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329 Cuba Cruise Reviews

We had 3 generations wanting to get away for Christmas and wanting to go to Cuba. The Empress is smaller as everyone knows, but I felt it was in pretty good shape for an older ship. Our stateroom was small (deck 3), but what I expected. ... Read More
We had 3 generations wanting to get away for Christmas and wanting to go to Cuba. The Empress is smaller as everyone knows, but I felt it was in pretty good shape for an older ship. Our stateroom was small (deck 3), but what I expected. I thought it was plenty ample for as much time as we were in there. Our steward was amazing. The food in the main dining room was pretty good (but not as good as I had hoped) all nights except for the first night when they served "Christmas" dinner. My only complaint is, that even though we were second seating (8:30pm), I felt rushed. I had to ask for wine menu every night and our waiter was trying to take food orders before we ordered drinks. Wait staff was super friendly though! I also wished they had smaller tables so we didn't have to sit with others from ship. In the end, it worked out okay though and we made new friends. The Windjammer was a chaotic buffet every time we went. I dreaded it. The main dining room also had buffets for most lunches and breakfasts which was another disappointment. Bartenders for the most part acted like we were bothering them--only exception was on pool deck where they were awesome. I think the drink packages have made the bartenders not care about service since we aren't tipping on the spot. Bingo was $39 for 6 cards so we didn't play---seemed VERY high! We booked our own excursions in Cuba and Cozumel and had great days! Disembarkation was a nightmare and ran VERY LONG. Bottom line: The Empress is a great way to see Cuba! Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I chose this cruise for the Caribbean itinerary and also because I expected to experience the fine dining boasted about in the brochures and on the internet. The public spaces and our cabin were immaculately clean. With one or two ... Read More
I chose this cruise for the Caribbean itinerary and also because I expected to experience the fine dining boasted about in the brochures and on the internet. The public spaces and our cabin were immaculately clean. With one or two rather surly exceptions, members of staff were pleasant, friendly, approachable and helpful. Excursions and transfers were very efficiently organised. The ports were an excellent choice. The Braemar Show Company was exceptionally good. Other entertainers ranged from poor, through average to good. The traditional Crew Show was good but fewer crew seem to be willing to give up their spare time to perform. The Cruise Director, Elliot Taylor, sometimes just didn’t know what day it was. He sent out a note to cabins to change their clocks… but on the wrong night… and failed to send out a note on the night that clocks did have to be changed. A farewell BBQ was to coincide with second sitting guests leaving the dining room after dinner! Like many second sitting guests, we were unhappy that we were being charged for food that we couldn’t eat. The Cruise Director kept on saying night after night… how fabulous the food was… despite the rather desultory response from guests. The food was well below what we have experienced on many of the 15 previous cruises with Fred Olsen in the course of the last 5 years. On his website, Fred promises “expertly prepared, five-course a la carte dinner at the Thistle and Grampian Restaurants” but nothing could have been further from the truth. Service in the restaurant was the slowest that we’ve experience in the 20 years that we have cruised with Fred. The 8.30 pm second sitting guests frequently weren’t able to leave the table until almost 10.30 pm. On our second evening on board we, and almost everyone else, waited 35 minutes for a simple appetizer to be served. Menus on this cruise were bland, boring and banal. We saw not a single “five star” dish in over two weeks. The “Gala Manu” had little or nothing to distinguish it from any other of the second rate menus on board. Chocolates on Gala evenings seems to have for the most part been replaced with mini meringues… (Diabetics also beware…. we are now being charged for Fred to leave boiled sugar sweets on the pillow!) The amount of Turkey and yellow/grey, wet, overcooked Brussels Sprouts on offer gave the impression that we were being offered the Christmas leftovers. The Chef’s concoction one evening of a bit of pork, a bit of beef all mixed together with prawns gave us that idea that Chef was cleaning out the bottom of the freezer. Almost all meat was served in identical mechanically rectangular slices. Starters were tiny scraps that looked as if the latest trainee recruit had thrown them onto the plate. An “Oslo Platter” contained what seemed to be one quarter of one small rollmop. Soups frequently seemed to be just over-salted, boiled potatoes flavoured and processed until they were a glutinous gunge with all of the charm of wallpaper paste. “Chilled tomato soup with fresh basil” seemed to be carton tomato juice blitzed with woody basil stems leaving the “soup” full of fibers. “Chilled coconut soup” seemed to have been poured straight from a can taken from the fridge and a pinch of nutmeg sprinkled on top. Salads were roughly torn shreds of bitter lettuce with tiny fragments of tomato and cucumber. A single olive and two flakes of cheap canned tuna do not make a “Salad Nicoise”. These are, of course, part of the “five course a la cart dinner” that guests are charged for. “Classic Dishes” were often suggested by the menu but the evidence on the plate was very different. Classic “Wiener Schnitzel” had been replace on the plate with a thin, dry slice of fried pork; classic “Chateaubriand” looked like “boil in the bag” tenderloin with gungy “Béarnaise sauce” and “Classic” (Fred seems to like that word… he uses it a lot) “Roast Duck” was a dry, emaciated scrap that left us wondering where the missing duck meat would turn up in the following days. Main courses were often abysmally poor; mechanically sliced, bland, preformed turkey in a gluey “gravy” accompanied by a plug of bready stodge that was described as “stuffing”; “Venison Stew” with dire “dumplings” made out of reconstituted bread; paper thin slices of “Beef Wellington” welded to the plate by a film of dehydrated “gravy”; “Pasta” so dry that the sauce didn’t even touch the bottom of the plate… and no parmesan on offer. “Roast Potatoes” that varied from so crisp that they could have been newly fried to so rubbery and dehydrated that they could have been left-overs from a previous sitting… both on the same plate! Never have we seen so many meals being sent back to the Galley or so many meals being left unfinished. It was really embarrassing to see staff apologizing so much for the quality of food that they were being asked to serve. Desserts were often appallingly inconsistent… one “Crème Brulee” had a pool of sugar syrup rather than a caramalised topping, Pear and Apple Pudding with Calvados that was bland, stodgy and totally unappealing… selections of “British and International cheeses” (are there any others?) made up of minute portions of processed plastic unidentifiable cheese a single dried apricot, three grapes an eighth of a small radish and a match-stich sized portion of celery. Gone are the Lobsters, gone are the Racks of Lamb, and gone is the Fillet of Beef Mignon (except on the advertised sample Gala menu). Gone too is the Baked Alaska on parade and gone too is the Gala Buffet… (Now replaced with a choice of a Hot Dog or a Burger… immediately after second sitting dinner!) Gone too are Fish and Chips on Fridays! Gone too are the American steaks in the Grill… replaced by a cheaper alterative! Gone too are the popular Curry nights! Gone too… it would seem… are many of the skilled posts in the galley The “Late Night Buffet” offering is now a truly dismal affair. We looked in one night halfway through the cruise and only one guest had chosen to sample the mean and uninspired offering. The Cruise Director, announced at one evening show late in the cruise, “And ladies and gentlemen… the good news is that food costs are down on this cruise!” Fred’s promise in his brochure that “Dining on board is sure to be the highlight of your holiday… with a range of mouthwatering options all planned to perfection (and) sumptuous dishes” was not kept. We felt that Fred’s Chef and Cruise Director on the Braemar had simply lost the plot. It was clear that despite the guests having paid a hefty premium for what was promised to be an “award winning” “sumptuous” “five star” “dining experience” that the Cruise Director was were prepared to publically celebrate that guests on board had been subjected by the Chef to a well below average, mean, penny-pinching boring, bland diet… and that Fred was able to pocket the savings! If Fred won’t provide the food or the service in his restaurants that he promises and that we have paid for, he can’t compete with the stunning facilities and more economic prices of the bigger ships! Top Tip. The Maître d’hôtel has to write a report each day. It is emailed to the Chef, the Hotel Manager and the powers that be in Fred’s HQ. If the food is not as good as it should be… based on the brochure and Internet advertising… send it back to the kitchen and explain why. The message will slowly filter through! Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We took this cruise because the dates worked out well for out schedule. We also had never been on a Holland Ship before and thought that might be interesting. The ship itself is older and smaller but is well maintained. We found the food ... Read More
We took this cruise because the dates worked out well for out schedule. We also had never been on a Holland Ship before and thought that might be interesting. The ship itself is older and smaller but is well maintained. We found the food in the dinning room to be comparable to other cruise lines. The Lido cafeteria had food prepared for you rather than sitting out. This made the food fresher but also slowed down the eating process at busy time. Overall, I liked the Lido system better than other ships. The ports of call were very lacking but we new this when we booked the cruise. We stopped at the private island but it rained all day so we didn't get off. We had a sunny day on our stop at Grand Turk Island. There is not much to do there but it was a nice day on the beach. Our stop at the Dominican Republic was cancelled due to rough weather. That left our final stop at San Juan. We toured a fort but being we've been to San Juan twice before, we chose to return early to the ship. I guess I found the smaller ship more confining. The staff were nice but at times it seemed they were under staffed. Usually on ships, the staff are picking up your dishes before your even done eating but here there were often tables that had not been cleared. This occurred around the ship not in the main dinning room. The fitness room was very small. They had a good number of treadmills and bikes but there weight machines were few and old. I think the small size of the ship made for a rockier ride. They said most days the seas were 6 feet with the last day being 12 feet. Overall not the best experience except for the food. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Experienced cruisers on Celebrity and Holland America could be forgiven for thinking they're on-board the Spirit Air of the Seas instead of the Empress of the Seas! If your idea of cruise includes a nice breakfast, lunch , dinner or ... Read More
Experienced cruisers on Celebrity and Holland America could be forgiven for thinking they're on-board the Spirit Air of the Seas instead of the Empress of the Seas! If your idea of cruise includes a nice breakfast, lunch , dinner or snack on your veranda or in-room, be prepared to pay $7.95 EACH time you order. The ONLY room service that was "free" was a Continental Breakfast ...no eggs, bacon, pancakes etc. And that's just the beginning of the nickel and diming: no face lotion etc or other amenities in the bathroom (only a bar of soap and shampoo dispenser on the wall): no chocolate on the bed; if you want to keep up with news from "back home", only Fox and CNN, ESPN on tv ...no BBC or Sky News or CBC and no printed news sheets available. But the good news...the ship, although small (purposely acquired for shorter cruises and Cuba visits) is actually quite comfortable... despite comparatively tiny cabins... 134 square feet! The dining quality/experience in the dining room was superb; but the buffet was not just smaller (size of ship very visible there) but uninspiring and offerings just not up to what we've enjoyed on other ships. And with room service a no-go for most...the buffet was often quite crowded at breakfast and lunch. However the ports made this cruise a success overall! Just getting to see and experience Havana was worth putting up with the lower standards of RCCL compared to Celebrity and HAL. And other ports...Key West and Nassau ...quite nice "introductory" acts before the star attraction: Cuba. But just hope RCCL doesn't do to Celebrity what they've done to the cruise experience on their own ships...or we'll stick to HAL. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Chose for itinerary and availability of Royal Suite. Have not been on RCI in 7 years, and likely will not return after this. Although the staff tried as hard as they could (especially Suite/Loyalty Ambassador, but there's been so ... Read More
Chose for itinerary and availability of Royal Suite. Have not been on RCI in 7 years, and likely will not return after this. Although the staff tried as hard as they could (especially Suite/Loyalty Ambassador, but there's been so many cutbacks in quality and perks. Being in suite pretty much did not seem to matter anymore - much like Carnival. Food quality in MDR went way downhill, both in preparation and selection. To us, RCI still has the best, friendliest crew - but that's not enough to overcome the bad. Embarkation folks were terrible - from printing wrong Sea Pass cards to not understanding the requirements to travel to Cuba. They try to scare you into buying ship's tours in Cuba. RS was smaller than most ships (that was expected), but still quite nice. They did a great refurb in the bathrooms - this was the best cruise shower I've ever had - huge rainfall head. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
My wife and I (as well as most others) was to visit Cuba. The other ports, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Because we had been to the three ports, we didn't spend much time in the ports. Here is a recap to the cruise: ... Read More
My wife and I (as well as most others) was to visit Cuba. The other ports, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Because we had been to the three ports, we didn't spend much time in the ports. Here is a recap to the cruise: Embarkation - We took the air program thru HAL. Best move we could have made. We left Hartford in snow - on time. Our connection was in Charlotte where it was also snowing, Things looked good until we got out of the terminal. It took over 2 hours to de-ice our plane, needless to say we are now on borrowed time to get to the ship. We got to the ship 5 minutes before it left. HAL's shore people were outstanding. They waited for us at the airport, had a bus waiting and got us to the pier with no time to spare. Cruise personnel were waiting and rushed us on the ship. Rating: A+ Entertainment - Spotty at best. We usually go to the evening shows but I think we made 2, the others seemed to just kill time. Rating: C- Food - Dining room food was good, the servers seemed to be spread thin, we never got a chance to get to know them. We ate at the Pinnacle and the Italian restaurant, Both were very good. The Lido's choices were limited, unless you liked pork. No real food lines. Rating: B- Room: We had a balcony. Everything worked and the staff were excellent. Rating: A Excursions: Only tours taken where in Havana. The car tour was just fair, drove around 2 hrs with a driver who spoke no English. We did a p to p stop both days which were very interesting. The next morning we took the walk around Old Havana. Fair, some people walked around on their own which would have been better. A lot of people were unhappy because HAL never notified anyone that they added tours later in the year. Therefore they didn't get to see much of Havana. Rating: C+ Debarkation: Excellent. Rating A+ All in all, glad we went but next time will go for a longer period and go on a cruise that had a lot more to do. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I choose this cruise because it went to Cuba - overnight. I travelled solo. The first night they had a solo travel meet-up in the bar and it was empty. And they never did again like on other ships. My room was great -632. And the two ... Read More
I choose this cruise because it went to Cuba - overnight. I travelled solo. The first night they had a solo travel meet-up in the bar and it was empty. And they never did again like on other ships. My room was great -632. And the two stewards were fabulous. I was so disappointed in the Lido Cafe. They are only open certain hours. And they close completely between 8-10:30. And then reopen with a “fast food” type of buffet for an hour except the last two nights - it was 11-1. I asked the supervisors why isn’t it open on one side until 12. Like most ships and he responded the crew needs to prepare and they need their breaks! Sorry not my problem. I probably would avoid the Veendam for this . Also i saw a supervisor reprimand two hard working servers in the Lido Cafe the last morning in front of me. I felt so bad I tipped the server. The information about CUBA was so misunderstood. Just for instance the instructions on the paper they give us says not to smile when taking the picture in immigration - that is incorrect. And they told us American $$ can NOT be used in CUBA. So untrue. I bought things and tipped in dollars. The people were happy. Also the second day I didn’t take the people to people and got off the boat with hundreds of other people. No one checked. And the Cubans were so gracious in immigration and Customs. - The boat is old and needs renovation. There were several plumbing problems on my floor But the gym was fabulous. On the 11th floor - with a view. - all new equipment and a great staff! Great spa also. The entertainment was great ! I would like to go again on a similar cruise but would think twice about the way the Lido schedule is and the attitude of the management staff - not the workers. They are fine I also liked the excursions and the staff! But no music around the ship. Most ships have entertainment around the pool. There was no vacation mood around the ship! Also the room had no mini fridge. And no one told me until the last day that you can rent one! Bad marketing Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We sailed with Fred Olsen on the Braemar. We are not usual Olsen guests, probably slightly too young in our early fifties! we prefer more modern vessels. There are a number of issues; The ship is tired, built in 1968 she shows her age, ... Read More
We sailed with Fred Olsen on the Braemar. We are not usual Olsen guests, probably slightly too young in our early fifties! we prefer more modern vessels. There are a number of issues; The ship is tired, built in 1968 she shows her age, no amount of tinkering or refits will hide this. Loyal customers talk about how friendly it is, how they love the smaller ships, but they don't have the refinements of the larger more modern vessels. Staff; Hard working, but mostly chaotic service, our Head waiter apologised in the grampian restaurant almost every night bout the poor service as he had more tables to serve, the wine waiter had gone, so he had to double up for that also. Food was poor to adequate, not really the fine dining Fed Olsen goes on about, we had one meal at what I would call cruise standard, and that was when we paid an extra 40 pounds to dine in the "Grill", beautiful scallops, steak and desert served very well by an attentive waiter as he only had 4 tables to look after. Lunch and Breakfast was a joke, waiters spent more time chatting to themselves than serving and if you were there towards the end of service, most of them stared laying up for lunch. Fred Olsen appear to be on a cost cutting mission, no Baked Alaska parade, no Fish n chip friday's, no curry night, on the last night, it was decided to host a BBQ and dancing on the back end at 10:30, right after second sitting guests had finished dinner?! the only people who ate anything were the crew. The cabin was OK, but again the age of the ship is evident with small shower with shower curtain, instead of a modern glass door and chipped sink unit. For some reason during the last docking period, a decision had been made to take all the shelves out of the wardrobes? so we were left with 3 small drawers to fit everything in. We suffered noise almost every night and early morning, our cabin was, unfortunately, right under the Marquee deck furniture which the crew put away and put out very morning, I think by throwing it across the deck, complaints were listened to and apologies given, but it didn't stop it happening time and time again. I don't know what the future holds for Fred Olsen, their price point does not match what is offered and many other cruise lines offer better quality experience at a much lower price. The show team were very good, but the magician and the comedian on this cruise were awful, tired old magic and jokes, although it appealed to some of the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
30th anniversary .spoilt by inferior cabin.not reaching Jamaica.there was unrest but the captain said Ochoa Rios safe but weather was poor this was not the case ,we then had 3 days at sea doing nothing. Santiago unsafe and polluted, ... Read More
30th anniversary .spoilt by inferior cabin.not reaching Jamaica.there was unrest but the captain said Ochoa Rios safe but weather was poor this was not the case ,we then had 3 days at sea doing nothing. Santiago unsafe and polluted, Tortola devastated should not of gone very upsetting . Continually being disturbed by captain announcements whilst resting(unimportant announcements.just like butlins 1970. Jakuzzi not working 3 days no info from guest services after enquiringly several times permanent repairs at sea ,decks closed. Pool closed 2 days . No more Fred Olsen your not on holiday your just bossed around. Could not get a free cup of only on 1 deck and and we were inclusive but nice food and entertainment. Shore excursions very poor no imagination ship left most ports early lack of shuttle buses. Had to have mixers separate as drinks were drowned in cheap post mix. Casino inadequate two tables in a corridor Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I chose this cruise relatively close in to sail date because I had never been to Cuba and price was a Top 10 Deal. Have been cruising HAL for 20 years so am used to seeing service levels and amenities decline every year. However, unless ... Read More
I chose this cruise relatively close in to sail date because I had never been to Cuba and price was a Top 10 Deal. Have been cruising HAL for 20 years so am used to seeing service levels and amenities decline every year. However, unless HAL improve the boarding, administration, and in-PORT experience, they will not be able to continue filling these cruises. On the plus side: 1. The entertainment was the best I have experienced on HAL - enjoyed every night in the Queen's Lounge (or whatever they call it these days). 2. Staff, while being forced to do more and more each cruise are still pleasant - but far fewer are on repeat contracts. 5 - 10 years ago, I would see the same staff, cruise after cruise, but did not recognize any on this one. 3. Cleanliness. Well kept. 4. Captain. A real Irish joker who ran a tight ship. 5. BBC Earth. 6. Adagio Day 1 - Boarding: Easy and quick, but not provided with 4 Star pre-Boarding card - told to sit in waiting area, and only realized that the ship was actually ready to board for 4 Stars when I noticed other people going straight from check-in desk to gangway, bypassing holding area. On-Board Account. As usual, no shareholder credit appeared, even though I had specifically asked for and received confirmation of such credit from my travel agent. Had to have that email photographed for front desk to "send to Seatlle for confirmation" before S/H credit appeared. Why can they not get this right? Sets a bad mood for beginning of cruise. Day 2 - Key West. Arrived at Military Pier, a 30 minute tram ride to downtown. WHY? Cost cutting? NCL was at main town dock. Had to leave by 4pm. WHY? We only sailed at 12kts for next 2 days. Day 3. At Sea. Rough, but it's January so no complaints, other than public rooms on ship were kept at ice cold temperatures inside. I became quite ill by end of cruise. Day 4. Costa Maya - Did not dock. Winds gusting to 50kts. Why sail 120 miles south of Cozumel and then 120 miles back (at 6kts for 20 hours) when winds have been at gale force all previous day? Why not simply have an extra day at Cozumel? And why did Captain wait until 30 minutes AFTER we had performed a U-Turn at Costa Maya to explain? Day 5 - Cozumel. I like Cozumel, rented a car as always, and went to San Gervasio ruins and the east coast beaches. Disappointed that as it was Sunday, the Eco-Park at the south end was closed. But have noticed on last three HAL cruises that many ports are docked at on national or religious holidays. Why? Are dock charges less? Also note that ship docks about 3 miles south of town, at a purpose built shopping center, where prices of Mexican souvenirs are five times the price that the local artisans charge in the downtown Mercado. Day 6 - Havana. Well, only half a day. Good tour of Hemingway's home and fishing village followed by night walk in old town. Fortunately we had a very well educated and interesting guide. But ship arrived an hour late thanks to late departure of an MSC ship in the dock we needed, and immigration, currency and bus boarding procedures took another hour. NOTE - US Dollars (cash, all denominations) are widely accepted in Havana despite the EXC director telling everyone to line up (and waste time) to exchange $100 to Pesos. Day 7 - Havana (a couple of hours). Appallingly disorganized walking tour of approximately 12 blocks by an anti-Trump guide, who spent all his "P2P time" berating US policy instead of describing the buildings. I left after the second (of the four squares we were supposed to see) because it was quite clear that this idiot had no intention of taking the group to the remaining two squares or to the park where most of the shiny 1950s American cars were available. I filed an official complaint with the Shorex desk but as of today, have not received an apology or a refund. NOTE - you do NOT need to do HAL Shorex's and old Havana is safe, clean and walkable. If you go, take one of their expansive bus tours on day one to acclimate to the country and then do your own city walking tour on day 2. By getting off the ship yourself at daybreak, you might get 4 hours of sightseeing (embarkation was 1130). Day 8. Disembarkation/FLL. Disappointing taste in mouth because they charged me for Crows Nest cocktail the night before even though I had presented a $25 beverage card. When wasting 15 mins to get it rectified at front desk, was told "Oh the charge did not go through on the gift card, so we billed your account". If I had not opened the final statement and seen this, I would have been out the money, because the gift cards are cruise specific, and the remaining balance would not have been valid on my next cruise. Customs a breeze because I always choose self-offloading. But as usual, crooked taxi driver attempted the $20 scenic dock tour instead of the $11 direct to airport route. This time, I was wise to it, and told him to go the correct way. He feigned ignorance, and could hardly speak English, but as this is the second time in two cruises they have pulled this trick, be aware and ready for an argument, or call an Uber, where you know the fare in advance. Overall, ship and staff were good, but administration (4 star boarding, two accounting mistakes) needs attention. Biggest change must be to increase time in port. Need at least 2 more hours in Key West and Cozumel, and some way to get more time in Havana - maybe a second overnight so that the entire town can be explored. We were constantly reminded that the Cuban way is to not start the day til 10 am, and then do very little. So why depart at 1130? Costa Maya is just an artificial shopping center and small village, so dropping this port and adding an overnight in Havana would be much more valuable. As I have been to over 100 ports with HAL, my future focus now is hours in port, and I'm no longer interested in a mere six hours, as traffic everywhere has curtailed the ability to see as much as ten years ago. HAL should compensate for this by INCREASING time in port. Otherwise, with limited new destinations to see, I will be less inclined to do a repeat itinerary, if I know i will be seeing less than on previous cruises. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Cruise is chosen because of the itinary and price. We have cruised before with MSC (Splendida & Fantasia) in the mediterranean. Embarkation was smooth (except for the customs in Cuba) Ship is old and on some places this is ... Read More
Cruise is chosen because of the itinary and price. We have cruised before with MSC (Splendida & Fantasia) in the mediterranean. Embarkation was smooth (except for the customs in Cuba) Ship is old and on some places this is vissible. Also the enlargment of the ship didn't match the restaurants and public places. The window cleaning was poor and suspected a long time ago done, some windows you can't see throug. Cabin is average but the shower was very poor (a very, very small shower, you could barely stand in it) It is scary when you pull out an electric plug out of the wall socket and the socket is coming out also. The toilet seat was old and on some places discolored (yellow instead of white) and the cover of the light above the mirror and sink was lose. Entertainment was excellent but a pitty they did repeat the shows the next week, so the second week was boring on the entertainment. Dining was average (we did eat better before on other ships (also on ships from MSC) and just like the entertainment repeating itself. Service was ok, but some personell on board need some training on kindness and client approach and dealing with complaints. Some people working at the service desk were rude and cannot deal with complaining guests. Ports (Havana, Montego bay, George town, Cozumel, Havana, Belize city, Roatan, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Havana) were excellent and the same score for the excursions itself. Disembarkation and embarkation was ok, however there were not to many points were you could get on or of the ship. Sometimes there was only one gangway for all the people going off or on the ship. We did travel with 6 adults in 3 cabins and were scattered all over the ship. Fitness room was very small and sometimes crowdy. Internet is to expensive for the quality the deliver. In the cabin we had no wifi reception at all so we had to go to another part of the ship to get connection. And even when we have a wifi connection it was very slow, so slow we cannot even send one photo with a smal text from my smartphone (galaxy S8) to facebook. We had the smallest bundle (1000 MB) for € 50,- You better avoid the public toilets when you have to do a big deposit because they are not realy proper and sometimes the toiletpaper is depleated. A lot of bars and lounges are closed during the day (even on a sea day) so you were forced to go to the same locations everybody goes. The itenary was great and recomandable. We think we skip MSC for a while, there are other companies who have a better overall score. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
The Veendam offers a somewhat pleasant get-a-way as long as you understand what your getting. The Veendam is a rather small older ship compleatly lacking in any of the modern features offered on newer larger vessels. This is a good fit for ... Read More
The Veendam offers a somewhat pleasant get-a-way as long as you understand what your getting. The Veendam is a rather small older ship compleatly lacking in any of the modern features offered on newer larger vessels. This is a good fit for the crowd it attracts which averages at least retirement age. Enjoy a nice quite experience at Sea this is your ship. Want some excitement and new experiences find another cruise. Ship was clean and mostly well maintained but still had the elevator issues others have mentioned. Food and Service was good overall. At times the selections offered on the Dining Room Menu where a bit strange. However, a quick request to the waiter and a nice steak was quickly served. The buffet again had a good selection but the layout was very confusing with the start of the line often in the center of the buffet with no clue it it went right or left. The Eastern Caribbean Itinerary included some limited times in port and it is clear that many of the ports are really not yet ready for tourist to return especially if they expect the same choice of activities offered before the storms. Biggest pleasant surprise was the Entertainment. Singers and Dancers put on two excellent shows plus two excellent guest entertainers. Much improved over previous Cruise on the same ship. Again if you are at least not actively planning your retirement you can do much better for just a little more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We signed up for the Cuba cultural exchange cruise with Peal Seas which owns the Pearl Mist as this seemed to be a good compromise between a big ship and a yacht. We have mixed feelings about this ship after our 11 days on it. It has ... Read More
We signed up for the Cuba cultural exchange cruise with Peal Seas which owns the Pearl Mist as this seemed to be a good compromise between a big ship and a yacht. We have mixed feelings about this ship after our 11 days on it. It has wonderful crew and personnel and the service was outstanding as well as the well-informed cultural lectures and itinerary. The food was good, though somewhat on the bland side, which may be somewhat determined by the taste of the rather elderly clientele. However, there was a choice of menu, they would even prepare items that were not on the menu but there is no choice of restaurant. What was unfortunate was that the ship itself or its maintenance had some major problems- the wifi internet conked out in a couple of days into the cruise and never restored (lack of expertise?), and when the sea was rough, wooden drawers from the cabinets fell out making banging noises as well as banging partitions between balconies. Even our bureau fell off the hinges spilling the ice bucket and the coffee in the coffee maker all over the floor. And the ship was very, very slow- perhaps at most 10 miles (knots?) an hour. On the plus side, we got to know quite a few of the fellow guests, and overall there was a good esprit de corps. They should have better maintenance and technical knowhow. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Several issues with this cruise - entertainment on a weekly programme, if you're there for two weeks you get the same twice - no comedy shows (assume because of language issues) - no cinema, although the so called business ... Read More
Several issues with this cruise - entertainment on a weekly programme, if you're there for two weeks you get the same twice - no comedy shows (assume because of language issues) - no cinema, although the so called business centre is crying out to be a cinema - very little to do on sea days - all activities seem to be dancing or exercise, no lectures/talks - no information on ports of call apart from a flimsy photocopied map. The talks about ports was confined to selling the ship's trips which we thought were hugely expensive. No account was taken of people who wanted to do their own thing. - no ship's newspapers in different languages or crosswords of sudokus which we have had on different cruises =- no possibility of swapping to freedom dining unless you were in a balcony or above cabin - no quiet pool without music or children. very noisy on pool deck and difficult to find an "untowelled bed" - very good classical music entertainment - very good value all inclusive drinks package - - food okay but not very special - service very slow in the bars Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We chose this cruise as a great way to visit two ports in Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos. I will address this first as it's my one complaint, although a big one. We paid more for the itinerary than sailings that visited Havana alone. ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a great way to visit two ports in Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos. I will address this first as it's my one complaint, although a big one. We paid more for the itinerary than sailings that visited Havana alone. Holland America does not tell you that Cienfuegos is dicey to get into, and you may or may not make it. We were told the reason we could not get into the port was wind. My husband and I were standing on the promenade deck during the announcement with no white caps and several fishing boats in the distance sitting calmly on the water. Hmmm... If what we experienced was too windy to get into Cienfuegos, it's a wonder the ship ever gets in. We also checked weather.com around the time we'd have left port and the winds were only 11 mph. I have contacted HAL, but so far their response is "we're sorry you were disappointed". The cruise staff did add activities and made it a nice day at sea, and the weather was lovely. But an extra day at sea is not why we booked this particular itinerary nor what we paid for. HAL buyers beware. On to the more positive aspects of this cruise... Hotel: The night before the cruise, we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Las Olas. Great location, nice hotel, friendly staff. Highly recommend OB-House for breakfast. It's a bit of a hike from the Hampton Inn, but certainly doable. We took the shuttle to the port. They also picked us up after the cruise for a nominal fee, stored our luggage for several hours back at the Hampton Inn while we bummed around Las Olas again, and took us to the airport for our later-day flight. Wonderful service. Embarkation and Disembarkation: Quick and easy. Short lines, helpful people. The Veendam: The ship is older so I was surprised what nice shape it's in, and we are pretty picky. The crew was cleaning the carpets, wiping down and polishing banisters, cleaning glass, etc. on a daily basis. The ship did not show it's age. Deck chairs and loungers were decent, same for the tables in the eating venues. Very nice ship, liked the size. Just fyi, if you like to walk, as we do, four times around on the promenade deck equals a mile. Our Cabin: Cabins are maybe a bit smaller than on newer ships, but really fine. The bathroom was small with a shower and curtain alone. The only issue is there was one plug in the entire cabin and that includes the bathroom. This is important to know and easily addressed. Bring a power strip so you can plug in all your devices. And if it's important to you to have your phone or a clock on the nightstand, bring a long extension cord. The plug is at the vanity. There are both US and Euro outlets, so if you have an adapter, you could plug in two devices or, better yet, two power strips. Dining: We had early seating at a table for six. Loved our tablemates. Each evening with them was fun. HAL food is quite good and the Veendam is no exception. Great selection. We are "vegetarish", not vegetarians but prefer meat infrequently. We had lots of great options. Food selections in the Lido were particularly excellent. The past two HAL cruises have included many Asian options and that's one of our preferred food types. Everything fresh and delish. Loved the salads at lunch. I'd start with the "salad of the day" and customize from there. Extra good. And the ice cream area was well patronized for good reason. Yum. Entertainment and Activities: The production shows were quite good, especially the last one which centered on dancing. The dancers were here and there around the ship, very friendly. The guest pianist Juan Pablo was excellent and very funny. Don't miss him if he's performing. There was also a magician heralded as winning some contest in New York. We watch America's Got Talent in the summer. Let's just say this guy would not make the semi finals. Our dining tablemates were big into trivia, so we did this with them alot in the evenings. Fun. We also learned to play a Cuban version of dominoes and a dice poker game called Cubilete. The cruise staff was excellent, particularly Misha and Cisco. America's Test Kitchen was new to us and a fab addition to HAL ships. Very well attended. We like to cook and the demos gave great tips for both ingredients, cooking techniques, and equipment. They don't sell anything, so no pressure. We have since joined America's Test Kitchen and now have the app on our phones. Greatly enjoyed this. Service: Both our cabin and dining stewards could not have been nicer or more efficient. Same goes for the Front Desk staff and Activity Directors. Ports: First was Key West. Hadn't been there for several years. We'd forgotten how much we like it. We had lunch at Pepe's. It's the oldest restaurant in Key West. Funky with great food. They sometimes have plates of jumbo shrimp with wonderful homemade sauce. It's not on the menu, so we asked and were in luck. Yum. In the past, we've done the hop-on / hop-off bus which I highly recommend. Gets you around and provides good info. My brother-in-law suggested we visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. It was very interesting and well worth spending time there. Havana was next and the highlight of the cruise. We did a private tour through Havana Journeys. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Read their reviews and you'll see why. We paid extra for our tour to be in a convertible rather than a hardtop. Well worth the extra money. If you want Cuban cigars and rum, best to buy them in Cuba and not elsewhere in the Caribbean. Much better pricing in Cuba. The dancers on the ship told us Cuba's National Ballet was performing the evening we were in port. But they also said it's very difficult to get tickets, as they sell out quickly. Our guide took us to the Gran Teatro (gorgeous gorgeous building) box office just in case, and we were able to get tickets, as did our guide. So we met her and her boyfriend at the ballet that night and saw a performance of Giselle. Absolutely wonderful. Yes, many dancers and cruise staff from the ship were there also. Glad all were able to enjoy this beautiful and unique event. Cienfuegos was the next port, but as I mentioned earlier, even with the lovely weather, it was deemed to windy for the ship to enter the port. Grand Cayman was our last port. Another place we've been to several times, and a fun place. We went snuba diving, sort of a cross between scuba and snorkeling. Instead of being on your back, the tank floats above you on a raft. A ~20' hose connects the tank to your regulator. But my #1 recommendation, if you've never done it, is Stingray City. A 'do not miss' on Grand Cayman, imo. I'd have given this cruise four stars had it not been for the missed port with only a "tough luck" from HAL when they clearly knew this could be an issue and chose to not inform us ahead of booking. Other aspects of the cruise were great and we had a very nice time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We choose this cruise specifically for the opportunity to visit more than one stop in Cuba. As a frequent cruise vacationer (this being my 6th cruise, but first with Holland) I was less than impressed with the cruise overall. Ship was ... Read More
We choose this cruise specifically for the opportunity to visit more than one stop in Cuba. As a frequent cruise vacationer (this being my 6th cruise, but first with Holland) I was less than impressed with the cruise overall. Ship was old and showed her years. Most staff were not exactly friendly and only occasionally interacted with our party. Food was bland and occasionally cold. The Lido Buffet it seemed was understaffed and lines were delayed. Due to unforeseen weather conditions the Captain was forced to cancel our second stop in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Very disappointing to everyone I spoke with on the ship! Apparently very few cruise ship are small enough to transit this port past the sea wall. Shallow entry with sand bars and any winds (which are frequent to this port) and the ship cannot dock safely to tender guests to shore. The Captain opted to drift with the current 100 miles south of Cuba and parked the ship with a light breeze across the bow. Back up plans were weak and activities doubled to keep the passengers entertained. I am an avid scuba diver so I did enjoy the ship arranged dive excursion. We selected a different People to People tour for our interaction with the Cuban people and Yosel Vazquez with I Love Cuba Photo Tours was absolutely Fantastic!!! Wonderful stops, photo memories of our journey, great food and transportation! He was the best part of our trip! Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
This all-inclusive cruise offered chance to visit 3 ports in Cuba and the pricing in January seemed enticing. Why not? Ship is 18 years old and IS small by comparison to most mainline cruise ships out there. However, it is well ... Read More
This all-inclusive cruise offered chance to visit 3 ports in Cuba and the pricing in January seemed enticing. Why not? Ship is 18 years old and IS small by comparison to most mainline cruise ships out there. However, it is well maintained and all service staff, all areas, do an exceptional job! Cabins (outside and veranda) appear to be average in size, i.e. compact. Great bed linens, towels, (tiny shower), comfortable bed. Due to small size of ship, the public areas tend to be either small, limited, or few in number. Casino is small, rumor is it will become machines only in future. Only two shops, small gym with few machines limited lockers. No more stage productions rather a change over to mini-act show, or individual entertainers. The ships captain was the most personable, friendly, and walking among the passengers - ever. He loves to chat, smile, greet, or pose for selfies. Exceptional! Same can be said for the cruise director. He was friendly, approachable and interesting, mixing with all the passengers and talented. Great Brit-wit! And, he's a great singer at the White-Night Party! The food in general was OK, but nothing to rave about. We found a few good items in main dining room and the Prime C was great! But, one must reserve - fast and early - to be assured a place in specialty dining. We were greatly disappointed in Chef's Table on the night we tried it, but the menu varies per night, and we heard other nights were great. The average age of passengers is high, and Azamara appears to have a loyal following. The smaller ship size does allow smaller or more obscure ports - part of the allure. We'd sail with "her" again, but the itinerary would be the main attraction. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were not disappointed in that respect. The food on board was not up to the quality we are used to with Azamara. The ship needed some work and the entertainment not to our taste. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were not disappointed in that respect. The food on board was not up to the quality we are used to with Azamara. The ship needed some work and the entertainment not to our taste. We were disappointed in the tours because there were only a few offered so many buses going to the same places and it was a bit crowded. It was too bad that there were not more tours or things suggested to do in the evenings in Havana. We did enjoy the Azamazing Evening. As usual Azamara went out of their way to provide a fantastic trip out. This was our fifth time with Azamara so we are very loyal but we did find that their was a lot of time (too much time) spent on promoting sales on future sailings. We will continue to be loyal customers of Azamara but hope they pay attention to customers comments. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise for the Cuba intensive itinerary and because my Sister-in-Law loves Azamara. We were very disappointed. Although the size is perfect (less than 700 passengers) and we never felt crowded, the ship needs refurbishing. ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the Cuba intensive itinerary and because my Sister-in-Law loves Azamara. We were very disappointed. Although the size is perfect (less than 700 passengers) and we never felt crowded, the ship needs refurbishing. The cabin was small (even though it was a mid-range balcony stateroom). The furniture was very 70s style and when I moved a night stand to plug in something there were cobwebs. Tiny bathroom with a small shower with a shower curtain that clung to the person showering. The amenities were good quality and plentiful. We found the food to be average. We ordered tea service one afternoon and I swear the cookies were Keebler. No scones and clotted cream. No finger sandwiches. We are vegetarian but that has not been a problem on 20+ other cruises. Every evening there was one or two choices but they were almost all either eggplant (don't like) or potato based. No variety. The Indian dishes, usually a good choice on the buffets, was bland. Sorry, but even the creme brulee was blah. Usually a few days after a cruise we are still talking about some of the meals and lamenting we can't get that food locally. Not this time! There was almost no entertainment. I've never been on a Caribbean cruise that didn't have pool music. There was a decent destination lecturer who even added a lecture on request from the passengers but the theater and comedy was amateur. They did do an excellent Azamazing evening, although it was very last minute due to complications with Cuba. Otherwise the shore excursions were limited. I booked private tours in Cienfuegos and Havana. Otherwise there would have been nothing we wanted to do. Most of the excursions in Havana were to the nightclubs. Embarkation took a long time and had no accommodation for people with disabilities. Someone finally pulled my husband (who has Parkinson's) out of the line so he could sit (he looked like he was about to collapse) but it was so late that moving us to the suites line didn't really get us checked in faster (but at least we were where there was a chair for him while I waited). For a cruise with so many older people, many with mobility issues, the ship was not very handicapped friendly. Disembarking was very smooth. Maybe I was expecting too much but this didn't seem very luxurious, especially for the price. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
This 10-day cruise focused on Cuba visiting three ports. The ship is older, pretty well maintained, but showing wear particularly in cabin bathroom. The cabin attendants were excellent and the dining room staff attentive and capable. ... Read More
This 10-day cruise focused on Cuba visiting three ports. The ship is older, pretty well maintained, but showing wear particularly in cabin bathroom. The cabin attendants were excellent and the dining room staff attentive and capable. The food was satisfactory. There were some significant disappointments. Azamara promises no more than 25 participants on shore excursions. We had four shore excursions in Cuba with 38 participants (all day tour), 38 participants (all day tour), 28 participants (part day) and 28 participants (part day). So, we never experienced a shore excursion with 25 or fewer participants. When I inquired, I was told that there were insufficient buses in Cuba. Surely, Azamara knew that before we booked but that limitation was not disclosed in any of its materials available before or on the cruise. Also, no wireless earphones were used making attention to the guide all the more difficult in the large tour group. One shore excursion to Trinidad, Cuba was not well planned with dead time, a drink in a place with no seating, and a buffet lunch with a line of 25 minutes to get to the food. Embarkation was delayed to permit a couple of hundred local travel agents onto the ship. Our balcony cabin was very small with the smallest bathroom we have experienced in 27 cruises. The toilet malfunctioned on three days. It was finally fixed when I brought the problem to the attention of the hotel manager who was helpful and conciliatory. We splurged one night for the Chef's table. Unfortunately, it was conducted in the less than atmospheric bar area of a specialty restaurant on a long high table with bar stools. We could only speak with the folks very close to us and the wine was not memorable in any sense, including its paucity. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
The other couple we went with like the Holland America Line very much. We are Celebrity Cruises but we said we would go since we wanted to go to Cuba. Check in was the easiest I have every had. The ship is very, very old and we were ... Read More
The other couple we went with like the Holland America Line very much. We are Celebrity Cruises but we said we would go since we wanted to go to Cuba. Check in was the easiest I have every had. The ship is very, very old and we were told it was going in for refurbishing in 2019 or it was being sold. We were late to two port by a couple of hours. I have never been late to a port before in all my cruising. Very disappointing. The staff was great and the food was good. The dancers were excellent and the shows were good and all entertaiment was very good. We were more than two hours late to our disembarkation port and it was very stressful since we had a plane to catch (but we just did make it). All the ports were great and enjoyed visiting on the islands we visited. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
The itinerary was the reason for taking this cruise, e.g. circling the island of Cuba. The tours were good and we saw a lot of the Cuban countryside and how people live in both urban and rural areas. There were some differences in the ... Read More
The itinerary was the reason for taking this cruise, e.g. circling the island of Cuba. The tours were good and we saw a lot of the Cuban countryside and how people live in both urban and rural areas. There were some differences in the places we visited (between buses) -- for the same tours - not just the order of places visited. We were somewhat bored toward the end of the cruise though. We felt the evening entertainment was weak. We didn't like their 'anytime dining' because we often had to wait for a table, unlike other lines with similar programs, but where reservations are taken. Azamara did survey some guests mid-cruise to see if improvements were warranted and they did follow up on the comments received. Staff was very pleasant, helpful and visible throughout the cruise. New captain was very personable and often seen around the ship. Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth and efficient for us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and our previous experience on Oceania. However, our cruise on the Regatta left much to be desired. We found the service in the Main Dining Room to be extremely slow. The General Manager aboard ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and our previous experience on Oceania. However, our cruise on the Regatta left much to be desired. We found the service in the Main Dining Room to be extremely slow. The General Manager aboard indicated that their goal is 1-3/4 hours to 2 hours per table for dinner. We had 2 dinners where it took over 2-1/2 hours to finish. I attribute this to a lack of staff as while the dining room staff were enthusiastic and personable they were running around trying to service their tables. The staff in Polo also seemed to be under staffed and the servers were slow in responding and mixed the orders on more than one occasion. Overall, the quality of the food was very good, however, several times the meats were overcooked and dry. We had the unfortunate experience on an onboard medical emergency that required the ship to turn around and head back to the Hawaiian islands to rendezvous with a helicopter to medevac the patient. This caused the ship to lose about 25 hours and as a result Oceania decided to drop 2 ports of call: Cabo San Lucas and Guatemala. Interestingly enough the Oceania Marina had the same itinerary as the Regatta from San Diego through the Panama Canal, but they stopped at every port that we were scheduled to stop at and even had more port time than we were to have. Many passengers felt that Regatta could have made up the requisite time and only dropped one port, not two. The communications between the Captain and the passengers left much to be desired. It started when everyone came aboard and found that the ship was being sanitized from an apparent Noro Virus that developed on the previous segment. There was no official explanation of the problem and no continuing updates as to the progress in rectifying the problem. The shore excursions were, for the most part, only fair. In many ports they were shortened even though there was more time in port. It seemed that the ship wanted to leave port as soon as possible. In some ports the tours were not as described in the brochures. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Cuba cruise. Group of 6, family and friends. One Neptune Suit, one Vista Suite and one interior cabin. Embarcation went ok, usually they load the wheel chairs first. One of our party was disabled and used wheelchari assist. We were ... Read More
Cuba cruise. Group of 6, family and friends. One Neptune Suit, one Vista Suite and one interior cabin. Embarcation went ok, usually they load the wheel chairs first. One of our party was disabled and used wheelchari assist. We were the last to go on the ship. The ship was clean. One of my highlights on Holland is the Culenary Arts and the Microsoft classes. Both so interesting. Dinning was the best I have had on any of my 6 cruises. 3 on Holland, 2 on princess and one on Norweigan. Presentation and taste above the average for sure. Service the best!! The entertainment was average from what I have seen. Two entertainers other then the ship signers and dancers. Majic and comedy, Both great! And the ship singers and dancers were good just not memerable. As I already mentioned the Culenary Arts and Microsoft classes are the best. Seems drinks have gone up a bit, did not get a beverage package. And did not appear that the prices were the same everywhere . Ports were good, although our one disabled person booked a shore excurtion and it was a tender that we did not see on the cruise site prior to the cruise. She wanted to try but was just not going to make it. They would not refund, we understood somewhat. The service was an A+ in every aspect! Every employee always made eye contact and has a friendly Hello. All services were kind and friendly. Best service by all . Just out of their control to fix air conditioning on an aging ship! I do not think we will be do Holland again, for sure not on the Veendam! On my other Holldand cruise, Amsterdam cruise, in a Neptune Suite , also had problems with air conditioning. Very disappointed ! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Overall: Remember: this is a Cuba cruise. It is not by any means a typical Norwegian cruise. You’re paying to go to Cuba in a fun way. Period. With that in mind, there will be fewer disappointments. Embarkation: our plane from LGA was ... Read More
Overall: Remember: this is a Cuba cruise. It is not by any means a typical Norwegian cruise. You’re paying to go to Cuba in a fun way. Period. With that in mind, there will be fewer disappointments. Embarkation: our plane from LGA was delayed about an hour, so we got to the pier later than expected, but definitely not too late. We’d taken Norwegian’s shuttle from the airport and everything went seamlessly. In fact, we were the only two passengers on the bus! Twenty minutes later, the very nice driver dropped us off and gave us our luggage. At no time were we approached or directed by any Norwegian personnel or asked for our bags. After passing some tough-looking security ladies, we literally had to drag our belongings up a set of stairs, dressed for New York early spring, in the humid Miami midday heat. Through the metal detectors and on line to check in with only three people ahead of us. We got our room keys and necessary documents within minutes and were directed to the gangway. Still, no one offered to check our bags. Having traveled with Norwegian five or six times before -including out of Miami- I found this highly unusual. It’s very hot, winter coat in hand, struggling with carry-on and pulling the main bags, all the while being asked for the key cards and being sprayed with that awful bug spray. But that’s ok...at least we can go right to our room and unpack and change and freshen up. We can handle the bags, it’s just that that had ever happened before on any Norwegian Cruise. Our concern was for the lady behind us, though, as she was alone and appeared to be in her eighties. Clearly, she was suffering in the heat. I offered her a hand, but a sympathetic security guard came out of the shadows and directed her to the elevator. Anyhow, point being: if you’re on the late side, check in is super easy, but be warned: you may be on your own. The Cabin: see below The Cruise: the captain did a subperb job. He got us to all the ports on time and in one piece. Of course, the incredible weather helped! The Sea seemed as smooth as glass. Excursions: for us, the purpose of this trip was to go to Cuba and insert the pin in the travel map. We didn’t care so much about the entertainment or the food or the alcohol. Cuba has been off limits for most of my life (I’m 62) and I’m very interested in the history. We realized going in, though, that the cruise would cost a couple of grand and we’d only really be in Cuba for a couple of hours! That’s some price to pay! The excursion we chose was called the Ultimate Highlights of Havana. We had a good tour lady and she appeared to know her way around. The bus was modern and comfortable and I think it even had a rest room in the back. Norwegian warns you in the beginning, though, that the excursions may not be up to the standards set by the company that are found on other cruises. They even warn that thick accents may make the tour guide’s words unintelligible to a certain degree. Well, luckily, that was not the case with our guide. We seemed to drive around what appeared to be the outskirts of Havana, so we never got to see government buildings up close or Revolution Square or Ricky Riccardo’s Birthplace. We did, however, manage to get to the Havana Cemetery where another lady took us on a very short tour, explaining how the bodies are left for two years to decompose in a box in the Havana heat and then the bones are placed in a smaller box the size of a human femur and interned in the ground... now was this really necessary? Is this ‘highlight’ really ultimate? I’ll let you decide. After the graveyard experience, we drove around and saw buildings in an extreme state of disrepair. The lady said that it was the hurricane, but to me it looked like those pictures you see of Berlin right after WW II. I’m no engineer, but I don’t think a hurricane could do that kind of damage. Perhaps I’m wrong. We drove past the US embassy and the lady told us that it has been closed. Again. She was kind of trying to blame the president (of the US) and didn’t appear to even know that embassy employees had suffered some kind of brain damage after exposure to extremely high frequency sound waves from an unknown source. Another stop was at a giant statue of Jesus Christ overlooking Havana Harbor. From the front of this statue, you can look over the hill and see your ship, The Norwegian Sky. It makes for a nice photo op. If you happen to glance down the hill, though, you will see an incredible amount of garbage littering the hillside. Cans, bottles, paper, trash in general...and not even one garbage recepticle in sight. One stop we did not make, for some reason, was the open air Cuban Missle Crisis Museum. From the bus going by at 50 mph, you could see a MIG-21 and a bunch of missles pointing skyward and other antique military equipment. Now there was a place we could have stopped. The last stop was at some giant Spanish fortress at least 400 years old. We all got off the bus and were marched to the entrance only to be told that we couldn’t go inside, but that we could use the rest room located in...you guessed it: the gift shop! Well, the gift shop only really sold cigars and cigarettes and alcohol. I bought a fistful of Cuban cigars and waited outside for my wife who braved the long line into the rest room. After that, we got back on the bus and headed back to port. One final word: entering Cuba at the port area, you will get your passport stamped. Norwegian arranges your visa at a cost of $150 for the both of us, but double-check on day one that they’ve filled it out correctly. One mistake or misspelling and you’re not going to be able to put that pin in your map! Also, consider the consequences of having this stamp in your passport if you’re applying for any kind of government job with a security clearance: you’ll have some explaining to do. Even if you’re going for Global Entry! When I went for my Global Entry interview, they knew everyplace I’d been and asked about each Communist country (I’d been to three), middle eastern country and Russia. They knew anyplace I’d been. Just keep that in mind. And remember to keep all your cruise docs for five years! Entertainment: Sadly, not up to par. On other Norwegian ships, entertainment is incredible; here, it was lacking. This was the first cruise where I left not knowing what the cruise director‘s name was. Typically, there is a 7:30 and 9:30 show in the Stardust Theatre; on this ship, only a show at 9:30pm. We didn’t attend one show. I did not hear any rave reviews, though. Bahamas: we already knew that if you’ve not booked an excursion at the island, there is nothing to do. So, having already been to the Bahamas a number of times, we opted to stay on the ship. Honestly, this was out best ship day! No problem eating or lounging in the sun and we wound up doing both! Great relaxing day. I did not swim in the pool or lounge in a hot tub, though, nor would I sit in an oversized Petrie dish! But that’s just me. Food: Huge disappointment: no brownies, no chocolate chip cookies and no crepes!!! Seriously, aside from that, the food was decent. We ate dinner twice in the restaurant called Crossings and two nights at Malace in the Palace. We even went there for lunch. Nice atmosphere, although the decor is dated. Very nice wait staff. The Garden Café was ok, but much smaller than on other Norwegian ships which caused traffic jams at peak dining hours. This time, we didn’t go to the specialty restaurants, but typically like the ones on Norwegian, so take a chance if you want sometime special and no crowds. Disembarkation: unlike other Norwegian cruises, there was no direction via intercom as to when to leave your cabin and then there were no posted directions to the gangway. So, knowing that the group who were to MIA were supposed to get off at 8:30am, we simply waited until then and left on our own. Twice we had to ask staff for directions to the gangway. After that, getting off was swift, we found our luggage right away and exited after US Customs and Immigration inspection. Got right on the bus to the airport. At the airport: we got off at the stop for American Airlines, as did many others. Like most of the sheeple, we got online at the outdoor luggage drop off kiosk. IMPORTANT: you will think that you are checking in your bag just as you might do inside the terminal. I did. There is one huge difference: THESE CHECK IN PEOPLE ARE NOT AIRLINE EMPLOYEES. They are a privately contracted company that American can pay less and does not have to offer flight benefits to (or their family members). It is a huge savings for American, but a detriment to the flying public. If you thought that airline employees don’t care about your luggage, well, these people really don’t care! The guy we had was shaking down every customer in line for a tip - as if the gross insult of paying $25 for a bag to enable you to change your clothing throughout the trip wasn’t enough! Like an auctioneer, he kept repeating to every customer over and over “Anything for the service. anything for the service.” When it came to me, I answered “You just charged me $50 for two bags of dirty clothing. Isn’t that enough?” Guess what? Would you be surprised to hear that upon arrival at LGA, one of our bags was missing? Unbelievable! Next time, I will drag my bag through the door to the terminal (it’s right there), wait on that line and check it in with the regular airline employees. Bottom line: there is no need or reason to tip these guys for simply doing their job. Don’t let yourself be ripped off or shaken down by these hucksters. And join Delta Skymiles and stop paying bag fees...I’ll see you on line there! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018

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