My husband even got in on a couple of the dance classes. All sorts of other 1 hour presentations were going on—documentaries about Cuba, everything about Cuban music and instruments, everything about cigars, how to make Cuban dishes, Cuban drink making, etc. Many of them were put together by our resident Havana-born expert, Dr. Jorge Arocha. I did not go to bingo, to making animals with towels, or anything like that. During those times when there was nothing I wanted to go to, I just hung out with my book reading in a lounge or on the deck, or by the pool.
The crew was a head above any other cruise line in being nice and welcoming. Absolutely went out of their way to be helpful as well as just talking about their daily activities.
Remember that this ship is small, made for around 1000 people only (although there were probably around 250-350 on it during our stay. I like the size of the ship better than the huge ships with 3000 people and up. The pool is small, but fine for me. Of course, there are some pluses on a big ship—more choices of activities at any hour of the day, a multitude of various kinds of bars, and food entities. If you are the kind of person that needs to have 6 different options of entertainment at any given hour, this is not the ship for you. And also realize that it is an older boat, built in the early 90s. And the ages of the passengers varied from mid-twenties up to eighties, most most being in the 50-60 age area.
If anyone is concerned about being from the U.S., I can tell you this was a non-issue. Actually, I think that any danger you hear about are hyped to scare people. Our visas were not a problem getting in/out of the country, and when we went through customs in Miami, they could have cared less about the fact we came form Cuba. Not even a question about opening up a suitcase to look inside. A total nothing. We had no crime perpetrated on us, no dangers we faced, no sonic booms, or anything. Just really nice people who like Americans, and other tourists.
I'd travel on this ship again, probably more likely in Greece. If I go to Cuba again, it would be a land tour.
Our cabin 7028 was way at the back of the ship, right in the best area to quickly get down to the restaurants, pool, lounges, etc . REALLY quiet. And 20 steps got us to the back sundeck where almost nobody ever was--chairs, lots of sun as well as shade. It was my own almost-private patio. Had enough space for our stuff. The little balcony was very nice to have.
Loved Fusterlandia, just walking around. A little enclave of houses with mosaics plastered all over. Also saw the revolutionary museum, but ran out of time. Our guide knew her areas of town, gave us some of the cultural and ethnic background of the city.View All 251 City Tour Reviews
Nice little town, great walking tour with Halbert. He was a scream, keeping us laughing. Not that much to see, but some pretty buildings. Went to a little neighborhood with arts, dancing, etc.
Sorry, not a big fan of Jamaica. We actually stayed on the ship that day.