I have wanted to go to Cuba my whole life, but it has been closed most of that time. I thought that my traveling days were over, but when my son gave me a Carnival gift card, I booked the first cruise to Cuba I could get. I was NOT disappointed! It was the last cruise for the Paradise before going into drydock for upgrades and improvements. I loved the ship even before the improvements. We had an oceanview cabin on the Main deck. There was some detouring for us because of ongoing construction, but it was not a problem for us except for some trouble at times finding a working elevator.
The dining was excellent. We chose the anytime option because we booked two long excursions and our timeline was uncertain. We were glad that we chose that option, although one night we waited quite a while for seating. (That was okay with us though because we had no plans for that evening.) Everything we ordered was very good. I especially enjoyed the frog's legs appetizer, stuffed pork chop, and roast duckling. I had a great omelet at the breakfast bar on the Lido deck, and I especially appreciated the full breakfast that was available for us on the day of disembarking. (On other cruises, we just got rolls and coffee.)
The entertainment was a pleasant surprise. We don't cruise for the entertainment, but this ship had a terrific Latin band that played on the Lido deck and in the Leonardo lounge at night. We also took in the evening show Amor Cubano, which was outstanding! This cruise provided a guest lecturer, Heidi, on Cuba and its sights and customs. She was terrific, giving us many valuable insights on what we would be seeing and doing. I heard one person at one of the lectures say that he could listen to her all day!
All that being said, there were a few snags that were just the result of going to Cuba. Lining up for our excursions and finding our right group was chaotic! Because of the requirements for travel to Cuba, 2000 people were being herded into excursion groups. My husband and I are senior citizens and we were tired before the excursions even began! And the excursions themselves are not for the faint of heart! We chose the ones we thought had moderate activity, but I don't think there is such a thing in Havana, Cuba. Our first excursion was a bus tour of Havana and a performance of the Compas Dancers. The guide spoke excellent English and was very informative. The dance performance was excellent, but down a huge flight of stairs with no handrails! Our second day we did the walking tour of Old Havana. Again, an excellent guide, but he moved pretty quickly, so it was a challenge keeping up with our group. This tour included a trip to a community center and museum and a performance at the center of a senior citizens group. They were so welcoming and enthusiastic, I wished I could bring them all home with me.Both tours took us by bus up to the fort where we had a panoramic few of Havana with our ship in the port. But one trip was at dusk and the other was mid-morning, so I did not feel that anything was repeated because it looked different each day! Both shore excursions were definitely worth the money!
The only real snag for us came on the morning shore excursion. Our tour started so early that we requested the earliest room service we could get. We waited as long as we could, but finally had to meet our tour group. My husband grabbed 2 cups of yogurt as we left which they were just putting out on the Lido deck, but our room service never got to us in time. I think the ship's dining crew were just overwhelmed that day! But it was a long time until lunch!
Both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and were so glad we went in February. The weather was beautiful then, but we know we would fry in Cuba in July! (We also do not cruise in hurricane season.) We will probably not be able to go again, because it is a strenuous trip for seniors. Cuba has none of the modern conveniences that we take for granted (elevators, handrails, air-conditioning, clearly marked fire exits, etc.) and although I would love to see some other places in addition to seeing more of Havana, I realize that this is most likely my last shot at it. I feel very blessed to have finally gotten there.