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561 Cuba Cruise Reviews

Overall, this first Cuba Cruise of the season was amazing, despite some ripples along the way. First, set reasonable expectations—this is not a fun in the sun, lounge around the pool type of trip. What it is, is an affordable way to ... Read More
Overall, this first Cuba Cruise of the season was amazing, despite some ripples along the way. First, set reasonable expectations—this is not a fun in the sun, lounge around the pool type of trip. What it is, is an affordable way to easily get a taste of Cuba. PRE-CRUISE Before the cruise, we stayed three nights at the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay. This was 10 minutes to the airport, had a lovely beach areas including a little island you could walk to. Food and drinks were just so-so, but this is one of the cheapest all-inclusive resorts we found. What we did love, were the jerk chicken hut on the beach, quiet places to sit by the water away from the main pool, some Jamaican dishes on the buffet, and the view from our ocean-view room. Rented a car and drove to Falmouth for a quick visit, but opted to not drive further because Jamaicans really do drive crazy, and on the left. EMBARKATION Cruise terminal is about 15 minutes from the airport. We picked up a taxi at the rental car place to the pier for $20 total. We needed to pay a Jamaican departure tax since we’d been there for more than 24 hours (I think $27 per person). Afterwards, getting on was as simple as filling out the standard health form and picking up our key cards. You resister a credit card on board at the reception desk. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:30 a.m. and were on within about 15 minutes. THE SHIP The ship is older but does not feel dated. It was kept spotlessly clean. Our cabin (#5115) was tiny, but the beds were comfortable. You do need to dispose of toilet paper in the trash and sometimes, you need to flush twice for everything to go down. Being on deck five was handy and our favorite bar was in the very back of deck five, outside and with a hot tub. Compared with modern mega-ships, we enjoyed that we could be anywhere on the ship within a couple minutes. The ship did lack the stabilizers of more modern ships and we felt a pretty constant rocking. We never had trouble finding seats in the shows, at dinner, in the buffet or in the bars. THE PASSENGERS We spent far more time getting to know our fellow passengers than we usually do. What a fascinating group. We met people from all over the U.S., Asia, and Europe and learned about everyone’s travel adventures and places they have lived. As a group, passengers were more traveled and more likely to have lived abroad than on any other cruise we’ve taken. DINING While I like that the menu included Cuban and Jamaican dishes, the food did not seem terribly authentic. For instance, the jerk chicken had almost no spice! As noted by others, dinner was incredibly slow; we really didn’t mind as the people we were seated with were usually very interesting. We are not normally big drinkers on cruises, but we did enjoy working our way down the list of Cuban cocktails and coffee drinks. I would recommend for dinner, picking up a drink at the bar and bringing it with you. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet were both fine. They did have wonderful baklava at the buffet the first day, but unfortunately we never saw it again. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES The entertainers changed midway through the cruise with those who did the transatlantic crossing changing with Cuban performers when we got to Havana. We enjoyed the Cuban performers and Cuban themed shows, while other shows were just average. The lectures as part of the P2P program weren’t outstanding but did add to our knowledge of Cuba and appreciation of the trip. Those in the P2P program should note, the activities guide delivered to your cabin does not list all the activities. If you want to see non-P2P activities, you’ll need to pick up the complete copy at the reception desk. ITINERARY We loved all of the Cuban ports. Unfortunately, weather delays dramatically cut our time in Maria la Gorda and Cienfuegos. Also, gathering for excursions took place on the ship rather than at the pier and then the buses didn’t seem to leave until the last person was off. We don’t normally do ship tours and this reminded us why! We wasted a ridiculous amount of time waiting for the tours to begin, and might have been happier just hiring taxis for private tours. MONTEGO BAY – Nice beaches but not a highlight of the trip. SANTIAGO DE CUBA – Our first introduction to this wonderful country! Right outside the gates of the port, we saw every imaginable form of transportation from horse carriage taxis, motorcycle taxis, bicycle taxis, to old car taxis. Tour included a visit to the Revolutionary War museum, Revolutionary Square, African Cultural Center with a dance performance that I ditched so I could walk around, and original Bacardi rum factory. After the tour, we did have some time to walk around on our own. I would highly recommend doing this so that you can visit the town square and commercial district. The residents were very friendly and interested to learn about the U.S. and tell about Cuba. Kids will come up to you asking for pens, and women approached looking for shampoo, soap and lotion. Consider asking kids to sing a song in exchange for pens. Residents filled the pedestrian street, out doing Christmas shopping. Overall, we found shopping more interesting here, and in Cienfuegos, than in Havana were items seemed more mass produced. HAVANA – As part of P2P, we discovered that the included tours had been swapped for different ones. The cruise line canceled our Maria la Gorda tour and instead, we had a morning walking tour, afternoon bus tour, and second day museum visit. Since we stayed overnight, we did have plenty of time to wander on our own. The morning walking tour included a couple of squares in the historic area and a visit to a graphics studio. I found the afternoon tour less valuable because it was just on the bus, except for a stop at a crafts market. Places visited could be easily reached walking or by private taxi instead. That night, I joined John from the P2P program and others, for a taxi ride to see Opera de la Calle. Really talented singers and dancers doing a mix of Cuban songs and more know songs. Admission was a bargain at $30. Taxi cost $10 each way, which we split with others from the cruise. The second morning in Havana we were free to wander and have lunch in the city. We walked out to the produce market hear the capital building. I recommend wandering away from the main tourist streets to see streets more typical of where the Cubans live. In the afternoon, the trip included a bus tour to the wonderful Museum of Fine Arts. We were also given the option to go to the Museum of the Revolution instead. For those wanting to see both, this is a reasonable walk or an easy taxi ride from the port. MARIA LA GORDA – Our excursion to Cabo de San Antonio was canceled by the cruise line because we were P2P, so be rebooked the tour ($63 per person). We arrived quite late to port due to weather, so a trip through the park that should have taken 5 hours with stops was cut to about 3 hours. Still, the scenery along the coast was stunning, with blue water, limestone coated shells and rock on one side, and jungle on the other. At the end was a private beach. If we’d had more time there, I did notice a hiking trail across from the beach. CIENFUEGOS - Cienfuegos seem wealthier and more cosmopolitan that the other ports. There is a pedestrian promenade that had lots of shopping options. Unfortunately, weather cut the length of our visit here, and this was the worst guide of the trip. Our guide did not speak great English and said that this was the first tour she led. The City however was stunning, magnificent theatre, waterfront walkway, restaurants along the water, artist studios, etc. We definitely would have liked more time since we didn’t get any time to walk around on our own. Many people left the tour early on. DISEMBARKATION Getting off the ship was a disaster. We arrived back in Montego Bay late, again due to rough seas. They then let the Montego Bay tours off ahead of those with planes to catch! They unloaded luggage through the same exit as passengers, further jamming things up. To make matters worse, they gave most people the wrong Jamaican customs form, so people had to redo the paperwork in the terminal. At least getting a taxi was no problem man, with a shared van costing $10 per person. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
I recently took the Jan 1 voyage from Montego Bay to Cuba as part of the People to People organization. Good: The ship is actually in pretty good condition and the public areas are kept up well. The intimate size allows passengers to ... Read More
I recently took the Jan 1 voyage from Montego Bay to Cuba as part of the People to People organization. Good: The ship is actually in pretty good condition and the public areas are kept up well. The intimate size allows passengers to get to know each other and mingle. The food was mostly pretty good although there were some misses with quality. The crew, overall, is very friendly, although they seem a bit overworked. The Cruise Director Danny does an incredible job and he was very helpful to our group. Photo prices are very reasonable - $5 each. Boarding and disembarking is very smooth, although Jamaican Immigration can be a bit slower. If you have a departing flight at 12:30 or after, you should be in good shape. We got to the airport at 9:30am. Neutral: There sometimes was confusion at the Reception Desk, where employees were not sure of procedures or how to answer detailed questions. One must register their credit card at the Reception Desk for onboard expenses. Do this as soon as you can or while the desk is not busy. There can be a long queue if you wait until everyone has had lunch on the boarding day. Try to settle affairs the afternoon of the day prior to disembarkment because the desk gets busy in the early evening. Needs Improvement - Be Forewarned: There are a few risk management issues passengers show know about: First, the complete room number is printed on your key card. The front desk sells lanyards but you may wish to be prepared with your own method of keeping your card secure. The room safes do not use touch key pads where you create your own code. One must secure a key fob from the Reception Desk (and leave a $50 security deposit on a credit card.) The key fob also has the room number on a tag attached to it. Be prepared to manage this. It is also very important for U.S. passengers to let their credit card company know to expect a charge from Greece for on board purchases prior to leaving. My credit card company initially declined the charge for suspected fraud and then declined subsequent transactions. (I had notified for Jamaica and Canada, thinking the Cuba Cruise company was still Canadian. It is not, apparently.) Also be forewarned about the toilet: Passengers received a letter stating they could not flush used toilet paper down the toilets and to deposit it in a can that was in the bathroom. This was quite the topic of discussion even among strangers and it made many Americans uncomfortable. Most people I spoke with decided to be disobedient but took efforts not to flush *too* much toilet paper. Entertainment: The cruise entertainers try hard but the shows miss the mark. But that is what one expects on a smaller vintage ship. There was one number, an interpretive dance about Afro-Cuban slavery, that was a bit awkward. Montego Bay Airport Tip: Check your credit card or if you have Priority Pass to see if you can enter Club Mobay VIP lounge. They assist you through Immigration and security and the club itself (by gate 9) is a welcome relief to the hustle in the terminal. There is good food, free drinks, and even service from Margaritaville. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba. As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the ... Read More
As Americans we took advantage of the People to People (P2P) program (linked easily to the cuba cruise web site) and traveled aboard the Crystal to Cuba. As others can attest to in the reviews, this is not your ordinary cruise to the Caribbean but, instead, is a unique way to visit Cuba and, at the same time, affords the comforts of cruising. First, the ship. An aging lady with an earnest international crew both the ship and the crew do their best to please. The vessel is far from large and is frayed around the edges but virtually all of us on the P2P program agreed- who cares. Some cabins have been upgraded, others have not but they will suffice. A note about the toilets. You will find a note in your cabin asking that nothing be flushed, and that means nothing except human waste. I do believe, however, that the staff is attempting to reduce the likelikhood of a breakdown and the less that goes down, the less likely a breakdown. So we did our best. We had no real problems although some times it takes a minute or two for the system to work. The internet worked surprisingly well ($10 for one hour with lesser per hour costs as you increase the time) but is not available in the cabins. All meals were open seating in one of two nearly identical restaurants. The buffet area was small but by using the near-by pool area, additional seating was available. We found the food adequate and the wait staff quite eager to please. The on board entertainers worked incredibly hard, delivering 7 different shows twice a night. Kudos to all of them! Cuba. You will learn that despite what you thought you knew, you have so much more to learn. The young college professors on board are throughly engaging and the programs are not to be missed. Lying at our doorstep, the Cuban people have endured a rugged history, both in their home land and with the US. Listen, learn and form your own opinion as we did. The shore excursions are a work in progress, both for the Cuban tourist industry (which is now supporting US travelers) and for the P2P program. Some guides were good, others not so good. Keep your eyes and ears open. My personal highlight was a brief taxi ride in Havana- in a taxi the same age as I am! Finally some tips and notes: We came prepared with medical insurance for Cuba and our letter from the P2P program for US Immigration on our return. Nobody asked for anything anywhere. I would not suggest,however, that you do not obtain the medical insurance. Its very inexpensive. The Cuban authorities did take everyone's temperature before debarking in Santiago de Cuba and in Cienfuegos. It took three seconds. Not a big deal. Maria La Gorda is a beach resort, but the beach is incredibly rocky and entrance to the sea takes patience. Bring water shoes if you have them. We did not take the optional excursion to one of three night clubs in Havana as they return close to midnight. The ship had an excellent show that evening. The newly-added balcony cabins are well worth booking. Passengers get on and off at every port except Maria La Gorda. In summary, at this point in time, I do not know a less expensive alternative to cruise and visit Cuba. And you will be a pioneer! Americans are just at the beginning of a new era in Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We joined Celestyal Crystal in Montego, Jamaica and she appeared smart and freshly painted on first impression. We were not disappointed once onboard as despite her age Crystal was very well maintained. Our cabin was one of the new ... Read More
We joined Celestyal Crystal in Montego, Jamaica and she appeared smart and freshly painted on first impression. We were not disappointed once onboard as despite her age Crystal was very well maintained. Our cabin was one of the new balcony additions on Deck 7, added to the ship in 2015 Our cabin steward was attentive and friendly. Both embarkation and disembarkation were without delay. The wifi package was in line with other ships and whilst we unable to access connectivity in our cabin, there was a strong signal in all public areas and downloads were quick. The pool is small as is the case on older ships and is located outside the Hedra casual dining/buffet restaurant and has an optional retractable roof with table and chairs either side. A food station preparing dishes to order such as omelettes at breakfast and speciality dishes at lunch time made it a popular setting to dine, however it did not encourage many passengers to swim in it. Given the itinerary had only one day at sea and it was not considered an issue. What makes this cruise so appealing is it is themed as a Cuba cruise and that is what Crystal delivers. There was a Professor from Havana onboard who provided daily lectures on the Cuban history and culture. Spanish language and Cuban dance lesson were part of the daily programme and the drinks list with various spirit and Cuban rum offerings was impressive and affordable. As Australian citizens we were travelling independently and not on the People to People programme. The ship docks in Old Havana where you can easily walk around the historic area. Being in port for 2 days allows you to eat locally in the evening and enjoy some Cuban music, the Centro area where the museums and classic American cars are found is a 20 minute walk or short ride away. In both Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos it was is an easy walk to the town centre if you were not on tour. Maria la Gorda is a tender port and a chance to swim if not doing a tour, diving available. There is limited facilities aside from a couple of bar/restaurants. We dined at different tables each evening in the main dining rooms and met an interesting mix of people, mainly from Canada and the US. Food was not exceptional but it was varied, offered Cuban specialties and the service was polite and staff were friendly. The buffet selection at lunch was adequate and our least favourite place to eat. We were impressed by the nightly shows onboard, for a small ship they were professional and entertaining. The cruise surpassed our expectation. It was an old ship and we were prepared for that, it was our preference over cruising on a bigger more modern ship, we went for the Cuban experience and Celestyal delivered. We read books on the history and culture but we came away with a far greater insight into this country than we had hoped for. The ship is in keeping with going back in time which is what a visit to Cuba is about. A cruise we would recommend. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Most aspects to our experience on board were positive. The cabin was kept very clean and the service was beyond complaint. The entertainment was generally good, with the Cuban band, dance troupe, and singers always well rehearsed for ... Read More
Most aspects to our experience on board were positive. The cabin was kept very clean and the service was beyond complaint. The entertainment was generally good, with the Cuban band, dance troupe, and singers always well rehearsed for the five nights we attended. The informational enrichment presentations I attended were interesting. The only exercise group I attended was a Zumba class. I felt excluded from an on-going contest started with a small group on a previous day, and the two minute lesson that followed the contest was not enjoyable and no value for exercise. The excursions were time well spent, and left us wanting to slow down and savour more. We were left with a much broader knowledge of the sad yet interesting history of Cuba. As expected, the food was not five-star quality, but at best tasty and seldom unappetizing. The American breakfast is something they have yet to master, but the wide selection left something for all to fill up on. Table service was at times slow, but every waiter was smiling, polite, and patient without fail. The only real let down was disembarkation. We were unceremoniously ejected from the ship shortly after a quick breakfast at seven AM as a large group of about 250. Our luggage was left on the dock with questionable security. We were promised access to the ship for the day (until midnight) but when we returned we had difficulty getting lunch on time (in American funds which we didn't have), before catching a shuttle at 12:45 for departure from Veradero. The experience left us with a bad taste from what was on other days, a very pleasant trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
First of all, I am very happy to have taken this cruise to see Cuba. We took part in the People to People Program which gives Americans the ability to travel to Cuba under the humanitarian exemption. The stops in the 3 city ports were ... Read More
First of all, I am very happy to have taken this cruise to see Cuba. We took part in the People to People Program which gives Americans the ability to travel to Cuba under the humanitarian exemption. The stops in the 3 city ports were awesome. Side trips you can take on your own or through the Celestyal Crystal (CC) are very interesting. I would give a positive recommendation for the People to People program and using CC to get to Cuba. I thought the beach day stop at Maria la Gorda was a bit of a waste of time and would have rather stayed an extra day in Havana. Having said that, here are my suggestions for cruising on the CC. I had read so many reviews with complaints about the ship that I was prepared for the worst...Happily I was favorably surprised on all counts. Yes, this is not a luxury cruise and it will not be up to the highest standards of the big cruise lines...but our purpose was to see Cuba, not to have the cruise experience of a lifetime...having said that, the ship was very clean and our on board experience was very positive. We had cabin #6107. I was very nervous about having an inside cabin with no window. That was a first for us, we usually do balconies. As it turns out, yes, they are small but we settled into the space and did very well. I was pleased to see the large mural covering showing two hills and the ocean covering the wall at the end of the room BUT the thing I was most pleased about was the shower...It was roomy with a slider door, not a curtain. Our friends paid more for an outer cabin with window and their shower had a curtain and very little space plus some upper berths that were folded up. I think we got the better deal. The 6th level is a very quiet one with little traffic and you don't hear the elevator noise at all. About the cabins and what we did that made our cruise better: 1. After reading a review that talked about odors in the cabin, I threw in a Renuzit Odor Neutralizer to put in our cabin which ended up having no odors but I was happy to put it into the bathroom anyway. 2. I took several hangers to supplement the closet allotment. 3. There is one plug socket 110 and one 220. I took a multi-plug adaptor not more than 2.5" wide and a European 2 prong adaptor so we ended up having 4 possibilities for our American plug-ins instead of just one. If you have a CPAP, take an extension cord as the plug is across the room. 4. We bought the premium drink package (middle package, blue) which gives you unlimited bottled water and cappuccinos, etc and many types of mixed and on the rocks alcoholic drinks--there are 2 wines white and red--ship's red wine is a drinkable but variable Tempranillo. Mind you the drinks vary wildly in taste depending on who makes them. The top drinks package (gold) did not seem worth the extra charges. 5. If you are used to walking after dinner, you will not find a large circular path around the top of the ship like most have. There is a small one but it is lined with deck chairs during the day...night or early morning walking is much easier. My favorite workout walk was at the rear of the ship. You can walk up stairs outside from one deck to the next for about 4 or 5 decks. 6. If you are a photographer, get up for the entry into Havana harbor slightly before 7 on Sunday then go up again Monday to catch the sunrise and that light on the buildings. Sunset leaving Havana also gives particularly good light on the buildings. Arrival at Cienfuegos very similar but with interesting mountains...(we missed Santiago arrival so can't comment) 7. I had read complaints about the food but I would say on the average, the food was good with a nice selection at each meal. There were a few FABuLOus dishes including all the chilled soups and then there were a few really not so good including the soggy skinny Cuban sandwiches. We found that the sit down meals on decks 5 and 8 were great (with service that could be quite slow but you meet so many interesting people it does not seem to be a problem) while the cafeteria style on the 9th deck left us feeling a bit like we were back in high school. 8. Don't worry that when you enter your room it seems hot and the air conditioning doesn't seem to work. Once you get underway for a few hours the AC will kick in. Halfway through the first night we found ourselves diving under the covers. 9. The counterclockwise cruise around the country will take you past Guantanamo Bay but that will be at night-time and they will announce when you are passing it. (not knowing this, we spent the afternoon with binoculars looking for it!) It was pretty much smooth sailing but the rough water came on the northern coast a bit but definitely a lot of roll on the way from Havana to Cienfuegos each night. 10. Yes, you can not put TP into the toilet...they have a little pedal operated waste-can which which they empty throughout the day. It never seemed to be a problem. 11. There are three little drawers and also two littler drawers inside the closet for storage. There are also 2 shelves in the closet. You get one stool to sit on...no chairs. I used my standing up suitcase wedged between the bed and the wall for a nightstand on the far side of the bed. There is also a 4 inch shelf all along the wall above the beds that was good for placing glasses, small items...the push-on nightlight I took along for reading and maneuvering in the middle of the night... 12. When entering Havana a heavy oil/fuel smell came into the cabin...maybe from the refinery burning off gasses at the top of its smokestack across the harbor? Reception said it was from the air intake and that was what was outside... 13. It is hot in Cuba and humid. You might want to use a light jacket or sweater at dinnertime in the dining areas but otherwise, bring your HOT weather clothes. An umbrella can serve as a rain or sun shelter. (We threw in 2 small folding umbrellas) 14. If you want to bring school supplies for children, there are two professors with the People to People group who will make sure they get to deserving schools. Pencils, pens, markers, crayons, and other supplies are always needed. 15. Concern about the Zika virus had us hauling all our "buzz off" and other bug repellent clothes along with our deet-based repellents. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Considering the negative reviews I read on this ship, especially for Greece, I was concerned about taking this cruise at all. But my brother talked us into it & I am so glad! It was an excellent way to see parts of Cuba without ... Read More
Considering the negative reviews I read on this ship, especially for Greece, I was concerned about taking this cruise at all. But my brother talked us into it & I am so glad! It was an excellent way to see parts of Cuba without staying on a resort for a week. It was a very busy schedule - a tour at every port (5) & lasted four hours or more. No lunch was provided as it was so extensive stopping at various spots. But we managed to survive, eating in the buffet when we returned to the ship each afternoon. I enjoyed the stop in Cienfuegos the best; our tour guide was very helpful & informative & kept an eye out for stragglers. We had two 'free' drinks on this tour; one on the rooftop of a fancy hotel, originally owned by one family. Then we stopped at a yacht club for a relaxing hour, with rum punch & a Cuban band entertaining us even with mambo dancing lessons! We compared notes with others & found our guide had been exceptional. We also enjoyed Santiago de Cuba with many stops; our guide was a retired history professor who shared his knowledge of his country's history & was always eager to answer any questions. The ship is older but in constant repair & cleaning. Our stewardesses were very cute & helpful & kept our cabin spotless. The dining room was good some days but not always happy with the choices on the menu. The service was excellent though; everyone was polite & friendly. The buffet was adequate but nothing special. The entertainment was excellent; the dancers were amazing - different show each night. The cruise directory, Danny, is a 'gem'. Hopefully they appreciate him. He can speak 8 languages fluently & was always so personable. Only 'con' review I would give to the tour guide in Havana whose English was spotty & we lost her at one point - taken to a bar that Hemmingway frequented for a free daiquiri. By the time we found the group, there were 4 bus loads jammed inside. We opted to stay outside & sight see. I called her on waiting for slower people at the next stop & was rewarded with a strange look....spoiled an interesting tour. Was glad to return to the ship. Other than that, every other tour guide was excellent & informative. I would heartily recommend this cruise to anyone looking for a challenging busy tour of Cuba before it changes. And what made it memorable for me was sharing it with my brother & his wife. Excellent trip! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Our cabin was #4000, the farthest forward on the port side. It has a window perhaps 5 square feet, deeply recessed in the wall. (You can actually crawl up in there to get a wide view.) Other reviews have done a good job on the ship, ... Read More
Our cabin was #4000, the farthest forward on the port side. It has a window perhaps 5 square feet, deeply recessed in the wall. (You can actually crawl up in there to get a wide view.) Other reviews have done a good job on the ship, but it's funny that the "no TP in the toilet" seems to get more mention than anything. We live in Mexico where you NEVER flush TP outside of some luxury hotels. (And nothing less than the Queen Mary 2 makes exactly the same request!) Everyone compliments the ship's crew and we will too. Universally friendly and helpful! Highly recommend buying at least the "unlimited no alcohol" package, because you don't drink the tap water and every bottle of water is charged for. If you're a drinker, may as well bump up to an alcohol package. MONEY: Cuba's dual-currency system is CONFUSING. Biggest warning I can give is that anytime you get change (for example, from a cab driver) MAKE SURE the money you are getting back is in CUC's (the "convertible peso" used for tourists) and not CUP's (aka "moneda nacional") used by Cubans. The difference is 25 to 1, so check every bill and coin you get back! It was a great week; a totally eye-opening experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Cuba badly needs American tourists in order to finance rebuilding of it's infrastructure, but in the short term this means that the first waves will struggle to find housing and food that meets expectations. You can pay a lot for the ... Read More
Cuba badly needs American tourists in order to finance rebuilding of it's infrastructure, but in the short term this means that the first waves will struggle to find housing and food that meets expectations. You can pay a lot for the few good hotels and search out the emerging private restaurants, but this requires effort. The easiest solution is to take this cruise around the island relying on it for the basics. Then in order to really experience the island you must be willing to add your own walking adventures to the bus tours offered by the cruise. And since the ship always docks in the oldest, most important parts of the cities, this is simple. Furthermore, Cubans are friendly, polite,and welcoming and we have never been in a country where we felt so safe. What we would most advise is to get out and absorb the distinctive cultural atmosphere and do what you can to learn about this society that does some things much better than we do. And when we refer to the basics, we mean very basic comforts travelling Americans are used to such as restrooms that are free. And restrooms that are equipped with toilet seats and paper. You may not find these even in costly hotels and must rely on the generosity of restaurants and bars to provide very basic facilities most often for a price. Once you encounter this reality it will make you more appreciative of the small bathroom in your cabin and the even smaller ones on the tour buses. As most every report on Cuban tourism advises, bring your own toilet paper and be prepared to lower expectations. But sense we knew these things in advance, we had less problems than we had feared. The People to People programs throughout the cruise provided excellent educational and cultural programs on the ship and on land. Two young and very interesting professors from the University of Havana provided a number of lectures on Cuban history and politics and musical groups from the island entertained each evening. Others provided Cuban cooking and dance lessons too. The Celestyal Crystal is a good ship to do this trip on. It's small and friendly and well maintained and due to it's size can get into all of the city ports around the island. We had read reviews saying it was old and needed to be retired, but that is not what we experienced. It was clean and appeared newly painted with some apparently new flooring as well. Some public areas appeared dated with 1980's era furnishings and decor, but they were comfortable and in good order. Our cabin on deck 5 was adequate with a large window and close access down the hall to the deck which in the back offered a great bar and viewing area. The staff was friendly and efficient and made an effort to please and be courteous. Some people stood out. Our head waiter, Mohammed, sincerely wanted to hear if we and others were being served well and the few times we had a complaint he patiently listened and asked questions. Most servers at the bars and in the two fine dining areas performed well, too ,and one stands out in our memory - Shane, He was always scanning to see who needed service or what needed to be done and when we complimented him toward the end of the trip he said sincerely that he loved doing his job. Impressive. And our two Cabin attendants kept ours clean throughout the day and were wonderfully warm and gracious. The one negative for this cruise was the food. We had read lots of reviews warning about the mediocre dining on board and concluded at the end, that they had been too complimentary. Breakfast at the buffet was the best and we could put together a satisfying meal each morning with lots of choices. The weakest link was the bread and this was true during all of the meals. Selection and quality were poor. Lunch entrees were often an artfully prepared mush of leftovers and by the last few days we learned to have a cheeseburger, which was always available, and a self crafted salad. Dinners were provided in elegant settings with good service, but they never satisfied. We cannot recall a single item in the five course meals throughout the trip that was very good. In particular, soups were always thin and lacking in taste and entrees often involved inferior meats and vegetables. The last entree we selected was the very worst. It was an eggplant dish that was so barely cooked and with such little flavor that one bite was all we needed. We filled up on the desert. And the deserts were always wonderful. But mediocre food is not the real story of this cruise. Bottom line - we came back sensing this was the trip of a lifetime. Who knows how Cuba will be transformed by changing relations with the U.S.. Now it offers quite a contrast and that contrast is enlightening, but as it gets transformed by us, it will be a more comfortable place to visit, but a less challenging and engaging one. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
My mom is an avid cruiser, and has cruised all over the world. I've been on several cruises, mostly in the Caribbean, but I have not travelled nearly as extensively as my mom who is retired. Mom really wanted me to go on this ... Read More
My mom is an avid cruiser, and has cruised all over the world. I've been on several cruises, mostly in the Caribbean, but I have not travelled nearly as extensively as my mom who is retired. Mom really wanted me to go on this cruise to Cuba with her. My mom is a very social person. I'm a little more on the serious side. That being said, these are our thoughts on the cruise to Cuba. I loved it! The atmosphere on the ship was totally different from a traditional cruise ship. We had impact guides that lead our tours, and they all seemed deeply concerned about the Cuban people and wanted this to be a positive learning experience for all of us. The impact guides were apolitical as far as I could tell. They were not promoting one political philosophy or another. And they encouraged positive cultural exchanges. On the ship itself, the food was good enough. But there was not an over-the-top attitude towards food that I recall from my earlier cruises. While there were drinks, the waiters were not constantly pushing drinks. The cruise staff were all nice and polite. Many of the activities on board the ship were thoughtful and enjoyable. For example, there was a book club led by the impact guide. Unfortunately, none of us had heard about this beforehand, so we hadn't read the book. Nonetheless, we all came together to hear about the book, and to discuss our feelings about Cuba. It was very interesting. There were no bingo games, no shows at night -- but I didn't miss those things at all. There was a trivia game one night in one of the lounges which was fun. And one night, there was BANDAROKE. There was good live music in the evenings. And they showed a couple of movies outside by the pool. But all in all, it was a quiet ship. Very few people were at the movies. My mom also enjoyed the cruise as she wanted to be one of the first Americans to visit Cuba. She had a great time, but she did miss the shows at night. And she did not believe the food was up to par based on what we had paid for the cruise. I found the passengers on the cruise especially interesting. Many were older, and they all had wonderful stories about why they were interested in being on this cruise. One lady was coming not because she was interested in Cuba, but because she wanted to see all the old cars from the days of her youth. Regarding our ports: we overnighted in Havana. We skipped the walking tour and had a private taxi take us around on our first day. On our second day, we went on the cruise excursion via bus. Cuba is hot, and my only complaint that day was the long line inside the cruise terminal waiting for the busses to arrive. We were all so hot, dripping in sweat. They probably should not have had us depart the ship until the busses were there. Our bus tour was lovely, and we had a wonderful lunch in a restaurant called 1830 (because it was built in 1830). Apparently, it used to belong to one of the higher government officials. We had a great lunch. We did cut out of the tour a little early because it was so so so hot in the art market. In Cienfuegos, we only had a half day, and our bus tour kept us close to the port. It seems like we mostly walked around the downtown area. It was difficult to hear the tour guide on this one. In Santiago, we took another bus tour, and had a great day there seeing the Castle on the sea, as well as San Juan Hill, and a huge cemetery that had a changing of the guard ceremony. We also spent some time in the downtown area. We were supposed to go into only one store there, and shopping there was a terrible experience, and I don't recommend it. We waited so long for help. Finally we gave up and left without buying anything. The store just seemed like it wasn't able to handle so many people from the ship at once. But the cruise ship didn't want us shopping anywhere else. There were quite a few panhandlers at this port. Our lunch was so-so, buffet style at a tropicana style club. The live music was great but so loud that it was difficult to have conversation at the table. All in all, it was a wonderful cruise. The Cuban people seemed very welcoming. The tours and exchanges were great. The other passengers were interesting. And the ship atmosphere (for me anyway) was wonderful. There were a few things that could have been better but since this was only their second sailing to Cuba, I'll just hope that they improve on those things. I highly recommend this trip, and I'm glad my mom convinced me to go! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
First let me apologize for this being VERY long. With this being a new experience for US citizens there is so much information to give. For those of you that have a short attention span and don’t do well with reading a 2.5 page review, ... Read More
First let me apologize for this being VERY long. With this being a new experience for US citizens there is so much information to give. For those of you that have a short attention span and don’t do well with reading a 2.5 page review, I have categorized everything so you read what you are interested in. If you are looking to book on Fathom, just keep in mind that this is a new cruise line to a new location so there are things they still need to work on, Pre-Cruise Information The information on the cruise is lacking in comparison to other cruise lines. At the time I booked our cruise, the website did not provide details about cruise arrival or departure times. Once the cruise was booked, this information was provided but not upfront. I was emailed an affidavit to complete online prior to the cruise which confirms your reason for traveling to Cuba. I recommend selecting both the Fathom-Guided P2P option & 1 P2P Travel. This will allow you to participate in both Fathom’s P2P tour or you can do your own P2P tour. If you do not participate in Fathom’s P2P tour you must keep a record of your P2P interactions for 5 years. It took about three days before I was able to access my online documents and there was not much to it. It asks for your information and that is it. It shows there are evening options to choose from in Havana but it did not give the option to book anything. In addition, there is no information about dining dress code (which is come as you are), if there are beverage packages (there is not), and if beverages can be brought on board (one 750 ml bottle of wine per person & all the water you can carry). Embarkation When we arrived at the cruise terminal, there are people out front ready to assist with checking your luggage. There was not much of a security line and it went very quick. Once we left security we were asked to complete the affidavit. I advised we completed it online but I was told this had to be printed. So we had to complete two affidavits each (one for Fathom and one for us). I’m not sure what the point of doing it online was if we still had to complete a paper one. Once we completed the affidavit, we got in line to check in. The line was rather short and and moved quickly. We provided our information to the agent and they set up our onboard account and provided us with our room keys. We were also advised that rooms would not be available until 2:00. Boarding the boat was a little confusing. We did not have a boarding group and from what we could tell, they were just calling groups of people to board. It was pretty unorganized. Common Areas This is an older ship that has been refurbished. There were several common areas on board and each was tastefully decorated and comfortable. The Glass House was probably one of my favorite common areas located on deck 10 that had amazing views. It is primarily a wine and champagne bar but they serve any drink you want. The ship also offers a spa, health center, coffee bar, and library. Rooms I had an opportunity to tour all room categories offered. The inside, ocean view, and balcony rooms are all very similar. The biggest difference is the view. The rooms can be set up with two single beds or combined for one larger bed. The inside and balcony room had a small sofa and the ocean view I toured only had a chair. The bathroom in these rooms are small but that is expected on a cruise. If you are looking for a room with more space and a normal sized bathroom, you might consider the suite. The suites have a significantly larger balcony, a half bath, living/dining area, separate bedroom, ample closet space, and a normal sized bathroom with jetted tub. For what it is worth, our cruise was mid-May and it was so hot that we never used our balcony and wish we would have opted for the ocean view. Beverages Beverage packages are not offered on board but the drinks were reasonably priced. For a mojito or pina colada you can expect to pay $8.50 a drink, Caribbean beer $5.50, Vodka starts at $5.50 for Skyy, and rum starting at $6.95 for Bacardi. You can bring one 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne per person on board. To save on corkage fee I would recommend brining a wine opener and just open the bottle in your room and pour your own glass. You are also allowed to bring as much water as you can carry. We brought two cases of water on board and used a luggage cart. Food There are four areas on board you can eat. The Lido Café is located outside and serves things like Cuban sandwiches. The Pacific Restaurant is the main dining room. The service is good but I was disappointed when the menu offered a lot of the same thing offered at the buffet. Ocean Grill is another dining option but has a cover charge. We never ate at the Ocean Grill but another couple said it was not worth the extra cost. The Conservatory Buffett is where we primarily ate for the variety of food. For breakfast they have a waffle and omelet station, cereal bar, pastries, and a variety of hot items. Lunch and dinner would occasionally have a Cuban dish but a lot of the food was curry based. Overall I felt the quality of the food was just ok and wished they would have more Cuban options. I only recall seeing black beans and rice once and it was mostly rice with a couple of black beans. I would have also liked to see completely different items in the main dining room from the buffet. On Board Activities There are several on board activities throughout the day. The first night on board we attended a seminar on what to expect in Cuba which gave information I felt they should provide on their website. Throughout the cruise they had seminars that allow people to share their stories from Cuba. There were also seminars for things like posture and Chinese medicine but both seminars were nothing but sales pitches to sell Good Feet and the Chinese Herbs. They did a pool side lunch cookout a couple of times with live music that was enjoyable. They would also have live music through the afternoon and evening. While we were in Cuba, they would bring local bands on board which I thought was fantastic. They also offer cocktail classes (cover charge), dance, meditation, yoga, pilates (cover charge) and cycling classes (cover charge). Cuba There are two different types of currency available in Cuba, CUC & CUP. The CUC is the tourist currency and is equivalent to $1 USD. You can only exchange money for the CUC in Cuba. When exchanging USD for CUC you can expect to loose 13% of your money. If you don’t use all of your CUC it will cost an additional 10% to exchange back to USD. I read that the first cruise was told to exchange USD to Euro on the ship and then Euro to CUC in Cuba to get the most value but this was not an option for us. Also the line to exchange currency when you first arrive in Cuba is extremely long. We did not join the Fathom tours in Havana so I don’t have any feedback on them. Instead we visited friends that live in Cuba and on the second day in Havana we opted for a private tour. I personally feel the private tour is the way to go as it can cater to what interest you and I think this is something Fathom should offer. I heard on the Fathom tours they had a variety of P2P options available but people could not pick which one interests them and did not know what they were getting until they were on the bus. With the private tour it allows you to see all the history in Havana and create your own P2P interaction. We used I Love Cuba Guided Photo Tours found on Trip Advisor and we were very pleased with the price and tour. Since you are in Havana overnight, you can either relax on the ship or Fathom gives you an option to purchase tickets to cabaret shows at either the Hotel Nacional or Tropicana. You also can choose to go in a private vintage car or motor coach. We did the Tropicana by private car but did not book this through Fathom. Instead we booked our tickets directly through the Tropicana website (US credit cards work). We choose the top package but decided against the dinner option since several reviews said the food was not great. The tickets for two cost $190 total and at the cruise terminal we booked a private vintage car round trip for $50. The Tropicana was absolutely amazing and our seats were right next to the stage. A couple things to note is that the Tropicana is outdoors and is a good 20-30 minute drive from the cruise terminal. In Cienfuegos and Santiago we participated in the Fathom tours. With both tours we drove around to see some of the sites but never really stopped for photos. In Cienfuegos the tour was supposed to include interaction to explain the ration system but we never got to do that. We heard that other groups did get to learn about this. Fathom had a choir performance lined up at an old theatre and the choir put on an outstanding performance. In addition, the theatre was beautiful, but be aware that there was no AC like most places in Cuba. The visit to Cienfuegos was very short (about 4 hours) and it would have been nice to spend more time here. Santiago was nestled up in a bay in a mountainous region. Our tours first stop was to a cemetery where we got to see a changing of the guard. From there we drove by a few other sites and then headed to a fortress overlooking the bay. We were provided lunch at a restaurant by the fortress that had amazing coastal views. After lunch we headed back to Santiago and we ended up catching a cab back to the cruise ship. We were told that the tour participated in a cabaret before returning to the ship. Overall the Fathom tours were ok. I felt they tried to fit too much into a short time with such large groups. If you had a private tour, all of this would be more doable plus you would probably have more P2P interaction. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was chosen because it WENT TO CUBA!!!! fathom Travel is NEW - really really new. The concepts that are the backbone of fathom are NEW - and the leadership at fathom is re-inventing cruising as we know it - this structure of this ... Read More
This was chosen because it WENT TO CUBA!!!! fathom Travel is NEW - really really new. The concepts that are the backbone of fathom are NEW - and the leadership at fathom is re-inventing cruising as we know it - this structure of this cruise has questioned the “rules” of cruising. In the words of Vishen Lakhiani, fathom is not operating under the established BRULES of cruising - they are not blindly following the idea that a cruise “MUST” do, be, provide, .... Because “that’s the way things are.” It is a refreshing change in an industry saturated with standard 7-day cruise to an island paradise. WE (Wife, Lynn and I, Rob) were some of the first people to partake of the fathom Experience. We sailed on the THIRD cruise to the Dominican Republic, May 8-15, followed immediately by the SECOND cruise to Cuba, May 15-22. As one would expect, new and first mean wrinkles and issues. fathom is up-front and honest about this - another FIRST in the cruise industry. They let us ALL know they are a NEW line with a NEW concept, and are a Work in Progress. Despite this..... we overhead MANY petty complaints (I did not know there could be issues with the hairdryer, sheets, salt versus pepper shakers, or the Tea Pot in your room. All in all, on our trip we had only TWO real "complaints". 1) Lack of easy, free, water on the shore excursions. Yea, we were told we could purchase it - but who wants to carry a gallon of water around... 2) Better sorting of people onto the buses (there was NONE). One bus should have had young, ACTIVE, walkers. Another people WITH walkers. Better yet, one should have spent more time shopping, while another spent more time in museums. There were close to 20 buses, so it IS possible to do even a LITTLE sorting based on BOTH what one wants to see and IF one is highly active, or not. This factor is the SOLE reason for very good, not excellent! This was our second week. We were B2B. They don't quite have this figured out. We had to change rooms, and it was really totally NOT necessary. For some reason we had to sit in the terminal building for 30-40 mins. We made it 90mins and took advantage of the free, high speed internet. The Adonia is a WONDERFUL ship. One of the R-Class, as many point out. A bit too "Goopy" for me, but fathom is working on this by adding NICE, new, fresh graphics. This is small cruising at its best. LOVE the new room number/signs - you get to write on a marker board things about yourself, including your name. Staff was top notch. Love the card systems where staff does NOT touch your card. Security was perfect - no backpack Nazis. While there is some grumbling over the price, it is important to note this is ALL INCLUSIVEish. Daily shore excursions are included. AND local lunch, with liquor was provided too!!! The food was the BEST!!! Nice range of ship activities. - DAILY Yoga - TWICE Daily Meditation - Movie Night ON DECK!!!! - Dance Class with Garcia and Laura (OK, two more names) - Domino Throwdown - Karaoke and Bandeoke - Giant Outdoor Games and some interesting ideas like: postcards to self and the photo booth. One of the most unique things is their initial sailaway with bottles in the pool, a map where you post your photo and location, writing on the glass windows. This was followed up at the end of the week with the Super Power Party. Library is well stocked with GREAT books (related to the cruise) and GAMES. Almost NO computers, and NO stupid computer classes. Two computers and a printer just in case... For entertainment we had the Craze Band. FANTASTIC. They assemble, and reassembly as duos, trios, and the main FUN rock band. AND, a first for me: Bandeoke - sing WITH a live band. WOW!! We also had local Cuban bands come on board and play both outside for sailaway, and inside in the evening. WONDERFUL, refreshing dress code - or lack of it. Casual atmosphere that fits the HOT climate. Even wore shorts in the Main Dining room most nights. To help schedule your time you can use the fathom app on your smart phone. I hope they make the daily paper something you pick-up rather than wasting paper when the app does such a great job. Select what you want to do, and get reminders, and a personal schedule. The week prior we found the crowd to be FAR more receptive to the ship-board programming. The seminars from Ashwoka and Curiosity Atlas did not appeal to this older (grumpier set in their way) crowd. That is too bad, as there is SO much that can be gained from participation. On ground / excursions..... Havana walking tour. Could not hear. We left the group after lunch. Because of no sorting we had to wait, and wait, and wait more for SLOW people. Happy they allowed us to just check-out. And, by doing this we got to climb, and ring, the bell in the tower of the church. Lunch was FANTASTIC!!! Ate many local treats along the way - NO issues. Sat and chatted in a bar with a local couple. And, as an Architect, visited two construction sites to see how things were being done. Havana day 2. Took the bus. Skipped the museum and walked the neighborhood. A GREAT decision. Ate at a paladaria YUMMY. Outside, and I think we got FOUR drinks. They took us to a LARGE shopping place - overpriced touristie. Fun, but we were either there too long or not long enough for everyone - AGAIN, sorting would have been nice. The cemetery was REALLY fantastic. We were the only two that wanted to walk. Thankfully they allowed us to walk and meet at the end. Cienfuegos. This was SOOO fun for the Architect. Much cleaner, nicer, not as dilapidated as Havana. NO need for the bus - NOW we know. Cute town square. Had a nice escorted walk thru a shopping area, and a visit into a ration store. We skipped the concert and went to Palacio Ferrer. $1cuc admission to an old MANSION on the square. Well worth the side trip. Some nice street side shopping here. For a fun thing to do: rent a horse taxi to drive you around. We want to come back here. Santiago de Cuba You MUST get up early and be ON DECK for the sail into the harbor. It is like NO OTHER we have ever done. A long drive between fort outposts, and down a fairly long channel to the harbor. Again, A bus ride to the square was not necessary, but who knew. 4 blocks. We again skipped the morning concert and EXPLORED. Had a $0.70cuc beer with a local who spoke excellent English. Learned A LOT. We did spend MOST of this day on the bus, as it went MANY places we could not walk to. Went into the countryside for a buffet lunch TONS of food and show girl entertainment. ANOTHER fantastic cemetery. We all walked this one. Much better shape, and, if you are lucky you will get to see the changing of the guard at Marti's Tomb. Video on my Youtube channel. We learned MANY of Cuba's early heros were Masons. The finale for the day was the fort we passed thru EARLY in the morning. It was HOT. The sail by was FAR better than being there. It is a nice fort, but after 10 years of forts..... Well it is VERY nice, and ranks with San Juan. In summary. We heard about Cuba LONG before the Dominican Republic. We had secured or spot on Cruise 2 (we did not “rank” cruise 1) during the Thanksgiving 2015 Holiday Weekend. We added the Dominican Republic about 6 weeks prior to our Cuba Cruise. In the end we were MOST touched by the Dominican Republic and Impact Activities. We look forward to more normalized relations with Cuba and a carry over of this to Cuba. For now, or recommendation is do BOTH!!! In the industry its called B2B, or Back-to-Back. It will be the best two weeks of your life. If you want to learn more you can check out my blog: Travel Like An Architect Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I had an unforgettable experience on my recent trip to Cuba on the Fathom. Since this is a very new itinerary (3rd cruise to Cuba) I didn't really know what to expect and knew that this was a learning experience for me, as well as ... Read More
I had an unforgettable experience on my recent trip to Cuba on the Fathom. Since this is a very new itinerary (3rd cruise to Cuba) I didn't really know what to expect and knew that this was a learning experience for me, as well as Fathom. As and educator, I was familiar with people to people exchange programs and Fathom did and excellent job. Every program includes a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities. The first day in Havana we were on a bus tour of city with several stops along the way to immerse with the Cuban people. We stopped in Revolution square and talked to the many Cuban about their city and their cars. We were able to ask questions of our tour guide and driver about life in Cuba. At lunch we had interactions in the restaurant with the staff and musicians. We had a wonderful Cuban lunch with Mojitios or Cuban beer. Later in the day we met with the son of a local artist Fuster who turned his home and community into a mosaic wonderland. We also visited a local museum with Cuban art. Day two in Havana was a walking tour. The day was very hot, but we were able to see many of the squares in the city where the Cuban people meet. Time was given to explore and interact with locals. (For those in previous reviews who said there was no people to people activities, they chose not to interact and ask questions of the locals). We did miss our stop in Cienfuegos, but then went to Santiago where we were able to go to a local club and talk with the musician and even have a dance with the locals. Activities on board centered around the trip-Learning Spanish, Cuban history, movies, music and some Cuban food (as well as other dining choices). Entertainment onboard was not like other cruises, but this was not meant to be like other cruises. If you need to be entertained 24/7 then this is not the cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I have cruised over 20 times, mostly to the Caribbean, with one to Alaska, one to the Amazon River, and several to the Mediterranean. The cruise ship I took to the Amazon River was actually the Adonia; however, it was a Princess ship at ... Read More
I have cruised over 20 times, mostly to the Caribbean, with one to Alaska, one to the Amazon River, and several to the Mediterranean. The cruise ship I took to the Amazon River was actually the Adonia; however, it was a Princess ship at the time, the former Royal Princess, one of about ten former Renaissance ships, which after 9/11, were bought up by American cruise lines Princess (3), Oceania (3), and Azamara (2) mostly. My husband and I have also sailed on the two Azamara ships, so I was very comfortable with what the Adonia would offer. It is currently leased by Fathom from P&O, a British cruise line. I love its size; however, the casino was removed and there were only two on-board shops, one for luxury items such as handbags & jewelry, the other was Eco-friendly products in line with Fathom's theme. There was very little sportswear or toiletries available. The shops carried the same merchandise every day, nothing new introduced at a later date, nor were there any "reduced sale items" at the end of the cruise. The Glass House was a new venue, a wine and champagne bar on deck 10 where the library is located where 4 internet desktop computers are available. The Ocean Grill was the specialty restaurant (additional charge) which served Cuban food from their special chef, and the Lido Cafe was the poolside grill offering Cuban sandwiches at lunch. (I did not eat at either). Twice on sea days, they offered a tasty poolside Bar-b-Que which had chicken, seafood, burgers, hot dogs, lasagna, vegetables, corn-on-the-cob and fruit salad. Dining room food was catered to the British as lamb in some form was available most evenings, fish and chips were offered, and cappucino was complimentary for breakfast and dinner (did not eat lunch there, so I cannot advise); also tea flavors offered were plentiful. My husband was not interested in Cuba, so I traveled solo, originally booking in an ocean view and was given one forward on the lowest deck D which also houses the guest relations and shore excursions desks. Once on board, I inquired about availability of other cabins as I suspected the ship was not sold out and was offered a balcony and was given an aft balcony up two decks on C Cabins are pretty standard, with a desk, loveseat or chair, sufficient storage space, two night stands, small shower including mounted shower gel, toiletries of shampoo/conditioner/body lotion/shower cap/nail file, and a tea/coffee station near the mini-fridge which included two complimentary water bottles which I reused by refilling from the ship's tap. Walking tours usually provided a bottle also as you departed. All cabins in any category are the same price (which I do not find fair); there are only four categories - currently Dominican Republic prices are inside @ $499, ocean view @ $599, balcony @ $699, and suite @ $2499. My cabin steward was from India as were quite a lot of the crew from P&O. Fathom crew were mostly young people from English-speaking countries in addition to the U.S. (Canada, Australia, UK) who had done similar impact activities such as the Peace Corps and they had little or no cruise experience until April's first sailing to the Dominican Republic. Since most sailings early on do not appear to be sold out, Fathom offered those on the Cuban sailing an incredible rate to stay aboard for the Dominican Republic sailing for $199 per person, an incredible value for a cruise. Complimentary excursions - Originally, it was required that all passengers partake in these and stay with the tour through the end. This is now relaxed and is not required. There were four large groups based on your assigned cabin on board called about 20 minutes apart for disembarkation each day for the tours. I felt this was unfair because every day of ground tours, you were assigned to the same group at the same disembarkation time (so you were always first, second, third or fourth, with no rotation). Then it was pot luck as to which bus and walking tour guide you received and where you ate lunch and in some cases, activities you attended. All guides were very well versed in English and easy to understand; they varied on the topics they discussed other than the sights we were seeing; i.e., political, economical, etc. As others have pointed out in their reviews, descriptions given in the daily newspaper were overhyped as to the P2P experiences we would receive. My Havana bus tour included a wonderful lunch at the top of a 39-story modern hotel building at the Le Torre Restaurant on the 33rd floor. This not only afforded us a panoramic view, but fantastic food with the following options: (1) Lobster, (2) Steak, (3) Fish/seafood; we could choose to have only one or smaller portions of two or three items. I almost felt guilty eating so well while looking out at the way the Cuban people lived. It was an experience to take the elevator up, as there was only one and it held about 10 people. Most of the Paladare owners (privately-owned restaurants) were not fluent in English, so our guides interpreted for us. There was limited opportunity for us to interact with the average Cuban citizen. There were several evening excursions offered at cost and most said they were way overpriced and could easily have been booked independently at a reasonable cost. I did not participate in any of them, but did not hear any negative feedback from those that did. The most expensive was $199 and took place outdoors. Something to remember is to carry local CUCs, their currency, for tipping paladare staff, tour/bus guides and restroom attendants (also bring TP when in Santiago's restrooms). The ship's literature advises you as to the amount. A fun option is to take a short coco taxi ride, an open air yellow mini-vehicle available for hire. Our cruise was the third to Cuba, and due to returning to Miami the night of sailing because of a power outage, only visited Havana and Santiago; Cienfuegos was eliminated; I understand that since the scheduled visit was only 5 hours, there probably wasn't a lot to do, however, my research suggested that I personally would have liked it better and found it to be more of an accurate representation of the Cuban lifestyle. It was necessary to spend two days in Havana to experience all it has to offer and Santiago, the second largest city, has more to see and do presumably. Santiago I found to have less modern buildings/facilities and probably the people were not as well-off. The ship refunded port charges and also applied a $75 on board credit for the missed port. Shopping on ground - In Havana, the bus tour takes you to a local artisan/craft market - be sure to bargain there. Cigars and liquor (rum) are available in all ports, basically at the same price (I believe it was government regulated/owned). I purchased some craft items at the fort in Santiago as well (barter). Shipboard activities - The band on board, the Craze Band Trio, was one from the U.K. and they were very good in that they performed all types of music at almost all the venues on board. They also performed a couple times with the local Cuban band Jelengue, that boarded when we sailed from Havana and disembarked in Santiago. They were also excellent (and included an superb trumpet player)and performed various salsa, cha cha and other local music that could be danced with a partner or in line dance form. There was music and/or movies under the stars most evenings. Movies included "The Old Man and the Sea" and "Havana Motor Club" and were offered more than once. There is a gym and spa which seemed to book up when not in port. Wi-Fi packages are available and reasonably priced; however, I only wanted to send emails home and was having difficulty in that as I found out on the last sea day, they were indeed reaching my family, but my husband's replies did not reach me. Someone said that the internet was set up through the Dominican Republic and perhaps some servers (mine was Yahoo) were not being handled responsibly. Fathom-related activities were plentiful but not necessarily Cuban related; examples are curiosity boxes throughout the ship, scavenger hunt and other games (trivia), visual storytelling, cocktail & photography classes, salsa and cha cha dance classes, yoga & meditation, and wine & paint class, and of course Spanish language classes - most classes were offered more than once. SUMMARY - I am thankful to have had the opportunity to take this cruise and for the most part, it was what I had been led to believe it would be. There are quite a few small issues that need addressed and tweaked and our feedback will help them with that I am sure. My suggestions include: more seminars about Cuba and its history and culture prior to disembarking (perhaps more information can be emailed to passengers); making tours more accessible to older and physically challenged people (pavement - cobblestone was uneven) with places for people to sit and take a break, especially given the heat; providing more situations for interaction with the locals. Weather at least in the summer (rainy season) is sub-tropical and therefore has extremely high humidity and highs reaching 90, and lows staying in the 80s at night -- dew points made it feel like 100 or more and there were few places where there was a breeze unless on a hill (visiting a fort). The people are genuinely happy to see Americans and as curious about us as we are about them. I am sure the country is on its way to becoming "Americanized" and some day there will be McDonald's and Wal-Marts, but I think that is a ways off (several years), so don't be in a rush to book; but I do believe this cruise is the best, most cost-effective way to visit Cuba at this time. I have checked into land package tours and other cruise lines and they offer less for more money. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Pros 1. Staff - I cannot say enough about the staff on the Adonia ship. From the wait staff to the cabin stewards, everyone is there to please - especially the staff at the Conservatory Buffet. They get to know your names and make sure ... Read More
Pros 1. Staff - I cannot say enough about the staff on the Adonia ship. From the wait staff to the cabin stewards, everyone is there to please - especially the staff at the Conservatory Buffet. They get to know your names and make sure they remember what you like. If you have a question, and they don't have an answer, they will find out for you. Loved them! 2. Classes - We really appreciated the classes that taught us about Cuba's history and what to expect at each city. These classes usually fill up quickly, so if you want a good seat, then arrive early or make sure you sign up early for classes with limited seats. Also, take advantage of the cocktail classes taught by Sam. It's a great way to learn the history of rum and how to properly make mojitos, Bahama Mamas and daiquiris. 3. Onshore Excursions - (Please consider that our cruise was delayed, so they cut our trip to Cienfuegos and added half a day to our Havana excursion.) While we were disappointed missing out on Cienfuegos, in the end, we loved having two whole days in Havana. We had plenty of time to do the required onshore excursions, while having enough time to ourselves to spend a night walking through Old Havana and an afternoon to run around to do some shopping and to visit some neighborhoods off the beaten path. Though, our time at Santiago de Cuba felt rushed, even though we had a whole day there, but we still loved learning about its historical places and history. (The Barcadi Rum company was founded in this city in 1862.)The Havanatur guides were knowledgable and bilingual, so communication was not a problem. We were led by Osmin, Jordan, Adriana, and Yosiel in Havana, and had Antonio in Santiago, and they are all excellent guides. We even exchanged contact information with the guides to keep in touch. 4. Onshore Restaurants - We were able to get a taste of state-run restaurants and family-owned restaurants (paladares). We felt the food at the family owned restaurant in Santiago was the best, but they were all good. 5. Cuban People - This was the most memorable part of our trip - our interactions with the residents of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Many people are already able to speak some English, so having a simple conversation with locals won't be a problem, and many Cubans are willing to tell you their stories. Therefore, make sure you interact! 6. Shopping - Yes, we did not want to leave Cuba without our rum and cigars. You will get plenty of time to shop when participating in the Havantur excursions. The best place to do most of your shopping will be the Crafts Market at the end of your day-long Havana bus tour. This market is also within walking distance of the ship terminal and has an official kiosk that sells rum and cigars. The second place is the pathway to the Santiago de Cuba fortress, which will have plenty of merchants with handmade crafts and jewelry. 7. Laundry - A launderette is located on the 7th deck. There are 6 washers and 6 dryers. Machines are free; you only need to bring you own soap. Make sure you only place half a cup of detergent with each load, as the machines tend to create lots of suds. Cons 1. Communication - We do realize that Fathom is a new brand under Carnival Cruises, but we were expecting to have experienced staff during the booking and check in process. We noticed that each rep gave us different information when calling the Fathom reservation number, so make sure you double check the details they provide you. Also, during the check in process at the terminal, we were told that the affidavits that the booking team told us to complete were not the right ones, so they had us complete new forms. Also, they told us that we needed to sign up for the onshore excursions on the boat, which was completely false (no sign up is required). So, needless to say, more training is needed for the Fathom frontline! 2. Delay - As I mentioned before, we had a mechanical problem delay our cruise, so our trip to Cienfuegos was cut from the itinerary. Now, when something like this happens, travelers expect to receive some kind of compensation or refund for the inconvenience, but Fathom didn't see it that way initially. They thought that extending our time in Havana by half a day would make up for it. It wasn't until travelers complained that they offered everyone a $75 credit and a free drink at dinner. This is something they should have offered shortly after they realized we would be delayed. 3. Days at Sea - Now let me say this - we are not the traditional cruisers, and we primarily booked this cruise as a quick and easy way to get an introduction into Cuba, so we already boarded the boat with a preference to be onshore in Cuba. Because of our delay, we ended up being at sea for over 3 1/2 days, which seemed too long for us. If you like being on a ship, then this may not be a problem. Also, as I mentioned before, there are multiple classes onboard that will keep you occupied during this time at sea. 4. Other Cruisers - Now, please remember that if you decide to take part of the Havanatur excursions onshore that you must then do the entire 4 or 8 hour tours. We had some cruisers in our group that felt it was okay to demand that the guides take them back to the boat or shopping during the middle of the tour. First of all, these cruisers were stressing out the guides, and negatively impacting the experience for the other cruisers. Therefore, if you know that the heat or walking will be too much for you or if you prefer to spend more of your time shopping, then check with the Explorers desk on the ship to see what you can do in lieu of the guided tours. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I went to Cuba to experience it because I had wondered about the people and country since my childhood. I was in third grade during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember it well. I was thrilled to hear a cruise line had been approved to ... Read More
I went to Cuba to experience it because I had wondered about the people and country since my childhood. I was in third grade during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember it well. I was thrilled to hear a cruise line had been approved to travel around the country. I flew across the country to experience a place most Americans have not been allowed to visit. It was an enlightening, educational, entertaining visit, one that I will never forget. The people were welcoming and one experience that still gets me emotional is when a man approached me on his way to work. He is a government worker and was wearing all brown, his eyes were even brown. He said, "Thank you for coming to my country. You are most welcome here. Please tell your friends at home that we are just like you. We work hard, love our families and country. We have hope for the future." I wonder now about him and his hope. The ship was clean, a little worn but staff were welcoming and a cut above other cruise lines. I appreciated all the afternoon seminars getting us ready for the next Cuban port we would visit. The included walking tours were led by very smart, articulate tour guides. They had other jobs like university faculty, high school teacher and an artist. The food aboard was above normal but not exceptional. I would love to visit Cuba again and am very sad that Adonia isn't going there any longer. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Cabin: D021 ;Our cabin size was good, but you will want to stay on the other side of the ship if you want to see the ports upon entry. This was not a big deal to us since my husband is into photography and took pictures up on deck anyway. ... Read More
Cabin: D021 ;Our cabin size was good, but you will want to stay on the other side of the ship if you want to see the ports upon entry. This was not a big deal to us since my husband is into photography and took pictures up on deck anyway. If you get sea-sick you will want to stay on this floor because the rocking is decreased. We were right outside the elevators, but did not hear any loud noises or noise that woke us up. Very good insulation from noise. Food: We did breakfast at the buffet each day and lunch and dinner at Anderson's (sit down style and included in price). We choose to have lunches at a table for 2, but did dinners at group tables. We only had 1 bad dinner group (very quiet and negative bunch). Otherwise, we met amazing people and had a good time. We did not eat at the addt'l cost restaurant based upon reviews and fellow travelers. General consensus was it was not worth the up-charge. Havana: The best of the ports by far. Make the most of your time by staying out late during your 1-night stopover. Head over to the Malecon at night, go to a local restaurant (or 2) for drinks and snacks. You're only here 1 night and it's the most "immersive" experience of the whole trip. We did not pay for the extra excursions. People said Tropicana was amazing, but I already know that Vegas style shows are not for me. If you like them, then go. It sounds like you'll love it. Don't do the "old-car" excursion through Fathom. You'll save half the cost with the guys right outside the customs house. Some people did private tours on Day 1 (after the Fathom walking tour) and they all had great things to say. I wish I would have thought to plan for that. General Tips for all Ports: You can disembark whenever you want. You don't need to listen for your group to be called. They only do it for crowd control and even that does not work because the majority of people in the first group do not go when called. So, walk down to disembark as soon as possible and you can exchange your money without waiting AND you can also find out where the tour groups are going (aside from Day 1 in Havana each group will have a set of stops + 1 unique stop; you want to get with the group that is going on the "unique stop" that interests you). Also, the people disembarking in the beginning tend to be more mobile so you don't have to worry about being with a slower group. Cienfuego's (1/2 day) and Santiago de Cuba (8 hrs): You will be rushed in these 2 ports. Unless the ship changes their schedule and/or shortens some stops or eliminates others, there is no way around this. Overall: I'm glad we took this trip as an overview to Cuba. If we go back again (too many places to see in the world!) we will do Havana again and one of the beach towns with snorkeling. We loved learning the history on this trip (um, be aware that it will be glossed over). English proficiency is hit or miss - not that I blame this on a Spanish speaking country - so learn some basic Spanish if you want to go out on your own. Just making an attempt at speaking Spanish will go a long way. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We were on the ships 5th sailing to Cuba. This was a great way to visit Cuba. However, if you want a great cruise ship experience, this is not the ship for you. This cruise is definitely about Cuba. We were on a sailing in late ... Read More
We were on the ships 5th sailing to Cuba. This was a great way to visit Cuba. However, if you want a great cruise ship experience, this is not the ship for you. This cruise is definitely about Cuba. We were on a sailing in late June. It was exceeding hot in Cuba at this time. We walked a lot, and buildings do not have a/c or fans. Be advised that most restroom facilities do not have toilet seats, toilet paper, and many do not flush. You pay an attendant to give you a single square of tissue paper. Often she comes in when you are finished, and pours a bucket of water to flush the toilet. Bring extra tissue with you! Keep extra CUC's (or dollars) with you to use facilities!!!! The cruise director, Collin, his wife, and staff were all personable and did a good job. They are new to the cruise industry. They really wanted their passengers to experience Cuba and have a good time. We had lunch with Collin on one of the tours and really enjoyed talking with him. Discussions held in the ship were informative. We were glad we attended a few of those. I especially was interested in the session about Cuban religion. (The first presentation they had done on the subject). In the future, it would be informative to have sessions on the cigar industry, more history talks, etc. The shore excursions were good. I hope in the future there will be more flexibility and choices (i.e.- art or music selections, visit a cigar factory). I understand why it is set up this way initially, but I do hope with time and experience, these can be expanded. We had very good experiences, tour guides, and visited some very good restaurants and paladars. As excursions are included in the cost of the cruise, you don't get to select which sites to visit, it is he luck of the draw. Groups are at different art or music sites and different restaurants/paladars. We were at a restaurant with about 4 other tour groups. It was crowded, slow, and very hot. We were on about the 3rd floor and sitting outdoors. The food was fine. Not great, but it was fine. I had a lobster tail and my husband had chicken. Our friend ordered the fish, but it wasn't cooked through, so he could not eat it. We did have 3 drinks included with the meal. ( A bottle of water and soda, sangria, or beer.) You are encouraged to tour on your own on the first day in Havanna, after the group walking tour concludes. We separated from our group right after lunch. (Before tour ended). Our group of four followed a local into an delapadated building and bought cigars. (that was an experience in itself). We then went with a local on a ride in a '48 Ford and took a tour of Havanna and visited a small, local bar, where we had mojitos. This was the best part of our trip. We walked to a rum / cigar store just down the street from the port. A local American told us that was a good place to make our purchases. We were not sure of the quality of cigars we purchased from the local in that building. We later learned someone else had their cigars that they purchased on the street confiscated, but we did not have any problems. The only excursion we purchased was the Tropicana on the first night in Havanna. This probably could have been done independently easy enough. The show was very enjoyable. It was all outdoors, but we were lucky with weather that evening. We were served a bottle of rum for 4 of us. a can of cola each, and a bowl of nuts. Be sure to have dinner beforehand. I believe they did have a dinner menu, but I did not notice anyone eating. We had almost a full bottle of rum left, but left it on the table. Others brought theirs back to the ship with no problem. Day 2 in Havanna was a bus tour. This was a much better tour. We had a great trip to a neighborhood an artist is renovating. We also visited a cemetery, We went to a paladar that was really good. It was in an area that looked very run down, but this building was being renovated (they were literally working on the outside of the building. Again, lobster was on the menu, and it was very good here. The others at our table all really liked their lunch. A loaf of Cuban bread was brought to our table. It was so good, we asked for more. We were told no, but we said we would pay for it. We were brought a large loaf, served with chopped tomatoes, butter, and olive oil. We ate the entire thing, as it was delicious! The tour continued with a visit to an art museum, which lasted too long. The tour concluded with a trip to a market, which was crowded, vendors selling the same items in different stalls. Our day in Cienfuegos included a stop at a park that had art sculptures. The buildings in this town were very well cared for. We did stop and walked to a concert at a hall. The music was beautiful. However, we seated upstairs, where it was miserably hot. We were so uncomfortable, we just could not enjoy th performance as we should have. The day in Santiago de Cuba included a stop at a local grocery store and a department type store. We walked through a busy area of the town. It was really interesting. Our group visited a small building where a music group performed for us. They were very talented singers. Again, it was so hot in the building, it really distracted from the performance. We were the first group to ever eat at the paladar we visited outside of town. The family and staff were all introduced. The owner looked so proud, as she should have been!! It was really sweet. The food here was really good! There was an abundance of it served. We were given keychains with the name of the place as a token gift from the owner. Talking with others back on the ship, we seemed to have gotten very lucky with the places where we ate each day. We were served lobster twice, others never had the option at all. The Adonis has recently been renovated. They have done a beautiful job renovating her! The public areas are just beautiful. The gym, library, and other public areas are very nice. This was our 15th cruise. We also took a Carribean cruise on another line the following week, so it is easy to make comparisons, Food and service were both lacking on this ship. We had a difficult time and had to make repeat requests for more bars of soap and shampoo later in the cruise. (What the heck?!!). One day, she forgot to leave bath towels for us. I found a hat, a bra, hairspray, and toothpaste all left in our cabin from a precious cruise (ugh!). Much of the food served was Cuban or Dominican Republic based. Especially so in the specialty restaurant. We had reservations for 2 nights, but cancelled the second reservation after dining there once, it was good, but not worth paying to eat there a second night, The dining room food was fine, not great. They did not offer a standard selection of chicken, steak, basic salads, etc. as other ships do. I think this was a big mistake, as there was one night, I was hard pressed to find something to order for dinner. One night, I just ordered 3 appetizers, as nine of the dinner selections appealed to me. I liked the choice of ordering Cuban or DR food, but just would have preferred the standard, daily menu for back up. The food in the Lido appeared to be the same food offered in the dining room each evening. However, we never had dinner up there. It was all My Time Dining. This worked out great for timing and excursions, and meeting new people. However, you miss the benefit of a waiter who knows you. Dining service was not impressive. It wasn't poor, it just wasn't top notch. The swimming pool was especially small. It was busy every sea day. They did have good music by the pool, which we enjoyed! This ship serves 700 passengers. This was a good size ship for Cuban ports. I can't imagine a larger ship being accommodated in Cuba. I just don't see them being able to handle a larger group of passengers in restaurants or other local facilities. Apparently, R.C. Empress of the Seas has plans to sail there with 2,000 passengers in the near future. I would definitely recommend the smaller Fathom Adonis. Generally speaking, most passengers we talked to were very well traveled and had cruised before. We all expected more from the ship itself. Food and service were a huge disappointment. Both could easily be improved upon. Just because passengers are doing a mission trip to DR or visiing Cuba, does not mean we don't want good service on a ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Was interested in going to Cuba and thought this would be a good way, and the price was right since it is the summer. Read the few reviews I could find and they were helpful. This is not your typical cruise experience. Smaller ship, ... Read More
Was interested in going to Cuba and thought this would be a good way, and the price was right since it is the summer. Read the few reviews I could find and they were helpful. This is not your typical cruise experience. Smaller ship, no casino and no big shows in the evening. i brought plenty of reading material and after a day of walking and being out in the sun, didn't mind it at all. Bring bottles of water with you. They have one in your room and you get one on the days you have excursions. But it is hot and you need more. They charge a lot for soda, but I don't drink that so I was okay. I did bring a bottle of wine, as did my traveling partner. Arrived about an hour past beginning of embarkation and was very quick. Not a long wait time at all. Had a balcony cabin. Small, but most ship cabins are small. Space was sufficient. The excursions were good. Guides knowledgable, especially in Havana. Wasn't thrilled with caliber of guides in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. No air-conditioning anywhere in Cuba, so it is hot. Carry lots of tissues as many of the restrooms don't have toilet paper. And you need change of the restrooms as you have to pay all the time!! Food on the ship was okay. Im a vegetarian/pescatarian. Had a harder time in Cuba since they eat a lot of meat, but I managed and told the staff in each pleader/restaurant and they tried to be accommodating. Staff on the ship don't have much experience, very young and they don't really mingle with the passengers. I found them always eating together or hanging out at night together. They need to work on their customer service - so don't have high expectations. The dance classes were good. The band on the ship was mediocre. They play the same set over and over ago. Get's old. The bands that came on board in Cuba were amazing. They should get more Cuban entertainment on board. I did take yoga classes on the ship .Other classes like pilates and spinning charged a fee. The first excursion in Havana was a walking tour. Was with the group until after lunch and then went off on my own. They really should divide buses into walking ability. Some older people had difficulty walking and were very slow, or they had canes. Second day bus tour was good. Spent a bit too much time at the cemetery, but lucked out with seeing Fusterland. It is totally random where you will end up. And also can tell the guides it is time to move on - sometimes they need a push. Cienfeugos lovely, but not enough time there. Santiago de Cuba was perfect for the one day. It is dirtier here and people begin - what I thought Havana would be like. Havana was super clean and the people were lovely. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Almost all the "People to People" tours start at $4000 per person. An incredible discount price offered to Florida residents in the heat of summer (I guess we are use to it), convinced us that this was a can't miss ... Read More
Almost all the "People to People" tours start at $4000 per person. An incredible discount price offered to Florida residents in the heat of summer (I guess we are use to it), convinced us that this was a can't miss opportunity. And it was. It is impossible to separate the overall experience which was wonderful from the cruise ship experience which, with little effort, could have been better. The ship, the former Renaissance 8, is similar in configuration to to the older Oceania ships. Public rooms are still spacious, beautifully finished and more intimate than the giant behemoths at sea these days. The cabins have ample storage space though not much room to move around or dine-in. Bathrooms are quite tight with small sinks. Balconies and built-in furniture show signs of age. But you won't spend much time there anyway. There are lectures, films, dance lessons, Spanish lessons, self-exploration groups, spa treatments and just plain hanging by the pool. There are NO casinos, or glitzy shows. The shops were pleasant, but lacked imagination. Though the watches and jewels were the exception, neither the crafts, nor the tee shirts were attractive, unusual or Cuba-specific. Our shore experiences were top notch. Be aware that Adonia has NO control over the guide you will get....tours are run by Havanatour and the quality varies widely from a history professor with in-depth military background to recent grad spouting Socialist government scripts she memorized yesterday. Nevertheless, everyone saw and did whatever was important to see and do in the ports we visited. Adonia deserves HIGH praise for getting people off and on the ship with maximum efficiency. Not a second of your time is wasted! The "people to people" experiences included music, dance, art, and street conversations. I must warn that many of those experiences result in the donation of money (in any denomination and currency) from passengers to Cubans. Though discouraged by the Cuban government, many cannot survive without tips, gifts, donations and just plain old begging. Lunches ashore were much better than expected. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the food aboard. The first few days were unbearable. Adonia needs to seriously upgrade their cooking. The dining service and staff were excellent except for the specialty dining. There were few offerings that appealed to us at the Ocean Grill anyway so unless you must have a steak, save your $$. Lastly, high praise for the award winning band and all the impact guides who were knowledgeable and personable. We especially enjoyed the dance instructors Deb and Doug who had infinite patience and were great fun. You will learn Salsa for sure Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We took the 9th Fathom cruise to Cuba and really enjoyed the experience. The cruise itself was excellent. The ship only accommodates 700 passengers so it is a very pleasant size. The ship is in good shape and the crew and all staff were ... Read More
We took the 9th Fathom cruise to Cuba and really enjoyed the experience. The cruise itself was excellent. The ship only accommodates 700 passengers so it is a very pleasant size. The ship is in good shape and the crew and all staff were truly excellent. The staff is very friendly and courteous. The food was very good. Being a small ship there is not much in the way of entertainment. The information sessions were good though still quite superficial. Their whole personal discovery shtick is a little irritating if that is not your thing but you don't have to get into that.. There is not a lot to see in the ports visited. Havana is run down and poor.The absence of restoration since the 1960s means that there is not too much to see in the 4 squares you visit. Cienfuegos was the most fun port. The ground tour company Havantur is hit and miss. We had a great guide, Israel, on Day1 . His English was good, he was knowledgeable and could be understood. Other groups were less fortunate with guides whose English is poor , have accents that are difficult to follow and who just have not studied the history adequately. That was our fate on Day 2 in Havana. They are trying to scale up but don't yet have the staff they need. Tip: if you get assigned a lousy guide in Havana try attaching to another group. There is some flexibility to do so in that city with everyone going to the same places.The busses are modern and in excellent condition and the drivers were all very good. It is blisteringly hot and muggy in August. Most of the venues are not air conditioned so the days onshore can be brutal. Tip : take a cooling towel. Earlier reviews mentioned that there was no water so we took a case of bottled water. Fathom has corrected for that and so a bottle of water is given to each bus passenger and there was water dockside when we returned to the ship. Take half a case. The money is confusing. We changed a couple of hundred dollars on arrival and that worked out fine for cigars rum and curios and daily tips. Try to get small bills when you exchange. You can change at each port and there was no problem converting back as we departed from Santiago. There is tax on US dollars so for best value exchange for Euros Canadian Dollars or Sterling. The Person to Person encounters are really just listening to local musicians in the community. Very entertaining and good quality. But not educational or informative on the true society. There is still strong government influence on what can be shown or discussed. In Havana and Santiago there are 2 hour lunch stops. The food and music were ok but hardly representative of what the locals get to eat. The basic Fathom excursions don't get you out of the cities and into the countryside or to the beaches. They are city tours. Buying cigars( you are allowed $100 per person in tobacco and alcohol combined ) was frustrating. The tour company takes you to places they have an interest in and we found those prices inflated. You have to buy in government approved shops and it is all controlled. We found the best prices in Cienfuegos or the Arts and Crafts market in Havana. Tip: disembark early each morning if you want to improve chances of being assigned to a bus with fewer physically challenged passengers that slow everything down. Overall while not exceeding our expectations and being a little disappointing because there is potential for it to be so much more, we are glad we did this cruise and enjoyed it. We were happy to go early before it changes a lot. When this opens up to multiple cruise lines and the airlines it is going to get crazy and Cuba is not geared up for it. The ship, staff and cruise part of our trip were all excellent. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Cuba was one of those bucket list destinations. The Fathom cruise was enticing because it was convenient (we live in Florida), relatively inexpensive as compared to Cuba group excursions and the fact that each night we were "at ... Read More
Cuba was one of those bucket list destinations. The Fathom cruise was enticing because it was convenient (we live in Florida), relatively inexpensive as compared to Cuba group excursions and the fact that each night we were "at home" on a cruise ship. Consider this as all inclusive travel package: transportation, accommodation, dining and excursions were all included in the cruise fare. If you are familiar with the "R" ships you'll feel at home on the Adonia (R8). If you choose there is a planned excursion every day in Cuba. The alternative is independent touring. The excursion staff were enthusiastic. Disabuse the fact that there is any Person-to-Person interaction with the Cubans. Most of our time was spent on tour and if you consider time with a Cuban guide that's pretty much the extent of any P2P interaction. Dining on board is hit-or-miss. They try a little too hard to be exotic and some of the food is a fail. They really need to dial it back and have some less inventive but familiar fare. All in all it was a great first look at Cuba and we'd do it all again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We chose the Adonia because it was the only ship we found that sailed from a US port to Cuba. Fathom is the new line in the Carnival family. She sails only two itineraries -- Cuba one week and the Dominican Republic the next. Their ... Read More
We chose the Adonia because it was the only ship we found that sailed from a US port to Cuba. Fathom is the new line in the Carnival family. She sails only two itineraries -- Cuba one week and the Dominican Republic the next. Their cruises are unlike any cruise we've sailed previously in that they call at only island and concentrate on 'impact' travel. Their definition of 'impact' is helping to change and improve the communication between peoples. In Cuba, that means striking up conversations with local people whenever and wherever you can -- not a particular easy thing in the ports, other than Havana. I was disappointed by the amount of information available from Fathom prior to the cruise. Their instructions for completing the appropriate forms was scanty and confusing. Phone calls to the line for clarification were non-productive. The phone staff didn't really seem to understand the instructions either. The website description for the various tours is poor, and the information I received on the phone was inaccurate. Perhaps with time, these difficulties will improve -- I would hope so. I found those difficulties to be unusual in the Carnival family. We've not sailed from Miami previously, and found the port a bit confusing. The Adonia sailed from "J" -- parking was readily available and quite plentiful. Except for the relatively high cost, we had no objections to the parking area -- a multi-level garage with more than enough spaces on the first two levels to accommodate all who drove. The check-in and boarding went well and cabins were available when we boarded. It took little time for our luggage to arrive. Our stewardess arrived promptly to introduce herself and offer any assistance we needed. The ship is 'borrowed' from P&O Lines and retained the very good P&O staff. The ship is beautiful -- small (about 700 passengers), well decorated public rooms, lovely dining room... The public rooms on the ship were lovely. Lots of beautiful woodwork, comfortable seating, nice bars. The food in the dining room was quite good -- but remember that P&O is a British Line (though owned by Carnival) so the food will be a bit different than what we're used to. You may have to ask for definitions of what is on the menu. The Indian wait staff is very pleased to be dealing with Americans and will happily make recommendations and explanations. Dining is on an open schedule -- you will be asked if you are "happy to share a table" when you arrive each evening. No formal nights -- my husband needed a pair of long pants to wear to the Tropicana, but not again, even in the ship's dining room. I wore capris throughout the entire trip. A free self-help laundry is available. Laundry detergent can be purchased in the shops. However, it is old only in a bag that holds enough detergent to do a whole lot of loads. If I were to do it again, I would bring a few of the laundry tablets I normally use so avoid having an open bag of laundry detergent in our cabin. We found that we needed more clothes than we had brought because the heat and humidity left us pretty wilted when we returned to the ship. We'd shower and change after a day in port -- so we needed almost twice as many clothes as we expected. This was a cruise that seemed to appeal to those of an age who now move more slowly than we used to. Several people used walkers or scooters and had difficulty on the walking portion of the tours. Cuba's infrastructure is in need of updating. Many areas have cobblestone streets, roads and sidewalks with potholes, making it difficult for those using appliances to get around. In fact, even those of us without the need yet found it difficult to get around. Perhaps in a few years (and after more visitors) things will change. For now, I would strongly suggest that those who are unable to walk without assistance NOT visit Cuba. The sidewalks have many holes and obstructions (light poles in the middle, making the walk too narrow to get a walker by), and no ramps at the corners (just the curbs). The first night aboard, you may fill out your 'affidavit' one more time. Because most of us couldn't remember what we'd done and were certain we'd done it wrong anyway, we simply completed another form and submitted that. As far as I know, nobody ended up in a Cuban jail, so we must have finally gotten it right. Talks are given at prior to each port -- quite informative and enjoyable. The 'Impact' staff are young, enthusiastic, and mostly former Peace Corps volunteers. They fit perfectly with the line's plan for helping people. All of the tours at all stops are led by HavanaTur guides -- a Cuban Government organization. The English spoken is generally good -- some better than others, naturally. The amount of information imparted varies tremendously from guide to guide. All were willing to answer whatever questions we asked -- though sometimes the language difficulties were apparent. We occasionally got answers to the wrong question -- but they all tried to answer as best they could. In Havana, the first tour was a walking tour. A "lots of walking" tour. Lunch was included -- each group seemed to go to a different restaurants. Though I had been told that part of that tour was on a bus -- the entire tour was a walking tour. The heat and humidity were too much for me, but I was able to return to the ship part-way through the tour. In the evening, we went to the Tropicana. While it was an expensive tour, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We drink very little alcohol, so we didn't make as much of the offered beverages as some guests did. When we arrived at the table, we were served a glass of champagne (Cava, actually) with a strawberry floating in it. That was followed by a glass of lemonade -- I'm still not certain if that was plain or alcoholic. Then at our table of 4 we each got a small bottle of Coke with a large bottle of rum (1 liter). Many partial bottles of rum went home on the bus that night. The entertainment was far better than we expected. The show started with violinists and singers. After that, a Vegas-style review -- lots of singing, dancing, and show-girls, with a couple of acrobatic acts. It was an enjoyable evening. It was nearly 1AM when we got back to the ship. The following day was an all-day bus tour (starting around 8 am). Lunch at a restaurant. A visit to a 'cultural center' in the afternoon and a final stop at an arts and craft market before returning to the ship. The stop at the other two ports, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, followed the same sort of itinerary. All of the restaurants were state owned -- but all provided a good meal, accompanied by musicians. Each of the three stops also provided the opportunity to exchange your American money for CUCs as you got off of the ship (the ship isn't able to exchange for CUCs). The exchange rate varies little -- hovering about 1 to 1 with the American dollar. However, by the time you get through with the additional 10% tax for US dollars, your American dollar was worth about 86 pesos. If you can, change your American money to Euros prior to your US departure (no 10% tax for any other currencies). We found that some American banks will exchange your dollars for Euros at no additional cost. Unfortunately, our bank is not one of those. Bring the cash that you need. At this time, American credit cards are not accepted anywhere, nor can you use your ATM cards. You will spend more on gratuities that you expect. Each day onshore, you will tip your guides (both of them), your driver, the servers at the restaurants, the musicians, the rest room attendants -- worked out to about 30 CUCs per person, per day. You are strongly encouraged NOT to bring items to give away -- no pencils for the kids, no gum, etc. Cuban customs will often tax you for bringing in the items. You will see panhandlers, more in Santiago de Cuba than in other ports, but even in Havana. Again, this is something you are encouraged to ignore. The most persistent woman we saw was one who wanted to give us a CUP, worth about 1/25th of a CUC, as a souvenir. In exchange, she'd like a US $ as a souvenir. And "No" wasn't a word she professed to understand. Shopping: Artwork can be taxed when leaving the port. This caused a bit of consternation when people found they no longer had enough CUCs to pay the tax and had to go back to get the money changed again. It seems to be kind of hit and miss -- who gets taxed and who doesn't. You are each allowed to bring back to the US up to $400 worth of goods. Of that $400, only $100 can be rum and cigars. Cigars are sold in government shops and regardless of what my tourbook said, can be purchased individually. I'd suggest bringing a small box to protect the cigars in your luggage. Since the amount you can bring home will be small, you'll be handed your cigars in a bag unless you're lucky enough to buy the last few in a box. They are not inexpensive and you wouldn't want to crush them on the way home. Musical instruments (maracas, claves, drums) are readily available everywhere, are inexpensive, and fun. Many of the items you'll find in the craft markets are not produced by the seller -- lots are not produced in Cuba. Take care with your souvenirs, unless it happens that you didn't get your desired item when you were in Africa or in Viet Nam. You'll find those items in Cuba. I was very pleased to receive a note while we were sailing, from Fathom, explaining that the port taxes had changed and they were giving us a credit for that amount. That was a 'refundable' credit and could either be used on board, or refunded to our credit card on record. Kudos for the honesty displayed by the line! On the last night, your luggage needs to be outside between 6 and 8 PM. It disappears promptly. You will need to have your printed baggage tags from departure still attached to your luggage. Since ours were pretty beaten up and we had disposed of them, we were glad to have printed extras to fold and use. In the morning, when we disembarked, we were NOT at terminal J, where our car was. A bus was provided to take us to our parking lot. Surprisingly, we didn't have to wait for the bus to fill before we were driven. I don't know if it is customary at Miami that ships go out of one terminal, but return to another. We weren't thrilled to have another leg of moving luggage in our journey, but it worked fairly well with the provided bus. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Cuba was on our bucket list, and we wanted to see it before all the changes. We were prepare with all our paperwork visas and passports. We found out that we needed to check the people to people box AND the on your own box. That way ... Read More
Cuba was on our bucket list, and we wanted to see it before all the changes. We were prepare with all our paperwork visas and passports. We found out that we needed to check the people to people box AND the on your own box. That way if we wanted to get off the tour we could and explore on our own. Rent a car and see Havana, it is worth it. The people are very friendly and well educated a lot of people can speak English. They practice their English and it quite fun. LOVED CUBA AND WOULD GO BACK. The BOAT I am so sad for it. They are not keeping it clean and fixed. Rust everywhere, We took this boat when it was Princess and it was one of our best trips. Now this was the worst boat we have every been on. This was our 43 sailing (we are not beginners). Our room was nice and our cabin steward was great. Other fellow passengers did not have the same good experience with their rooms. The food was horrible. I had read reviews and thought those were picky people. That was not the case. On the days we were in port there was no buffet, just a few dishes at the outdoor grill. The girl Tia was wonderful to me and my husband and cooked us hamburger patties each day. We ate in the main dining room one night. I asked for a certain table, our one from the last trip. The head of the dining room said ok, but would not seat us at that table, ok I didn't say anything. We sat at the table and notice there was a hair in the butter. I quietly handed it to the waiter and he said oh, picked it out dropped the hair on the floor and put the butter back on the table. The food was very dry. The menu was very limited. I went to the bar and asked for ice, the second time I asked for ice, the bartender said don't come back here ask for room service. (I was needing big cubes not crushed like up stairs) Room service charges $5.00 service charge. Found that out the hard way. The mirrors in the elevator were always dirty same spots for days. People coming back from tours, hot and sweaty and leaned on the mirrors. The lamp post in the back of the ship needs fixing on the stern side if anyone cares. I really hate to see the ship go bad because lack of paying attention to details. Lots of fellow passengers had the same feeling about the food and cleanliness of the ship. The tours were the best. The food on the tours was great, Cuba does have great food just ask around for were is the best place. Some of the tours didn't get as good of food as we did. The guides were great and very knowledgeable. We all felt very safe and enjoyed the tours. Left the tour on the first day as I found a museum I wanted to see. There was no problem. The price of the cruise is high Hope more ships start traveling to Cuba it is a great place to see. It has the French, Spanish and latin American flare together. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Many others have written about the ship and food. I'll include a little of that at the end of my review. The topics I will cover in depth are alcohol, money, and tips: The ship sells alcohol in the gift shop, but you cannot take ... Read More
Many others have written about the ship and food. I'll include a little of that at the end of my review. The topics I will cover in depth are alcohol, money, and tips: The ship sells alcohol in the gift shop, but you cannot take it to your cabin until the night before the cruise ends. You can, however, buy alcohol in Cuba and take that to your room. The most popular Cuban rum is Havana Club, and it comes in silver and gold (clear and brown). I was told that the 7-year-old version was very smooth (and reasonably priced). I bought a liter for 19.45 CUCS (pronounced Kooks) so basically $20 in USD. The Cuban beers are Crystal (similar to pilsner) and Buchanero (a darker beer and malty). Both were good and each one costs 1 CUC. Yes, you can buy that in Cuba and bring it on board. Also at the 3 lunches that were served in Cuba (and the cost was covered by Fathom), rum, beer and sometimes wine was included. At two restaurants, they automatically distributed lemonade to everyone, then came by with the Havana Club rum and would pour a hefty amount (or you could have a small amount or no rum at all) so it was a nice way to try the rum and beer. The alcohol is government controlled so you won't find it cheaper at different liquor stores. Be sure to read the back of the cocktail menu that will be on the bars and tables aboard the ship. On the back cover, at the bottom and printed in small type, is the information that the drinks include a service charge and if you feel that you received exemplary service, you could add a tip. I wish I read that at the beginning of the cruise, as I had tipped the bar staff several times. I stopped tipping on drinks that day. One final warning about drinking beer in the bars on board the ship: at the end of the beer list in the aforementioned cocktail menu, there is an announcement that you can purchase a flight of 3 beers that are served in 6.5 ounce glasses. This applies to the beers that are listed above the ad. To me, that meant that I was going to sample 3 beers of my choice and the pours would be 6.5 ounces. That surprised me, as my local craft bars serve flights that are anywhere from 2-4 ounces. I asked the bartender, who explained that only the glasses themselves are 6.5 ounce glasses. The amount of the pour is 4 ounces! To me this was false advertising, and I commented about that on the cruise ship critique. Consider yourself warned! The beer special of the day, which was really the special of the week, was Boddington beer from London. It was normally $5.95 for a 16 ounce can, on sale all week for $3. Now for the catch: only one bar stocked it! So if you weren't at the pool bar and ordered it, the waiter had to travel to the pool bar to obtain it. After several patrons complained, they started to carry it in the Andersen bar as well. Be sure to read your daily newsletter cover to cover: at the bottom of the Monday newsletter was a brief statement about the daily beer special and to ask your bar staff for details. Many passengers weren't aware of it until they heard me ordering the Boddington special. Money: If possible, don't bring U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos to exchange for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCS). Why? Because there is a whopping, 13% surcharge on both types of money when exchanging it for CUCS. I went to my local money exchange and brought Canadian dollars. Many other people brought Euros or the Pound Sterling. On those types of money, only a 3% surcharge is involved. There are 14 tellers in the Havana port terminal where you can get CUCS. Be sure that the money has monuments on it. If it has faces, then you have purchased CUP (Cuban Pesos) instead of CUC, and only the street vendors accept CUP. So long as you use the tellers that are right at the cruise ports, I don't think you will have any trouble with obtaining the correct money. The other two ports each had 4 tellers for exchanging money. Tips: The Fathom staff will explain whom to tip on the tours. Basically you tip the tour guide, bus driver, and waiter in the restaurants. Since I hadn't exchanged my money for CUCS, I tipped in Canadian dollars which they can exchange for CUCS and only have to pay the 3% surcharge. Everyone appreciated their tip. The public bathroom attendants also expect a tip (no more than a dollar) so if you have Cuban coins, it is a good way to use them up. If not, you can tip with a US dollar because getting something is better than getting nothing. I was told that at the Fathom talk that I attended and I agree with them. On the ship, they will bill your card at the rate of $11.50 per day per passenger for the cruise tips that cover your cabin steward and restaurant staff. I was fine with that. You can always tip additionally in cash for outstanding service. I would definitely sail Fathom again because I loved the small ship experience. The rooms were comfortable and well designed. The food was fine....but you really don't get Cuban food on the ship. You will experience that when eating lunch on the land tours. I met a passenger from Puerto Rico who said that none of the ship food...not even the food that had "Cuban" or "Dominican Republic" in the title, was authentic. The actual Cuban food had good flavor, but wasn't "spicy hot". The most common soup was similar to American chicken and rice. In fact rice mixed with black beans were a staple. Fish, pork, and chicken are popular. So are plantains. They didn't serve chips and salsa, but do serve a basket of bread. The desserts are mostly flan. The vegetarians who didn't want fish were served omelettes. Someone needs to tell the Fathom chef that a "rack of pork" does not translate into a boneless pork chop (ha...but it was delicious even without the rack). The coconut cream pie didn't taste like coconut....but my favorite dessert was the dulce de leche ice cream. I recommend trying all of the ice creams (only served in the dining room and not in the buffet) with unusual names. All were quite good. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016

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