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Summary This Cuba “experience” is marred by deceptive advertising, bait-and-switch promises and on-ship excuses. Look at Oceania cruises for alternative Cuba cruises recommended by people who have gone on both. The bottom line is that while shipboard accommodations are excellent, this small ship is at the mercy of the Cuban government, which favors larger ships in its limited ports. You don’t learn about the actual cruise itinerary until it’s too late to cancel. Report Card (see below for detail) Time in Port/Excursions D- Embarkation / Debarkation process C Staterooms A Staff A Food B+ Amenities A to C- Overall D Time in Port/Excursions The good news is that all excursions are included at no charge. The bad news is that many never happened: Hemingway’s house, the visit to Cojimar, the Botanical Gardens and the waterfalls of El Nicho were nixed. The Cuban government was blamed for limiting time in port. In most ports there are only one or two docks and Cuban guides informed us that the larger cruise lines were favored and given precedence. The disappointment was palpable as item after item was take off the itinerary… AFTER the cruise began. In at least one case (the Botanical Gardens at Cienfuegos) we were told that the Gardens were closed because the local personnel had the day off as a holiday. However, another cruise ship was in port and we saw at least four of their tour buses with “Botanical Gardens” in their windows. The three scheduled days completely at sea became a total of five, with several half days. Bear in mind that Pearl Mist has been traveling to Cuba for two years and is fully aware of Cuban government policies. If there are disclaimers about itinerary changes on their website, I can’t find them. This tactic is nothing short of deceptive. Embarkation / Debarkation Poor communication and bad execution caused significant disruption in boarding the ship. Late arrival of the previous cruise caused long delays sitting in hotel lobbies waiting for pickup. One bus got lost on the way to the port. The scheduled dinner on board became “call and order a hamburger or sandwich brought to your room.” Not an auspicious beginning. That said the debarkation was fairly smooth. Staterooms The staterooms were a pleasant surprise: spacious, quiet, clean and comfortable. We were able to move completely out of our suitcases and store them under the bed. The bathroom is large and well-appointed. Each room has a nice balcony. While we were quite happy with our third-deck forward cabin, we heard from other passengers that the handicap-accessible cabins and single cabins were very cramped. Passengers in the rear of the ship complained of loud engine noise. Staff Clearly, the top marks for the cruise go to the cabin stewards and food servers. They were unfailingly responsive and cheerful—no request was turned down. The lecturers were outstanding and the Cruise Directors very helpful, although they took the brunt of the deceptive practices on and off the ship. Food We enjoyed all the food. Breakfast was delicious with a fruit/pastry bar and order-from-the-menu hot items which included all sorts of meats, eggs, waffles, pancakes and daily specials. The coffee was good. Lunch and dinner offered 2-3 appetizers, 4 entrees and 3 desserts. Half portions and double entrees were cheerfully available (one table ordered double lobster tails all around). Some people complained about the lack of selection compared to larger cruise ships. I’m a bit choosy and I felt the food was well-prepared with rare beef (if ordered) and perfectly cooked seafood. By the way, a seafood and a vegetarian selection was available at every meal. The only flaw that I could find is that the seasoning leaned a bit toward the bland, due (I’m guessing) to the preferences of most of the older passenger list. Amenities Shipboard amenities were a mixed bag. On the positive, all excursions were included in the price, there were virtually unlimited, quality liquor, decent wine and decent beer. Free room service for any meal was offered and your laundry was done free of charge. On the negative, the few exercise machines are in poor repair and placed in a virtually unusable location. There is no shipboard store. Entertainment was limited to a good duo, but got old quickly with 50s night, 60s night, 70s/80s night… you get the picture. The TV didn’t work half of the time and Internet access, while free was slow enough to make checking email painful. Overall If you want to spend time on the ground in Cuba, this is not the cruise for you. Don’t believe anything you see in the cruise descriptions. One of the best parts of the trip was talking with people who had extensive cruise experiences and gathering intel for other cruise lines and destinations. Getting beyond the poor itinerary and limited excursions, the cruising experience was quite nice with a few glaring problems which makes the high cost a bit painful. My advice is look elsewhere.

Great potential marred by bait-and-switch promotion - not worth the price

Pearl Mist Cruise Review by RLPhoenix

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2018
  • Destination: Cuba
Summary

This Cuba “experience” is marred by deceptive advertising, bait-and-switch promises and on-ship excuses. Look at Oceania cruises for alternative Cuba cruises recommended by people who have gone on both. The bottom line is that while shipboard accommodations are excellent, this small ship is at the mercy of the Cuban government, which favors larger ships in its limited ports. You don’t learn about the actual cruise itinerary until it’s too late to cancel.

Report Card (see below for detail)

Time in Port/Excursions D-

Embarkation / Debarkation process C

Staterooms A

Staff A

Food B+

Amenities A to C-

Overall D

Time in Port/Excursions

The good news is that all excursions are included at no charge. The bad news is that many never happened: Hemingway’s house, the visit to Cojimar, the Botanical Gardens and the waterfalls of El Nicho were nixed. The Cuban government was blamed for limiting time in port. In most ports there are only one or two docks and Cuban guides informed us that the larger cruise lines were favored and given precedence.

The disappointment was palpable as item after item was take off the itinerary… AFTER the cruise began. In at least one case (the Botanical Gardens at Cienfuegos) we were told that the Gardens were closed because the local personnel had the day off as a holiday. However, another cruise ship was in port and we saw at least four of their tour buses with “Botanical Gardens” in their windows.

The three scheduled days completely at sea became a total of five, with several half days. Bear in mind that Pearl Mist has been traveling to Cuba for two years and is fully aware of Cuban government policies. If there are disclaimers about itinerary changes on their website, I can’t find them. This tactic is nothing short of deceptive.

Embarkation / Debarkation

Poor communication and bad execution caused significant disruption in boarding the ship. Late arrival of the previous cruise caused long delays sitting in hotel lobbies waiting for pickup. One bus got lost on the way to the port. The scheduled dinner on board became “call and order a hamburger or sandwich brought to your room.” Not an auspicious beginning. That said the debarkation was fairly smooth.

Staterooms

The staterooms were a pleasant surprise: spacious, quiet, clean and comfortable. We were able to move completely out of our suitcases and store them under the bed. The bathroom is large and well-appointed. Each room has a nice balcony.

While we were quite happy with our third-deck forward cabin, we heard from other passengers that the handicap-accessible cabins and single cabins were very cramped. Passengers in the rear of the ship complained of loud engine noise.

Staff

Clearly, the top marks for the cruise go to the cabin stewards and food servers. They were unfailingly responsive and cheerful—no request was turned down. The lecturers were outstanding and the Cruise Directors very helpful, although they took the brunt of the deceptive practices on and off the ship.

Food

We enjoyed all the food. Breakfast was delicious with a fruit/pastry bar and order-from-the-menu hot items which included all sorts of meats, eggs, waffles, pancakes and daily specials. The coffee was good. Lunch and dinner offered 2-3 appetizers, 4 entrees and 3 desserts. Half portions and double entrees were cheerfully available (one table ordered double lobster tails all around). Some people complained about the lack of selection compared to larger cruise ships.

I’m a bit choosy and I felt the food was well-prepared with rare beef (if ordered) and perfectly cooked seafood. By the way, a seafood and a vegetarian selection was available at every meal. The only flaw that I could find is that the seasoning leaned a bit toward the bland, due (I’m guessing) to the preferences of most of the older passenger list.

Amenities

Shipboard amenities were a mixed bag. On the positive, all excursions were included in the price, there were virtually unlimited, quality liquor, decent wine and decent beer. Free room service for any meal was offered and your laundry was done free of charge.

On the negative, the few exercise machines are in poor repair and placed in a virtually unusable location. There is no shipboard store. Entertainment was limited to a good duo, but got old quickly with 50s night, 60s night, 70s/80s night… you get the picture. The TV didn’t work half of the time and Internet access, while free was slow enough to make checking email painful.

Overall

If you want to spend time on the ground in Cuba, this is not the cruise for you. Don’t believe anything you see in the cruise descriptions. One of the best parts of the trip was talking with people who had extensive cruise experiences and gathering intel for other cruise lines and destinations. Getting beyond the poor itinerary and limited excursions, the cruising experience was quite nice with a few glaring problems which makes the high cost a bit painful. My advice is look elsewhere.
RLPhoenix’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Cabin 308
If the sketchy itinerary hasn't convinced you to look elsewhere, you'll find the cabins are nice. The pictures don't do them justice as they are quite roomy with full-sized bathrooms.

IMPORTANT: I think the best cabins are on deck 3, # 313-308. This places you away from the engines and one short staircase above the Atlantic lounge. Ask which side of the ship is toward the shore... if you're on the ocean side, the view never changes. Cabins in similar locations on other decks should work fine, too.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews