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1,941 Cuba Cruise Reviews

Great destinations and lots to do. We had a one day introduction to Santiago de Cuba. Like many Caribbean islands, mostly 3rd world amenities. But nice to see San Juan Hill, Castro Memorial & the basilica @ the copper/gold mine! DR ... Read More
Great destinations and lots to do. We had a one day introduction to Santiago de Cuba. Like many Caribbean islands, mostly 3rd world amenities. But nice to see San Juan Hill, Castro Memorial & the basilica @ the copper/gold mine! DR was great as it was designed to have a social impact. WE planted tree seeds for reforestation & made recycled paper. Would have loved to participated in more activities. WE were fortunate to have a small ship where most were of the same mind as we were. Dinner service was great & we had the same servers for the entire cruise. Meals at the buffet were as good as the dining room. The only complaint I have was at Port Everglades and disembarkation. We stood in line over an hour waiting to be out processed. The ship was trying to get us off and there were only 3 lines to be checked out (the supervisor was standing talking to another police officer). It would have been nice to wait on the ship with no line to wait in, but maybe that is too much to hope for. Now the ship Adonia is going away and the social impact tours will be done on the bigger ships. I hope that business model works. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
My sister and I sailed March 28, 2017 on Pearl Seas' seventh trip to Cuba. A year earlier, the company had canceled our April 2016 trip at the last minute. Instead, we tried out the ship on the Canadian Maritimes 14 day ... Read More
My sister and I sailed March 28, 2017 on Pearl Seas' seventh trip to Cuba. A year earlier, the company had canceled our April 2016 trip at the last minute. Instead, we tried out the ship on the Canadian Maritimes 14 day itinerary, and were impressed by its obliging crew, good food, large quarters and Swiss precision of timetables and communication by tour directors. So we had confidence that, once Pearl Seas received permission from Cuban ports, (which was communicated in early December, 2016), we would have a great trip to Cuba with this ship and crew. Cruise director Kristen came right over to us in the Ft. Lauderdale terminal, and we were warmly greeted by Akin, Boro, Sarah, Paulino, Celeste, Alvin and Chris on board. This cruise line has the human touch. This time we were on second deck forward, in a spacious cabin. We find the beds comfortable, the furniture well-made and the bathroom attractive. Deck two gets wet, however, from sea spray. The ship’s passage around both west and east tips was in rough water. The lecturers were outstanding. Rafael's perspective from his upbringing as a child of Cuban immigrants, his densely packed coverage of Cuban cuisine and Bay of Pigs talks were nuanced, with excellent diction and insight. Janis Lewin's decades of photographs expressed wordlessly the human condition of Cuban people. We enjoyed a wonderful participatory salsa class put on by ballroom dancing expert and musician Leelyn, and heard a wide variety of music of Kenny Holliday each night. Not quite enough Latin for me, though! The team of tour directors Kristen, Kathleen, Koryn, and Kevin gave clear public announcements, help and advice. The tours were excellent, with some excellent English speaking guides, such as Adolfo in Cienfuegos and Yenia in Santiago. The meals out were impressive, Brasso in particular. As were the meals and service on the ship. Akin and crew had taken many of my suggestions for Cuban menus and implemented them! A different quiche every morning, nice buffet at breakfast with food sculptures. The chef has a light touch, and is a master at garde-manger, not wasting any food due to our ordering each morning on a paper menu. Half portions allow you to enjoy dining without overeating. We experienced fine treatment, with champagne, birthday cake and serenading, as well as platters of bland food when we had a bout of sea sickness in rocking swells. Traveling in comfort and safety on this ship offered a particular advantage to us two women over the age of 60. Cuba’s people are warm, welcoming, and the roads are good, the water safe to drink, and the island is educated, and safe. However, the dilapidated state of water delivery, the electrical outages, and sketchy transportation makes it much better a destination for young, robust backpackers, rather than older tourists with less physical stamina in the heat, agility and tolerance for such outages. We wish we had brought boxes of pencils and papers for the students, or musical instruments. Our coming on a ship and tipping guides and local people surely helps support families living on $20/month government salaries. Having our ship offshore emboldened us to come see this once forbidden place, but in comfort, and avoiding the schlepping of packing and unpacking. Mojitos or frozen drinks on deck six. Nice and easy embarking and disembarking with only 182 guests and 66 crew. Guests are interesting, and do not put on airs. You don't even have to dress for dinner. It's a ship we would gladly return to. Canary islands anyone? Mexico? Iceland? Hawaii? Central America? Circumnavigation of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic? We would be on board! Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
I do not have time for an organized review - but I do want to give Pearl Seas high ratings. Were things perfect - NO, but overall they were wonderful. The few issues were related to Cuban governmental procedures, changes, etc. Very ... Read More
I do not have time for an organized review - but I do want to give Pearl Seas high ratings. Were things perfect - NO, but overall they were wonderful. The few issues were related to Cuban governmental procedures, changes, etc. Very minimal impact on the overall experience. Cuban people were so very friendly and welcoming (not just those who wanted to sell you something or were expecting tips) but the average folks on the street. If you spoke Spanish, which I do not, almost anyone we saw on the streets were willing (and frequently very interested) in talking with us. The shore guides I experienced on the ship provided tours were all terrific in their own ways. One always had to remember that there are "party lines" there and some would only give those types of responses. Others were more causal and would even make remarks making light of some of the issues others were 100% serious about. While I was initially upset about the reduction in ports - in actuality I was very GLAD it worked out this way as we got so much more time to interact with the people on our own, got to browse area of interest to us personally and could proceed rapidly or casually, alone or in groups for a portion of the shore time. While I would have liked to have seen the park area, I much preferred having more true, individual "people to people" experiences on my terms. Would I go again - IN AN INSTANT!!!! Would I go again with Pearl Seas - IN AN INSTANT in terms of what they offered in relation to other options numerous friends have taken, including some who went through other countries. Having a few minutes before an appointment I will address some ship categories. Cabin - much more spacious than I expected. Certainly not in luxury category, but we had what we needed and it was furnished nicely and kept clean. Dining - I was very pleased with the food - much better than I expected and adequate choices. Entertainment - I personally loved the entertainers that play each evening. They had a full crowd each evening and had folks singing, dancing and just having fun each night. They started the evening with music for the "younger" crowd (all over 40, mostly over 50) I would say) with music from their era. They they had a section for those who were more into actually dancing while holding each other, which was also popular. Speakers were both good in their areas of experienced and expertise. Service - A group of us ate each meal at the same table as we LOVED our server. She was a good server, as well as friendly, upbeat, etc. Ports - I liked all we visited. While in the second Port were spent an extra day there so that we could to to trinidad as well. (One of the "cancelled ports", cut we did spend a day there.) Loved this change as we got to see about an hour and a half of the countryside and village living conditions. Like most everywhere in the world i have been fortunate to visit, very different environments. I had no time for fitness or recreation activities on board so cannot rate them, Thank you Pearl Seas for pulling together such an interesting itinerary and dealing with the governmental stuff (US and Cuban) I am sure you had to contend with. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Chose this line in order to sail to Cuba. Concern regarding a smaller ship was immediately eliminated by the excellent cabin, nearness and convenience of everything, the all inclusive nature of the experience, and fabulous cruise staff. ... Read More
Chose this line in order to sail to Cuba. Concern regarding a smaller ship was immediately eliminated by the excellent cabin, nearness and convenience of everything, the all inclusive nature of the experience, and fabulous cruise staff. Here is our story of exceptional service: I asked the purser staff if they could possibly put some flowers in our cabin for our 50th anniversary the following day. They agreed and provided a card for me to fill out for delivery with the flowers. Next day, after cabin was serviced, we found a spectacular arrangement of beautiful long stem red roses and secondary flowers. It looked like something that would be handed to Miss America. Needless to say, I was a hero in my wife's mind. Next day I asked the purser who had arranged for the flowers and was told it was one of the cruise directors, Kathleen. I complimented her on the beauty of the arrangement and expressed surprise that such nice flowers were aboard. She said, "Oh no, we don't have flowers on board. As you know we all had a tour of the Botanical Gardens in Cien Fuegos yesterday. At the end of the tour I asked the Cuban lady in charge of the Gardens where to get nice flowers. I was prepared to take a taxi to retrieve the flowers, but the Botanist instead had her son drive me to the private residence where we cut and arranged the flowers." I was astounded, and asked how much the flowers cost. Kathleen cheerfully said, "Oh, no...no need to pay. We are glad to provide such service. Happy Anniversary!" The staff on this cruise ship are the best ever! We have been on over 30 cruises, mostly on ships holding thousands of passengers. This one was memorable and so special. Dining staff were extremely friendly and accommodating. Chefs would prepare special food if requested, and always willing to please. Entertainment was simply a very talented guitar player/singer and a keyboard artist/singer. They did a great job for the cocktail hours and entertainment sessions after dinner. Very enjoyable! Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Very organized, no waiting, cabin was ready (Penthouse 2) 11072 Arun, our butler was THE best. Met wonderful cruise passengers. Quiet, no kids running around. Cuba was amazing. Loved every minute of it.......... ... Read More
Very organized, no waiting, cabin was ready (Penthouse 2) 11072 Arun, our butler was THE best. Met wonderful cruise passengers. Quiet, no kids running around. Cuba was amazing. Loved every minute of it.......... Complaint My husband fell off a defective chair in our stateroom; the leg came out of the underside of the chair and sent him flying. He sprained his arm/hand according to the ships doctor. The nurse told us we had to pay. We said this was not our issue, but theirs, they finally agreed. The staff was more concerned about the chair. He was made to take a breathalyzer test, which was announced to the waiting room in the medical center (HIPAA??). Detectives came and then went into our stateroom, without us to photograph the "scene". We were told there would be follow-up and we have never heard a thing from anyone at Oceania. That we find is poor customer service. We have booked our next cruise already, but if we do not hear back, we may change our minds. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a ... Read More
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a colloquial manner . Each and every one of the towns visited was a vivid picture that solidified the historical, architectural and cultural presentations made on board. All shore excursions were perfectly geared to the presentation on-board, providing a platform for us to interact with the people, the music, the culture itself. This jelling experience is The Authentic Cuban Experience. As for the ship experience itself, I was pleasantly surprised. Dining Room Exp: Food was delicious and authentic. I really enjoyed my lunch and dinners, when time permitted, at The Almanthia. Jose Luis, "Rest. Captain" has a welcoming smile and handshake for everyone which makes you feel "at home". Monica and Luis are excellent members of the wait staff but they also have the quality of making you laugh, which is medicine for the soul. That's an A+ in my book. I must mention Edel and Ricardo, "Rest Capt." from LEDA Deck Rest. Also gracious hosts with a sunny disposition. Our Cabin was impeccable every day, with special towel art presented by Vivianne and Ernesto. (5th Deck) All special requests were acted on immediately. They both were so attentive, always providing service with a smile. Entertainment on board were spectacular, thematic shows, provided by a team of polifacetic artistic acrobatic-singers, MC'd by Danny-from Romania, Cruise Director. Based on this experience, I'm already planning my next Cruise with Celestyal - Crystal...Thanks for the opportunity to share, Kudos to these people who make cruising fun as well as a learning experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We chose this cruise because it offered 7 ports of call, more than any other cruise ship. Three of those ports Maria La Gorda, Parque de Nacional Alexandro de Humboldt and Holguin were unique to this cruise line. When we paid our deposit ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it offered 7 ports of call, more than any other cruise ship. Three of those ports Maria La Gorda, Parque de Nacional Alexandro de Humboldt and Holguin were unique to this cruise line. When we paid our deposit we received a letter saying we would have our final itinerary with excursion details 3 months before departure. We didn't receive details until 3 weeks before departure when we were informed that there would be only 4 ports of call and the 3 unique ones were cancelled. No explanation was offered. This change came after we had made our required final payment and after the time for cancellation with a refund had run. Customer service was nonexistent. We emailed Pearl Seas 2 times before the trip asking for an explanation of the new itinerary and a partial refund based on the reduction in ports and excursions (which were included in the price). No response. While onboard we were informed that the change was because of the Cuban government but we also learned that the 3 omitted ports had been omitted on every cruise the Pearl Mist took before our's in 2017. One of the cruise directors was unable to explain why we had not been notified earlier of the new itinerary but offered to send PS an email from the boat promising that they would get back to me with an explanation. They never responded. We went on the cruise. What we did and saw was fine. The cabin was on the big side. We had a deck. Seating was open in the dining room. Food was fine. Wine and beer was free with lunch and dinner and were fine. Lecturer Ted was knowledgeable and a good speaker. The other lecturer was neither. Excursions were all run by Havanatur, a Cuban company. Their buses were nice but guides were uneven. Some were very difficult to understand. Per our new itinerary sent 3 weeks before the trip we were to go to the Botanical Garden in Cienfuegos one day and take a bus tour to Trinidad the next. When we got on the boat we found you had to pick one or the other as the tours were on the same day. On any given day different tour buses stopped at different sites but we were never told ahead of time which bus was stopping where so there was no opportunity to chose a bus based on your personal preferences. We have friends that were considering this cruise so we paid special attention to handicap accessibility. The boat was reasonably handicap accessible although there was a railing on only one side of the hallways and the elevator did not go up to Level 6 where the outdoor happy hours were held. The tour buses had a high steep step to get onboard and 4-5 steep steps after that. Walking tours were often on uneven cobblestone streets or sidewalks that had inconsistent cutouts to accommodate walkers or wheel chairs. Many of the sites we visited had steep steps with no hand railings or steep thresholds to get into buildings. Cuba in general was not handicap accessible and many restaurants required navigation of stairs. This cruise had a luxury price but what they delivered was anything but. Still upset about the change in ports without notice or written explanation we emailed the president and vice president of American Cruise Lines (the parent company) when we got back from the trip. We asked for an explanation of why we weren't notified of changes in a timely fashion when we could still cancel and get a refund and we asked for a partial refund. We received no response. We then sent a letter to the same executives. The vp responded in the last week thanking us for writing and telling us that they would share our concerns with the Cuban government to make it a better experience. Again... no explanation for why they waited until 3 weeks before our cruise to tell us that none of their Cuban cruises had stopped in the 3 ports that were omitted. We ended up spending an incredible amount of time at sea. 49 hours getting from Ft. Lauderdale to Santiago de Cuba, 24 hours between Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos, 41 hours between Cienfuegos and Havana and 18 hours to get from Havana back to Ft. Lauderdale. Not what we paid for! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
I like smaller ships for what they offer in meeting and enjoying other people. Pearl Mist is an all balcony cabin ship except for one cabin and all cabins are large and comfortable with plenty of storage. The ship’s Wi-Fi worked quite ... Read More
I like smaller ships for what they offer in meeting and enjoying other people. Pearl Mist is an all balcony cabin ship except for one cabin and all cabins are large and comfortable with plenty of storage. The ship’s Wi-Fi worked quite well with my phone in airplane mode. The condensed New York Times, available every morning, kept us up on the news. This was my second cruise on the Pearl Mist. After being picked up at our hotel at 10:30 am and taken to the ship embarkation was quick and efficient and we were on our way by 1:00 pm. Dining is open seating with multiple choices at each meal, and wine & beer are included at lunch & dinner. Given that everything that we were to eat or drink for 11 days (10 nights) had to be on board before we departed, the food was very good, and it was nice to be able to eat a fresh salad even on the last day. Room service was an option for breakfast. The complementary happy hour before dinner was sometimes outdoors on the top deck in nice weather, and the bar remained open after dinner until about 9:30 pm. Fresh cookies were always available in the morning, and afternoon tea was at 3:30 pm. Dining room and cabin service was excellent. Pearl Mist is a great ship for people who are more interested in learning about their destination and conversation than fancy evening entertainment. We had several adult children traveling with a parent or relative, and it is a good ship for single travelers. Daily activities while at sea included excellent lectures from our two on board lecturers (Ted & Sylvia) about Cuba and the places we were to see. There was also time for a trivia game or two and some after dinner dancing to the music from two talented musicians (Stevie & Dustie). Cuba is a big island to circumnavigate. It is the largest in the Caribbean. Port to port from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale is 1712 nautical miles, and while hard to believe, we had ONLY 3 full days at sea. On the other days we were either in port for a full or partial day. Cuban banks were available in every port to take care of exchanging money from US dollars into CUCs, the standard Cuban currency. There are other cruise lines that go into the three major accessible ports – Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos/Trinidad, and Havana, but only the Pearl Mist spends more than a half day in all of them. I think at this time Pearl Seas Cruises has the only ship coming from the United States. Two fun nightclub options were available in Santiago de Cuba, and the late evening Tropicana Cabaret outside Havana in a magnificent wooded setting was excellent. As an extra treat we got an additional afternoon and evening in Havana as the ship that was scheduled to take our dock space wasn’t going to use it. The only land tour company is run by the government. The guides I experienced were all good and some excellent and were informative interesting people. The “made in China” buses were new with AC and a restroom. What restoration that has been done in Cuba is beautiful, but that I saw only one gas station and not a single grocery store the entire time should tell you how far in the past the country still is. We did get to visit a “ration” store. Yes, Cubans have ration books for the very basic needs. While Cubans have free health care and education, they don’t make enough money in government jobs to survive so “underground” private enterprises are everywhere and rely on “tips”. These enterprises are mostly tolerated by the government. On our excursions we tipped constantly whenever appropriate in CUCs, knowing it would make a difference. For every two to three vintage cars from the 50s that I saw on the road, there was some sort of “other” vehicle such as a horse drawn buggy, bike taxi cabs, 3-wheeled bright yellow Coco taxis, old trucks, double section long buses, tour buses and an occasional newer car. Cuba has opened up some under Raul Castro but still has a long road ahead. Our 4 cruise directors (Kevin, Kristen, Coryn & Kathleen) did an outstanding job of making sure the land touring process was very smooth. I was not disappointed even though we saw what the “government” wanted us to see. Wonderful musical performances of locals groups were included in our daytime shore excursions. The architecture is magnificent, but most of it is in ruin and falling apart. I only hope Cuban leadership restores not replaces those wonderful historical buildings. The officers were all excellent and did amazing coordination with the Cuban officials at each port by expertly handling all the port logistics in the background. All our disembarkations and embarkations at each port were easy. Only Havana had a building that looked like a cruise terminal. The terminals in both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos were small free standing buildings several hundred yards or more from the ship. I was fortunate to dine with our Captain, George Ciortan, and after discovering his sea credentials knew that I was in very capable hands. It was interesting to hear that after being a Captain on a ship that carried thousands of passengers how much he enjoyed being the captain on a much smaller ship, the Pearl Mist, and how nice it was to have the “bridge” on the third deck rather than on deck 12 or higher. Akin, our Hotel Manager and Boro, our Food & Beverage manager were attentive and on point 100% of the time, I had suggested to Customer Service at Pearl Seas Cruises about a week before I left a particular bottle of wine that I thought could be the “signature” wine for Pearl Seas due to its name and presentation and was assured they would look into it. Boro let me know they couldn’t get it in time to have it on board, but to my delight three other bottles of wine from the same vineyard were in my cabin for me when I boarded in Ft. Lauderdale. One by one we enjoyed the wine at dinner. Akin, recognizing I was traveling as a single offered me a wonderful cabin upgrade, our second day of the cruise. Our disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was easy and complementary transportation back to the hotel to get our car was efficient with the only delay being that US Immigration had only two lines open for the almost 200 of us. The few people with a Global Entry Pass got through more quickly. Now that I am home I have been listening to Concerto Sur, Orquesta de Camara de Cienfuegos, the Chamber Music group of 8 musicians we were fortunate to hear. I’m so glad I bought the CD, as the classical sound has a definite Cuban edge to it which I love. Thankfully I purchased all the CDs of all the musical groups we heard. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We choose this cruise because it advertised 7 ports but did not find out until we boarded the ship that it had been reduced to 3. I don't care if it was because of problems with Cuba, we should have been notified and given the ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it advertised 7 ports but did not find out until we boarded the ship that it had been reduced to 3. I don't care if it was because of problems with Cuba, we should have been notified and given the opportunity to cancel. At the very least we should have gotten a refund for the port fees that had been included in our cost. The stateroom was half the size of the picture on their website. We called Pearl Seas directly to verify the direction of the cruise in order to pick our stateroom and be able to see the shore line but when the cruise started it was going the opposite direction. The entertainers were mediocre at best and the furnishings were shabby. We had one server that was downright rude (Fred) and the food was adequate - nothing to rave about. But to be honest we had some wonderful servers who did a lovely job. One of the lounges on the ship was on the second deck, which had the WORST smell. Either they had a serious sewage problem or worse, a severe mold issue. Unbelievable. The one good thing was a lecturer that they had onboard - Ted Henken. Thanks to him we learned a lot about Cuba and saw more than expected with a greater appreciation. Would not recommend this company. They also travel to the Great Lakes and are a sister company to American Cruise Lines. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
There were three things we liked about this cruise: the ship itself, the itinerary, and the cheerfulness of the long-suffering staff. That's where the good news ends. The root of the trouble was MSC itself, whose policy seems to us to ... Read More
There were three things we liked about this cruise: the ship itself, the itinerary, and the cheerfulness of the long-suffering staff. That's where the good news ends. The root of the trouble was MSC itself, whose policy seems to us to be to pay for its ambitious fleet-building by screwing every last cent out of its operations. We experienced this in two ways: 1. Penny-pinching. If you think a ship called the Opera with decks named Tosca, Turandot and Aida promises a rich experience of Italian music, food and style, think again. The whole thing is pitched at the level of cheap Berlusconi-style Saturday-night Italian TV. I don't remember ever entering the pool deck without being confronted by the sight of some semi-clothed harpie on the stage informing us in a shriek what a fanTASTic time we were having whilst humiliating a bunch of middle-aged men with a pair of balloons and an outsized sausage, or whatever it was. Not everything felt like the stuff that even 'It's A Knock Out' would have been ashamed to take, but it wasn't far removed. The evening entertainments seemed to be designed for the hard of thinking, and the only two sops to culture – a dance display and a song concert – were both embarrassing, the former because the authentic Andalusian performers had to dance flamenco to recorded music, and the latter because the two classical singers were disrespectfully placed in a lounge where they had to compete with the din from the coffee machine. The other performers we saw were no better than pub standard. The dining wasn't a lot better. It was all edible and we never went short; but my wife, who's the more knowledgeable of us about food, thought the menus unimaginative, and felt there was a crying need for the chefs to be allowed onshore to buy fresh produce from the local markets. It may of course be that MSC know their audience and what they can get away with. Certainly our fellow passengers were about the most miserable bunch I've ever seen on a holiday; but perhaps they just felt the same way we did. Anyone expecting a Caribbean cruise to be a bit special had better look elsewhere. 2. Money-making. From start to finish, MSC were trying to get into your wallet, beginning with the few seconds of video they shot and the picture they took as you boarded which they later tried to sell you, along with a photo of the ship, for about €50 if I recall. We'd been warned that the excursions were a bit of a rip-off, and certainly we thought the Mayfield Falls trip we did in Jamaica to be doubtful value for money; so we used the internet to plan five excursions of our own in Cuba, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, all easy through the internet, and got more for less every time. The spa treatments cost a king's ransom, and the copious shopping 'opportunities' on board looked like ruthless exploitation of shopaholics. Though not big drinkers, we decided to get the all-inclusive Aurea package so that we wouldn't have to worry about what we were spending; so we got a shock when we ordered our first smoothies from the Vitamin bar and were told we'd be charged for them, and indeed an amount that even Costa might baulk at. We made a pleasant after-dinner habit of going for coffee in a lounge where we liked the waiters; pleasant, that is, until we got our bill as we were about to leave and discovered we'd been charged 10 euros for "service" every time, amounting to an unbudgeted bill for €160. When we challenged it, we were told they were non-discretionary gratuities – surely the most generous tips for serving a couple of coffees you'll find on the planet. To be fair, MSC didn't strike us as being only about avarice. They're pretty bilious, too. When we finally received our tickets, we found they'd arbitrarily shifted us into an "equivalent" (but actually far noisier) cabin. When we challenged our agent about it, MSC just directed them to the small print and flipped the bird. Equally annoying was disembarkation. We needed to depart the cruise early in Cozumel so that we could fly home from Cancun. The agent had told us that early disembarkation was bog standard; but MSC made a song and dance about this "exceptional" occurrence, telling us that we'd be obliged to leave the ship with our luggage as soon as it docked and permitted to partake in no further ship activities. Incredibly, these cowboys even cut off our broadband connection the moment we signed off our bill, even though we'd paid for broadband for the whole week. This mattered a lot, as it turned out, because we were kept waiting to disembark for two hours, while a taxi waiting for us at the terminal; we had to pay a packet to keep in touch through Vodafone. The reason we were kept waiting was that this "exceptional" disembarkation was in fact shared with literally hundreds of Mexicans who, because MSC had provided neither enough nor sufficiently intelligent staff to manage the queues, were literally all permitted to get off before we could. When we complained about this ineptitude, MSC gave us the familiar middle-finger reply. Looking at this coolly after three months, I can say with certainty that MSC is the most obnoxious operator we've ever encountered in the travel market – and yes, we have travelled with Ryanair. Both Cuba and Cozumel are delightful; but, if you want to see the Caribbean, do yourself a favour and give these pirates a wide berth. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We chose this ship because it was smaller and it stopped at 3 ports in Cuba. We wanted to see as much of Cuba as we could in a short time period. This was a great way to see a lot. The ship was a very pleasant surprise. The public spaces ... Read More
We chose this ship because it was smaller and it stopped at 3 ports in Cuba. We wanted to see as much of Cuba as we could in a short time period. This was a great way to see a lot. The ship was a very pleasant surprise. The public spaces were were beautiful while the cabins were comfortable. The bathroom was adequate. The evening meal was very good with a lot of choices. The waitstaff was very good. The breakfast and lunch were ok. The on board talks were very interesting and worthwhile. The free shore excursions were ok. Nice buses, but often times once on shore the group tours were combined and it resulted in over 60 people in a group, making it hard to hear. We opted for a private tour in Santiago de Cuba using Cubaguider.com and loved it. We did Old Havana on our own,downloading Triposo app while at home it has guides of all the major city's with offline maps and tours to use while in Cuba. No wifi is needed for the app and it tracks where you are so you don't get lost in the city. We had a great time it was fascinating getting to know Cuba, we would have liked more than 2 days in Havana Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We decided the Empress of the seas ship due a bargain deal to Key west and Cozumel. There were 17 of us in my group. We had three people turning 60 , one 50 , one 40 , a 30th anniversary and 20th anniversary and sailing on my birthday. ... Read More
We decided the Empress of the seas ship due a bargain deal to Key west and Cozumel. There were 17 of us in my group. We had three people turning 60 , one 50 , one 40 , a 30th anniversary and 20th anniversary and sailing on my birthday. Due to so many people we wanted to have an exciting trip but at a low cost. The Empress changed their itinerary to Costa Maya and Cuba and that ended up extremely exciting for the cost we paid for the original trip. What a bargin and especially to Cuba for the first Royal Caribbean cruise. We started off extremely excited till we got on the ship. This was the smallest ship we have been on and was older than we thought. We noticed area were update but other areas were run down. There was an AC problem we discovered the min. we walked on. The Casino had individual AC units plugged in through out the area that was not doing the job. The staff was so hot working and we were sweating every night. Only two people on the ship were comfortable and they had reserve seat on the only 3 card poker table with one portable AC unit directly on them . They had plenty of money to spend but us who spent our hard earned money were not important enough to get treated with that luxury. The bar staff , wait staff, dealers and casino host were all 10's . They suffered with our while working and they were the best of the best. Our toilet, overflowed and did not flush on many days. We have to call maintenance often. Maintenance was great and responsive but the toilet situation did not pertain to my room only. My neighbor has the same issue and toilets in the hall did not flush. I had a friend on floor 8 that their neighbors toilet overflowed in the hall and they were told they should not go bare foot. So horrible! The odor was extremely bad in many hall ways. The food in the dinning room was cool and not hot enough. Cheese was not melted when it needed to be. The windjammer had cold food for breakfast. So many meals were not cooked through to hot. The staff was a 10 and tried very hard to make us happy. all a 10. The ship was too small for 1800 people. Service and staff excellent! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Fantastic Cruise! We had a lot of concerns sailing on a small ship. We have always sailed on larger ships. All of our concerns left once we were on board and set sail. The Empress was above and beyond our expectations. The music, ... Read More
Fantastic Cruise! We had a lot of concerns sailing on a small ship. We have always sailed on larger ships. All of our concerns left once we were on board and set sail. The Empress was above and beyond our expectations. The music, entertainment, food, service and crew were great! We did not book an excursion in Costa Maya but enjoyed the shops, music, food, and margaritas at the beautiful port area. We now prefer Costa Maya over Cozumel! We really enjoyed the Classic Car excursion in Cuba. The tour guide that rode in the car with us was very informative. We learned so much about Cuba's history and everyday life. She encouraged us to ask questions and made us feel very welcomed to her country. The Empress is small but the perfect ship for sailing to Cuba. The ambience and the nostalgic feel of the ship set the mood for the whole Cuba Experience. Thank you RCCL for all our memories on your INAUGURAL SAILING TO CUBA. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Cuba has been on my bucket list forever . . . so the inaugural RC Cruise to Cuba was impossible to miss! Empress is an older and a lot smaller ship than the others, and the cruising experience was somewhat different from all the others. ... Read More
Cuba has been on my bucket list forever . . . so the inaugural RC Cruise to Cuba was impossible to miss! Empress is an older and a lot smaller ship than the others, and the cruising experience was somewhat different from all the others. Junior suite did not have a refrigerator / mini-bar, or a bathtub, but the closet was spacious. #9152 - right off the aft elevators and stairs, so very convenient to the spa (right above) and main dining room a few decks below. Casino was really small and very hot - apparently no AC in it, so it was not fully used. Only one specialty restaurant (Chops) and only one spacious bar (Schooner) which was always packed. Do not really like the $7.95 charge for room service . . . First port, Costa Maya was really a superfluous one - a water park within walking distance, Mayan ruins over an hour away, and the cruise ship created port had plenty of shopping, but really?? Later cruises go to Key West, which would be a much better selection. The lectures onboard re Cuba were fabulous, and only whetted our appetite for what was to come. Havana was all it was made out to be - old world, old beautiful cars, perfect weather, eating and drinking at La Floridita in the steps of Hemmingway. We have booked a repeat cruise in December, with overnight in Havana and Key West. Can't wait. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We chose this cruise for one reason, and one reason only...The April 19 cruise was the inaugural cruise to Havana. While we were not disappointed by Havana, we did find the ship to be average at best. First of all, the embarkation ... Read More
We chose this cruise for one reason, and one reason only...The April 19 cruise was the inaugural cruise to Havana. While we were not disappointed by Havana, we did find the ship to be average at best. First of all, the embarkation procedure was magnificent. My wife uses a walker and the staff could not have been more accommodating or efficient. We were through the procedure in less than a half hour. The cabin was the smallest one (inside 4129) we have ever encountered. The only way to get off the bed (which was comfortable) was by sliding down from the top to the bottom of the bed. There was NO room to get off the bed from the side. However, there was enough room to put our belongings. The shower/bathroom was a standard tiny one, but did it's job. The television was HDTV, but unlike most ships, it did not have movie options. The stations included ESPN, CNN, TBS, TNT, some foreign language stations and a number of RCL in house stations. We were surprised that RCCL charges almost $8 for any room service meals. The room steward was very efficient and friendly (which was true of almost every worker on the ship). The ship itself had few modern amenities. The gym was tiny and the first one that did not have a recumbent bike, so my wife could not do her usual exercises. The tiny gym was packed the first sea day, but seemed to be adequate after that. There is a 6th deck where you can jog or walk around. The pool should not be called a swimming pool as it was the tiniest one we have ever seen on a ship. We found the entertainment to be better than average, with a talented on board singing and dancing troop, a good piano bar entertainer (Alex), a more than adequate guest entertainer (a descendant of the Sammy Davis Jr. era of entertainers), a good live backup band. Movies were limited to twice a night on the pool deck. The casino seemed to be a little more generous than most ship casinos. The food in the MDR was adequate to good. Except for a couple of hiccups, some lukewarm main dishes and inconsistent service, we were satisfied with the choices and quality. As is now the custom on some ships, there was a surcharge for some menu items. We did not partake of the $35/per person Chops venue or the $90+ Captain Table option (though we spoke to one person who clearly loved the Captain Table, 3 hour experience). The Windjammer buffet was fine. We especially liked the live crepe station. However, there was nowhere on the ship to get a freshly grilled burger or hot dog. They are available only as items within the buffet. The same goes for pizza. The ship only stopped at Costa Maya and Havana. The Costa Maya stop would have been a complete wash, except I had never been to a Mayan ruin. As such, I enjoyed my private tour to the ruins. Nothing much else there except an artificial shopping mall and average beach. Havana was marvelous. The experience was greatly enhanced by the on board lectures of Dr. Gomez. We did a ship excursion, panorama overview in the morning, and I did a self guided walking tour in the afternoon. My only criticism would be that we were in port on a Sunday and approximately a third of the stores were closed. Disembarking was a mess. We chose to do a Miami hop on and off tour prior to our late afternoon departure from Miami. No one told us to keep our luggage, and if fact, we were told to place our luggage outside the room the previous night as is usual with most cruses. When we got to the meeting location in the morning, we were asked why we did not have our luggage. We said we made the mistake of following the directions placed in our cabin the previous night. Once we got off the ship, there was no one to point us to the correct bus. We eventually located the bus. and were told we had no choice but to go on the Miami Beach tour (which we had done previously and not interested in). Eventually at the conclusion of the tour, we had an option to do the tour we had initially wanted, the city loop. We did that one and connected with the transfer to the airport. Overall, the cruise was worth it, if only for the Havana experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
I was on the first voyage Royal Caribbean did to Havana. Overall, the ship and service were good and what you come to expect. With this smaller ship, you dock just across the street from old Havana. That's great for exploring this ... Read More
I was on the first voyage Royal Caribbean did to Havana. Overall, the ship and service were good and what you come to expect. With this smaller ship, you dock just across the street from old Havana. That's great for exploring this wonderful old part of the city.You pop out of the immigration building, and there you are. In the morning we booked a classic car shore excursion from Royal Caribbean. Mistake! It was advertised as a 3 hour classic car excursion. The classic car part lasted maybe 40 minutes. You are picked up by bus and taken to the National Hotel. Then you stayed at the hotel for around an hour, looking around and then getting a drink. Finally you get in the Classic cars. You toured with the driver and guide for around 15 minutes. Then you stopped at a park for around 10 minutes. Then you toured for around 15 more minutes. Then you stopped at revolutionary park. And then the Classic car part was over. Time to get back on the bus and back to the ship. The bus did stop at a market but the passengers were told if you got off the bus, you would have to find your own way back to the ship. At over $300 for the Classis Car tour, it was not worth it. The Classic Car part was fun. But what you need to do is get off the ship and turn to the right. Walk done the street a couple of blocks along the water and there are lots of Classic Cars for rent for a fraction of the price. Some are cabs and some are not. Most people speak enough broken English that you will be fine. You can get a Classic car tour for a fraction of the price. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Destination, Price, and size of ship was all factored in when we booked this cruise. The ship was great yes it is a little outdated but just fine. Rooms were nice, staff was pretty good. They seemed to be a little standoffish but ... Read More
Destination, Price, and size of ship was all factored in when we booked this cruise. The ship was great yes it is a little outdated but just fine. Rooms were nice, staff was pretty good. They seemed to be a little standoffish but pleasant enough. Dining was pretty good not a big variety but OK..Buffett was very good. Entertainment no on this ship. This was a educational cruise with few excursions and some impact activities. Right now the only way you can travel to Cuba is person to person at this time. We did Cuba on a land tour which we liked much better then this one on a cruise. I would suggest taking a land tour to Havana for a week much better idea of what Cuba is really like. This ship does not have all the bells and whistles like most cruise ships and we just loved it. They are returning this ship back to P&O the beginning of June. Hope we can find another ship this small to cruise again on. The people on this ship were fantastic. We have never been on a cruise where people were so friendly and warm. Port of Santiago de Cuba. We did an excursion to the Birthplace of the Revolution. So an extremely different perspective of Cuba. Very upscale and much more money then Havana. The town is somewhat modern with shops and hustling about. Our guide on the Birthplace of Revolution was pretty good. We had a 28 year old young lady Jenny that had Castro imbedded in her heart. She could not answer some of the questions that were being asked cause it was not part of her script or education. She was a college graduate and put in her 2 years of community service now working as a tour guide. The tour was way to fast and the places they say you go is a drive by like San Juan hill quickly no time for pictures. We stopped at the Moncada Barracks which was OK. there was a stop to learn about all the restorations being done in Santiago de Cuba. Lots of money coming in especially from China. Then off to where Castro is buried Santa Ifigenia cemetery. Very nice and lavish cemetery Baccardi is buried there also. Got to see the changing of the guards. Last was our lunch at a private restaurant it is actually in someones home. Excellent. I will review Puerto Playa/Amber cove in another section. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
The ship was fine. The food was good, but my options were limited because I am vegetarian and wanted to eat healthy. I wish the ship had had mixers early on so the passengers could get to know one another better: i.e. single travelers, ... Read More
The ship was fine. The food was good, but my options were limited because I am vegetarian and wanted to eat healthy. I wish the ship had had mixers early on so the passengers could get to know one another better: i.e. single travelers, LGBT etc. There were several groups on the boat and some of their programs seemed better than the ones provided by the boat. I found my own tours in classic cars and they proved to be superior to the ones on the boat. www.cubaguider.com - Yuri was the tour guide from this site and he provided the best, most honest and insightful guiding I had on the trip. I used him in Santiago de Cuba, but he will organize tours in other areas. It is easy to organize your own tours at a fraction of the cost of the cruise. A 3 hour tour in a convertible Cadillac in Havana ran $120 CUC for 3 people. That's less than $50/person. Dinner reservations and online bookings are now available in Cuba. Air BNB is also available in Havana. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
The Empress of the Seas was not prepared for this sailing A/C in operative in both dining area and casino. Maintenance was working on the A/C during the at seas days. It seemed the dining staff over loaded the tables with guests. Not ... Read More
The Empress of the Seas was not prepared for this sailing A/C in operative in both dining area and casino. Maintenance was working on the A/C during the at seas days. It seemed the dining staff over loaded the tables with guests. Not al all comfortable for a relaxing dining experience. The experience in Cuba on the walking tour gave us a greater insight into the friendly people of the island. Going into the local markets and pharmacy the people use was an interesting step back in the history and culture. Our guide, a university teacher was a tour guide so that he could make a greater amount of money . This walking tour was not a difficult tour for seniors lasting over the four hours. Our tour also included lunch, which was excellent, food and service surpassed our expectations. Walking put you with the people, taking a motor coach is perhaps more comfortable, Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We were celebrating our 55 wedding anniversary with friends who had spent their honeymoon in Cuba 62 years ago. While Cuba left us somewhat less than impressed, Royal Caribbean provided an excellent tour of the city. The other destinations ... Read More
We were celebrating our 55 wedding anniversary with friends who had spent their honeymoon in Cuba 62 years ago. While Cuba left us somewhat less than impressed, Royal Caribbean provided an excellent tour of the city. The other destinations were as exciting as we planned. The on board staff was very accommodating and helpful with all our needs. The food was skillfully prepared and carefully presented. Each of the crew members achieved above and beyond delivery results. The tours both on board and off board were carefully planned and executed. We had a gracious week on Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas! You probably already know the drill, eat, eat and more eating, but it is worth repeating. We had our fill each and every day on board. we are considering a Bermuda or one of the river cruses as our next outing and Royal Caribbean will be our first choice! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
I chose this cruise because of havana. It was definitely worth it.. Tour best of havana was great.. Full day with lunch was great.saw different aspects of cuban life and idealogy. Will definetly try to return. The ship was small but the ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of havana. It was definitely worth it.. Tour best of havana was great.. Full day with lunch was great.saw different aspects of cuban life and idealogy. Will definetly try to return. The ship was small but the crew where great better than any i have experienced in most of cruises lately. It was a nice change ..food was good , no formal night which i think they should people up front.and lobster night is on the last night. Which was an interesting change..good movies on pool deck.. Casino small and hot. Not a pleasant time there..all and all good trip would recommend it. Could expand on some different activities.though...card tournaments ,bridge games,sports trivia. Etc. Meet and greet areas.or socials. Comedy at night..no real activities for younger minded people.the ship was easy to get a real plus after being on bigger ships. Lovely theater.nice seats and you were able to see from all seats.. Lovely... Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
I chose this cruise for two reasons: First, I wanted to go to Havana and that was an awesome experience. Second, I wanted this experience to be reflective of how cruises used to be without all the frills and extras (these things are ... Read More
I chose this cruise for two reasons: First, I wanted to go to Havana and that was an awesome experience. Second, I wanted this experience to be reflective of how cruises used to be without all the frills and extras (these things are wonderful but I wanted to keep this cruise in line with cruising from years ago. I felt this would parallel my visit to Havana. If you really look, there are activities and fun because it is there; it is not the Flow Rider, Zip Line, basketball courts, etc. which are truly amazing if that is what you are looking for. It is just good old time fun. I tried to get a cabin with a balcony or window but we did not book in time. But again, it is all about what you are looking for in a cruise. I have done the Allure and other ships. This one fit uniquely with our visit to Havana......great shows, wonderful dining and finding plenty of time to get to meet other folks and share stories. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We booked because of several reasons, we are loyal to Royal, it was our anniversary, and because of Cuba! The Empress is great, we'll do it again! She's the small ship with a big heart! The ship is in great shape and the crew ... Read More
We booked because of several reasons, we are loyal to Royal, it was our anniversary, and because of Cuba! The Empress is great, we'll do it again! She's the small ship with a big heart! The ship is in great shape and the crew is awesome! Main dining meals and service were Great! The chefs table at Chops was awesome! The Latin theme was perfect for the cuba cruise! We were very pleased with the Entertainment. The rooms are small, but manageable. Getting on and off the ship at all 4 ports was very smooth, couldn't ask for it to be any easier. Visiting Havana was very interesting and we want to go back. Cozumel was fun as usual. I didn't care much for Belize, so we went back to the boat early. Plus it's a tender port, so you have to deal with that too. Overall we had a fabulous trip! Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
This was an 8-day and there was no formal night and notification there wasn't going to be one. As an Crown & Anchor Emerald member, we are always invited to a reception. No loyalty reception invitation was received. The food ... Read More
This was an 8-day and there was no formal night and notification there wasn't going to be one. As an Crown & Anchor Emerald member, we are always invited to a reception. No loyalty reception invitation was received. The food quality was only mediocre food with little change in the daily menu and very very fatty meats. The Windjammer often without ice and the food was only warm. This makes me question if it was even acceptable by most health department standards. The speaker for Cuban history and culture was unprepared, had a boring and poor delivery. The ship was generally too warm in the stateroom and throughout ship, with casino was worst with portable fans scattered in some areas. we received misleading/contradictory information from customer service and excursions desk. Many of the toilets often worked poorly or not at all. Our stateroom toilet required pushing button more than 5 times at night. Woke-up last night of cruise to strong sewage odor, as well as on way to elevator every time. Departure procedure was poorly executed. Charging more for room service, Internet, tips and gratuities, but this is probably overall Overall staff was very good Read Less
Sail Date April 2017

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