My wife and I have been on numerous cruises (20+) throughout the world on various cruise lines over the years. This was our third cruise with Oceania; the previous cruises were the northeastern seaboard and Bermuda, and India, the Middle East and Europe . The 9-day Cuban Charisma Cruise started in Miami on September 24, 2018. We drove down from our home in The Villages through southwestern Florida and the Everglades to Miami.
Boarding the ship was very easy. Our room was at the front of the ship on deck 6, room 6001. This was a good location because we were near the areas of the ship we used the most. Most points of interest are on 5 (dining room at the rear) and the Sirena Lounge at the front. Deck 9 has the computer room, card room and spa. The ship was a few years old and was very nice; very clean. The staff was great and the food was excellent. Coffee, including specialty coffees, was available 24/7 on Deck 10 front and also, during select hours on Deck 5 rear.
The ship provided complimentary water and soft drinks. The Program Director provided information about tours and basically everything you needed to know on a timely basis. The ship had a cast of great entertainers on board and also a great band. They were very professional and excellent musicians. The cruise line provided a speaker, Sandy Cares, who covered a wide range of interesting topics on Cuba and also, bananas.
The passengers and the crew were all very nice people from all walks of life. The people on the ship made the cruise interesting and enjoyable. The only real negative was the price of alcoholic beverages. The prices are ridiculous for what you get.
We had a lot of fun playing games and competitions to earn Big O points. We earned almost 200 points which were cashed in on the last full day for Oceania merchandise.
The visited Ports of Call follow.
KEY WEST – Living in Florida, we have been to Key West many times. It's a fun little city. We took the President Truman's Key West tour. Truman's Key West home was something we had not seen before. It was very interesting and worth the time ... a nice history lesson. We also spent time at a free museum, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; interesting place. More importantly, we enjoyed a frozen chocolate covered Key Lime pie on a stick prior to walking back to the ship. .
HAVANA – We took the Old Colonial Havana tour; this was a walking tour that included, to our surprise, a bus tour too. This tour lasted almost two hours longer than scheduled which caused us to miss our next tour. But, that was all right, by then, we really didn't need another tour of Havana. Our guide was a well educated engineer who spoke good English and was very pro Cuba. The walking tour was easy and slow. The bus tour covered much of the city missed on the walking tour including a “5-Star” hotel stop to buy cigars, rum and coffee. We also stopped at a large market near the ship in case you needed to buy more Cuban stuff.
We also took the Legendary Tropicana Cabaret tour. This is worth the trip to Havana! The show was fantastic. It started around 9:30 pm and lasted until about 11:15. It was the highlight of Havana. We had very good seats to watch the over 100 performers. It included a complimentary cigar, peanuts, a glass of Champagne and a bottle of rum to share among four people. The rum wasn't the best rum we tasted in Cuba (personal opinion).
CIENFUEGOS – On the first day in port, we took the Colonial Trinidad tour. The bus ride to Trinidad was the highlight of the trip. We passed many horse pulled wagons, fields of sugar cane, bananas and various fruits and vegetables. Trinidad is an old city that shows its age. We stopped at La Canchanchara to enjoy a cocktail made from rum, sugar and limes and listened to a local band under a cooling fan. We also stopped at pottery shops located behind a few homes. Lunch at a local hotel was a large buffet including a beer. The lunch was good. This was a nice tour.
On the second day, we took the Cienfuegos Dolphins show. This was a bus trip that included a 40-minute dolphin show with many locals in attendance and also, a great flute concert by 10 local young women. This was also a nice tour.
SANTIAGO DE CUBA – On the first day in Santiago, we took the Colonial Santiago tour. This was a tour that included a great Spanish fort on the coast, San Juan Hill and the city's main square. Great photo opportunities. This was really the first time we encountered beggars. They were a bit of a problem. We also learned a lot about the history of Cuba and the Triumph of the Revolution. The history of the battle at San Juan Hill and the Spanish Cuban American War was an interesting portion of the tour.
We attended the Tropicana Santiago Show. This was very different from the Havana show. It was more African dancing in nature but include one bottle of rum per person, cheese, meats and olives to munch on during the show. The Havana show was much better but the rum in Santiago was better than in Havana. The Havana show was more Las Vegas like while the Santiago show was more Cuban history with a little pop. The music was very, very loud …. too loud.
On the second day, we took the Birthplace of the Revolution tour. This tour duplicated the prior days tour at times, but that was fine. It was very informative about the Revolution … the Triumph of the Revolution, as the locals would say it. One of the highlights of the tour was visiting the Santa Ifigenia cemetery. The cemetery includes the body of Fidel Castro and also, the hero of the country, Jose Marti. You will hear about Jose Marti throughout your time in Cuba. The cemetery was the only place in Cuba that was is perfect physical condition. Don't miss the changing of the guard every 30 minutes.
TWO DAYS AT SEA – The cruise included two days a sea … a great time to relax and earn Big O points to cash in for Oceania merchandise.
All of our tour guides were very good. They all spoke English well and were very approachable.
On this cruise, you will learn a lot about Cuba, their free healthcare, free education, guaranteed jobs, low state wages … do your own research. You will see a lot of horse transportation, motor bikes, old American cars, clean streets (at least where you are taken), lots of people just sitting around, structures in need of paint, pot holes, well educated tour guides and generally, very friendly people. You will hear, at least while on the ship, a lot about OFAC. While in Cuba, all you need is US dollars; most stores will take them. The official story is that you will need to convert them into CUCs (Cuban Convertible Peso). The cost is around 85 to 90 CUCs per $100. They are suppose to be a 1 and 1 conversion but if you are from the US, they change a 10% to 15% fee. The CUCs are only for tourists, the locals use Pesos (around 25 Pesos per CUC). The locals like CUCs and US dollars.
Cuba is a reflection of what it was, and what it might be in the future.
Overall, the cruise was great. You will see many cannons buried in the clean streets, many old American cars and you will meet many very nice people on the ship and also, tour guides and locals. Oceania really took good care of us; they were always there to make sure everything was taken care of during the trip. They really seemed to care. A great trip. If they only reduced the price of alcoholic drinks.
The cabin was at the front of the ship. This was an interesting location in that we could watch the crew dock the ship, throw out the lines etc. We were the only people out there without a hard hat. While sailing, it was a bit windy.