I chose this cruise because of the destination to have an overnight in Havana and it did not disappoint, rather it blew my expectations out of the water! When we arrived in the Tampa Port, we parked the car in the parking deck directly ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the destination to have an overnight in Havana and it did not disappoint, rather it blew my expectations out of the water! When we arrived in the Tampa Port, we parked the car in the parking deck directly across the street from the ship and was $75, which I thought was fair and was great to just walk across the street and put the luggage in the car and head back to Atlanta. We could have left it for free at our hotel, but then we would have had to pay for an Uber to and from the hotel with extra time wasted.
This was our first family cruise, and my kids are both in High School and we could have taken a more "kid friendly" cruise to the Bahamas or the Caribbean , but they would have missed out on the rare opportunity to see a country that is stuck in 1959! It is a bit of a trade off, in a sense, to see a most historical destination on a small ship (which did not feel small to me at all), vs. more water slides and bigger pools and seeing a Caribbean country (not minimizing the fun potential, just bare with me).
The ship was really neat with 10 floors and has been completely updated, and does not feel old to me. The air conditioning was powerful and we needed blankets at night (room had a controllable thermostat.) There was a decent gym, and the 6th floor had an open space to run 400m completely around the trip. 3 miles was about 13 laps, but did not feel like running around a track, but the view of the sunrise and the ocean never got boring to this Marathon runner! The casino was perfect for this venue with adequate table games and excellent dealers, and who says you can't win money on a cruise! If anyone out there can complain about the food, the bars, the coffee place in the Bolero lounge (puts Starbucks and others to shame!) I did buy the coffee drink package which was well with it. The alcohol drink package only makes sense if you have 4 or more drinks per day, otherwise get them a la carte for about $14 per. The only knock that I can give is the pool is small, but the deck is a big size and the pool bar is excellent!
We had an ocean view stateroom, that slept the four of us. A king sized bed, and two single murphy type beds above us for the kids, made them feel like they both had upper bunk beds. Clean is an understatement in the room and bathroom. The room cleaner was attentive and the joke was, if you went to the bathroom for two minutes , your bed would be made! The only thing we would have done differently would have been to get two rooms for the parents and kids.
The dining was off the charts great! From the head host, the waiter, the assistant waiter, they knew our individual needs after the first night. The quality and taste of the food was shockingly spot on! Even the almost always open Windjammer buffet, had anything you want, day or night. They do a Sunday type brunch from 930am-noon almost every day, with Mimosas and Bloody Mary's!!
The onboard entertainment was fun! The singers and dancers and jazz band were very talented. I would say rating on the Simon Cowell level, the musicians were top pros, the dancers were excellent and the singers were very good. Let's face it, the best singers in the world will not be on cruise ships , but they were very entertaining. Comedian, magic acts, and a cruise director named Carlos who can do it all! On the days out at sea, you will never be bored. We didn't want the cruise to end and never had that feeling of "get me out of here."
As mentioned throughout this thread, the service could not have been better in the best 5 star hotels and restaurants! Do not hesitate to book the Key West and Havana overnight cruise with Royal Caribbean .
The shore excursions for Key West were adequate as the kids went parasailing and we walked ourselves to Sloppy Joe's and the Hemingway House which is a must see! Key West is a cute town, and fun, but the headliner on this trip was Cuba!
When we arrived at the port in Havana, welt the ship and walked directly to customs with passports in hand. (Remember to renew your passport if it expires within 6 months of your trip.) It took 2 minutes after purchasing a visa on the ship for $75pp, that Royal Caribbean takes care of seamlessly. After you go through the easy customs, the money exchange is at the end of the hall and you exchange with ease. You then walk outside and we didn't do any shore excursions, but decided to wing it. You will have 15 taxi people all with 1950s beautifully restored cars, willing to take you on a tour. We chose Homero Fernandez and his 1955 pink Ford Fairlane convertible and for $130, he took us on a tour everywhere and was extremely knowledgable. At the end, we told him we were going to the Tropicana and he offered to meet us at 830pm and he was there at the same spot waiting for us, took us to the Tropicana, which we bought tickets there for $75 (vs $179 with Royal Carribean, but they provide transportation and a level of safety...) , and he was there at midnight to bring us back to the ship ($60 for the taxi at night) . I highly recommend the Tropicana as one of the oldest and greatest show on earth type cabaret shows ever!
BTW, we felt safe everywhere in Havana !! The next morning, my son and I ran 4 miles along the coast . Come out of the port, turn right and keep on running! Breathtaking views and scenes along the way, and totally epic run, but get out early as it is hot in July! We then went back to the ship, showered and collected the rest of the family and walked everywhere. Went to the Museum of the Revolution ($8pp) had lunch on a random street, went to the Floridita bar, which was the founders of the Daquiri drink and one of Hemingway's favorite stomping grounds. We had many stops for dessert, coffee, and just getting a feel for the city, which captures your heart quickly. Let's face it, Cuba needs a lot of work, but we all felt hopeful for the future without getting in to politics.
Our kids LOVED the entire experience 9ages 15 and 16) and really understood the greatness of going to a place like Cuba that was taboo for Americans, and would jump at the chance to go back. My wife and kids all agreed that this was one of the best vacations we have ever had! Book it and don't hesitate. We all felt safe, which was definitely a fear prior to the trip, the ship, the food, the service, the cabins, the air conditioning, the entertainment far exceeded our expectations!! Read Less