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600 Cuba Cruise Reviews

Days 1- 3 – After a long flight, took a taxi (CUC 25) to our casa in Vedado Havana, Casavana. For anyone not yet booked, thoroughly recommend this place, good 4-star standard, and one third of the price of a hotel. Passport control did ... Read More
Days 1- 3 – After a long flight, took a taxi (CUC 25) to our casa in Vedado Havana, Casavana. For anyone not yet booked, thoroughly recommend this place, good 4-star standard, and one third of the price of a hotel. Passport control did ask for proof I have travel insurance. Even though this is covered by my credit card company, I asked them for a document stating this before I traveled, and was pleased I had it when they asked. Took a private guide for a walking tour of Old Havana the second day - excellent. Third day, took HOHO bus (CUC 5) and continued to walk around old Havana. In the evening went to the Parisien Cabaret in the Nacional Hotel – pleasant and not too expensive, $40 pp including dinner, booked in advance on-line. Day 4 Monday – In the morning we took the free walking tour of the Nacional Hotel. Fascinating look at the iconic hotel, including tour of bunkers prepared for Cuban Missile Crisis! Mid-day we headed towards the ship. Had intended to take a taxi, but the owner of the casa very kindly took us there! Check-in was unusual. Taken upstairs by 2 porters, and then check-in with suitcases. Took a total of 10 minutes as no lines. Told to leave our suitcases by the gangway and taken to our cabin. Luggage arrived 5 minutes later. Our cabin was and XE Deluxe on 6th deck. Very pleasant and reasonably spacious, with a nice sitting area. Had everything we needed and all in good condition. 2 power sockets in room, European style 220V and American 110V. Took advantage of the hot tub whilst the ship was fairly empty. Show in the evening (and every other evening) was excellent. Day 5 Tuesday – at sea. Nice relaxing day. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy if you want, in fact, much more than on most cruises. My friend and I got in the habit of winning most of the competitions/quizzes each day, providing plenty of free drinks as prizes – great fun! The friendliness and service of the staff on this ship was outstanding. The crew is from all over the world, including some from Cuba. You can see they are happy and work well together. Day 6 Wednesday – Holguin/Antilla. Landing is by tender at Antilla, a small town of about 11,000, an hour’s drive from Holguin. As there didn’t seem to be anything to do locally and was unsure of availability of taxis (there were a few outside the port), we decided to take the Cuba Life excursion, which we booked on the ship. I am not a fan of cruise excursions as I believe they are overpriced, but on this occasion decided it was the best option. The tour, although expensive, was very good. We went to quite a few different places, showing different aspects of Cuban life, past and present. Day 7 Thursday – Santiago de Cuba. We had decided to walk around town by ourselves (few minutes walk from ship), visiting places with info I had downloaded from the internet in advance. As we left the port, a bicycle taxi approached us offering a tour for CUC 5 an hour – too good to turn down. The driver took us on a 2-hour tour, showing us the major sights of the town and also the different neighbourhoods where people live. He dropped us in the centre of town and asked for CUC 60! On being asked how he got to CUC 60, he said it was CUC5 per person/per hour, which should have totaled CUC 20! (Keep in mind the average monthly salary in Cuba is CUC20-30.) When we refused to pay him CUC 60, he wanted CUC 40. I threatened calling the police, after which he calmed down. We paid him the 20 and walked away. We walked around the centre of town before returning to the ship. The show that night was at 7 pm, folk dances performed by the local Ballet Company, excellent. Day 8 – Montego Bay, Jamaica. Here we took a taxi with another couple to the Bob Marley compound in Nine Miles, for a total cost of $170. They take American Dollars here (US$ 1 = Jamaican $100). It was interesting but I found the drive very long at about 2.5 hours each way. Weather was hot. Day 9 – Cienfuegos. We took a taxi with another person from the cruise to the local botanical gardens just outside town. These 1,000 acre gardens were set up by Harvard University about 100 years ago and have trees and plants from all over the world. We paid CUC 2 each entrance and a total of CUC 10 for a private guide for an hour, as the plants are not marked. The guide was a fountain of knowledge about every plant, flower, bird, etc. We then continued in the taxi to the Palacio de Valle, by the sea on the edge of town. This National Monument was once the home of a rich, 19th century trader, and built in beautiful, Morrocan style. Today there is a restaurant downstairs and a rooftop terrace with a bar and views over the whole area. Entrance was CUC 2 each and included a cocktail on the roof! The taxi then dropped us off in the centre of town, where we walked around and then walked back to the ship (approx 15 minutes). Total cost of the taxi was CUC 30. The show that evening was another local group, also very good. Day 10 – Punta Frances – the beach of your dreams! We tendered to a palm-backed crescent of perfect sand. The only things on the beach were recliners, a couple of huts selling drinks etc, and one or two stalls selling handicrafts. The staff organized an exercise/dance session in the clear, turquoise water, and every one seemed to be having fun. We were tendered back to the ship for a barbeque lunch on deck. Day 11 – Departure. We arrived in Havana at about 9.00 and disembarkation was allowed from about 9.30. People with later flights still had to put their suitcases out the night before, as they had to be screened by Cuban Customs, but they were then kept in the port all day until you traveled. People could even come back and use facilities of the ship, including having lunch. A day room for use until 5.00 pm could also be booked for $50. All in all, Cuba was a fascinating experience, and doing it with Cuba Cruise, was an ideal and fun way to see various places in Cuba. Thoroughly recommended. Hazel Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Note: This review will be written from the viewpoint of an American traveller. I note this due to the unique situation of Americans travelling in Cuba. First a little background, my wife and I are very experienced cruisers. We have ... Read More
Note: This review will be written from the viewpoint of an American traveller. I note this due to the unique situation of Americans travelling in Cuba. First a little background, my wife and I are very experienced cruisers. We have lost count of the number of cruises we have taken. We have been on many lines. While we like some ships and lines better than others, we have never been on a cruise we did not enjoy. We do not like to nitpick cruises, and we try to avoid passengers who do. We look for the positives, of which this ship and its educational program had more than can be mentioned in a short review. If you are an avid Cruise Critic reader, you will note that this ship gets very spotty reviews, at best. CC says something like “57% loved it”, a very low score. Be advised that the reviews need a much closer reading, however, as the rating is a composite score for the Mediterranean and Cuban cruises. A close look shows that, while the reviews in the Mediterranean are not very good at all, the reviews while in Cuba are generally quite good. Perhaps it is due to the Canadian management while in Cuba, but not while in the Greek Isles? The strong Cuba cruise reviews made us take a look at their pricing. Cuba Cruise prices are per cabin, not per person, so the prices are much lower than they appear at first glance. In addition, the prices are quoted in Canadian dollars, so take about a 40% discount if paying with American dollars due to the present rate of exchange. If you do the math, this is a very good deal for Americans in particular. With an exceptional itinerary, good prices, and strong reviews we booked. The booking experience will give you the impression that this company is a small operation and is learning as it goes. I think that is an accurate appraisal, but the experience was easy and personal. Do your homework before leaving! Cuba is a very different country to tour, so read up on those differences. As an example, you will need to bring cash to use in Cuba, as credit cards are useless. Here’s a tip: See if your bank can get you Canadian dollars without charging an exchange fee. In Minnesota, this was easy to do. American dollars have a surcharge in Cuba. Canadian dollars do not. Take Canadian dollars to use in Cuba, if possible. Once booked with money in hand, it is strongly recommended that passengers come into Montego Bay a day early. Montego Bay is the only departure port that makes sense for Americans for a variety of reasons. We decided to come in a day ahead to avoid possible weather issues. We were fortunate we did as our plane was diverted to Atlanta due to mechanical trouble. We arrived in Montego Bay very late and would have missed the cruise had the event occurred on the day of sailing. Over twenty cabins sailed empty due to weather delays, etc. The cruise line bears no responsibility for such cases. Also, there is no easy way to go from Montego Bay to Santiago de Cuba to catch up to the ship, so you are just out of luck in such situations. Take out trip insurance, which is also required by the Cuban authorities. Boarding in Montego Bay, rather than Havana where the Canadians and Europeans board, is actually a distinct advantage. By boarding in Montego Bay, you will have two full days in Havana, perhaps the most interesting city we have ever visited. Travellers boarding in Havana lose valuable time there due to flight connections, unless they come in early and have an extended stay. Most such travellers had only one full day there, which was unfortunate for them. If you do come in early, Khastle Khodero in Montego Bay is strongly recommended for your stay. Embarkation was easy. Actually all of the housekeeping issues were well handled. Even the Internet was above average in speed and cheaper than other lines. All shipboard matters are handled in US dollars, by the way, so you will need your credit card. You will be going back in time while in Cuba, so the Celestyal Crystal matches that theme perfectly. It is an old NCL ship with a most interesting history. Google it and be amazed. The Crystal has no ice rink, climbing walls, ice bars, artwork, or even an atrium. You will find no mints on your pillows. What you will find is a meticulously maintained, attractive small ship. Cabins are comfortable. The staff is stellar. You will love your fellow passengers and, due to the ship’s size, you will often run into your new friends. By the way, our positive outlook on the ship and the experience seemed to be shared by virtually every passenger we encountered. Food on board was good to excellent. The ship has gone to great lengths to bring the Cuba experience on board with an array of Cuban treats at all meals. Every passenger gets caught up in questions about comparing food on lines, so take the following with a grain of salt. We thought the food was somewhere between NCL and Celebrity without factoring in the Cuban influence, which made the dining very interesting. Cuban dancers and singers provided the entertainment. They were very good. There is other musical entertainment on board that was also quite good. A special mention goes out to Danny, the cruise director. This fellow is pretty amazing. Americans are required to attend the People to People program while on board. Tours are also through this program. The shipboard portion of it was unbelievably good. Although for Americans, anyone can attend these presentations and many non-American passengers helped enliven our discussions. I learned more in two days than in all our other cruised experiences put together. The shore excursions, while very good, were a little over scheduled, not allowing for enough time to tour on your own. They are tweaking their tours to solve this problem, but it is a governmental matter rather than a cruise line issue. While in Havana, optional tours are available through the ship, which are not part of the People to People program. You can also just walk about in any port. Havana has a large covered marketplace where you can buy souvenirs. Cienfuegos has a large open-air market and art houses for souvenirs, as well, which my wife felt surpassed what we saw in Havana. Ports and Tours Montego Bay This is not my favorite port in the Caribbean. Time is best spent here at a beach, staying at a good B&B visiting with people, and eating at Scotchies, which is famous for its authentic Jamaican food. You can also get away from the city and climb Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, which is a great experience. Walking in the tourist area will be disappointing. Santiago This city is deep into the history of the Revolution. Think of it as a Cuban Alamo or Valley Forge with a different political leaning. The People to People tour in Santiago needs tweaking, as it was too time intensive. Havana Did the first day tour, which was a very nice walking tour. We skipped the second day tour in order to concentrate on spending time in Old Havana. We ate at the Paladar Los Mercaderes, which was exceptional. In the evening, we went to the Tropicana. We would love to come back to Havana for a visit, a wonderful place. Maria La Gorda This is a leisurely beach stop. You can swim or walk on a long beach, or just get a drink, sit back, and enjoy the view. Cienfuegos This city has a lovely town square and active business district. It was highly enjoyable. We were on our own, but passengers also mentioned a very good People to People tour here. It should be noted that you will meet and openly share with many Cuban people both on the ship and ashore. The Cubans we encountered were warm and welcoming. Those ashore were surprised to encounter Americans and were openly delighted, despite living in economic conditions caused in no small part by our country’s embargo. They will speak freely and, quite frankly, seem to have great regard for Fidel Castro and their government. All call Castro by his first name, as a term of affection. This was clearly not put on for show. They hope for future economic improvement, which is badly needed, but not at the expense of losing their form of government, which has brought them food, shelter, 100% literacy, free world class health care, and free education through advanced degrees. You will find that Cuba is very safe with little crime. There is virtually no military presence. The few police officers we saw carried no weapons. Eye opening. In summary, a good deal, a nice, but not fancy, ship, great staff, unique well-prepared meals, tremendous shipboard programming, fun entertainment, and a wonderful itinerary – Who could want for more? See Cuba before it changes forever and see it on the Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised. Had read a few "not so good reviews" before leaving. Turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. Overall the ship is kept in top condition. Very clean, with really friendly, competent staff in all areas. Our cabin was excellently maintained by the cleaning crew, and had lots of drawer and hanging space. A nice surprise were the Happy Birthday balloons. The dining rooms presented excellent menu choices, with very good quality food. We liked everything. Entertainment was top notch. Saw every show. Cruise director Danny does a fantastic job. Has so much energy, and speaks many languages fluently, flowing from one to the other without effort. The tours onshore were interesting and informing. The only one I would skip is the Maria La Gorda trip to Cabo de San Antonio. Long bus ride, and not much to see or do. Would rather sit on the beach and relax. My husband wasn't very keen to go on a cruise, this being his first. On our last night aboard he said he was sorry it was over. We will definitely go on a cruise again, and highly recommend Cuba Cruise with Celestyal Crystal to anyone who wants to see more of Cuba than just a resort. It was an excellent holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
My wife and I traveled with another couple on several occasions in the past. Over dinner we discussed possible destinations. Cuba was the winner, we all wished to visit Cuba before it became too “Americanized.” After researching the ... Read More
My wife and I traveled with another couple on several occasions in the past. Over dinner we discussed possible destinations. Cuba was the winner, we all wished to visit Cuba before it became too “Americanized.” After researching the possibilities, we decided to cruise with a 2 day pre-cruise stay in Montego Bay. The Celestyal Crystal was the only act in town. We read all the Cruise Critic reviews, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We were prepared for anything, it would be an adventure. The Celestyal Crystal was certainly very different from the other ships we had been on. It was a delight, the staff was attentive and our every need was met with a smile. We were part of a People to People Program that included talks about Cuban culture by a young professor from Havana University and his associate. We had the opportunity to meet with members of the cruise staff that were Cuban nationals. We were able to talk with them one-to-one and develop empathy for the Cuban citizens. In addition to the P-2-P programs, there were shows every evening. The entertainment crew was energetic and talented. The shows were colorful and active. We enjoyed each one. The food was good but not outstanding. There were omelet stations and a specialty lunch bar each day on the pool deck. The excursions were another opportunity to experience the culture of Cuba. We had a 2 night stay in Havana with excursions on both days. Other ports were Santiago de Cuba, Maria la Gorda and Cienfuego with excursions at each. Each excursion was lead by a knowledge local guide. The excursions provided the opportunity interact with the Cuban people and to see loads of "Classic" cars and trucks. Embarkation and Disembarkation were smooth and without problems. All in all, a cruise to remember and I can recommend the Celestyal Crystal without reservation. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We ... Read More
We've read quite a few poor reviews of the cruise ship. Most previous guests reported that they loved the itinerary and really disliked the ship. We went in with lowered expectations and were therefore pleasantly surprised. We booked back to back cruises on this ship, so had the advantage of taking the tours on the first trip and doing our own itineraries on the second trip. Issues: The ship does rock and roll more than we're used to. There are stabilizers but they are apparently not being used. The ship is well maintained and clean. The cabins are pretty small, but also impeccably clean and there's enough storage for a large suitcase and 2 backpacks. They really don't want guests to place used toilet paper into the toilet and we found this to be the case in every public toilet that we had to use at our ports. There are no specialty restaurants and the food service hours are limited. The food is pretty basic but we gained 10 lbs. each so there's that. Bad news: a small casino that's hard to find and only 1 or 2 bingo games the whole time. Shocking! There are people embarking and disembarking from Havana as well as Montego Bay and Cienfuegos, so there is the disruption to the crew 3 times a week with new guests and lifeboat drills. Good points: Our package included unlimited drinks for a very reasonable price of $59/person/per week. That included Havana Club 7 year rum, Bombay gin, Jameson whiskey, bottled water, beer, wine, sparkling water, mixed drinks like pina colada's, daqueries, margaritas,mimosa's, cappucino's, lattes, etc. We've never seen a drinks package like that and believe me when I say that they lost some money on us! The staff and crew are very friendly and helpful and there really is a no tipping policy. The cruise director made a point of saying that no one expected a tip and of course, we tipped more than we expected to. A production show every night with aerial acrobatics and a fabulous band. That dance crew did not get a night off! I thought the shows were really good and was surprised that there wasn't the usual comedian or magic act show to give the dancers a night off. The guest lecturers were local professors from the Univ. of Havana and were very interactive with guests, both on and off the ship. They had a rum tasting (no extra charge), a lecture about cigars, a guest speaker who was a retired govt. official. The musicians on board were local Cuban bands and were absolutely awesome. "Latin Soul", in particular, was the band for the production shows and they played dance music and jazz afterwards to a largely empty room. Gifted folks. We were pleasantly surprised by our visits to Havana, where we found lots of shopping and places to eat near the port. There were a few beggars and people trying to sell black market cigars but they did take no for an answer. We didn't feel that Santiago de Cuba was a good place to wander around in on our own due to the harassment of people begging or trying to sell taxi rides, black market cigars or the general seediness of the area. We took the tour on our first visit and ended up regretting going out on our own on the second visit due to the harassment. We don't dive so Maria la Gorda was just a beach visit that required tendering. Cienfuegos is a beautiful city with it's seediness but there are beautiful as well as ugly things to see there and we felt very safe there, not bothered by beggars, etc. You just have to have an open mind about this trip and not expect too much from the ship. It's small and a bit outdated but the folks really seem to be trying hard to please. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Eight retirees including our travel agent who arranged the entire expedition took this cruise as part of the "Authentic Cuban Experience Program" in hopes of taking advantage of recently relaxed guidelines for such things. We ... Read More
Eight retirees including our travel agent who arranged the entire expedition took this cruise as part of the "Authentic Cuban Experience Program" in hopes of taking advantage of recently relaxed guidelines for such things. We also wanted to get to Cuba now in the event that the possibility might close in the near future. I don't have anything to compare our trip to as this was our first cruise. I really didi not know what to expect but I need not have worried. I would be hard pressed to find any real complaints about the ship, the food and beverage, or the tours we participated in. The whole trip was a good introduction both to cruising and to Cuba. I'm sure we just skimmed the top layer in both regards. Our inside cabin amidships was perfectly adequate to our needs with good storage, good lighting and excellent care from the cabin steward. Even the necessarily smallish washroom was adequate for my tall, somewhat wide person. There was an sign on the commode that led one to believe that NO paper of ANY kind should be flushed. I'm pretty sure they meant that no trash paper or packaging should be flushed but it was unclear. We flushed TP which I hope was OK. Our cabin steward put out whimsically styled pool towels in the form of swans, snakes and starfish nightly. Very fun. He was in the room at least twice per day with cleanup and turndown activities. Very personable. Meal choices were plentiful and generally very good. We mostly used the Leda Buffet for breakfast and lunch and used the Almathia Restaurant for those evening meals we ate aboard. The chef and his staff graciously organized a special anniversary surprise for one of our couples. We were delighted that it could be accommodated. We enjoyed having the magnetic swipe card for drinks and the like although each of us mislaid theirs a one time or another. The cashless nature of ship board purchases was welcome. The evening entertainment in the Muses Lounge each night except dark Monday were varied and well performed by the resident performers. Each night was a different theme and they all managed to work in some very fine aerial work by several of the performers. Some of the storylines were thin, but the performances were enthusiastic and enjoyable. The ACE Program was led by Cuban national Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD, from the University of Havana and Lecturer of Cuban History and Culture. His multiple presentations over a variety of topics was well-ordered and most informative. He went out of his way to inform his audience. He also accompanied a couple of our tours and was available for Q&A during them. We enjoyed meeting him. We also had several other tour guides on our busses who had varying levels of skill but were informative nonetheless. Our shore excursions were kind of a mixed bag. Much time was spent on very nice tour busses but often we would ride for a long time to only have a short time at the specific attraction. It felt a bit rushed. Disappointing that in Santiago de Cuba we could not gain access to the central plaza due to New Years Eve preparations. We were glad that once we got to Havana, we did have some spare time to just wander on our own for several hours over two days. We were able to get to a couple of local restaurants and bars, toured Castillo de La Real Fuerza and several other locations. Unfortunately we were unaware that most museums are normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and so we were shut out of a couple we would have liked to see. Much was closed for New Years celebrations as well. We enjoyed our first taste of cruising and will definitely consider doing another in the near future Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
First time to Cuba. I strongly recommend this cruise to everyone! Very nice experience. The ports of call (check yourcubacruise.com) were outstanding. Weather was fantastic. Best music and entertainment on the ship and in Havana. ... Read More
First time to Cuba. I strongly recommend this cruise to everyone! Very nice experience. The ports of call (check yourcubacruise.com) were outstanding. Weather was fantastic. Best music and entertainment on the ship and in Havana. We went to a night club, Buena Vista Social Club, the best experience, ever! Martha (the entertainment manager) and the cruise director, Danny, were terrific. The entertaining crew were everywhere, engaging people. I hope I find them both there when we go back in March 2017. It was so good, we plan to go again in March next year! We embarked in Montego Bay. We stayed 3 days in Montego Bay before the cruise, we used Clive transport for transportation and trip to Mayfield Falls, which was unforgettable. We plan to embark in Havana next time, and spend few days there. The only bad feeling I have for the next cruise is that the cruise line eliminated the Maria la Gorda stop. That place was very, very nice for the beach and snorkeling excursion. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
My wife and I have been on more than 70 cruises and have lived/worked in or visited 108 countries around the world. We are Elite and Diamond Plus Members with several major ocean cruise lines. We have been on several river cruises and ... Read More
My wife and I have been on more than 70 cruises and have lived/worked in or visited 108 countries around the world. We are Elite and Diamond Plus Members with several major ocean cruise lines. We have been on several river cruises and land tours. Our recent voyage on the Celestyal Crystal was surprisingly pleasant. We were traveling with two other couples, and all agreed that the experience on the cruise ship was much better than expected. We thank the staff for their commitment and service. Cabin Accommodations: We had an deluxe outside cabin near mid-ship. Our cabin steward did an excellent job in cleaning the cabin. We experienced a problem with our air conditioning unit on arrival. The problem was addressed immediately. However, the resolution was not as we expected, and the engineers returned to make more adjustments, and the room was much more comfortable. While the cabin was a bit smaller, it was adequate to accommodate the eight-day cruise. The closet space was adequate, but the desk and bathroom were a bit small. Food / Service: The food served onboard was very nice. I prefer VERY spicy dishes that were not available, but there was always a selection that was acceptable. The selections were limited, but there was something that our small group of six found appealing and acceptable. We received EXCELLENT service at our dinner table from I Deket and at our morning buffet from Vinen. They were exceptional in managing our dining table and the buffet bar. Bar / Service: We had an unusual bar package that was arranged by our tour operator (Legendary Journeys). For a single fee, pre-paid before boarding, we were able to have unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (including coffee drinks) throughout the cruise. This option was a fantastic bargain for our small group of six: we had cappuccino and espresso in the morning, a beer in the afternoon and a few glasses of wine in the evening - a great bargain. All service personnel were excellent. However, two bar service personnel were outstanding: Alberto (Cuba) in the dining room was very responsive, and Maya (Ukraine) in the bar was especially friendly and efficient. If you meet them on board, I recommend you reach out to them for services. Internet: Both my wife and I signed up for 3-hours o internet connectivity at a price of $24 each. That was a great bargain for the 8-day cruise. I actually left 30 minutes unused on disembarkation. The speed was excellent, and I had little problem connecting to all my sources. The reception was very helpful in sharing instructions on how to sign-up for the service, log in and logout of the internet service. While I have 110Mb down at my home, the speed of the internet onboard was quite acceptable. Reception: I do not often comment on my interaction with the Reception / Purser Desk, but I have to say that Oana Rosu (Ukraine) was the most valuable staff member I met onboard the Celestyal Crystal. She was ALWAYS responsive to my inquires and accurate in guiding my actions. Oana’s commitment was quite obvious. It was her help that I will be most thankful and remember the Crystal Cruise Line. I think you will all the Reception Desk staff to be helpful, but Oana has a special commitment to helping passengers. Entertainment: There were many opportunities to stay for shows in the evening, and we did stay for several. Most often, we do not find the shows to be very interesting. However, the ship performers were committed to demonstrating some of the Cuban dance and song. They did a very fine job, and we enjoyed the shows we attended. Tours / Briefings: Our tours were arranged through the People-To-People Program. In most cases, we were very pleased with all tours and tour guides. It was the first opportunity to revisit some of the history from our young adult life. The tour guides in Santiago de Cuba, and Havana did a fantastic job reflecting on the history of the events of each location. The briefings we received from Jorge, a university professor were especially interesting and insightful. He was candid in speaking about the past and frank about the challenges of the future of the Cuban people. We truly enjoyed his presentations. Summary: Evaluate your expectation. If you want to see a Cuba that is emerging from the impact of a socialist economy - hurry, it is changing. If you want to see a Cuba of transition, wait another five years to arrange a visit. If you expect to see a fully restored relationship with America, wait ten years to visit Cuba after restoration is well underway. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
I just returned from a very educational cruise to Cuba. I had read previous reviews and was a little hesitant about Celestyal Crystal. I was pleasantly surprised. The ship is very clean and the staff are extremely friendly! The ... Read More
I just returned from a very educational cruise to Cuba. I had read previous reviews and was a little hesitant about Celestyal Crystal. I was pleasantly surprised. The ship is very clean and the staff are extremely friendly! The food was good, not gourmet, but very substantial. Our room (7222) was very nice with plenty of storage. Our room stewards were excellent. The "People to People" program was very good and we had some very interesting excursions. The Cuban people are very friendly and welcomed us Americans. I had read previously to take Canadian money, as it was the easiest to exchange. This was not true! Canadian money has a poor exchange rate in Cuba. Many places in Cuba gladly took American money. There is a surcharge to exchange US money for Cuban pesos, but it is worth it. However, US credit and debit cards cannot be used there. I would highly recommend this cruise. If you want to learn about the history of Cuba, this is the best way! Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
The Adonia is the perfect size vessel (750 passengers) for this chance-of-a-lifetime experience to visit Cuba. Most were outside cabins. Dining was top notch. The new Glass House wine bar has a cruvinet and it's where I started my ... Read More
The Adonia is the perfect size vessel (750 passengers) for this chance-of-a-lifetime experience to visit Cuba. Most were outside cabins. Dining was top notch. The new Glass House wine bar has a cruvinet and it's where I started my evening before dinner. The officers and staff were helpful and informative. And because it was a small ship it was common to see the captain greeting passengers. I had lunch in Havana with a ship's navigator who happened to be on our tour. We really enjoyed the two full days in Havana. The destination itself was inspiring, and Fathom does everything it can to make the experience personal and memorable. When our group asked to spend more time shopping in Santiago, our Cuban guide called his supervisor and gladly made the arrangements for us to have some independent time. Guided bus tours are mixed with walking tours and musical performances that really help to paint a picture of the history and culture of a country that has been closed to the U.S, for half a century. Cuba is not designed for masses of tourists, but that's what made the trip special. The Adonia was the only cruise ship at each port making the sites more accessible. Shore excursions to family-run restaurants were a highlight. I was fortunate enough to be on the first cruise to Cuba. It's clear that the Cuban government is still working to accommodate cruise passengers. But if the warm and gracious Cuban people are any indication, I am confident that the experience will become more refined and better executed with each sailing. Ports of call: Two days in Havana, one in Cienfuegos and one in Santiago de Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Having an opportunity to visit Cuba has long been on my "bucket list" and my experience on this unique cruise fit the bill. Unlike a number of previous cruises taken years ago with young children in tow, this trip was geared ... Read More
Having an opportunity to visit Cuba has long been on my "bucket list" and my experience on this unique cruise fit the bill. Unlike a number of previous cruises taken years ago with young children in tow, this trip was geared primarily for Adults. Although not a new, mega ship, I found the Adonia to be well maintained and staffed by young professionals who were extremely attentive. Food was very good and service outstanding. The limited size made for an ability to "get to know" other travelers and provided opportunity to meet and make new friends. This is not a cruise for one looking to lay by a pool or on a beach all day. Instead, this Cruise afforded opportunity to learn and experience a new culture. Great emphasis was placed on encouraging passengers to make the most of their time ashore at three separate and distinct Cuban Ports. Although the itineraries were pre-set, our guides were extremely knowledgeable and open to questions. The walking and bus tours were geared to see & experience the most with the time you had. Clearly, Cuba is not yet geared for a great influx of tourists but this is part of the allure. In parts of Havana you can easily imagine you've gone back in time. No Star Bucs, McDonalds....no people with cell phones glued to their face.. and great number of well kept 1950s autos rumbling down every street. If you're looking for a "different" type of vacation, I highly recommend this Cruise ! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
I have been on many many cruises and I must admit I was skeptical at first, but this cruise to Cuba aboard the Fathom Adonia was fantastic!! First of all going to Cuba was exciting enough, but the cruise experience was beyond my ... Read More
I have been on many many cruises and I must admit I was skeptical at first, but this cruise to Cuba aboard the Fathom Adonia was fantastic!! First of all going to Cuba was exciting enough, but the cruise experience was beyond my expectations . Yes there is no casino and production shows, but after all the touring during the day and a fantastic dinner at night, you are pretty tired! All the excursions are included but a night in Havana optional experience. The tours for all 4 days were exceptional, they included historical sites, cultural experiences, and shopping . The people of Cuba were so welcoming and friendly - I enjoyed every minute of the land tours. Tour guides were exceptional and their English was top notch. The service and food aboard ship definitely surprised- Service was outstanding!!! Food was delicious and varied. The cabins were quite comfortable and the ships décor was beautiful and classy. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise and would go again!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Fathom's Person to Person cruise to Cuba made this an opportunity not to be missed. The Adonia can accommodate 700 passengers. We were about 400 people on board and this made for an easy-going, uncrowded atmosphere. With its ... Read More
Fathom's Person to Person cruise to Cuba made this an opportunity not to be missed. The Adonia can accommodate 700 passengers. We were about 400 people on board and this made for an easy-going, uncrowded atmosphere. With its English "clubby" atmosphere, dark paneling, over-stuffed chairs in its lounges and beautifully appointed dining areas, ease and comfort abound. Our balcony cabin on A deck was spacious and comfortable. We had two beds, a couch, chairs on the veranda, large closet and storage areas and a perfectly acceptable bathroom, although the shower is small. Jessica, our attendant, made every effort to answer questions and meet our every need. I often used the showers in the spa because they were larger and available after swimming in the refreshing and at times uncrowded pool. Meals were delicious and a great variety was offered each day. Fresh fruits and vegetables always were provided in abundance. BBQ lunches on the pool deck created a festive atmosphere. The shore excursions provided us the opportunity to see three cities in Cuba via air conditioned buses. The guides were informative, friendly and approachable. We were always encouraged to ask questions and speak with people we met along the way. The architecture and antique cars of Havana, the historical plazas, the maintained buildings in Cienfuegos and the fortress and cemetery in Santiago de Cuba demonstrated the treasures of our neighbor island. Take advantage of visiting Cuba before McDonald's and Starbucks change the atmosphere! Wonderful cruise to a wonderful country. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
we were on the 4th or so sailing to cuba on the adonia. the crew is a mixture of cruise line employees and the new impact travel people (mostly ex peace corp ). this may have caused some breakin period but it did not affect a great trip. ... Read More
we were on the 4th or so sailing to cuba on the adonia. the crew is a mixture of cruise line employees and the new impact travel people (mostly ex peace corp ). this may have caused some breakin period but it did not affect a great trip. first the ship. the adonia is small - 700 passengers but did not lack for anything. they had a house band from england (maybe a contract holdover) and they brought a local cuban band aboard. all service food dining areas public areas all on a par with say a princess level. alot of activity on board were not well attended. again i think that the new non cruise people were in charge - there was not a typical cruise director. but you go on the cuba leg for the shore experience. 2 nights in havana, cienfuegos and santiago. the trips were well organized and gave you a real feel for how cuba works economically and socially. this s a cant miss trip Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
The primary reason to take this cruise is, of course, to go to Cuba before it gets overrun by Americans. The Adonia is a fantastic ship. The amenities and crew are top rate. With only a passenger load of 704 people you make new friends ... Read More
The primary reason to take this cruise is, of course, to go to Cuba before it gets overrun by Americans. The Adonia is a fantastic ship. The amenities and crew are top rate. With only a passenger load of 704 people you make new friends very easy. Cubans are a welcoming people ready to receive Americans and share their views of their country. Of course there are two distinct points of view very pro Cuba and those who want to leave. But are are welcoming and friendly. I recommend this cruise to all cruisers who want something different, exciting and informative. When I booked this cruise I dod not know what to expect, and with it being booked as a people to people cruise to a country where time has stood still I have some concerns. The crew and the Cubans themselves resolved any concerns I had. The only major draw back is that all transactions have to be made in CUC pesos as they do not accept US $ and have no inter-structure to handle credit cards. Talk to the people and they will help even if they do to speak English. Do this cruise I know I will return to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
I like everyone else wanted to see Cuba before the hoards of people and the big hotel chains come to Cuba. I was not disappointed. In fact I was very pleased with what i was able to see and do. The biggest take away was the cleanness of ... Read More
I like everyone else wanted to see Cuba before the hoards of people and the big hotel chains come to Cuba. I was not disappointed. In fact I was very pleased with what i was able to see and do. The biggest take away was the cleanness of the cities ( no graffiti ), the warmness and energy of the people, the food, the music and the resilience of a nation that has had a very hard time over the last 50 years. I was also very satisfied with the ship and the staff. The tours were well organized for the time allowed for Fathom to set this up. Truly a great experience and I highly recommend this trip for anyone who wants to see the real Cubans. Another great thing about this cruise was you were able to have free time to do as you pleased, take a cab ride in one of those old cars, go to a local dinner and in a very safe atmosphere. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
I have always wanted to go to Cuba. Probably because we have done business in many of the islands and have met some wonderful people. The people of Cuba are very friendly, coming up to you in the street to ask where you are from and some ... Read More
I have always wanted to go to Cuba. Probably because we have done business in many of the islands and have met some wonderful people. The people of Cuba are very friendly, coming up to you in the street to ask where you are from and some even exchanged their name and address with us. As for the ship it is a means to get to where you want to go. It is your hotel. I think the staff on the ship did an excellent job. I read complaints about the small rooms. We had a balcony room and it was fine for us. We have been cruising since 1982 and have sailed with most of the cruise lines in the USA and Europe. On this ship the bed was very comfortable. The room and shower clean. They supply shampoo, conditioner, gel soap, hard soap, body lotion, etc. What else do you want? Then I read the complaints about the food. I thought the food was very good and a big variety. Remember they have to stock the ship with everything from Miami, they can NOT buy anything in Cuba. The people are on rations for rice, beans, water, etc. So there is nothing extra for a ship to purchase. I would think that after seeing the food shops with hardly anything in them for people to eat, we would stop all the whining. Tours: You will get a Disembarkation Arrangement notice in your room the night before the tour. It will have your group name on it, our was "travel". They will announce the name of your group when it is time for you to meet and to pass through immigration. Old Havana Walking Tour with lunch- is interesting and also long, when you get off the ship in the terminal they are giving out a bottle of free water, take it, you will need it. Also bring a hat. The food at the lunch stop is very good I had the lobster and they didn't charge us for the Mojito's or any other drinks. You're in Havana overnight so you can stay in town if you like and have dinner. Our tour guide spoke pretty good english, as she was learning. She was very sweet. Cienfuegos is also a nice tour. They have water on the bus for free. The performers in the Tomas Terry Theatre are excellent singers. We took the walk up to the tower which is regular stairs to a roof top, you can go up the spiral staircase if you want to but the roof top is also nice for photo's. Lunch here is also very good I had the baked chicken, they didn't charge us for any of the (rum and cokes) drinks. Our tour guide was very good and told us a lot of stories. Explore the Magic of Santiago with lunch-Pearl of the South- This is a beautiful place. We went to the Fort. I would of liked to spend more time in Revolution Square. The lunch was a buffet. You get one soda or water for free and if you want anything else you are charged for it. Our tour guide is a english teacher and very funny. The Tour Guides give you a good idea of life in Cuba. Its hard for sure...... If you have trouble walking I would suggest you go on the bus tours anyway. You can just stay on the bus in the a/c, but you will get to see a lot of the island and hear about the culture and history. You will be able to have lunch which I think you will enjoy. All of the restaurants had musicians. There are some activities on the ship you can pay for but most of them are free. Disembarkation is confusing and needs to be color coded and checked by the staff so people have to go by their assigned times off the ship. Seems no one was paying attention and everyone just tried to get off at the first call. We may go back in May. If we do I think we will hire a driver and go to some places on our own. I noticed people doing that, some which have been to Cuba before. Hemingway's house was closed on this trip. The Floridity Bar (Hemingway's) wasn't opened yet, it was to early. There are many people from other countries just wondering around and having fun. Some with maps some with private tour guides. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
WOW! I was a little worried when we booked. One, What would this "impact" cruising be like, and two what would it be like to be on such a small ship. Well, the answer to those questions: AWESOME!!! This is about our 16th cruise. ... Read More
WOW! I was a little worried when we booked. One, What would this "impact" cruising be like, and two what would it be like to be on such a small ship. Well, the answer to those questions: AWESOME!!! This is about our 16th cruise. The Adonia has just been given a facelift and is beautiful. It's like living in a 5 star hotel with a ships pool and 4 TV stations. The service was outstanding. The meals, for the most part, were much better than expected. our cabin was larger and nicely decorated too. (the bathroom was typically small but clean) The tours that were set up were wonderful. We did our own person to person experience on the second day in Havana (which I highly recommend ) We hired a car with an English speaker to take us all over. We insisted that he join us for our meal so we could talk about life in Cuba/USA. That gesture really help break down walls. I think that was our favorite part of our trip. We had so much fun! The people of Cuba are so warm and friendly. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND going!!! BEFORE McDonalds and Starbucks move in!! the Adonia is the ONLY U.S. cruise going to Cuba at this time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We chose this cruise because my husband wanted to see Havana before it became Miami. The only way I was going to a Cuba was on a ship with 5 star amenities. I thought Cuban hotels would be marginal and I was not wrong. Also since this ... Read More
We chose this cruise because my husband wanted to see Havana before it became Miami. The only way I was going to a Cuba was on a ship with 5 star amenities. I thought Cuban hotels would be marginal and I was not wrong. Also since this was a delayed honeymoon this had to be a special trip for romance and learning. I was not disappointed. We sailed in September after the Fathom organization worked out details on this unparalleled experience. I appreciated the British tone to the hospitality. The ship was recently refreshed and offered a combination of traditional elegance and current fresh design trends. The small ship experience was divine. The lectures about Cuba were insightful. The pace was good. After two days in hot stimulating Havana a day at sea was needed. We met wonderful people who were seasoned travelers and it was enriching to share our experiences. We traveled on very comfortable Chinese air conditioned busses. That was essential since the heat was intense. 108 degrees in Santiago. I am glad for the breezy maxi dresses and large hats. The Destination of Cuba was glorious. I was braced for the poverty-stricken but encouraged by the positive spirit of those we met. Cubans were glad to see us and we enjoyed their shared talent of music and dance. This was a cultural exchange that met the approval of the Cuban government. On the return we have been asked about the food. The ship was fine. For breakfast I feasted on the croissants and fresh fruit. Dinner was always interesting. I was not this cruise to gain weight and I did not. What made dinner wonderful was the great service and meeting new people for stimulating conversations.The food in Cuba was OK in three different venues.I was here for the cultural experience not the cuisine. Cubans do not have access to a wide range of spices so the tastes were limited. I sensed they were offering their best effort. I will spare you details..but do not drink anything in a bottle you have not opened. I learned that early. The ship has great bar tenders! The English Garden Martini was sensational! For so many reasons this trip will be hard to top! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
The minute we heard on the news that Carnival, Inc. had permission to take Americans to Cuba on a cruise ship, we looked at each other and said, “We have to go before it gets too Americanized.” Learning which ship it would be made it ... Read More
The minute we heard on the news that Carnival, Inc. had permission to take Americans to Cuba on a cruise ship, we looked at each other and said, “We have to go before it gets too Americanized.” Learning which ship it would be made it even better. Shortly after that our friends decided to join us. We booked with Fathom, the new cruise line, directly, picking a mid-September date so they’d have 11 cruises to get their act together before we boarded, and everything went well. It was an absolutely fantabulous trip! Although we’d booked during one of the two weeks most likely for hurricanes, our week slipped in between a tropical storm the week before and Hurricane Matthew two weeks after. Not to be punny, but the cruise couldn’t have been smoother; we felt no wind, waves nor rain the whole week. The ship is familiar; having been the Renaissance R-8, Swan Hellenic Minerva II, Royal Princess, and P & O Adonia, and similar to Princess’ Tahitian/Ocean Princess and Pacific Princess. We’ve been on these ships in the same aft balcony cabin several times; our favorite! The old red and blue carpeting is gone, and it’s been spruced up with new furniture, carpeting, draperies, and is ready for its next adventure to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. We arrived at the dock about 10:30, checked in and had boarded, eaten a buffet lunch and were in our cabins by 12:15 on Sunday. Shortly thereafter we’d unpacked and were exploring. The casino was removed to make a much larger lounge, Anderson’s, on Deck 5 with lots of comfy couches and chairs. Additionally, one of the specialty dining rooms, Sabatini’s, was turned into the lovely Glass House Wine Bar, up on Deck 10. Computers were moved into the Library, which is otherwise untouched. Mike and I opted to eat al fresco on the buffet’s aft deck most meals, while our friends preferred the main dining room. The dress code on the ship is “Casual, but no swim suits in the main dining room at dinner.” We could all live with that. Food was good; not spectacular, but good. There was a Cuban selection each night, as well as some remaining British recipes and of course American fare. When they had rack of lamb we all ate in the Main Dining Room, and two other nights we ate went up to the Sterling Steakhouse. I seriously doubt that a single person onboard lost any weight. By the way, if you're interested in making reservations in the specialty dining room, go up there immediately after boarding and make them. This is no ordinary cruise. There are no glitzy shows; although some of Hemingway’s movies are shown, the thrust of the “entertainment” was to teach us Cuban history, as well as to prepare us for the three ports. There are also no guys trying to push drinks with umbrellas at you whenever you step into a public place. If you want a drink, you have to ask for it. That's refreshing! Tours are included as part of the cruise. Travel is relaxed, but Americans cannot just go wandering off on their own; one must be in a program and with a guide at all times. That’s easy because every licensed taxi driver is also a licensed tour guide (and we have to keep your receipts for 5 years in case the IRS decides to check). After departing Miami on Sunday afternoon, we arrived in Havana at 11 am Monday and were there till about 8 pm on Tuesday. We’d read that the walking tour provided by Fathom on the first day in Havana was through the old city in intense heat with little shade. so we decided to do a “Self-Guided People-to-People” Exchange that day, studied up on where we wanted to go, found a licensed taxi driver/tour guide, and were off to Hemingway’s Havana estate, about 10 miles out of town, and also up to El Morro, the fort at the mouth of the harbor. We’d visited Hemingway’s Key West home on Saturday before boarding, so this would be a Hemingway Literary Tour. After clearing customs we exchanged money. Cuba has two currencies. One is the Cuban Peso (CUP, pronounced coop) that Cubans use; that currency has people on it, and it cannot be converted to other currencies because it is what is paid to workers, who can use it something like food stamps to obtain commodities and clothing at government stores. The other is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC, pronounced kook), that has monuments on it, and which is what all tourists use. It is pegged one-for-one to the US dollar; one CUC is equal to 24 CUPs. Got that? There will be a test at the end. Euros and Canadian dollars are exchanged at the going rate, but American dollars are exchanged with a 10% discount. Knowing that, we took Canadian dollars, which we got a super deal on at Wells Fargo. The car was a 1950 green Chevy convertible in cherry condition. We had a blast! Yes, the sun beat down on us at traffic signals; yes, we smelled more exhaust fumes that we had in years, but the wind on our faces with the top down made us all think we were teenagers again. The driver bragged that his car was his grandfather’s, and it was all original. There’s a saying here, “Locked in 1959 with all original parts.” Wish I’d found on a T shirt! At Hemingway’s house the driver got a big jug of water out of the trunk and topped off the radiator. When he finished, Mike said, “Hey, you forgot to replace the cap.” The driver replied, “No es necessario” as he slammed the hood down. By the way, the driver stays with you at each place; he's your guide, even though other people might be on site to answer questions. The house, as all property, was taken over by the government when the Communists set up shop. It was retained as a monument, though, and government employees have been taking care of it since then. While the Key West house had some furniture and several rooms with a pictorial history of the man and his writing, this house showed how Papa lived, simple furnishings with lots of memorabilia from hunting trips all over the world. Both have tons of cats. His bedroom/study, where most of his writing was done, as well as other rooms are open for viewing. There’s a Miro in the dining room, which he most likely got when he lived in Spain, but the home is quite simple. The grounds are lush, the swimming pool inviting, and his boat is in the yard. It’s easy to see why he was depressed when they had to leave for Idaho. After cooling off in the garden a bit, we returned to the car and watched as two men pressed canes through a hand mill to release liquid sugar, which they use to sweeten drinks. Everything here is done in the old fashioned, non-mechanized way, and it’s fascinating to watch. Then we headed back to the old city, past the terminal where the Adonia was docked, drove through a tunnel under the harbor and went up to El Morro. We asked if the tunnel was built by the Russians; the driver said, “No, by the French.” By this time our driver/guide had warmed up to us. We teased him because he honked and waved to all his friends, which seemed to be half of Havana. As we approached a huge statue of Christ that is Cuba’s answer to Rio’s Christ with outstretched arms, he joked that it’s Christ in Jail, explaining that the scaffolding has been in place for years. We didn’t discuss religion, but Castro’s Communism must treat it differently than Russia’s; people in the former Soviet Union countries were not allowed to practice religion and never would have been allowed to build a statue of Christ. Across the way was the house Che Guevara lived in. That house has really been gussied up, at least on the outside, with Che written in bright red on the façade; Che only lived there a few months. El Morro is an imposing fort on a hill overlooking the entry to Havana harbor. It is not as large as the one in San Juan, but apparently in the 1500’s it was big enough to take care of pirates and other enemies of Spain. A secondary part sits on the other side of the water. I assume they could put chains across, if necessary, to prevent boats from entering, and if nothing else cannons could hit them from both sides. In front sits quite an array of Russian planes and other things once used as a defense against any attacks by the US, which we chose not to inspect up close. I need to interject here that the Cuban people are very friendly, energetic, happy that relations with the US are easing and that Americans are once again coming to Cuba. They are eager for the day when we can travel unaccompanied, and when they can legally visit the US. We had purchased tickets online to the Tropicana. After refreshing showers and a quick dinner, we left the terminal, found a Pontiac with AC and once again headed out with a driver/guide. We noted that it had a “5-on-the-post” and the driver explained that many of the older cars have been updated with Toyota 5-speed drive trains; mechanics adapt floor shifts to shift on the post, and they get much better mileage. We arrived early so they sent us to the bar, which overlooks the dining room, and then wished we’d come dinner, as well. The dining room is beautiful. This was our first chance to order a daquori, which was invented in one of a few places in Havana. All drinks at the bar cost 5 CUCs. When we ordered, though, we had no idea that the price of our tickets for the show included a glass of champagne with a strawberry, a vodka Collins, and a 5th of Cuban rum plus cokes (from Mexico) for the four of us. The show was in an air conditioned “grotto”; no smoking and (ahhhh!) air conditioning. Wunnerful! The show was 2 ½ hours long, and we all agreed it was the best any of us had ever seen. The costumes, head dresses, dancing, acrobatics, singing, and tempo were superb. The guys’ only comment was, “Buns of steel.” We returned to the ship after midnight, but the next morning we were on a bus at 7:30 for the city tour. The bus company, like everything else, is government owned; buses are modern, with comfortable seats, air conditioning and clean restrooms with toilet paper. With an expert guide and driver, we covered a lot of territory. We learned that guides are either very pro-Communist or very not, depending on age. One of our guides said, “I’m young; I’m 33, and I want to live in Cuba; I want to keep working here, but I also want to visit the United States. Right now I can’t because I speak English and I can’t get a visa because they are afraid I’ll get to Miami and not leave, but I can’t earn as much money in the US as I can here.” He continued, “The embargo, the Bay of Pigs, they are history; we need to put history behind us. They matter to the old people, but they are not relevant to us young people. We want to be friends with America the way we’re friends with the all other countries in the world.” The guides’ view of Communism also depended upon age. One day our guide was about 60. Or maybe 59 with all original parts. At any rate he told us that everything in Cuba is free, while in the US we had to pay for everything. Here’s what the young guide said. “The old people, they’ll tell you that everything is free. But nothing is free. We pay for everything we get. Everybody works and the first 200 hours a month we work is for the government. (200 hours a month!) Any time we work after that, we get paid. What do we get for our 200 hours per month? We get 16 years of school. We get medical care if we can afford the co-pay. We get a state funeral and burial. We get enough CUPs to buy about 20 lbs of rice, 20 lbs of beans and 20 lbs of pork each month, plus some clothes. We get enough money to share a small apartment with lots of family members. All men must serve in the Army (or Navy); two years if we’ve finished 16 years of school and four years if we’ve finished only 12. Women serve two years if they’ve finished 12 years of school, and none if they finished 16. We have a lot of over-educated people in Cuba.” He also explained that Cubans do not have to be members of the Communist party or swear allegiance to Communism, but membership is required to be part of the National Senate or National Assembly or to be appointed to anything. One more thing; Cuba is definitely a tipping society. Everybody gets a tip, from the tour guide and driver to restaurant hostesses and waiters, to restroom attendants, to people who bring free drinks to those who tell you a bit of history at, say, the Hemingway House to musicians. You get the idea; everybody is tipped for everything. You can tip in CUCs, Euros, Canadian dollars or American dollars; they don’t care, but they expect a tip. The result is that tipping is literally tipping the society. All these service people who receive tips are being tipped in high-value currency. A CUC, remember, is equal to 24 CUPs, which can buy more rice and beans and clothes. What’s happening is that all these people are tipped so much that they earn more than the doctors (who work for the government), and who drive taxis to earn tips after a day of seeing patients. OK. I’ll get off my government spiel and back to our tour. We drove past tons of apartments built by the Russians, just like the ones I called Communist bunkers in the Czech Republic. We also drove by some of the homes that were once privately owned and taken over by the government, many now turned into guest houses. At the National Hotel, our guide said it was formerly the Mafia headquarters, but now they only have one Mafia: Castro. We stopped at the Casa de Fuster, or Fusterlandia as they call the home of artist-sculptor Jose Fuster. It is reminiscent of Gaudi’s Parq Guell in Barcelona or the Young Adults section of the Camarillo Library. All I can say is, “WOW!” This man thought that his neighborhood needed to be inspired, to have something to make them happy when there was very little to be happy about. So he began to tile everything at his home with whimsy; there are cacti, giraffes, cowboys, and all kinds of things piled one on top of the other and on every wall. Neighbors got into the act and helped; even the street markers in that area are tiled. It’s not in my guidebooks, but if you get to Havana, be sure to see the Fuster House. Next up was the Cemetario de Colon. Although Columbus landed on Cuba, he did not die here and was buried in Genoa, Italy. However, the cemetery bears his name. It has some fantastic monuments that were built by very rich people before Castro took over; they remain. However, the cemetery is pretty much full so, and here’s the zinger, after the state funeral that everybody gets, the bodies are buried in available plots, but they can only stay there for two years, when they are dug up and given to the family so that other people can be buried in the plot. Lunch was at La Floridita, a place claiming to have invented the daquori, and definitely a Havana Hemingway Hangout. Then it was time for shopping, or “chopping” as the guides all called it. Our friends were dropped off at the ship; we bought a few things and returned to the bus to talk in depth with the young, forthright guide. Wish we could have spent more time in and out of Havana, but it was time to leave for Cienfuegos, where we’d arrive after a day at sea. Cienfuegos, a hundred fires, was named for Senor Cienfuegos and has nothing to do with fires. It is a resort city for Canadians, Europeans and Cubans who can afford it. We stopped at a folk park where residents had made a lot of interesting things from metal, and drove by old mansions-now-guest houses, plus the yacht club. We had checked before leaving, and Cienfuegos was the home of Dodgers right fielderr, Yaseil Puig. The cruise line warned us not to take gifts to distribute because it would create problems for those who come later by setting the expectation of gifts. We bought a Dodger baseball cap at Big 5 and were discrete, although we became doubtful when our (older, “59 and holding”) guide told us what a traitor Puig was for defecting to the US as we drove by the city baseball stadium. As we disembarked the bus to walk around the Plaza de Armas, Mike donned the cap. We tried to detour an old Chevy convertible. but the driver turned to sell us a tour—and then spotted Mike’s cap. He immediately said, “How much for your hat?” Mike hesitated; the guy almost panicked. “How much? How much for the hat?” Finally, Mike asked, “Do you have a son?” The guy smiled, “Yes; he’s 11,” he responded. “Does he like Puig?” “Yes, he loves Puig.” So Mike removed the cap, bowed, and said, “This cap is for your son.” Believe me, that man and his wife would have done anything for us, but we only wanted pictures of him and his car—and we didn’t give him a tip, either. After seeing some very nicely restored buildings on the plaza we entered the Teatro Tomas Terry, a theater donated to the city by a rich resident, for a choral presentation, which was fantastic! Later we walked through a street market, saw several delivery wagons pulled by mules, had a local beer (Cristal) to cool off, and then it was time to return to the ship and depart for Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba is the “birthplace of Cuban Revolution,” and not just Castro’s revolution. It’s also home to San Juan Hill. Our first stop was at the Plaza de Armas, which is filled with huge bulletin boards that are filled with more information than we wanted to read about the history of Castro and Che’s first attempt to take over Bautista’s government here in Santiago de Cuba, in both Spanish and English. We quickly followed our guide down a street to a little bar; each bus went to a different bar (there were 15 buses), where we heard typical Cuban music and dancing (Rhumba and Samba—no Conga line, though). The bar was actually an open patio, enclosed on four sides, and pretty hot, even in the shade. However, seeing the musicians and dancers was more important than being on the shady side or sunny side. There were guitars, a very unusual base, a flute, singers and two dancers, and the 45 minute performance wasn’t nearly long enough. It was the kind of stuff that could keep us sitting all night, enjoying the music. We really wish we could have stayed twice as long! The time had come to walk back to the bus on the Plaza, with enough time for more “chopping”. In addition to the Dodgers cap, we’d taken a Mickey Mouse cap, which I kept in my purse. At a hat and guitar shop we spotted a toddler with her two abuelas and father, the shopkeeper. While he tried to sell another hat to Mike, I bent over and asked the little girl, “Conoces Mickey Mouse?” She looked at me and grabbed the cap from my hand. Her grandmas said in unison, “Si, conoce Mickey Mouse” as one of them put it on her head. She pulled it off and refused to put it on again. Then she began to run all over, stopping only to look at Mickey. We later heard what happens when you bring gifts and just hand them out. We had not seen any beggars in Havana, but there were some in Santiago de Cuba. One woman from the ship had a large bag of T shirts she’d brought, and handed one to a beggar. Another immediately showed up, and she gave him one, too. Then another and another and she was finally overwhelmed by beggars fighting over her T shirts. Another cruiser ran to the police, who broke up the fight and hauled the beggars off. After lunch at an open-air restaurant above the owner’s home, we went to San Juan Hill, where they talked about the Spanish Cuban American War, asking why the Spanish and Americans never mention Cuba in the name of the war in which they won their independence from Spain. With no mention of Teddy Roosevelt nor the Rough Riders, we saw all kinds of monuments to Cuban and American heroes. I noted the 31st militia from Michigan and another from Ohio; all the names are listed on each monument. All of us learned a lot of Cuban history, including the fact that the US had temporary control of Cuba after that 1898 war. Our final stop was at the Forteleza, above the harbor. We climbed and snapped pictures, but it was hot and we were tired. This fort, like the one in Havana, is not as large as El Morro in San Juan, but it got the job done and protected the harbor from invaders for Spain for centuries. Then it was time to return to the ship and say adios to Cuba. It seemed as if we’d only been gone 4 or 5 days, but after a day at sea, we were back in Miami with only our memories Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We were on the Europa2 from Curacao to Havana Suite 669. This is a relatively small ship, beautifully designed with open spaces and many artworks decorating the walls. Cabins are spacious and include a dressing room and/or a separate ... Read More
We were on the Europa2 from Curacao to Havana Suite 669. This is a relatively small ship, beautifully designed with open spaces and many artworks decorating the walls. Cabins are spacious and include a dressing room and/or a separate toilet and all come with a balcony. The ship offers a culinary experience with 7 top class restaurants to choose from, ranging from Japanese, Asian, French to Italian. Most personnel is quite young, extremely friendly and helpful and bilingual German/English. The atmosphere is relaxed: no formal nights and only a jacket is desirable for gentlemen at dinner. There is no daily service charge and there is an opportunity given to visit the bridge. Embarkation went very smoothly and the welcome included a well-staged reception with champagne. Medical service was excellent. For all these cruising aspects I would rate it 5+. Where it faltered a bit, at least on this trip, is the entertainment section that was nearly exclusively musical (although it included a well appreciated classical concert) and the lectures which were well below par for the English speaking passengers because they were given in Gerglish and lacked inspiration. As we were on a group tour with its own shore excursions I cannot really comment on those, although other non-German speaking passengers complained about the language and the price/quality of the tours (perhaps partly due to the generally limited highlights in the islands visited – Cuba excepted). Overall I would rate it a solid 5 if you are German, Austrian or Swiss and a 4.5 for those not so Goethe minded. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We're boomers who have not cruised since 2004 when we sailed a Yangtze River cruise. We're not party animals and select our venues for sightseeing or history. This cruise did not disappoint. The shipboard programs the days ... Read More
We're boomers who have not cruised since 2004 when we sailed a Yangtze River cruise. We're not party animals and select our venues for sightseeing or history. This cruise did not disappoint. The shipboard programs the days prior were very informative. The HavanaTur guides could be hit or miss with most giving it their best effort. It really depended on their English proficiency. Shore excursions were great! Wished we had more time in Havana to participate in some of the many offerings. The Fathom staff is very enthusiastic and professional. The Pacific Restaurant, the main dining room, offered very nice menu choices. At times it was difficult to decide. The wait staff was excellent. When my husband stepped away to observe our mooring, our waiter informed him breakfast was ready! We chose to eat most of our breakfasts and dinners here and almost always shared a table. We really enjoyed meeting new people. Our room steward, Luis, was impeccable! He always placed a paper cover over my half filled drinking water glass. For those shoppers, this is not a shopping destination. Except for cigars and rum, the other offerings fall under the trinket category. Lots of wood carving and art. Vacuum packed coffee made for a great gift for friends. On the whole this cruise suited our desires. This is the best way to see Cuba now. And there is amazing architecture! Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
After taking many lovely cruises, my husband and I were intrigued by Carnival's "voluntourism" concept for Fathom. The idea of helping others in a different culture appealed to us. So, last Spring, we booked the DR cruise ... Read More
After taking many lovely cruises, my husband and I were intrigued by Carnival's "voluntourism" concept for Fathom. The idea of helping others in a different culture appealed to us. So, last Spring, we booked the DR cruise Nov. 6-13 and signed up for the various volunteer opportunities. To our surprise - and subsequent delight- the DR trip did not have enough participants, while many people want to go to Cuba these days.. Fathom switched our itinerary to Cuba. They did a fabulous job of very smoothly transitioning us from DR to Cuba. Gotta be flexible. What a wonderful trip to Cuba! The Impact Guides were delightful. Katie, Colin, Gabe, Winslow, Jeff and others have fascinating personal backgrounds. Peace Corps, international study and immersion, passionate concern for all humanity. Since we really did still want to have the DR experience, we signed up for Jan. 1, 2017 before we went on our Cuba trip. It was fun to chat with the Impact Guides about both Cuba and DR. Now we are so eager to go to DR. The terrific music everywhere in Cuba impressed us a lot. If you like New Orleans, you must visit Cuba. Our fellow passengers were so friendly. Housekeeping service was perfect. Thank you- Linet! The on board sessions were interesting and different from other cruises. Try it and see. We learned so much about Cuba on the shore excursions, which were carefully planned by Fathom for us. If you are looking for a different sort of cruise, have a go with Fathom! Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We chose this ship for the ports that it offered and the programs with it, and loved every minute of it. But if you are expecting a luxury cruise line, this is not for you. We were on the second floor . The room was vey small but quiet. ... Read More
We chose this ship for the ports that it offered and the programs with it, and loved every minute of it. But if you are expecting a luxury cruise line, this is not for you. We were on the second floor . The room was vey small but quiet. The food I would call average, some very good, some fair, but all meals had something for everyone. All of our staff were fantastic! And the activities were very good. I was afraid I was going to get bored with all the educational presentations, but Jorge made them very interesting. The music was great, especially "Latin Souls" and "Duo Jaleo." The dance lessons were good but would have been more fun with some male staff helping! I thought the shows each night were good, considering the small staff they have to work with. Our ports were interesting. I would have liked to have gone into the city of Santiago, but the excursion was interesting. I loved Havana. We took a side trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad. It was a beautiful bus ride and a really nice trip. But those who stayed in Cienfuegos said it was really nice too. Unfortunately, we didn't got to go to Punta Frances. Not the ship's fault. Cuban authorities decided we couldn't. So we had an extra day at sea...the ship staff filled in well. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We didn't fancy traveling over land to reach Cienfuegos & Santiago, cruising seemed to be the best way to travel. We didn't expect or want luxury so we weren't disappointed by this cruise. It was well organised with ... Read More
We didn't fancy traveling over land to reach Cienfuegos & Santiago, cruising seemed to be the best way to travel. We didn't expect or want luxury so we weren't disappointed by this cruise. It was well organised with friendly crew across all areas & lively entertainment. We arrived in Cuba on day 3 of Castro's mourning period but fortunately for us, music, dancing & alcohol were allowed on board, however, when ashore Cuba wasn't its usual vibrant self. We followed the cruise with a 3 night stay in Havana, fortunately this coincided with the end of the mourning period, so Havana came to life again during these 3 days, but still not as lively as expected. Given that our cruise coincided with such an historic period in Cuban history, this was a very enjoyable cruise and one we would recommend if you want to experience a flavour of Cuba. EMBARKATION After a 10hr flight from the UK, arriving at a chaotic Havana airport, it was a relief to arrive at the Cruise Port, although first impressions of the building in the dark weren’t very encouraging. We needn’t have worried though, the embarkation process was very efficient & calm, however, what this would have been like during the busy daytime period I cannot comment. There is a money exchange facility in the Port, although this was closed by the time we had checked in. A letter awaited us when we checked in to our cabin informing us that the cruise had a changed itinerary on days 2 & 3 – see Downsides below. CABIN Our cabin on deck 5 was bigger than expected & looked out across the promenade deck, which wasn't a problem as this part of the deck wasn't always accessible to passengers. When it was accessible passengers couldn’t see through the cabin window as the glass was one way view outwards. The cabin was cleaned every morning with a turn down service every night. FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT Food was as expected for a ship with multinational guests. We ate in the buffet most of the time so we could sit as a couple. Both restaurants were busy in the morning as everyone needed to be ready for excursions but during 'at sea' days, breakfast was more leisurely. There was food served pool side at breakfast & lunch which was a nice option and afternoon tea was available in the buffet restaurant. All the waiting & bar staff were very attentive and efficient throughout the ship. The all inclusive package made life on board very easy, we didn't incur any extra charges other than for the two optional excursions in Cienfuegos & Jamaica. The Thalasia bar on Deck 5 is a nice quiet spot to have an afternoon or early evening drink. We generally had pre dinner drinks in the Eros lounge listening to a very talented violinist. The after dinner entertainment in the Muses lounge was of a Cuban/Latin theme with a bit of acrobatics thrown in, which most of the audience seemed to enjoy. We ate later than most so only watched the last half hour from the back of the lounge, sometimes the audience participation afterwards with Danny was just as entertaining. After dinner we enjoyed listening to the Latin vibes in the Eros and watching the audience put to use their newly acquired Salsa skills. Guest nationalities were mainly Spanish, German & American with a handful of Jamaicans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders & only a few guests from the UK. EXCURSIONS Havana - Day 2 (our first day in Cuba) Old Havana tour (included in the cruise) A great guide and some lively conversations, but excursion cut short due to reduced time in port (see downsides below). Helped to orientate us for our 3 night stay at the end of the cruise. Cienfuegos - would have liked to have taken the City tour & Botanical gardens but not enough English speaking guests had booked to make this viable for us, so we just did the City tour. Because of Castro's passing, the City was very quiet with mainly tourist groups around. Easy walking distance into town from the cruise dock if you’re not a fan of excursions. Montego Bay, Jamaica - had a very amusing guide for the morning Greenwood Great House excursion, which also made a very quick stop in Falmouth on the way and a drive by Usain Bolt's old school! As Jamaica was a full day stopover being an embarkation port, it was a shame there weren't any afternoon excursions or more full day ones. Nevertheless we made use of the on board facilities during the afternoon and watched a lovely sunset over Montego Bay from the Thalasia Bar before departure. Santiago - highlight of the cruise for us - although this inclusive excursion was cut short due to Castro's ashes arriving later the same day, this meant we had more free time. We took advantage of the free guides (in yellow t-shirts) waiting at the port to take us around the town on this historic day. Our guide was very knowledgeable and didn't mind telling us about her life in Cuba and her hopes for Cuba's future. Needless to say we gave her a tip for a very informative walking tour of the town. DISEMBARKATION Suitcases had to be left outside the cabin by 12 midnight the night before and we had to be out of our cabin by 8am the next morning. At 7.30am we watched the ship come into the port of Havana then went back to the cabin at 8am to collect our hand luggage, but our key cards wouldn't open the door, fortunately George our housekeeper was nearby and let us in, he said security disable the card at 8am. We collected our hand luggage and headed to the buffet for breakfast. The disembarkation call came at about 9.30am. We had been told the day before that the Cuban authorities wouldn’t be in a hurry to clear the ship for disembarkation, so we were surprised by the early call. DOWNSIDES We knew our inbound flight timing meant day 1 was going to be a non-event for us so we were banking on a full day in Havana on day 2. However, a letter in to our cabin after checking in informed us that the cruise had a changed itinerary on days 2 & 3:- Day 2 – the cruise had to depart Havana early due to port congestion (only space for 2 ships at the port), so the included excursion had to be back at the ship by 12 noon with no free time afterwards to explore on our own. I don’t know if this happens every week or if it was just unfortunate that the Port authorities had overbooked the Port during our stay. Day 3 - Punta Frances port of call cancelled therefore day 3 would be a day at sea – reason given was ‘reviewing environmental impact of cruises’. If Punta Frances remains a no go zone for cruises, it will be interesting to see if Celestyal make changes to their published itinerary for the remaining 2016/17 season, or perhaps this too was just a one off for our cruise! Read Less
Sail Date November 2016

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