We were planning on an extended stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica and this cruise was offered as a gift to break-up that stay. We always enjoy staying there and Doctors' Cave Beach in particular. The beach is an easy walk to Margaritaville but you pass a lot of shops with aggressive sales people. If you stay for several days, they recognize you and are very respectful.
The embarkation was remarkable. we were one of two couples in the terminal for registration which went quickly after we paid the Jamaican government $35 each because we stayed in the country prior to boarding the ship. It was made quicker because we did not register our credit card until we were on the ship. No wait there either.
At 25,000 tons it is the smallest ship we have sailed. We have always liked the 80,000 to 110,000 ton ships and we were delighted that we were not forced to sacrifice anything cruising this ship. The tiny pool was drained most of the week because of rough waters. If the pool was tiny the casino was miniscule, six slot machines. Everything else was up to par with any ship.
Lots of reviews have talked about how well kept the old ship is. We were in cabin 7009, a junior suite.The balcony was a recent addition and turned an oceanview into a suite. My wife was so pleased with it that she refused to let me pay the small upgrade fee for a full suite. If you can make the same deal, take it. The shower was great and the bath roomy, for a ship.
With less than 240 passengers, the ship was at about one third capacity. The official passenger capacity is 1,200 but that puts a body in every bed, bunk and sofa-sleeper. Only one of the two MDRs was open and on lido only one of two serving lines was open. The food was pretty clearly a real effort by some hard working chefs to make the best of a limited budget. The wait staff tried hard to sell the beef and seafood upgrades.
The nightly shows were fantastic and all of the lounge acts were great. The shows used performers from all over the ship to put on Cuban themed shows with Cuban born performers. No language barrier. Trivia, games,crafts, dance lessons were all there with photogs everywhere. Captains' party was short and short.
Service here was the best ever, probably because they were staffed for almost three times the guests. My wifes' native language is Russian so she was delighted that nearly half of the staff spoke Russian. Most spoke several languages and wore ID badges with flags of nations which indicated their proficiency. All were very good English speakers.
Since we are US citizens we did not technically purchase a cruise but we paid to participate in an educational "People-to-People program". The excursions were manditory and included in the price, along with all tips and a drink package. The result was a cruise a little more pricey that we generally buget for a week.
To everyone who wants to rush to Cuba before it turns into just another tourist trap ... too late. The Tropicana night club show was remarkable, but it rained in middle of the outdoor performance and our guide remarked that it was cut short as a result. Every bus was made in China and modern, clean and comforable. Every excursion included a shopping stop with many other things obviously made in China. There were no country of origin labels so no evidence they were manufactured in Cuba but lots of evidence that the vendor did not "carve this myself from the best woods".
All that said, this was probably the best way to see Cuba under the newest rules . A day in Santiago, overnight in Havana and a day in Cienfuegos. Lectures on the ship were entertaining. This ship rotates to Greece in March and I don't think a return is certain.
A lot of things had to line-up for us to take this cruise and I don't think I would do it again. We did not talk with many of our fellow passengers to get their opinion but we never encountered an informal gripe session.
Other reviewers said get a port side balcony. Great advice. It made sail in perfect for each port. The cabin was fine for two for a week.