Overall, a tight ship with nice amenities and pleasant servers, but disappointing in some respects; and not particularly good value for the money.
Our cabin, dubbed a “Penthouse Suite,” was certainly nice and roomy, but it was neither a penthouse nor a suite. The butler service was nice, but the butler himself gave a rather grumpy reception to all but the most basic requests.
Excursions were expensive, lackluster and uninspired. Far too much time was spent boarding, driving, shopping, etc., and there was far too little time on the ground with the sights and activities. The excursion to San Juan Hill, Santiago, for example, was a waste of time. Nothing much to see, and not much for the guide to say either, but it took nearly an hour getting there and back and walking around aimlessly. Similarly, the long drive to the Havana Cemetery was a bust. The time could have been much better spent walking through neighborhoods, driving by Havana’s unique, crumbling edifices, or just listening to live music in a cafe.
Red Ginger restaurant is widely touted. However, for me it was a flop, plain and simple: Bland, watered-down quasi-Asian concoctions, some a bit too clever for their own good. I complained about bland food and was given a tray with a couple of bottled sauces. This is not five-star dining. In addition, service at Red Ginger was slow and clunky compared to the other restaurants. The Tuscan Steakhouse, on the other hand was really superb in form, food and function. See, I’m not that hard to please.
Recognizing that U.S. equal opportunity employment laws have no apparent application at sea (and aboard a Micronesian-registered vessel), it was nevertheless startling that management staff introduced during the welcoming ceremony were almost exclusively Caucasian while their subordinates were a rainbow of diversity.
On a similar note, for a cruise destined for Cuba –a musical treasure--one might have expected a band or a show on board with a little bit of a Latin flair or flavor. Not so. The music shows and performers were generic “plain vanilla” down the line, in more ways than one. The “Broadway” show was a real snoozer—literally, I fell asleep. I didn’t go to Cuba to hear well-worn American show tunes. The classical string quartet was nice, but a Latin guitar group with a little percussion would be been more apropos. A disappointment, and a lost opportunity to turn a rather standard, cookie-cutter cruise into a destination-tailored travel experience.