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1,938 Cuba Cruise Reviews

We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We ... Read More
We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We booked back to back cruises on this ship, so had the advantage of taking the tours on the first trip and doing our own itineraries on the second trip. Issues: The ship does rock and roll more than we're used to. There are stabilizers but they are apparently not being used. The ship is well maintained and clean. The cabins are pretty small, but also impeccably clean and there's enough storage for a large suitcase and 2 backpacks. They really don't want guests to place used toilet paper into the toilet and we found this to be the case in every public toilet that we had to use at our ports. There are no specialty restaurants and the food service hours are limited. The food is pretty basic but we gained 10 lbs. each so there's that. Bad news: a small casino that's hard to find and only 1 or 2 bingo games the whole time. Shocking! There are people embarking and disembarking from Havana as well as Montego Bay and Cienfuegos, so there is the disruption to the crew 3 times a week with new guests and lifeboat drills. Good points: Our package included unlimited drinks for a very reasonable price of $59/person/per week. That included Havana Club 7 year rum, Bombay gin, Jameson whiskey, bottled water, beer, wine, sparkling water, mixed drinks like pina colada's, daqueries, margaritas,mimosa's, cappucino's, lattes, etc. We've never seen a drinks package like that and believe me when I say that they lost some money on us! The staff and crew are very friendly and helpful and there really is a no tipping policy. The cruise director made a point of saying that no one expected a tip and of course, we tipped more than we expected to. A production show every night with aerial acrobatics and a fabulous band. That dance crew did not get a night off! I thought the shows were really good and was surprised that there wasn't the usual comedian or magic act show to give the dancers a night off. The guest lecturers were local professors from the Univ. of Havana and were very interactive with guests, both on and off the ship. They had a rum tasting (no extra charge), a lecture about cigars, a guest speaker who was a retired govt. official. The musicians on board were local Cuban bands and were absolutely awesome. "Latin Soul", in particular, was the band for the production shows and they played dance music and jazz afterwards to a largely empty room. Gifted folks. We were pleasantly surprised by our visits to Havana, where we found lots of shopping and places to eat near the port. There were a few beggars and people trying to sell black market cigars but they did take no for an answer. We didn't feel that Santiago de Cuba was a good place to wander around in on our own due to the harassment of people begging or trying to sell taxi rides, black market cigars or the general seediness of the area. We took the tour on our first visit and ended up regretting going out on our own on the second visit due to the harassment. We don't dive so Maria la Gorda was just a beach visit that required tendering. Cienfuegos is a beautiful city with it's seediness but there are beautiful as well as ugly things to see there and we felt very safe there, not bothered by beggars, etc. You just have to have an open mind about this trip and not expect too much from the ship. It's small and a bit outdated but the folks really seem to be trying hard to please. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We joined Celestyal Crystal in Montego, Jamaica and she appeared smart and freshly painted on first impression. We were not disappointed once onboard as despite her age Crystal was very well maintained. Our cabin was one of the new ... Read More
We joined Celestyal Crystal in Montego, Jamaica and she appeared smart and freshly painted on first impression. We were not disappointed once onboard as despite her age Crystal was very well maintained. Our cabin was one of the new balcony additions on Deck 7, added to the ship in 2015 Our cabin steward was attentive and friendly. Both embarkation and disembarkation were without delay. The wifi package was in line with other ships and whilst we unable to access connectivity in our cabin, there was a strong signal in all public areas and downloads were quick. The pool is small as is the case on older ships and is located outside the Hedra casual dining/buffet restaurant and has an optional retractable roof with table and chairs either side. A food station preparing dishes to order such as omelettes at breakfast and speciality dishes at lunch time made it a popular setting to dine, however it did not encourage many passengers to swim in it. Given the itinerary had only one day at sea and it was not considered an issue. What makes this cruise so appealing is it is themed as a Cuba cruise and that is what Crystal delivers. There was a Professor from Havana onboard who provided daily lectures on the Cuban history and culture. Spanish language and Cuban dance lesson were part of the daily programme and the drinks list with various spirit and Cuban rum offerings was impressive and affordable. As Australian citizens we were travelling independently and not on the People to People programme. The ship docks in Old Havana where you can easily walk around the historic area. Being in port for 2 days allows you to eat locally in the evening and enjoy some Cuban music, the Centro area where the museums and classic American cars are found is a 20 minute walk or short ride away. In both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos it was is an easy walk to the town centre if you were not on tour. Maria la Gorda is a tender port and a chance to swim if not doing a tour, diving available. There is limited facilities aside from a couple of bar/restaurants. We dined at different tables each evening in the main dining rooms and met an interesting mix of people, mainly from Canada and the US. Food was not exceptional but it was varied, offered Cuban specialties and the service was polite and staff were friendly. The buffet selection at lunch was adequate and our least favourite place to eat. We were impressed by the nightly shows onboard, for a small ship they were professional and entertaining. The cruise surpassed our expectation. It was an old ship and we were prepared for that, it was our preference over cruising on a bigger more modern ship, we went for the Cuban experience and Celestyal delivered. We read books on the history and culture but we came away with a far greater insight into this country than we had hoped for. The ship is in keeping with going back in time which is what a visit to Cuba is about. A cruise we would recommend. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba. As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the ... Read More
As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba. As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the Caribbean but, instead, is a unique way to visit Cuba and, at the same time, affords the comforts of cruising. First, the ship. An aging lady with an earnest international crew both the ship and the crew do their best to please. The vessel is far from large and is frayed around the edges but virtually all of us on the P2P program agreed- who cares. Some cabins have been upgraded, others have not but they will suffice. A note about the toilets. You will find a note in your cabin asking that nothing be flushed, and that means nothing except human waste. I do believe, however, that the staff is attempting to reduce the likelikhood of a breakdown and the less that goes down, the less likely a breakdown. So we did our best. We had no real problems although some times it takes a minute or two for the system to work. The internet worked surprisingly well ($10 for one hour with lesser per hour costs as you increase the time) but is not available in the cabins. All meals were open seating in one of two nearly identical restaurants. The buffet area was small but by using the near-by pool area, additional seating was available. We found the food adequate and the wait staff quite eager to please. The on board entertainers worked incredibly hard, delivering 7 different shows twice a night. Kudos to all of them! Cuba. You will learn that despite what you thought you knew, you have so much more to learn. The young college professors on board are throughly engaging and the programs are not to be missed. Lying at our doorstep, the Cuban people have endured a rugged history, both in their home land and with the US. Listen, learn and form your own opinion as we did. The shore excursions are a work in progress, both for the Cuban tourist industry (which is now supporting US travelers) and for the P2P program. Some guides were good, others not so good. Keep your eyes and ears open. My personal highlight was a brief taxi ride in Havana- in a taxi the same age as I am! Finally some tips and notes: We came prepared with medical insurance for Cuba and our letter from the P2P program for US Immigration on our return. Nobody asked for anything anywhere. I would not suggest,however, that you do not obtain the medical insurance. Its very inexpensive. The Cuban authorities did take everyone's temperature before debarking in Santiago de Cuba and in Cienfuegos. It took three seconds. Not a big deal. Maria La Gorda is a beach resort, but the beach is incredibly rocky and entrance to the sea takes patience. Bring water shoes if you have them. We did not take the optional excursion to one of three night clubs in Havana as they return close to midnight. The ship had an excellent show that evening. The newly-added balcony cabins are well worth booking. Passengers get on and off at every port except Maria La Gorda. In summary, at this point in time, I do not know a less expensive alternative to cruise and visit Cuba. And you will be a pioneer! Americans are just at the beginning of a new era in Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff in all areas. Our cabin was excellently maintained by the cleaning crew, and had lots of drawer and hanging space. A nice surprise were the Happy Birthday balloons. The dining rooms presented excellent menu choices, with very good quality food. We liked everything. Entertainment was top notch. Saw every show. Cruise director Danny does a fantastic job. Has so much energy, and speaks many languages fluently, flowing from one to the other without effort. The tours onshore were interesting and informing. The only one I would skip is the Maria La Gorda trip to Cabo de San Antonio. Long bus ride, and not much to see or do. Would rather sit on the beach and relax. My husband wasn't very keen to go on a cruise, this being his first. On our last night aboard he said he was sorry it was over. We will definitely go on a cruise again, and highly recommend Cuba Cruise with Celestyal Crystal to anyone who wants to see more of Cuba than just a resort. It was an excellent holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Note: This review will be written from the viewpoint of an American traveller. I note this due to the unique situation of Americans travelling in Cuba. First a little background, my wife and I are very experienced cruisers. We have ... Read More
Note: This review will be written from the viewpoint of an American traveller. I note this due to the unique situation of Americans travelling in Cuba. First a little background, my wife and I are very experienced cruisers. We have lost count of the number of cruises we have taken. We have been on many lines. While we like some ships and lines better than others, we have never been on a cruise we did not enjoy. We do not like to nitpick cruises, and we try to avoid passengers who do. We look for the positives, of which this ship and its educational program had more than can be mentioned in a short review. If you are an avid Cruise Critic reader, you will note that this ship gets very spotty reviews, at best. CC says something like “57% loved it”, a very low score. Be advised that the reviews need a much closer reading, however, as the rating is a composite score for the Mediterranean and Cuban cruises. A close look shows that, while the reviews in the Mediterranean are not very good at all, the reviews while in Cuba are generally quite good. Perhaps it is due to the Canadian management while in Cuba, but not while in the Greek Isles? The strong Cuba cruise reviews made us take a look at their pricing. Cuba Cruise prices are per cabin, not per person, so the prices are much lower than they appear at first glance. In addition, the prices are quoted in Canadian dollars, so take about a 40% discount if paying with American dollars due to the present rate of exchange. If you do the math, this is a very good deal for Americans in particular. With an exceptional itinerary, good prices, and strong reviews we booked. The booking experience will give you the impression that this company is a small operation and is learning as it goes. I think that is an accurate appraisal, but the experience was easy and personal. Do your homework before leaving! Cuba is a very different country to tour, so read up on those differences. As an example, you will need to bring cash to use in Cuba, as credit cards are useless. Here’s a tip: See if your bank can get you Canadian dollars without charging an exchange fee. In Minnesota, this was easy to do. American dollars have a surcharge in Cuba. Canadian dollars do not. Take Canadian dollars to use in Cuba, if possible. Once booked with money in hand, it is strongly recommended that passengers come into Montego Bay a day early. Montego Bay is the only departure port that makes sense for Americans for a variety of reasons. We decided to come in a day ahead to avoid possible weather issues. We were fortunate we did as our plane was diverted to Atlanta due to mechanical trouble. We arrived in Montego Bay very late and would have missed the cruise had the event occurred on the day of sailing. Over twenty cabins sailed empty due to weather delays, etc. The cruise line bears no responsibility for such cases. Also, there is no easy way to go from Montego Bay to Santiago de Cuba to catch up to the ship, so you are just out of luck in such situations. Take out trip insurance, which is also required by the Cuban authorities. Boarding in Montego Bay, rather than Havana where the Canadians and Europeans board, is actually a distinct advantage. By boarding in Montego Bay, you will have two full days in Havana, perhaps the most interesting city we have ever visited. Travellers boarding in Havana lose valuable time there due to flight connections, unless they come in early and have an extended stay. Most such travellers had only one full day there, which was unfortunate for them. If you do come in early, Khastle Khodero in Montego Bay is strongly recommended for your stay. Embarkation was easy. Actually all of the housekeeping issues were well handled. Even the Internet was above average in speed and cheaper than other lines. All shipboard matters are handled in US dollars, by the way, so you will need your credit card. You will be going back in time while in Cuba, so the Celestyal Crystal matches that theme perfectly. It is an old NCL ship with a most interesting history. Google it and be amazed. The Crystal has no ice rink, climbing walls, ice bars, artwork, or even an atrium. You will find no mints on your pillows. What you will find is a meticulously maintained, attractive small ship. Cabins are comfortable. The staff is stellar. You will love your fellow passengers and, due to the ship’s size, you will often run into your new friends. By the way, our positive outlook on the ship and the experience seemed to be shared by virtually every passenger we encountered. Food on board was good to excellent. The ship has gone to great lengths to bring the Cuba experience on board with an array of Cuban treats at all meals. Every passenger gets caught up in questions about comparing food on lines, so take the following with a grain of salt. We thought the food was somewhere between NCL and Celebrity without factoring in the Cuban influence, which made the dining very interesting. Cuban dancers and singers provided the entertainment. They were very good. There is other musical entertainment on board that was also quite good. A special mention goes out to Danny, the cruise director. This fellow is pretty amazing. Americans are required to attend the People to People program while on board. Tours are also through this program. The shipboard portion of it was unbelievably good. Although for Americans, anyone can attend these presentations and many non-American passengers helped enliven our discussions. I learned more in two days than in all our other cruised experiences put together. The shore excursions, while very good, were a little over scheduled, not allowing for enough time to tour on your own. They are tweaking their tours to solve this problem, but it is a governmental matter rather than a cruise line issue. While in Havana, optional tours are available through the ship, which are not part of the People to People program. You can also just walk about in any port. Havana has a large covered marketplace where you can buy souvenirs. Cienfuegos has a large open-air market and art houses for souvenirs, as well, which my wife felt surpassed what we saw in Havana. Ports and Tours Montego Bay This is not my favorite port in the Caribbean. Time is best spent here at a beach, staying at a good B&B visiting with people, and eating at Scotchies, which is famous for its authentic Jamaican food. You can also get away from the city and climb Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, which is a great experience. Walking in the tourist area will be disappointing. Santiago This city is deep into the history of the Revolution. Think of it as a Cuban Alamo or Valley Forge with a different political leaning. The People to People tour in Santiago needs tweaking, as it was too time intensive. Havana Did the first day tour, which was a very nice walking tour. We skipped the second day tour in order to concentrate on spending time in Old Havana. We ate at the Paladar Los Mercaderes, which was exceptional. In the evening, we went to the Tropicana. We would love to come back to Havana for a visit, a wonderful place. Maria La Gorda This is a leisurely beach stop. You can swim or walk on a long beach, or just get a drink, sit back, and enjoy the view. Cienfuegos This city has a lovely town square and active business district. It was highly enjoyable. We were on our own, but passengers also mentioned a very good People to People tour here. It should be noted that you will meet and openly share with many Cuban people both on the ship and ashore. The Cubans we encountered were warm and welcoming. Those ashore were surprised to encounter Americans and were openly delighted, despite living in economic conditions caused in no small part by our country’s embargo. They will speak freely and, quite frankly, seem to have great regard for Fidel Castro and their government. All call Castro by his first name, as a term of affection. This was clearly not put on for show. They hope for future economic improvement, which is badly needed, but not at the expense of losing their form of government, which has brought them food, shelter, 100% literacy, free world class health care, and free education through advanced degrees. You will find that Cuba is very safe with little crime. There is virtually no military presence. The few police officers we saw carried no weapons. Eye opening. In summary, a good deal, a nice, but not fancy, ship, great staff, unique well-prepared meals, tremendous shipboard programming, fun entertainment, and a wonderful itinerary – Who could want for more? See Cuba before it changes forever and see it on the Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We chose this cruise for a number of reasons. One, we could board at Montego Bay and return to Montego Bay, and since we were already in Jamaica on vacation, it made for very simple logistics. Two, we knew American cruise ships were just ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a number of reasons. One, we could board at Montego Bay and return to Montego Bay, and since we were already in Jamaica on vacation, it made for very simple logistics. Two, we knew American cruise ships were just at the point of making Cuba a destination, and we really wanted to visit Cuba before it was overrun with Americans. Three, the cruise was very reasonable, and we knew this was because the ship was old, and probably not up to the standards we have become accustomed to (Regency, Crystal, etc.) but Cuba is an unknown and not investing too much seemed like a good idea. We booked the cruise through a Canadian travel agency. As we discovered when we booked in early September 2015, the ship's best cabins were already sold out, and we were forced to commit to an interior cabin. We arrived early at the port in Montego Bay. Embarkation was very simple - we were among a handful of people boarding in Montego Bay. We boarded early so we could request an upgrade, and as it turns out, that was a very good impulse - our inside cabin was the size of a large closet, with a mural of a white sand beach on the back wall. We decided not to unpack, but enjoyed the departure party and then dinner, and when we got back to the cabin, discovered a note requesting us to see reception. Happily, they had a larger cabin with an outside porthole, and with help we moved our stuff into the cabin and settled in. We had very low expectations for the cruise. Before our departure, I had jokingly described the cruise as Holiday Inn of the Sea, and I wasn't far off. We had read reviews where it was noted that putting anything which hadn't been eaten into the toilet was verboten. Gah. Really?! Everything else had to go into the bathroom waste basket??? Yes, that's true, but we got over our squeamishness and discovered there was little if any odor, and the waste was taken away regularly by our cabin steward. Except for one day, and we complained and it was rectified immediately. Our cabin was serviceable, but not wonderful, and we had imagined that would be the case so weren't disappointed. Just like a Holiday Inn. There was enough room to put away a week's worth of clothes and store our luggage under the bunk. There was enough hot and cold water, OK pressure, and our tiny bathroom met all our needs. We had also read that the food was boring, the service disinterested and the entertainment not up to par. Well....since it was kind of like a Holiday Inn, I think the food was fine. Not 5 Star by any means, but we didn't starve. Most of the staff on the cruise were young people from Cuba. The main dining room staff were lovely - young, sweet, enthusiastic and ever ready to make our experience as good as it could be. Likewise the entertainment staff, who put on a fully costumed, fully choreographed show just about every night with surprisingly good dancers and singers - all from Cuba. Yes, it was definitely a little hokey and not the Las Vegas extravaganzas experienced on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean. But the dancers always stuck around after the show to play with passengers and teach Samba or something. The entertainment director looked like a nerd, but he was genuinely funny and boy, could he move and get the crowd into the swing of things. A lot of dancing and parties took place on the pool deck, which wasn't large, so it frequently felt cramped with the daily line dancing which took place. The salt water pool was full each time we were in port for the day, or cruising, but it was emptied every night. Every time we arrived at a new port, we had to have our temperatures taken, per Cuban authorities. A drag, but what to do? Disembarkation for shore excursions was always crowded and felt disorganized. People who got off independently returned through the same ID scanner as people leaving, so there was that. But people seemed fairly relaxed about it all, and soon it became a shared inconvenience to be standing on the stairs with half the ship waiting to get outside to our tours. It always amazed me that a ship like Allure of the Seas with her 6,000+ passengers could manage crowds so easily and expertly and little Celestyal Crystal got bogged down with a fraction of the passengers. Cuba was a revelation. Havana is like a dystopian Paris. Cuba is probably one of the most photogenic countries in the world, filled with color, architecture, artists - street musicians, street actors and artists. The ambiance is of a country in a time warp, the evocative streets and beautiful architecture of old Havana forces one to dream of what life was like before the revolution. Today's Cuba, because of its poverty and priorities, has ironically preserved much of that elegant bygone era, even in its shabbiness, dustiness and hopelessness. Imagining a prosperous Cuba able to restore and bring back to its former glory the dreams of that Caribbean wonderland fills the visitor with excitement. The shore excursions made an effort to put certain aspects of modern and historical Cuba on display, but they were frustrating because Cuba is amazingly colorful, exciting, evolving and beautiful and there was so little time. The circumnavigation of Cuba was just a taste, an appetizer. I recommend cruising Cuba for anyone interested in seeing a lot in a short time. l learned there are homes which are open and available to foreigners, a Cuban version of Air B&B, and for anyone wanting more Cuba, that is definitely a route to take. I know a lot of Canadians and Europeans stay in the all inclusive government owned beach hotels, but being Jamaican and knowing how the all inclusives suck the life out of truly experiencing the island and the culture, I wouldn't recommend doing that. Cuba is very safe - be brave! And please go before the notorious signage advertising Starbucks, Sheraton and Steve Madden, etc. etc. start going up all over. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I recently took the Jan 1 voyage from Montego Bay to Cuba as part of the People to People organization. Good: The ship is actually in pretty good condition and the public areas are kept up well. The intimate size allows passengers to ... Read More
I recently took the Jan 1 voyage from Montego Bay to Cuba as part of the People to People organization. Good: The ship is actually in pretty good condition and the public areas are kept up well. The intimate size allows passengers to get to know each other and mingle. The food was mostly pretty good although there were some misses with quality. The crew, overall, is very friendly, although they seem a bit overworked. The Cruise Director Danny does an incredible job and he was very helpful to our group. Photo prices are very reasonable - $5 each. Boarding and disembarking is very smooth, although Jamaican Immigration can be a bit slower. If you have a departing flight at 12:30 or after, you should be in good shape. We got to the airport at 9:30am. Neutral: There sometimes was confusion at the Reception Desk, where employees were not sure of procedures or how to answer detailed questions. One must register their credit card at the Reception Desk for onboard expenses. Do this as soon as you can or while the desk is not busy. There can be a long queue if you wait until everyone has had lunch on the boarding day. Try to settle affairs the afternoon of the day prior to disembarkment because the desk gets busy in the early evening. Needs Improvement - Be Forewarned: There are a few risk management issues passengers show know about: First, the complete room number is printed on your key card. The front desk sells lanyards but you may wish to be prepared with your own method of keeping your card secure. The room safes do not use touch key pads where you create your own code. One must secure a key fob from the Reception Desk (and leave a $50 security deposit on a credit card.) The key fob also has the room number on a tag attached to it. Be prepared to manage this. It is also very important for U.S. passengers to let their credit card company know to expect a charge from Greece for on board purchases prior to leaving. My credit card company initially declined the charge for suspected fraud and then declined subsequent transactions. (I had notified for Jamaica and Canada, thinking the Cuba Cruise company was still Canadian. It is not, apparently.) Also be forewarned about the toilet: Passengers received a letter stating they could not flush used toilet paper down the toilets and to deposit it in a can that was in the bathroom. This was quite the topic of discussion even among strangers and it made many Americans uncomfortable. Most people I spoke with decided to be disobedient but took efforts not to flush *too* much toilet paper. Entertainment: The cruise entertainers try hard but the shows miss the mark. But that is what one expects on a smaller vintage ship. There was one number, an interpretive dance about Afro-Cuban slavery, that was a bit awkward. Montego Bay Airport Tip: Check your credit card or if you have Priority Pass to see if you can enter Club Mobay VIP lounge. They assist you through Immigration and security and the club itself (by gate 9) is a welcome relief to the hustle in the terminal. There is good food, free drinks, and even service from Margaritaville. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
In the past, when I saw one star reviews for vacations I asked myself how people can do that for 5 star hotels. Well, here I am writing my one star (or should be 0) for this Cruise. First of all, I have to say that I loved Cuba. I went ... Read More
In the past, when I saw one star reviews for vacations I asked myself how people can do that for 5 star hotels. Well, here I am writing my one star (or should be 0) for this Cruise. First of all, I have to say that I loved Cuba. I went to cuba with very low expectations, I was in a resort in Varadero the week before the cruise and the experience was excellent, including the resort, the people, the service, the room and even the food. My main purpose for the cruise was to visit Cuba after a week in the beach...but I didn't see much of cuba. Excursions were completely disorganized. The Cruise Director is a clown, and a bad one. And when you put a Clown together with a Salsa dancer that only knows how to count to four to organize 120 people in 4 buses, that's what you get. A hour and a half delay. In addition the boat was always delayed. They always blame the weather (even the day that the cruise didn't sail). The only day that we were on time the joker woke us at 7:20am to call everybody take the temperature even if the disembarking was at 9, and they didn't even took our names or cabin numbers. The end of the story is that you lose most of your time in port because they are extremely disorganized, plus Cuba customs. They take you on a 3 hours tour where they want them to take you and you don't have extra time to do anything on your own. One example of what to expect was at Maria la Gorda. Like many other people, I was prepared with hiking gear to go to a natural reserve. Instead, we were 3 hours on a bus that took us to a place that was...nothing. Only and old lighthouse on the other side of the fence. I asked about changing that excursion for diving, it was u$s 165 for only one tank on a choppy day, when regular price for 2 tanks is $49 in Cuba and they will refund you if there's bad weather. About the cruise. This is a refurbished ferry that was burned and crashed an oil tanker (Do your own research on this one). It might be ok as a ferry, but It cannot handle very well the conditions in Cuba, it was a little bit windy but it was sunny all the time, standard weather for Cuba at this time of the year. I can't imagine it with a real storm, even a minor one. So expect it to move, and a lot. First I got an inside cabin, if you can call it a cabin. It was not even half the size of a small cruise cabin. I upgraded (after having to pay, and they are very good at getting your money) to an outside cabin. The carpets were stained and didn't look modern. the washroom had problems most of the time. Also the air conditioning was unpredictable. Food was college cafeteria grade. At the buffet, there were always the same, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food seemed to come from Greece more than a month before, nothing was fresh at all. Fruits were mainly canned. They advertise that they serve Alberta beef, but I only seen overcooked pork and chicken. Also they changed the dinner plan to open seating. First day I was refused to enter one of the restaurants. They said it was booked by a group for the next 5 days, but other people got in. I got in the next day. Both restaurants serve exactly the same. Sometimes you have to wait 45 minutes, or go to the buffet. Entertainment was always the same, not much entertaining. On the positive side. After the shows, the band stayed playing and they were really good. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Overall, this first Cuba Cruise of the season was amazing, despite some ripples along the way. First, set reasonable expectations—this is not a fun in the sun, lounge around the pool type of trip. What it is, is an affordable way to ... Read More
Overall, this first Cuba Cruise of the season was amazing, despite some ripples along the way. First, set reasonable expectations—this is not a fun in the sun, lounge around the pool type of trip. What it is, is an affordable way to easily get a taste of Cuba. PRE-CRUISE Before the cruise, we stayed three nights at the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay. This was 10 minutes to the airport, had a lovely beach areas including a little island you could walk to. Food and drinks were just so-so, but this is one of the cheapest all-inclusive resorts we found. What we did love, were the jerk chicken hut on the beach, quiet places to sit by the water away from the main pool, some Jamaican dishes on the buffet, and the view from our ocean-view room. Rented a car and drove to Falmouth for a quick visit, but opted to not drive further because Jamaicans really do drive crazy, and on the left. EMBARKATION Cruise terminal is about 15 minutes from the airport. We picked up a taxi at the rental car place to the pier for $20 total. We needed to pay a Jamaican departure tax since we’d been there for more than 24 hours (I think $27 per person). Afterwards, getting on was as simple as filling out the standard health form and picking up our key cards. You resister a credit card on board at the reception desk. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:30 a.m. and were on within about 15 minutes. THE SHIP The ship is older but does not feel dated. It was kept spotlessly clean. Our cabin (#5115) was tiny, but the beds were comfortable. You do need to dispose of toilet paper in the trash and sometimes, you need to flush twice for everything to go down. Being on deck five was handy and our favorite bar was in the very back of deck five, outside and with a hot tub. Compared with modern mega-ships, we enjoyed that we could be anywhere on the ship within a couple minutes. The ship did lack the stabilizers of more modern ships and we felt a pretty constant rocking. We never had trouble finding seats in the shows, at dinner, in the buffet or in the bars. THE PASSENGERS We spent far more time getting to know our fellow passengers than we usually do. What a fascinating group. We met people from all over the U.S., Asia, and Europe and learned about everyone’s travel adventures and places they have lived. As a group, passengers were more traveled and more likely to have lived abroad than on any other cruise we’ve taken. DINING While I like that the menu included Cuban and Jamaican dishes, the food did not seem terribly authentic. For instance, the jerk chicken had almost no spice! As noted by others, dinner was incredibly slow; we really didn’t mind as the people we were seated with were usually very interesting. We are not normally big drinkers on cruises, but we did enjoy working our way down the list of Cuban cocktails and coffee drinks. I would recommend for dinner, picking up a drink at the bar and bringing it with you. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet were both fine. They did have wonderful baklava at the buffet the first day, but unfortunately we never saw it again. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES The entertainers changed midway through the cruise with those who did the transatlantic crossing changing with Cuban performers when we got to Havana. We enjoyed the Cuban performers and Cuban themed shows, while other shows were just average. The lectures as part of the P2P program weren’t outstanding but did add to our knowledge of Cuba and appreciation of the trip. Those in the P2P program should note, the activities guide delivered to your cabin does not list all the activities. If you want to see non-P2P activities, you’ll need to pick up the complete copy at the reception desk. ITINERARY We loved all of the Cuban ports. Unfortunately, weather delays dramatically cut our time in Maria la Gorda and Cienfuegos. Also, gathering for excursions took place on the ship rather than at the pier and then the buses didn’t seem to leave until the last person was off. We don’t normally do ship tours and this reminded us why! We wasted a ridiculous amount of time waiting for the tours to begin, and might have been happier just hiring taxis for private tours. MONTEGO BAY – Nice beaches but not a highlight of the trip. SANTIAGO DE CUBA – Our first introduction to this wonderful country! Right outside the gates of the port, we saw every imaginable form of transportation from horse carriage taxis, motorcycle taxis, bicycle taxis, to old car taxis. Tour included a visit to the Revolutionary War museum, Revolutionary Square, African Cultural Center with a dance performance that I ditched so I could walk around, and original Bacardi rum factory. After the tour, we did have some time to walk around on our own. I would highly recommend doing this so that you can visit the town square and commercial district. The residents were very friendly and interested to learn about the U.S. and tell about Cuba. Kids will come up to you asking for pens, and women approached looking for shampoo, soap and lotion. Consider asking kids to sing a song in exchange for pens. Residents filled the pedestrian street, out doing Christmas shopping. Overall, we found shopping more interesting here, and in Cienfuegos, than in Havana were items seemed more mass produced. HAVANA – As part of P2P, we discovered that the included tours had been swapped for different ones. The cruise line canceled our Maria la Gorda tour and instead, we had a morning walking tour, afternoon bus tour, and second day museum visit. Since we stayed overnight, we did have plenty of time to wander on our own. The morning walking tour included a couple of squares in the historic area and a visit to a graphics studio. I found the afternoon tour less valuable because it was just on the bus, except for a stop at a crafts market. Places visited could be easily reached walking or by private taxi instead. That night, I joined John from the P2P program and others, for a taxi ride to see Opera de la Calle. Really talented singers and dancers doing a mix of Cuban songs and more know songs. Admission was a bargain at $30. Taxi cost $10 each way, which we split with others from the cruise. The second morning in Havana we were free to wander and have lunch in the city. We walked out to the produce market hear the capital building. I recommend wandering away from the main tourist streets to see streets more typical of where the Cubans live. In the afternoon, the trip included a bus tour to the wonderful Museum of Fine Arts. We were also given the option to go to the Museum of the Revolution instead. For those wanting to see both, this is a reasonable walk or an easy taxi ride from the port. MARIA LA GORDA – Our excursion to Cabo de San Antonio was canceled by the cruise line because we were P2P, so be rebooked the tour ($63 per person). We arrived quite late to port due to weather, so a trip through the park that should have taken 5 hours with stops was cut to about 3 hours. Still, the scenery along the coast was stunning, with blue water, limestone coated shells and rock on one side, and jungle on the other. At the end was a private beach. If we’d had more time there, I did notice a hiking trail across from the beach. CIENFUEGOS - Cienfuegos seem wealthier and more cosmopolitan that the other ports. There is a pedestrian promenade that had lots of shopping options. Unfortunately, weather cut the length of our visit here, and this was the worst guide of the trip. Our guide did not speak great English and said that this was the first tour she led. The City however was stunning, magnificent theatre, waterfront walkway, restaurants along the water, artist studios, etc. We definitely would have liked more time since we didn’t get any time to walk around on our own. Many people left the tour early on. DISEMBARKATION Getting off the ship was a disaster. We arrived back in Montego Bay late, again due to rough seas. They then let the Montego Bay tours off ahead of those with planes to catch! They unloaded luggage through the same exit as passengers, further jamming things up. To make matters worse, they gave most people the wrong Jamaican customs form, so people had to redo the paperwork in the terminal. At least getting a taxi was no problem man, with a shared van costing $10 per person. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Thomson Dream a disaster from beginning to end. Two ports missed in as many weeks. Then the canteen staff began to take the mickey by singing a Caribbean song with the words changed to having missed ports again. Had noro virus on board ... Read More
Thomson Dream a disaster from beginning to end. Two ports missed in as many weeks. Then the canteen staff began to take the mickey by singing a Caribbean song with the words changed to having missed ports again. Had noro virus on board the previous week and had to be served in self service canteen. When I asked for a couple of bread rolls and beef for lunch I was offered a slice of beef about 1inch by three which left me flabbergasted? The Orion restaurant was no better, had to wait 30 minutes for 2 cold puddings and after 20 minutes waiting to be asked if we wanted tea or coffee decided to have it elsewhere. All this time the waiter was chatting to travellers who were disembarking the next day, looking for tips which he persisted with until he was offered money. However my worst complaint was the rock hard bed which had to be endured for 2 weeks I was in agony, no spare mattresses I was told, does beg the question as to what happens if someone has an accident? Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
After many hours traveling to Havana and then hours in immigration , we had expected better. Transfer was in an ageing Transit Van! The ship, at last, the cabin, the deluxe cabin the size of a postage stamp. Next dinner, don't even go ... Read More
After many hours traveling to Havana and then hours in immigration , we had expected better. Transfer was in an ageing Transit Van! The ship, at last, the cabin, the deluxe cabin the size of a postage stamp. Next dinner, don't even go there - horrific. Good job I like bread as I was going to have to get used to it. Captain, was arrogant! Rude and obnoxious, needs to be keel hawled for poor service. Oh and watch out for the the chimney smuts that cover you from the back of the ship. DON'T do it. Cost a fortune and very poor. Pity the crew. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Days 1- 3 – After a long flight, took a taxi (CUC 25) to our casa in Vedado Havana, Casavana. For anyone not yet booked, thoroughly recommend this place, good 4-star standard, and one third of the price of a hotel. Passport control did ... Read More
Days 1- 3 – After a long flight, took a taxi (CUC 25) to our casa in Vedado Havana, Casavana. For anyone not yet booked, thoroughly recommend this place, good 4-star standard, and one third of the price of a hotel. Passport control did ask for proof I have travel insurance. Even though this is covered by my credit card company, I asked them for a document stating this before I traveled, and was pleased I had it when they asked. Took a private guide for a walking tour of Old Havana the second day - excellent. Third day, took HOHO bus (CUC 5) and continued to walk around old Havana. In the evening went to the Parisien Cabaret in the Nacional Hotel – pleasant and not too expensive, $40 pp including dinner, booked in advance on-line. Day 4 Monday – In the morning we took the free walking tour of the Nacional Hotel. Fascinating look at the iconic hotel, including tour of bunkers prepared for Cuban Missile Crisis! Mid-day we headed towards the ship. Had intended to take a taxi, but the owner of the casa very kindly took us there! Check-in was unusual. Taken upstairs by 2 porters, and then check-in with suitcases. Took a total of 10 minutes as no lines. Told to leave our suitcases by the gangway and taken to our cabin. Luggage arrived 5 minutes later. Our cabin was and XE Deluxe on 6th deck. Very pleasant and reasonably spacious, with a nice sitting area. Had everything we needed and all in good condition. 2 power sockets in room, European style 220V and American 110V. Took advantage of the hot tub whilst the ship was fairly empty. Show in the evening (and every other evening) was excellent. Day 5 Tuesday – at sea. Nice relaxing day. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy if you want, in fact, much more than on most cruises. My friend and I got in the habit of winning most of the competitions/quizzes each day, providing plenty of free drinks as prizes – great fun! The friendliness and service of the staff on this ship was outstanding. The crew is from all over the world, including some from Cuba. You can see they are happy and work well together. Day 6 Wednesday – Holguin/Antilla. Landing is by tender at Antilla, a small town of about 11,000, an hour’s drive from Holguin. As there didn’t seem to be anything to do locally and was unsure of availability of taxis (there were a few outside the port), we decided to take the Cuba Life excursion, which we booked on the ship. I am not a fan of cruise excursions as I believe they are overpriced, but on this occasion decided it was the best option. The tour, although expensive, was very good. We went to quite a few different places, showing different aspects of Cuban life, past and present. Day 7 Thursday – Santiago de Cuba. We had decided to walk around town by ourselves (few minutes walk from ship), visiting places with info I had downloaded from the internet in advance. As we left the port, a bicycle taxi approached us offering a tour for CUC 5 an hour – too good to turn down. The driver took us on a 2-hour tour, showing us the major sights of the town and also the different neighbourhoods where people live. He dropped us in the centre of town and asked for CUC 60! On being asked how he got to CUC 60, he said it was CUC5 per person/per hour, which should have totaled CUC 20! (Keep in mind the average monthly salary in Cuba is CUC20-30.) When we refused to pay him CUC 60, he wanted CUC 40. I threatened calling the police, after which he calmed down. We paid him the 20 and walked away. We walked around the centre of town before returning to the ship. The show that night was at 7 pm, folk dances performed by the local Ballet Company, excellent. Day 8 – Montego Bay, Jamaica. Here we took a taxi with another couple to the Bob Marley compound in Nine Miles, for a total cost of $170. They take American Dollars here (US$ 1 = Jamaican $100). It was interesting but I found the drive very long at about 2.5 hours each way. Weather was hot. Day 9 – Cienfuegos. We took a taxi with another person from the cruise to the local botanical gardens just outside town. These 1,000 acre gardens were set up by Harvard University about 100 years ago and have trees and plants from all over the world. We paid CUC 2 each entrance and a total of CUC 10 for a private guide for an hour, as the plants are not marked. The guide was a fountain of knowledge about every plant, flower, bird, etc. We then continued in the taxi to the Palacio de Valle, by the sea on the edge of town. This National Monument was once the home of a rich, 19th century trader, and built in beautiful, Morrocan style. Today there is a restaurant downstairs and a rooftop terrace with a bar and views over the whole area. Entrance was CUC 2 each and included a cocktail on the roof! The taxi then dropped us off in the centre of town, where we walked around and then walked back to the ship (approx 15 minutes). Total cost of the taxi was CUC 30. The show that evening was another local group, also very good. Day 10 – Punta Frances – the beach of your dreams! We tendered to a palm-backed crescent of perfect sand. The only things on the beach were recliners, a couple of huts selling drinks etc, and one or two stalls selling handicrafts. The staff organized an exercise/dance session in the clear, turquoise water, and every one seemed to be having fun. We were tendered back to the ship for a barbeque lunch on deck. Day 11 – Departure. We arrived in Havana at about 9.00 and disembarkation was allowed from about 9.30. People with later flights still had to put their suitcases out the night before, as they had to be screened by Cuban Customs, but they were then kept in the port all day until you traveled. People could even come back and use facilities of the ship, including having lunch. A day room for use until 5.00 pm could also be booked for $50. All in all, Cuba was a fascinating experience, and doing it with Cuba Cruise, was an ideal and fun way to see various places in Cuba. Thoroughly recommended. Hazel Read Less
Sail Date January 2014

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