Service is exceptionally excellent by all staff allways.
Food is not up to expectations: very refined on the printed menus but too many different ingredients result sometimes in lack of genuine taste.
Thomas Keller Grill is just ... Read More
Service is exceptionally excellent by all staff allways.
Food is not up to expectations: very refined on the printed menus but too many different ingredients result sometimes in lack of genuine taste.
Thomas Keller Grill is just o.k., nothing exceptionnal.
For lunch at the Collonade, there is not much variety for the cold dishes and salads: allways the shame shrimps and salmon and salads.
The breakfast on the terrace outside the Collonade is a magic moment and very well served.
The tea time at the Observaton Bar is also a delicious experience.
And after dinner, the same observation bar is a cozy place to enjoy a night cap with Jacqui's singing at the piano.
We did not like the noisy entertainment games at the pool deck (Costa style), but they took place just 2 or 3 times.
Entertainment and activities were not very interesting, we expected more lectures and classical music performances (piano 1 time, violin 1 time).
But all by all, it was a marvelous experience, the weather in november on the south atlantic was sunny and warm, but above all, the way the staff makes you feel as a king all the time is the best reason to come back! Read Less
My wife and I booked cabin 5083 originally, a penthouse veranda, as she was worried about motion sickness. A few days before the cruise was to depart, Our travel agent said that Viking had upgraded us to cabin 8007, a jr. penthouse suite. ... Read More
My wife and I booked cabin 5083 originally, a penthouse veranda, as she was worried about motion sickness. A few days before the cruise was to depart, Our travel agent said that Viking had upgraded us to cabin 8007, a jr. penthouse suite. After reading several reviews of the 8000 series cabins, all but one cruiser stated that they felt no or minimal motion on that deck. Apparently my wife is a little more susceptible to motion as we left Rome at 10pm to cruise to Livorno and my wife slept poorly. We spent two days in port and she was better, but as we left Livorno at 6pm for Monaco, the motion sickness became so bad she didn't sleep and we had to see the ship's doctor(an $85 fee) to get motion sickness pills. We missed the Monaco excursion, but Viking refunded the cost. We asked if we could move to a lower deck and since the ship was almost full, we took cabin 3031, a veranda stateroom. Viking stated that they would not refund the difference for what we paid for the original room and the lower grade room since it was a motion sickness issue. Between the pills and the lower cabin, we were able to finish the cruise in relative comfort.
As many others have stated, the ship is beautiful, clean, and well maintained.Cabins were cleaned twice a day, no one asked us to but anything, and all staff members were friendly and courteous.
Food was excellent and, plentiful, and varied. My only complaint with dining was that after my wife had a glass of coke with lunch or dinner, she was not offered a refill.
The included shore excursions we took were rather dull and short; we took a few long optional excursions and enjoyed them.
We enjoyed the Beatles and ABBA shows, but outside of those, there was not a lot of entertainment unless you like classical pieces or acoustic guitar solos. Singers in Torshaven, the night lounge, did a nice enough job though.
I did spend a lot of time in the spa which is extremely well kept and is probably one of the best at sea. Read Less
This was our third sailing on the Viking Sea, and my wife and I have become very fond of this spectacularly beautiful, well-designed, and immaculately-maintained ship! The staterooms are setup just right to accommodate our needs, the ... Read More
This was our third sailing on the Viking Sea, and my wife and I have become very fond of this spectacularly beautiful, well-designed, and immaculately-maintained ship! The staterooms are setup just right to accommodate our needs, the public spaces are excellent and abundant, and the crew seem uniformly happy and eager to please. The food and entertainment are very good, and the other amenities (wifi, pool, spa, fitness center, sports deck, lounges, laudromat, and shops) are very good. We chose this particular cruise because of the itinerary (Caribbean and South America) included some ports that we hadn't visited previously (Santo Domingo, Cartagena, and Santa Marta), two ports that I hadn't visited for more than 60 years and was eager to enjoy again (Aruba and Curacao), two places that we are very familiar with (San Juan and St. Kitts), as well as opportunities to enjoy two At-Sea days.
Viking Cruises handled the arrangements for our air transportation, our transfers between the airport and cruise terminal prior to our embarkation, and also after debarkation. When we arrived at the airport in San Juan, it took a while for all of the expected passengers to obtain their baggage and to check-in with the Viking representatives.. The bus that was brought us to the ship had a door malfunction, and it took a long time for us to get through the San Juan rush hour traffic.. But everything fell into place as soon as we arrived at the cruise terminal -- welcome, check-in, champagne, dinner, meeting our stateroom attendant, and having our baggage delivered to our cabin.
This was our 23rd ocean cruise, and we have observed the cruise industry's trend toward increasing large cruiseships, and increasingly large numbers of passengers onboard those ships. On the mega-ships, it seems that one must spend a large amount of time waiting for elevators,.and searching for a quiet place in public areas to read or talk. But this is NOT the way things are on Viking Oceans cruises! We are impressed at the variety, beauty, and comfort of public spaces on Viking Oceans ships! The Atrium, Wintergarden, Explorer Lounge, Pool Area, and decks are superb!
Viking Oceans ships offer several dining alternatives, including The Restaurant (the ship's elegant main dining room), the World Cafe (buffet), Manfredi's (Italian food), The Chef's Table (gourmet food & drink), Mamsen;s (Scandinavian deli), and the Pool Grill (hamburgers, etc.). My wife has certain food sensitivities, and the ship's wait staff were quite knowledgeable about those issues, and very accommodating to her needs. The food was sometimes excellent, and always at least very good.
My wife and I enjoyed walking the outside decks every day, and I also worked-out in the ship's excellent Fitness Center every day! We enjoyed the musicians and singers that entertained us onboard the ship. As musicians ourselves, we appreciated the variety of musical styles that were presented, as well as the musicianship of the performers. Read Less
We have wanted to try a luxury cruise for sometime. We have cruised about 15x on various lines including Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, MSC and Royal Caribbean. Here are some things to consider if you are used to standard cruise lines and ... Read More
We have wanted to try a luxury cruise for sometime. We have cruised about 15x on various lines including Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, MSC and Royal Caribbean. Here are some things to consider if you are used to standard cruise lines and debating on higher cost of luxury. Pros for us are fewer people, no crowds, food is amazing! There are 4 different dining venues and 2 specialty ($40 & $60pp). Regular dining room, Asian style, tapas style and our favorite cooking on a hot lava stone. Food was so good we did not do specialty restaurants. Room service has an extensive menu, available any time and Butler sets up linen table setting. You can get “room service” any where on ship when other venues are not open, like between breakfast and lunch. All inclusive is a plus. We have added drink packages on to previous cruises but it is very nice not having to sign every time you get a drink. Room is stocked with what ever you want, wine, beer and liquor. We asked for vodka and they brought a full size bottle! When we drink our bottle of wine it was replaced with another one.
There is a butler and he was great but besides making sure our fridge was stocked I am not sure this was a big difference than a cabin steward. Maybe we just did not ask for much. They will shine your shoes, make dinner reservations... The cabins are fantastic, major pro! We typically do balconies or mini suites. All cabins are suites. Bottom ones are window, then floor to ceiling window, next are balconies. We had a deluxe veranda, booked last minute so not much choice. Lots of room, bathrooms are the best we have had. Great shower with rain head and hand held.
The cons (for us) are the ship is reallly quiet, very few activities or entertainment. We do not go to shows in the theater but if you do know you will not find that here. We do enjoy a band playing in a lounge and music pool side. There are limited bars and they are not really set up for socializing around the bar. The main lounge has a small bar off to the side and the couches and chairs. There was a solo guitar player, really not much in terms of lively entertaininment. We would have loved an upscale bar with views to relax at in the evening and chat with other guests, A nice martini bar with mixologists would fit well on this ship.
There is not main/grand staircase or center bar/entertainment area like you find on other ships. MSC has very attractive boats and I am fond of the rich wood look in lounges on Princess. Celebrity has some attractive areas as well. I am not a fan of goudi look of Carnival. The decks and public areas are very nice on SilverSpirit but could use a bit more elegance in lounges. Rich woods or maybe crystal lights, just something. The carpeting in hallways needs to be replaced, many stains and dirty looking, the walls are tile and I found them unattractive for a luxury ship. This may seem picky but when paying a much higher price your expectations do go up. The gym is super small, so if you work out you may be disappointed. I did a yoga class that was on a small out door deck, 6 of us barely fit. One day it rained so another fitness class was done inside in weight room area. There were 7 of us and barely had space to move, not to mention how warm it got in that little room. The instructor mentioned the week prior no one showed for a single class so I think 7 was a mass crowd.
We were in port until 10pm or later but most shops close early so not a lot of things to do after dark. The casino can only open when at sea so it was open very late and the size was like an arcade. We are not big gamblers so this did not matter to us.
You just have to think about what matters to you most. Overall the service, cabin, food and small number of passengers were a major plus! We had a very good vacation but most likely will not book again with SilverSeas. It was too quiet for us and not sure the high price tag was worth it. We would love to find a higher end option with more areas of entertainment and mingling. Read Less
First Viking Cruise, my wife and I enjoyed it immensely. Good staff, very engaged and aware of customer needs. Lots of attention to detail like constantly refreshing buffet offerings in World Cafe. The "all in" policy on tips, ... Read More
First Viking Cruise, my wife and I enjoyed it immensely. Good staff, very engaged and aware of customer needs. Lots of attention to detail like constantly refreshing buffet offerings in World Cafe. The "all in" policy on tips, free mini-bar etc was nice.
The Port Talks were excellent, and gave a good idea of what to expect. The talk and slides on the antique cars was great. How do the Cubans maintain 60 year old cars, and get simple things like oil filters. All answered. Talks on politics, on the cities to be visited, etc.
Room 6031 was clean, and perfectly fine for a short cruise. The lack of drawer storage was notable,so we threw the hair dryer, shoe shine pack, etc into the closet to create more space.
Dining was fine. We had dinner in Manfredi's, and at the Chef's Table, as well as in the World Cafe. The wine selection was OK, the (free) base wines ranged from good down to swill. Beer was fine with a good range of European choices. Several special nights with pig roasts out on the aft deck, seafood spectacular, etc. All were done well. Full breakfasts were available, with alcohol for those who wanted it.
The excursions are a work in progress. Cuba doesn't have a lot of experience in tourism, and more remote places like Cienfuegos and Santiago are behind the curve. That's to be expected. On four excursions, we had two superb guides, one OK, and one awful. I'm not sure how much control Viking has over the tour operators (I only saw one provider in both places). In one case, we were expected to walk through knee high grass, down a washed out culvert to see a lake. And back up via another route. Older people had trouble other , people were concerned about ticks in the grass. Another guide engaged us in a forced march, so we could spend a whole half hour in yet another a rum / cigar shop. The third in four excursions. Several people had trouble with the pace. There was a lot of overlap, as we received the Cienfuegos city park talk twice, from two different guides. It was interesting what they chose to emphasize.
Some guides were great, and the excursions provided a great window into a lovely country. Hard working people, horse drawn carts, street musicians, vivid colors, wonderful sunsets. I had the opportunity to walk by myself through the mercado and beyond after one excursion ended. The guide had received 30 people, and delivered 30 people back to the dock. After that, I walked off on my own. About a two mile walk.
Friendly people selling wood carvings, hats, gourds, etc. Didn't feel the least bit threatened. The neighborhoods looked a little more worn than those traversed by the tour buses, but it seemed more real. Street musicians, very lively areas. I speak a little Spanish, and did fine.
The US government requires that the trip address certain people to people needs. So, we saw an honors arts school, with young children demonstrating high levels of musical proficiency. And visited the adjacent painting studio where the instructors displayed their work, most in support of the revolution. For sale, too. Other schools visible on our trip did not appear to have the same level of maintenance or exterior paint. But, all kids wear uniforms, and those we met were exceptionally polite.
I'd go back to either Cienfuegos or Santiago de Cuba in an instant, and I will. But, I know it will be different, just like it was different five years ago. A government patrol boat sat near our ship in both ports. In Santiago, the ship was required to anchor about 30 minutes outside the main harbor, making a long tender ride
Practical notes: I tipped guides, taxi drivers, etc in all of US dollars, Cuban convertible pesos, and Euro. They were grateful for the tips, it's a big part of their income. The government takes a cut off the conversion of all US$ to Cuban currency, so most preferred the Euro
We departed Santiago de Cuba in the late afternoon, bound for Miami. A day at sea, and a 6am arrival in Miami. Customs doesn't report for work until 7am, so it was 7.15 before the first people were processed. Everyone was required to be out of their cabins by 8am, and off the ship by 9am. I would have liked a few more hours in Santiago de Cuba, and an hour more sleep in Miami.
This is not a child friendly cruise. No kids activities, and most excursions were adult level. Not too much partying, the average age was probably mid-60s. Read Less
We chose this cruise because we haven’t been to the Canary Is., and were looking forward to visiting. As explained earlier, we still haven’t visited them.. The Captain Did the right thing by avoiding the 70ft waves that hit ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we haven’t been to the Canary Is., and were looking forward to visiting. As explained earlier, we still haven’t visited them.. The Captain Did the right thing by avoiding the 70ft waves that hit Tenerife. The Company did the wrong thing by not crediting our accounts or offering some compensation for the missed ports and fuel savings.
it was also wrong to not totally reimburse passengers for the price of booked tours.
Embarkation and disembarkation were handled efficiently.
We will not let Oceania book our airfare again. this was their second chance. this time we travelled for 21 hours joining the ship in Barcelona from Phoenix.
we actually enjoyed the 8 sea days with no schedules to keep or ABC tours to take.
did a bus tour on our own in Malaga, a very lovely town.
entertainment on board was to our liking. Yes, the production company is young. But, unlike some, the singers can indeed dance, and the dancers also can sing. a few flat notes here and there. If you want Broadway caliber, those BIG ships or Broadway are the Place for you.
all on board staff, except one front desk guy seems to be happy doing their jobs and were very kind.
We did meet two women who enjoyed soaking In their tubs. Most of us wish the showers had taken the place of those tubs which just took up valuable space. How small? well, If you dropped your soap you had to open the door to be able to bend down and retrieve it.
Hubby says this is the best food at sea, Regent is right there in the running too.we enjoyed all the specialty restaurants. Food at Jacques, as you may guess, is very rich. the main dining room offers a fine selection each meal as well as the waves grill and the big buffet.
the special brunch buffet featured all the ice carvings and specialty desserts, and beautiful fruit and.vegie displays. Read Less
Third time on the Voyager, and sixth sailing RSSC. Good news: the regular cabins are still great; house keeping still strong and service oriented; refurb quite good; great menus in the restaurants; alhough food is very good, quality no ... Read More
Third time on the Voyager, and sixth sailing RSSC. Good news: the regular cabins are still great; house keeping still strong and service oriented; refurb quite good; great menus in the restaurants; alhough food is very good, quality no longer outstanding, and quite inconsistent; service WAY BELOW standards we always loved. Never had to ask for coffee, water and beverages in the past —— this time it was the norm. Wifi was the WORST! Regent probably had no choice but to give it for free.
Been involved in mergers and acquisitions —— understand how new owners assume that they can operate the new acquisitions better and more economically than previous owners. In my opinion NCL either reduced F and B staffing or have new members that are not well trained.
Captain and crew did a great job navigating the storm! Felt sorry for the room service waiters —— they really had a workout!
Took our first Crystal cruse last year. Other than cabin size, service and food was superior. Read Less
This is cruise 18 with Oceania on all ships but Serena. I am not sure if i have been unlucky but the service level was less than “normal”. For example at the Sunday brunch my wife and i finished before any staff member asked us ... Read More
This is cruise 18 with Oceania on all ships but Serena. I am not sure if i have been unlucky but the service level was less than “normal”. For example at the Sunday brunch my wife and i finished before any staff member asked us if we wanted water, juice or anything else except cocktails. At dinner in the dining room the opposite, cant find a drink waiter and have to ask. It seems there is a staff shortage. The other annoying thing is the berths, there was a German ship “AIDA’ shadowing us and in every common port it had the in town berth when one was available and we got the container terminal. This happened even when the advertised Oceania berth was in town. Is all this Norwegian cost cutting a little at a time? I also note that the level benefits are being downgraded next year. In a way that is good news for me because the loyalty program did have me captive to an extent so I now feel less trapped. About to try Viking for the first time and maybe not the last. Have already tried Ponant and although it is a very different product being “expedition” yachts of 200 pax it has overcome finding new places to cruise given i have exhausted the Oceania network. Read Less
We recently completed a 10 day cruise around Cuba on the Azamara Journey. This was our 4th cruise in total and our first on Azamara. We chose Azamara mostly because of the itinerary and that it's a small ship experience marketed as being ... Read More
We recently completed a 10 day cruise around Cuba on the Azamara Journey. This was our 4th cruise in total and our first on Azamara. We chose Azamara mostly because of the itinerary and that it's a small ship experience marketed as being more upscale and luxurious than the typical mega-ships. We have been wanting to visit Cuba since they opened it up to Americans and thought a cruise would be a great way to see more than just Havana.
After some initial snafus with our reservation that was graciously resolved by Bonnie over on the CruiseCritic discussion boards, we boarded in Miami for our 10 circle trip around the Cuban island with stops in Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman, Cienfuegos and Havana. The most appealing part of the itinerary was the promise of multi-day stays in port rather than the usual arrive-at-8am-leave-at-5pm schedules of other cruise lines.
Which leads me to our first big gripe with Azamara: it was only after plotting the arrival/departure times on the calendar that we realized that the "extended" time in port was very misleading. On the itinerary, it listed only 1 day at sea but in actuality we ended up with almost 4 full sea days. For example, days 3 & 4 were listed as in port in Santiago, however, we arrived at 8am on Tuesday and left at 6am Wednesday. That's not 2 days - that's one day + one night. Wednesday turned out to be really a sea day but that's not how it was shown on the schedule.
Same for Cienfuegos on Friday/Saturday. We arrived Friday morning but left the dock 8am on Sat and didn't arrive Havana until Sunday evening. That's almost a day and half at sea. We really only got 1 full day at each of these ports and just 2 days in Havana instead of 3. We talked to several others who felt that Azamara was very misleading in the marketing about the time in port. I know that ships can't magically teleport from one location to the next but it would have been less confusing if the itinerary matched reality so we knew what to expect and plan our excursions accordingly. Azamara highlights that they have more immersive itineraries by allowing more time in port but I don't think it counts when that time is spent sleeping.
Second major disappointment was the overall lack of service throughout the ship. While the crew and waitstaff were generally good and always very courteous, it was decidedly less than what you'd expect from a "luxury" cruise line. Water glasses frequently went unfilled and you had to hunt around for someone to take your order or answer a question. The exception to that was for some reason the waitstaff was always there in a flash to whisk away your empty plate or glass - like there was a reprimand waiting for them if they left dirty dishes about but initial orders or refills were often slow to arrive. Other couples we met onboard talked about their past cruises on Regent or SilverSea and how the staff fell over themselves trying to serve you and worked hard to anticipate your needs rather than wait to be called upon. While service was not bad, per se...it just wasn't on par with other luxury brands or even some mainstream brands like Celebrity.
This brings me to the third major criticism and that was the food. The buffet was really disappointing as was the grill out by the pool. The food looked very nice and there was always good selection but it was also exceptionally bland and lacking flavor. Almost like salt and spices are forbidden in the kitchen. Several times we were let down by something that looked amazing only to be utterly tasteless. For example, the prime rib was very drab. How a kitchen can make a staple dish like prime rib boring and totally lacking in flavor is beyond me.
The main dining room was a bit better and we ate there most nights. Eventually we learned what things to avoid and how to ask for specific items we had had before. Most nights the menu followed a theme chosen by the chef. There were some rather odd choices some nights that really wasn't all that exciting, however you could always order a selection from the a la cart menu.
The daily wine selections were usually pretty good and we never felt the need to buy the special bottles listed at considerable upsell prices. We had the Premium beverage package which was adequate for our needs but you could see there are some shennanigans going on with the way liquor selections are structured. It's all intended to get you to go with the Ultimate package instead at $22/day. For us it wasn't worth it and we just paid for the few top shelf drinks individually. The premium package includes all beers and most lower tier "well" spirits and mixed drinks which is fine for most people unless you have a specific liquor preference. Many specialty drinks like caipirinas, desert wines and top shelf liquors are excluded and require separate purchase at full price. It's a little confusing as to what drinks are part of which package and I believe this is intentional.
We only got to try the specialty restaurant once and we really liked it in spite of the $30 per person cover. Had we known before that the buffet and main dining would be so lacking we would have made reservations at Prime C or Agualina every night. Reservations filled up quickly however - especially for the last night at sea. Another intentional method to get you to upsell over and above what's included.
I booked a massage at the spa for the first sea day and it was very good. I was not expecting the sales pitch for their high priced lotions so just be aware that they'll try to sell you at the end. Also, spa services automatically include an 18% gratuity so don't feel pressured to add extra tip. Otherwise the spa is rather underwhelming and not worth the high prices. There's a special sun deck and hot tub just for spa patrons but I don't see how it's worth the extra price. The exercise room is just off the spa and while adequate for getting a workout in, there isn't much in the way of equipment. The usual treadmills, stationary bikes and nautilus-type weights.
We booked a guaranteed outside cabin and the room was fine. A little small of course but perfectly adequate. I should have splurged for a veranda instead but ultimately it was fine for our needs. With the extra time at sea and most of our time in port dedicated to excursions, we didn't spend a huge amount of time in the cabin anyway. Our stewards were fantastic and were like ninjas - always slipping in to replace towels and straighten up while we were out. They greeted us by name each morning.
We were assigned cabin 6004 which is an oversized outside stateroom at the very front of the ship on deck 6 port side. It is extra long which allows it much more space than usual - about the size of a typical hotel room. This is due to the space where the balcony is in the veranda staterooms is replaced with a large round picture window approx 4 feet in diameter. It creates a bit of a "fishbowl" experience but it was perfectly fine as we spent most of our time outside anyway. There is a small loveseat and coffee table in addition to the desk & chair. Plenty of room to move around and we were not bumping into each other except for in/out of the bathroom and around the bottom of the bed (which is the same layout for all other non-suite cabins).
Being at the front of the ship you definitely feet the movement - both up & down and side to side rocking. Might be worse on really rough seas. We could hear/feel rumblings down below when the boat pitched upward that I suspect were the stabilizers kicking in. It's a smaller ship so this was very common throughout the boat even in the aft dining room. My wife is prone to seasickness and was initially worried about the location, however she did not have any problems.
Other issue with the location was the noise from the anchor chains and vibration from the front thrusters when entering and leaving port. This was temporary however and we did not find it too bothersome except for it waking us up at 5am on the last day.
As our cabin was directly above the Cabaret Lounge on deck 5, we could hear the bass and drums during band practice and evening performances. This might annoy some people but we didn't really have any problem with it as the shows are rather short anyway.
There is a connecting door to the suite next door and we occasionally heard muffled voices thru the walls and from the hallway but somebody suggested putting a towel or bathrobe against the floor and this worked to block out both noise and light. Otherwise the cabin is very quiet, secluded and dark.
Bathroom is tiny and takes some getting used to with regards to maneuvering - especially the shower. The shower curtain clings to you but we found if you put the bottom edge of the curtain outside the stall (there is a groove in the floor leading to a drain outside the shower) then it helps to create some additional space. Not a lot of space to spread out so you have to be creative with storage. This is true on any cruise ship however.
Bed was super comfortable with nice linens and comforter. A/C was great and kept the temperature perfect. Closet organizer was efficient and adequate with plenty of storage. Mirrors and lighting was terrific.
Note to others...do NOT attempt to bring onboard any kind of travel iron or clothes steamer. Ours was confiscated from my wife's luggage upon embarkation. There was no mention of portable steamers being prohibited in the boarding documentation but they said they can set off the fire detectors. The self service laundry on deck 7 has ironing boards and irons as well as laundry supplies. The machines are free but limited so you have to be diligent and strategic about timing in order to get a load or two done ahead of others.
One other gripe...the onboard Internet was so slow it was almost completely useless. Thankfully we did not pay extra for this otherwise we would have been really upset.
Eric, our cruise director was fabulous and very funny. His "grandpa" jokes were groaners but perfectly pitched for the audience. He and the captain even formed a bit of a comedic duo on the daily announcements. You can tell Eric has a definite flair for Broadway showtunes as the music was decidedly tilted towards that genre. Overall the performances by the singers and dancers were very good and entertaining with a good mix of contemporary and traditional music. I'm sure some of the older crowds didn't fully appreciate the ABBA night show. The lounge pianist was charming and the trio band was pleasant. They played upstairs in the Living Room at night and by the pool during the day and at sail aways. It added to the overall pleasantness of the cruise. Nothing was offensive or too wild - nor was it just Perry Como elevator music either. It was a good balance of entertainment for the crowd which definitely skewed a little higher on the age scale than the brochures allude to.
The White Night party was held in port at Cienfuegos and it was the highlight of our trip. The food buffets were over the top and truly gluttonous. Lines were long - especially for the lobster tails but there was something for everyone. The music was fantastic and everyone's spirits were very high. Eric led an actual conga line around the pool area and had a very memorable duet with one of the passengers. It was really a great party and something to look forward to.
We ended up booking a couple of Azamara sponsored excursions and a couple independent trips on our own. In Santiago, we found a local taxi driver who took us to a couple of places like Castro's grave and the memorial to Jose Marti. We saw the changing of the guard at the national cemetery and had lunch in a local paladar with our taxi driver. We got to sit down and chat with him about the country and his life which was very interesting since his English was as limited as our Spanish.
In Cienfuegos, we opted for the excursion to the El Nicho waterfalls about an hour away. This involved a hike in the mountains over some pretty steep terrain although the views at the end were worth it. We also got to visit an artist commune and watched some interpretive dances which was strange to say the least.
Grand Cayman - we had been there before on a different cruise and there's really nothing else to do but go to the beach. We decided to walk which was a mistake in 90+ degree heat and humidity. We caught a bus back to the dock for $5 bucks.
We arrived in Havana Saturday night. We booked the show at the Cabaret Parisian rather than the Tropicana. From what we heard the Tropicana was probably a better choice but the shows are essentially the same. It was a late night however as the show didn't start until 10pm and we didn't get back to the ship until midnight.
Sunday we had arranged for a private tour guide through HavanaTourCompany.com. Our guide was awesome and even managed to deal with including a couple we met onboard at the last minute. We had a fabulous lunch in Old Havana then took a walking tour and convertible ride through the city and to Fusterlandia outside of the city where we bought some original artwork. We saw all the main sights and learned about the history, finishing up that night with dinner and a show at La Taberna. It's definitely worth it to use an independent tour guide in Havana and not go with the overpriced tours offered by the cruise line. You get better pricing, a customized itinerary and the guides are little more open to talking about their lives than the "official" government approved Havanatur.
Monday morning we did the coffee, rum and cigar factory tour. We visited the Partaga cigar factory (which makes 25 other brands like Cohiba and Montecristo). It was a literal sweat shop with 4 floors of un-air conditioned rooms and workers hand rolling cigars for pennies a day. We were then bussed around the city to several government shops to buy cigars and rum getting a bit of a guided tour along the way. Rum and cigars are the same price everywhere (state controlled) so don't feel pressured to buy them on the tours. We were warned not to buy cigars on the street however as there are no guarantees as to quality. It helps to know in advance what you're looking for in terms of brand, sizes and shape. Expect to pay approx 50% less than you can find authentic Cuban cigars elsewhere (Canada for example).
Originally the AzAmazing Evening was scheduled for our evening in Santiago but was changed at the last minute to our arrival night in Havana. Since we had already booked a show we ended up passing on this event. We heard it was rather interesting - a special ballet performance at the Grand Theater.
Overall, we were pleased with our first Azamara cruise and we even booked a second one to Alaska next July - this time with a balcony. We enjoyed our trip and would recommend it to others with the caveat that it all depends on your expectations going in. Some things were great compared to a typical cruise - most standard drinks are included as are tips. There are some areas where you still get nickle & dimed but it's not nearly as bad as the major lines. The smaller ship is a double edged sword - it's more intimate with much fewer passengers but it's also a rather boring ship with not a whole lot to do if you're the type that requires constant excitement. The demographics skew older with not a single child onboard. Most were in their 60's, 70's or 80's although there were a few younger gay couples as well.
The marketing material would have you believe that Azamara is a luxury cruise line - on par with other luxury brands like Regent, SilverSea or Paul Gaugin. In the end, it's a bit like first class on Delta or United Airlines...yes, it is a much better experience than flying coach but it's also no comparison to foreign carriers like Singapore or Emirates. Go in with the proper expectations and you'll have a great time. Read Less
This is a very Beautiful Ship. If you like formalities this is the ship for you. There is a sense of traditional cruising about it. All in all it was a very enjoyable cruise. We ate in the Britannia Club Restaurant. The food was of a very ... Read More
This is a very Beautiful Ship. If you like formalities this is the ship for you. There is a sense of traditional cruising about it. All in all it was a very enjoyable cruise. We ate in the Britannia Club Restaurant. The food was of a very high standard and the service was impeccable. The only down side was the cost of drinks which were very high.
Out cabin was well appointed and well looked after by our steward. The public areas were beautiful, with a lot of dark wood. At night there was plenty of room for sitting but not many people seemed to be drinking. Having commenting on the high cost of drinks it must be said that once we said we did not want one we were not bothered again. We bought drinks off the ship and drank them in our cabin (no corkage charge in your stateroom). There was no problem bringing your own drink onto the ship.
The entertainment was good. All in all a good relaxing cruise Read Less