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Sail Date: February 2018
We selected this cruise because we wanted to travel to Cuba and was told this cruise line offered an amazing experience. We embarked in Montego Bay, Jamaica and thoroughly enjoyed this 7 day cruise. Participating in the Cuba Cruise ... Read More
We selected this cruise because we wanted to travel to Cuba and was told this cruise line offered an amazing experience. We embarked in Montego Bay, Jamaica and thoroughly enjoyed this 7 day cruise. Participating in the Cuba Cruise People to People program was great. The history and cultural information that was presented was factual and comprehensive as well as entertaining. Each Port of Call offered something different yet, provided more of the Cuban culture. . The program did an excellent job addressing the Afro-Cuban influence and culture which is an important part of Cuba's history. . Dr. Arocha, the Destination Expert was very knowledgeable of the Cuban history and culture, and was a great teacher/presenter in all of his presentations. Each of the tours were well planned, and our tour guides were great, too. The daily shows performed by " Cirque Fantastic Concept" were all very well done and quite entertaining, and Danny the Cruise Director, was The Best!!! I must also compliment the chefs, dining staff, bar staff, cabin stewards and of course, musicians. All of them were excellent. Overall, this was an awesome experience and I would recommend it to anyone. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2018
We were planning on an extended stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica and this cruise was offered as a gift to break-up that stay. We always enjoy staying there and Doctors' Cave Beach in particular. The beach is an easy walk to Margaritaville ... Read More
We were planning on an extended stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica and this cruise was offered as a gift to break-up that stay. We always enjoy staying there and Doctors' Cave Beach in particular. The beach is an easy walk to Margaritaville but you pass a lot of shops with aggressive sales people. If you stay for several days, they recognize you and are very respectful. The embarkation was remarkable. we were one of two couples in the terminal for registration which went quickly after we paid the Jamaican government $35 each because we stayed in the country prior to boarding the ship. It was made quicker because we did not register our credit card until we were on the ship. No wait there either. At 25,000 tons it is the smallest ship we have sailed. We have always liked the 80,000 to 110,000 ton ships and we were delighted that we were not forced to sacrifice anything cruising this ship. The tiny pool was drained most of the week because of rough waters. If the pool was tiny the casino was miniscule, six slot machines. Everything else was up to par with any ship. Lots of reviews have talked about how well kept the old ship is. We were in cabin 7009, a junior suite.The balcony was a recent addition and turned an oceanview into a suite. My wife was so pleased with it that she refused to let me pay the small upgrade fee for a full suite. If you can make the same deal, take it. The shower was great and the bath roomy, for a ship. With less than 240 passengers, the ship was at about one third capacity. The official passenger capacity is 1,200 but that puts a body in every bed, bunk and sofa-sleeper. Only one of the two MDRs was open and on lido only one of two serving lines was open. The food was pretty clearly a real effort by some hard working chefs to make the best of a limited budget. The wait staff tried hard to sell the beef and seafood upgrades. The nightly shows were fantastic and all of the lounge acts were great. The shows used performers from all over the ship to put on Cuban themed shows with Cuban born performers. No language barrier. Trivia, games,crafts, dance lessons were all there with photogs everywhere. Captains' party was short and short. Service here was the best ever, probably because they were staffed for almost three times the guests. My wifes' native language is Russian so she was delighted that nearly half of the staff spoke Russian. Most spoke several languages and wore ID badges with flags of nations which indicated their proficiency. All were very good English speakers. Since we are US citizens we did not technically purchase a cruise but we paid to participate in an educational "People-to-People program". The excursions were manditory and included in the price, along with all tips and a drink package. The result was a cruise a little more pricey that we generally buget for a week. To everyone who wants to rush to Cuba before it turns into just another tourist trap ... too late. The Tropicana night club show was remarkable, but it rained in middle of the outdoor performance and our guide remarked that it was cut short as a result. Every bus was made in China and modern, clean and comforable. Every excursion included a shopping stop with many other things obviously made in China. There were no country of origin labels so no evidence they were manufactured in Cuba but lots of evidence that the vendor did not "carve this myself from the best woods". All that said, this was probably the best way to see Cuba under the newest rules . A day in Santiago, overnight in Havana and a day in Cienfuegos. Lectures on the ship were entertaining. This ship rotates to Greece in March and I don't think a return is certain. A lot of things had to line-up for us to take this cruise and I don't think I would do it again. We did not talk with many of our fellow passengers to get their opinion but we never encountered an informal gripe session. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
My family of 6 just returned yesterday from our 1 week cruise. We started our cruise in Montego Bay. The boarding process was simple and the terminal was not crowded, which we were very happy to see. By the time we got a drink in hand ... Read More
My family of 6 just returned yesterday from our 1 week cruise. We started our cruise in Montego Bay. The boarding process was simple and the terminal was not crowded, which we were very happy to see. By the time we got a drink in hand to start our vacation, our luggage had already made it to our rooms. The rooms were fine for us. Nothing fancy, but the bed was comfortable, the shower had hot water, and there was plenty of space for clothes. We didn't plan on spending much time in the rooms except to sleep, so we decided to save our money and not get an upgrade. We did look into it once we boarded. I believe the cost was around $350 to upgrade to a outside cabin with a window, and $450 for a balcony. Entertainment on the boat was exceptional. We went to every show in the evening at 9:00. They mainly consisted of dancers and singers, all of which are from Cuba. The dancers were especially talented. We frequented the Eros Lounge often where there was music every night. The piano and violinist were wonderful. We would also spend time there during the day to participate in the various games/entertainment. There were many games of Bingo, trivia, towel folding lessons, etc. Staff on the Crystal was second to none. We were able to spend a lot of time talking to them and getting to know their stories. Vladimir was absolutely hysterical. He hosted trivia often and would always come by to talk to us and make us laugh. Maherlys(sp?) was also wonderful. She hosted Karaoke every night and was able to get every person in my family to sing, which is quite an accomplishment! Alina was part of the wait staff in the lounges/bars. She was our favorite, although all the others were great as well. Our wait staff in the restaurant was led by Wayan. I would recommend asking for his section. Although there is no assigned seating, after the 2nd night on board, he would come over to the Eros Lounge to let us know that he had a table waiting for us. Lastly, I have to say that the excursions into Cuba were very well done. Havana was definitely my favorite location. It was nice that we had a lot of free time there to explore the city on our own. We did not do the Tropicana tour, but instead ate at a privately owned restaurant in the Old Havana district. It was a wonderful meal, and I would recommend that to anyone trying to get away from more touristy type places for a night. Paladar Los Mercaderes was the name of it, and it was only a 5 minute walk from the cruise terminal. Overall we had an amazing trip. I hope to be back on this boat when it sails in Greece! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
This cruise was highly recommended by friends and we decided to try it for our annual Christmas Vacation. I have to say the entire experience was amazing. The nightly shows exceeded my expectations, the staff was friendly, kind, courteous ... Read More
This cruise was highly recommended by friends and we decided to try it for our annual Christmas Vacation. I have to say the entire experience was amazing. The nightly shows exceeded my expectations, the staff was friendly, kind, courteous and extremely helpful. The food and service at the restaurants were exceptional. I also liked the photo shoots and the fact that they were able to capture most of our memorable moments. Of course,I spent close to $100 collecting pictures of special moments with my family, but it was worth it. The cabins were as expected and the housekeeping staff did an amazing job cleaning them twice daily. Loved the daily activities, the zumba, yoga and dance classes. The only improvement I would recommend, however, is to the breakfast menu - having the same menu items every morning was not very appealing for a 7 day cruise. But overall, it was a great first time experience. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
I chose this cruise for its itinerary which started from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and circumnavigated Cuba, stopping at Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos. The ship was quite nice, well maintained. The staff was very friendly and ... Read More
I chose this cruise for its itinerary which started from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and circumnavigated Cuba, stopping at Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos. The ship was quite nice, well maintained. The staff was very friendly and helpful,the food was excellent, and the entertainment was outstanding. The included tours of the three cities, and the drinks package were good deals. The only extra expense was the $149 each cost for the Tropicana Club evening. That was actually worth it! The person-to-person enrichment lectures by a U of Havana historian were very informative. There were also documentary movies about Cuban history and Afro-Cuban music and dance. Americans received a certificate at the end of the cruise, which could be used to satisfy a current US Treasury requirement that travel to Cuba be for educational/humanitarian reasons. The ship was way below its capacity of 1200 passengers. While that is great for the passengers who are onboard, the company deserves more business, considering what a great time we had. I am happy to recommend this cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
I chose this cruise because I wanted to visit multiple places in Cuba. My parents took this cruise in March, and loved it. It was my first cruise, so between that and the newness of the Cuba experience, I was not sure what to expect. It ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to visit multiple places in Cuba. My parents took this cruise in March, and loved it. It was my first cruise, so between that and the newness of the Cuba experience, I was not sure what to expect. It was amazing. Let me start out addressing critiques I've seen elsewhere -- yes, it's an older ship and it's small. If you're looking for a Quantum of the Seas type experience, this is not the place to look for it. The whole point of this cruise (at least for American travelers) is the educational experience -- the people to people itinerary for seeing Cuba. This was my first cruise, and I found the size of the ship perfect. It's easy to find your way around, and there are lovely back decks to hang out on as well as a sun deck on the top floor. It is IMPECCABLY clean -- cleaning staff are at work all the time, and the cabin crew serviced my cabin at least twice a day. I had problems with my toilet at checkin and it was fixed within a very short time. We only had about 200-odd people on our cruise between Montego Bay and Havana -- I would guess that went up to 300 or so when people embarked in Havana. (By the way, don't embark in Havana. You'll miss one of the two days the ship docks in Havana, plus, I don't think Montego Bay is all that great. Embark in Montego Bay, and be sure to book Club Mobay for your trip home. After all, you're booking a Cuba cruise, get the whole Cuba experience!) I think the low numbers were partly due to time of year but we were also told that numbers of travelers on this trip was lower this year -- due to the election? Due to terrorism? Whatever the reason, it's a good/bad situation. Good because those of us on the cruise got so much personal attention!!!! I felt bad for the many staff who were just standing around waiting to be helpful -- I am sure it was not fun for them. But they were unfailingly gracious and attentive. It felt like we had our own private cruise! (Shout out to Alina, Zdanek, and Zander!) Lots of space, lots of comfort. A lot of people I talked to at home were surprised Cuba travel is still allowed -- it is! This trip is totally legal, and I wish more Americans would take it. The professor (Dr. Jorge Arocha) who does the lectures is an energetic, smart speaker. I am a college professor, and I really admired his pedagogy and how he framed Cuban history and culture. He emphasized that the questions we ask are more important than the answers -- so true! The food is pretty good: not great, but pretty good and there is always a LOT of it. I mostly ate at the buffet which has a nice outside deck. The sit-down restaurant is also quite nice. There are lots of activities if you want, but also time to just chill (no one is required to attend the lectures or Cuba activities on board, but I highly recommend you do). The at sea days are perfectly times between the three stops: Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos. If you are American, don't worry about changing money to Euros or Canadian-- you can very easily change USD at every port right off the ship. Even though there is a 10% levy (87 cents to one CUC) I think by the time you exchange your money into Canadian/Euros and pay fees etc there it's not worth it. The excursions were great -- excellent guides and destinations. The first night in Havana, I purchased the extra excursion to the Tropicana from the ship. I think it was a little overpriced, but it was really fun. My point is: don't be afraid to find an excursion of your own for that first night in Havana if there is something that interests you differently. You also will have several hours to yourself in Havana the second day, which is great! Kids will not find this cruise very exciting: there were no kids on my ship (which makes it nice for adults) and I suspect they would not find the historical stuff interesting unless their interests really tended that way and they were teenagers. Age range of passengers: 40+; lots of retirees. I am 50 and made friends with some lovely people my age on the ship. Also: I am not a cruise entertainment kind of person: but the entertainment here completely won me over. The evening shows are utterly charming and so well done by the company! What else...had a facial that was great (yay Rose!) and not really too badly priced for the setting. There is a small but nice fitness center and steam/sauna. I had to pay an 80% upcharge because I was traveling alone. Even so, I think this cruise was an incredible value. And for people sharing a cabin, even more so. I would do this trip again in a minute. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
I selected this cruise because it was offered by Apple Vacations as an authorized People-to-People tour for Americans and it was a smaller ship (since I had never been on a cruise before, the idea of being on a boat with 1000's of ... Read More
I selected this cruise because it was offered by Apple Vacations as an authorized People-to-People tour for Americans and it was a smaller ship (since I had never been on a cruise before, the idea of being on a boat with 1000's of other travelers was not my idea of vacation.) There is a more luxurious (MORE expensive) cruise line that also cruises around Cuba but I'm not one who needs be waited on hand-and-foot so I didn't want to pay for it! For those now worried about too many Americans "ruining" the experience, the guest ratio on our trip was about one-third. Most guests were probably 50+ on our sailing (but there were a few 20 and 30-somethings). No young children on our trip. Our sailing was below the 900ish guest capacity. Maybe only 1/3 full so the staff was not overwhelmed/busy so we took the opportunity to try to have conversations with many of them. We learned where they were from (Bali, Cuba, Philippines, Mauritius and others) and life on a cruise ship for 10 month contract. From the Cuban staff, we learned about growing up and living on the island. There was one full service restaurant not open during our trip (not sure if that was because of low guest count or refurbishment?) but that was OK. We never had a problem getting a seating for dinner. We chose to eat at the buffet for breakfasts and lunches while on-board. Menu changed nightly in full service restaurant. Breakfast buffet was the same every day. Lunch buffet varied slightly day-to-day, including a poolside cook-out one day. Only attended two of the nightly "big show" (Cirque and Caberet) and in my opinion they were surprisingly good considering the ship size. There was an instrumental band that played other times on pool deck and before/after shows which was good. There was also entertainment in the Euros lounge but we didn't participate. Tours for US citizens are included (except Tropicana in Havana). The dancing presentation at the "culture stop" in Santiago was too long in my opinion. Liked having free time to eat/shop/explore between tours in Havana on both bays. Tropicana cost $149 (included transportation, champagne welcome drink, rum and cola)... worth it! Costumes are amazing! Weather was perfect to sit on the back-of-the-ship patio bar anytime of day. That was our favorite spot for great sunsets, cigar smoking, great conversations with other guests and staff! We learned staff is assigned to a specific bar for a week so Emerson, Eka and Jodanys were our bartenders and they took great care of us. All were incredibly kind and friendly (so it was sad for me to leave). The waiters were Sandra, Ilena, Isabella and Alejandro that week and we enjoyed talking with them also. Emerson would get a few hours break from the patio bar and then return to the disco bar for the end of the night festivities (karaoke then dancing). Again, he took great care of us! For breakfast and lunch, we sat on the pool deck where Konool and Pratiksha often took great care of us. Edwin was often the bartender there... and he has a great voice too which we learned at karaoke one night ... and then asked him to join us for a song (or two) other nights. I'm hoping (because it was slow), it was ok for him to leave his post to be part of a guest's duet (GREAT SERVICE!!!) Our housekeepers did a great job too! Sorry I didn't catch there names but I saw them occasionally in the halls in mornings and evenings where they would politely greet me (and I even got a compliment on my outfit one night). Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2017
For our first cruise, we wanted a smaller ship and were very interested in visiting multiple locations in Cuba. We were not disappointed! Excursions in Santiago de Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos were excellent with knowledgeable & fun ... Read More
For our first cruise, we wanted a smaller ship and were very interested in visiting multiple locations in Cuba. We were not disappointed! Excursions in Santiago de Cuba, Havana and Cienfuegos were excellent with knowledgeable & fun tour guides. Our week was a 'slow' one on board with only 110-210 passengers. Perfect for getting to know people and superb service everywhere. Chef Jesus in the Leda buffet (and leader of two cooking demos we attended) was the reason why we ate in the buffet for every single meal (except for our night out in Havana when we went to Cafe Taberna). The food was amazing, Jesus shared cooking tips and was always so pleasant. Gaspar, Ritesh, Nadia, Isabelle and Zunami in the Thalassa bar went above and beyond, not only serving drinks but sharing information about themselves and asking questions about where we live in Canada. I don't think they've ever seen anyone drink as many Americano coffees as my husband did on this cruise! We highly recommend this cruise to anyone. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
Cabin 6204. We chose this cruse because we wanted to see different cities of Cuba without the hassle of travel and hotel changes. We wanted an all inclusive trip and this was perfect! And the People to People program was of interest to us ... Read More
Cabin 6204. We chose this cruse because we wanted to see different cities of Cuba without the hassle of travel and hotel changes. We wanted an all inclusive trip and this was perfect! And the People to People program was of interest to us and I must say the instructors on the ship were excellent and we enjoyed all of the classes. It made the trip much more interesting. Kudos to Jerry and Jorge for their excellent teaching and information, we now have a much better understanding of the country and it's history thanks to them. We had a junior balcony suite and it was very comfortable. The only thing I would say is bring a 3 way adapter for the one and only 120v electrical outlet to charge multiple devices. If you have European gear and plugs no worries. Not a lot of closet space for long items but you don't need a lot of clothes for the trip anyway. Bath and shower a little tight but it's not a big boat! I would like to say Thank you to all the crew of the Crystal. They went above and beyond in all areas to make this a trip to remember. Thanks to Raphaella for keeping us up to date on tours and tickets, she has a great big smile and was always watching out for us. Raphaella my hair is blond remember! Thanks to Martha for teaching me how to 1,2,3 and boom! I can't dance any better but I look good! Thanks to Mahley my Karaoke Queen from her King! And Vladimir (Stop the bus), thanks for the fun and games. To the cast of the theater and the band all I can say is WOW! You amazed night after night show after show. Your talent is amazing. Thanks to Big Willie and all the dining crew that made every meal an event! To Rubia; Thank you for your beautiful smile and always watching out for us and taking care of us. You were a pleasure to be around everyday. Special thanks to Danny for his never ending energy and flow of information. He was a pleasure to be around anytime of the day or night. He is like the Energizer Bunny, keeps going and going and going! And to the medical crew a special thanks also for their treatment of my minor sunburn, you were wonderful! This was absolutely one of the most enjoyable cruses that we have been on. I would recommend to everyone that if you are considering a cruse to Cuba, based on our experience this is absolutely the one to take to see the country and have a wonderful time. Thanks again to the wonderful team on the Celestyal Crystal, you were wonderful! Read Less
31 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
Chose this cruise due to price and location. Had a Jr. Balcony Suite. This room had a very poor.. There was a refrigerator in the middle of the closet, thus no room to hang clothes unless they were to lean against the frig. The safe was on ... Read More
Chose this cruise due to price and location. Had a Jr. Balcony Suite. This room had a very poor.. There was a refrigerator in the middle of the closet, thus no room to hang clothes unless they were to lean against the frig. The safe was on the floor had to get down on a knee to use. Then if following the instructions that were with the safe was not the way I was showed how to use the safe. Maybe saw the cabin steward twice the whole week and it was at least day 3 before even knew if room steward was male or female! Had sign in room if left towel hanging then would not change, but changed every time. The trash cans were the ones with step on lids, what a pain. The toilet paper holder was a reach for even me a tall person, the the end of the roll is looped inside the roller!. The front desk could never really answer any questions! The food variety was a little to be desired! The fact that you had to pay to get a hamburger was astonishing and no ice cream outside restaurant without paying. The activities were a joke, no prizes, except you got to keep your answer sheet! We only saw the cruise director when she introduced the shows! They would leave a polish on the hand rails so after you came down the stairs your hands would be black! The way they did the white drink package was totally a mystery as to why it worked the way it did. For every time you ordered a drink they had to scan the card even if you were still in the same location. The excursions were good you just never knew how long they were going to last, The disembarkation was a real joke as you did not know what time you were to depart and when they made an announcement you could not hear ir even setting in a lounge! Read Less
28 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose this cruise because we wanted a convenient way to see multiple cities in Cuba, not have to worry about accommodations and satisfy to OFAC requirements since we are US citizens. We were not disappointed. First off, to address ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted a convenient way to see multiple cities in Cuba, not have to worry about accommodations and satisfy to OFAC requirements since we are US citizens. We were not disappointed. First off, to address the ship. It is a relatively older ship. It does not have a rock climbing wall, it does not have a water slide, and yes the cabins are on the small side. But that is not why we went on this cruise. We went to see Cuba. And that we did. Three cities in 7 days, with an overnight in Havana. We wished we could have had more free time in Santo Domingo de Cuba and Cienfuegos, but I think the tour operators were trying to make sure that they were compliant with the people to people requirements. The Afro Cuban dance demonstration went on a little long. People in Cuba were very friendly, and there was no anti-American sentiment that we saw. Or maybe we were mistaken for Canadians :-) Prices for souvenirs are reasonable, except for cigars, which we were warned to buy only in certified stores because there are a lot of counterfeit ones on the streets apparently made of banana leaves. We did not have any of the boarding issues in Havana that other people have commented on. Apparently there is now room for two ships to dock at the same time in Havana. Now, back to the ship. The week we sailed, there were only 150-180 passengers, depending on where they embarked. Partially because of this, service was outstanding and the restaurant manager told us to consider this our private yacht for the week. Although it was open seating, we chose to sit with our same waiter, Manuel, and our wine steward, Monika, every night. Hats off to both of them and we promise we didn't steal any silverware! Menu choices were pretty standard, though some of the dining options weren't open due to the limited number of passengers. We would have hoped for a bit more light options at lunch as well as some healthier options at dinner. We had a Junior Executive Balcony Suite, Room 611. It was small, but the balcony was more than adequate for two people to sit out and read at night. It was on the starboard side, I would suggest trying to get one on the port side if you want to get more land views at sea, since the island is circled counter clockwise. On board lectures were excellent, thank you Dr. Jorge, and don't worry about missing any of them. Nobody takes attendance except for the muster drill, which is conveniently combined with a Cuban history lecture. Others have commented on the entertainment. The ships Havana-based band rocks. I am now a new fan of Afro-Cuban music. I could listen to those guys every night (and did). The shows were also surprisingly sophisticated for a ship that size. Would we do it again? Yes, but not in June. Its hot. One can only drink so much Crystal and Bucanero to stay hydrated. Tips: 1. Port side cabin 2. Although some US citizens embarked in Havana, it seemed to make more sense to get on in Montego Bay. Since we weren't on a beach excursion kind of trip, we used Montego Bay as our travel day, allowing us more time in Havana. Those that got on in Havana missed the walking tour of the city. 3. Remember, you're going for the destinations, not the ship Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We chose this cruise specifically to visit Cuba, and embarked in Montego Bay. Embarkation was quick, no queues. We were not expecting much with regards to the ship, but we were pleasantly surprised by how new and luxurious it turned out to ... Read More
We chose this cruise specifically to visit Cuba, and embarked in Montego Bay. Embarkation was quick, no queues. We were not expecting much with regards to the ship, but we were pleasantly surprised by how new and luxurious it turned out to be. For some reason, this cruise was particularly empty, with only about 200 cruisers on board, which was definitely an advantage, as no crowds anywhere. However, the fewer numbers meant that the ship did not open all the restaurants and buffets due to lack of guests. But the two main restaurants were always open for mealtimes. Our cabin was a Junior Suite with Balcony on deck 6, no complaints there, all in good working order. Cabin staff were very attentive at all times. Due to the few number of guests, it was very unfortunate that there were no optional excursions offered, other than the evening Tropicana one in Havana. We specifically wanted to visit Trinidad, but they only ran an excursion in German for the German speakers, so we were really disappointed about that. The 3 excursions that were included all went ahead as planned, these were included in the cruise price. The last one in Cienfuegos was a bit slow and drawn out. A specific highlight for me was Dr Jorge who did all the lectures - these were truly outstanding! Loved the ones on the Cuban Music, Cigars, History and Culture. The entertainment was great, the Cuban Band very good, all shows lively and well performed. And the entertainment director can really participate, lost count of how many languages he spoke. A good variety of drinks and cocktails, we attempted to try them all, but did not make it! Waiters and Waitresses always to hand for orders. A couple of minor niggles: - The seating in the buffet at breakfast was too cramped, and food not always fresh. - Could not understand why there was an extra charge for Orange Juice and Ice Cream? - We only discovered at the end of the cruise that we were entitled to a $50 cruise credit each, and this caused a last minute flurry and an accounting error on the bill. - More could have been done to ensure that the excursion to Trinidad was available, even if some private arrangements had been engineered etc We were not the only ones affected by this. So, in summary, if you want to see Cuba in reasonable depth (the classis cars alone are worth the visit) we can verify that its awesome, then you could do a lot worse than take this Cruise.......! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a ... Read More
This objective-chronological perspective of Cuba is provided by Dr.Jorge Gonzalez Arocha, PhD , Havana University. Professor Arocha covered all important ports of call providing historical, cultural and architectural information in a colloquial manner . Each and every one of the towns visited was a vivid picture that solidified the historical, architectural and cultural presentations made on board. All shore excursions were perfectly geared to the presentation on-board, providing a platform for us to interact with the people, the music, the culture itself. This jelling experience is The Authentic Cuban Experience. As for the ship experience itself, I was pleasantly surprised. Dining Room Exp: Food was delicious and authentic. I really enjoyed my lunch and dinners, when time permitted, at The Almanthia. Jose Luis, "Rest. Captain" has a welcoming smile and handshake for everyone which makes you feel "at home". Monica and Luis are excellent members of the wait staff but they also have the quality of making you laugh, which is medicine for the soul. That's an A+ in my book. I must mention Edel and Ricardo, "Rest Capt." from LEDA Deck Rest. Also gracious hosts with a sunny disposition. Our Cabin was impeccable every day, with special towel art presented by Vivianne and Ernesto. (5th Deck) All special requests were acted on immediately. They both were so attentive, always providing service with a smile. Entertainment on board were spectacular, thematic shows, provided by a team of polifacetic artistic acrobatic-singers, MC'd by Danny-from Romania, Cruise Director. Based on this experience, I'm already planning my next Cruise with Celestyal - Crystal...Thanks for the opportunity to share, Kudos to these people who make cruising fun as well as a learning experience. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We took this cruise for our birthday celebration and to see Cuba. We upgraded to a suite, which was well worth the extra price. The cabin was very large and comfortable. The housekeeping staff was exceptional and a joy to have. The staff ... Read More
We took this cruise for our birthday celebration and to see Cuba. We upgraded to a suite, which was well worth the extra price. The cabin was very large and comfortable. The housekeeping staff was exceptional and a joy to have. The staff was superior. The nightly shows were above average for a cruise ship. This is a smaller ship with mainly non-American passengers. This made for very interesting and enjoyable conversations. We are dancers. There was plenty of opportunity to dance for several hours after the nightly show to live bands or DJ's. Karaoke was available, Zumba, dance lessons, pool/party games. The entertainment staff was superior. The shore excursions in Cuba do need some work. The tour guides only know the history they are told and do not like getting into political discussions. Their English is marginal and difficult to understand. This is still a communist nation where "everything is great". The Museum of the Revolution indicates how much they mistrust and dislike Americans. They blame Americans for almost all bad things that have happened to them since 1959. The food also needs some upgrading. Very little seafood on board. Almost all meals had pork or chicken. The servings at dinner were adequate only with limited variety from night to night. There was no late night dining, except for one night of the 7. The captain's cocktail party night did not include the choice of surf and turf, which is usual on a cruise. The duty free shop was expensive, mostly full retail pricing. The embarkation and disembarkation procedures were very easy. The cruise director was excellent. Danny, Marta, Vladamir, Ramona were superior. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Wow, I have much to say here. The experience was a mixed one, but I got what I wanted to get out of the trip. No one goes on a cruise to Cuba to be on a ship, so I will cover the excursions first. I am a US citizen, so my itinerary was ... Read More
Wow, I have much to say here. The experience was a mixed one, but I got what I wanted to get out of the trip. No one goes on a cruise to Cuba to be on a ship, so I will cover the excursions first. I am a US citizen, so my itinerary was pre-planned as is required for the visa. Note that all tour guides were happy to answer questions, but they were well-indoctrinated. Coaches were clean and air conditioned and were like rolling castles compared to the life that the citizenry experienced. Throughout Cuba, you see crumbling homes and buildings with rusting corrugated steel. Be prepared for lack of toilet seats and paper everywhere, even with a 1 CUC restroom fee. Expect fees to take photos of almost anything, including the old cars. You will see music and dancing almost everywhere. The pride of Cuba is around their art/music/culture and it is deservedly so. Some of the other things that they are proud of is their social services, and that is probably misplaced from the view of western visitors. You won't see much graffiti. In the "tourist bubble" of coaches and tour guides, I felt safe all the time. Santiago is the first experience on this schedule, and it is a levelsetter for your Cuban visit. As you pull into the port you see the small boats and crumbling buildings. San Pedro de la Roca castle in Santiago is a must-see, as is San Juan Hill where I would have enjoyed more time. Additionally, in Santiago, you can get a guided tour of Moncada Barracks with a lesson on Castro, and see a community center with teenagers putting on a dance show. You may also be taken to a rum distillery that was pretty much worthless for me, an opportunity to separate your CUC from you. My suggestion: get rum and cigars in Cienfuegos on your last day in Cuba. 2 days or so in Havana. Old Havana is somewhat restored and is highly tourist-oriented, along with a price premium for everything. Some "fine" hotels and restaurants can be found, including a hotel where Hemingway stayed. Architecture is pleasant and wrought iron is beautiful (almost "New Orleans" level). You can find an edible meal with live music for lunch and supper. The walking tour was a bit rough on my 83 yr old father and after being shown the 5th city square/plaza, he was spent. I enjoyed the Craft/Souvenir market though most of the wares were not too exciting, the market itself is an experience. Must See's: Fusterlandia house (buy a tile if you can), Havana's art museum (no photos at all allowed), and the Cabana evening show (extra excursion). The cabana show was PG rated, but I don't think children are allowed.. the dancers were amazing and the band was as good as any US big band of old. Old cars with new engines are everywhere, we didn't take a ride as the coach had already shown us the same sights. Havana is worth experiencing and I feel like I just got a small taste of a complex, tragic, lovely city. 1 day in Cienfuegos Cienfuegos looks to be a resort town that has seen better days. We were given a bit of a song-and-dance about the government-provided pharmacy, food markets, dry goods, etc. We were again treated to a pleasant town square (which would be a good place to purchase cigars and rum, had I waited). We also were shown a city theatre building for what seemed like no reason. Must Sees: We were driven out to see a restaurant called palacio del valle that was picturesque. Finally, we hit 3 artistic spots, two of them that are worthy of leaving some money at...the most salient being the Graphical Society of Cienfuegos (works with down's syndrome artists). Crew and services First know that this ship employs MANY native Cubans, and they are rightfully proud of that. The crew on board the ship were friendly and helpful. I was happy with their efforts to keep things clean and to care for passengers. I purchased the full drink package. Drink and food service was very good. I never went hungry or thirsty. I did find that pleading for water bottles wasn't the most fun experience, especially if I wanted a few extra for excursions. I eventually resorted to filling up a thermos from the workout room's large water cooler. Stateroom was well-kept by maid service with towel folding art. The massage that I had was good-not-great. Meal service was great, the waitstaff were attentive, friendly, and well-informed about the options. I felt disturbingly guilty retiring in the evenings to a good meal after having seen the conditions in Cuba. Note that the ship's mixed drinks were not particularly liberal with the alcohol, but I could have as many as I wanted. The administrative staff at reception and excursion desks were also reasonably helpful. Cabin and amenities The ship is old and it shows. We did not have a good time with shower temperature. Additionally, having been on a newish RC ship with shower doors, the shower curtain clinging to my body was not pleasant. The soap and tray placement in the shower did not help things. Eventually I ended up showering in halves with one foot out. Other than that, the bathroom was as reasonable as any other on a ship, yet still old. Hint: take a shower at the gym/spa for some elbow room. The beds were twins/bunks with older electrical fixtures, but adequate. Cabin electricity was present, along with a reasonable closet, plenty of shelves, some drawers, and under-bunk storage. really only complaint about cabin was shower/watertemp. The pool was smallish for a ship and very few people used it, I did not. The hot tub appeared reasonable too. Though it was small, I did see people using it. Comments were that it was not particularly hot, but still acceptable. The casino was all electronic and was pretty empty throughout the cruise. The library was also empty. Decks and deck chairs were good. My phone (ATT) did get ATT at sea, but the other party could not hear me. Internet was not great, but it was available, I did not try it. Additionally, the internet area was near the smoking area, so some 2nd hand wafted over. One night, outdoors, I did clearly smell marijuana; this is not surprising as the ship sails from Jamaica. I am not sure if it was coming from passengers or crew, nor am I sure of the ship's policy on that as it is becoming acceptable in the USA in places. Entertainment etc. The "shows" were not good. Each night, was the same performers dancing and singing, and synchronization among dancers was not good. The band was also pretty weak. Intonation would be something that the singer and the sax player could learn. Thankfully, the shows were short (45 mins) and they all included scantily clad women so I was at least distracted from the performance. A few people would go up to the disco/karaoke bar later at night, but it was not exactly crowded either. There were also a few lounge-act type singers and a classical pianist. Some small classes which I'd say more like interactive "demos" were available such as food carving and napkin folding, and towel folding. Additionally some cuban dance and cooking demos. They seemed well enough for the at-sea days. In contrast with the dance/music shows, the ship had a cuban expert, a mid-30s PhD in Cuban history who was excellent. I cannot say enough good words about him. He gave daily lectures. He explained the history of how Cuba got to where it is today. He taught me much about Cuba and her international relations that I did not know prior to the cruise. Unlike the excursion tour guides, he was happy to answer ANY question, including difficult ones such as "Cuba gives every citizen a food ration card, but can the citizen actually turn that ration card into food?" His contribution made this trip very worthwhile. He joked that on one side he was being bugged by the CIA and on the other by the Cuban military; he presented Cuba in a good light with a balanced view. Other/leftovers: The excursions for US citizens are NOT resort-type excursions, do not expect to swim with dolphins, snorkel at a reef, or relax on a beach with umbrella-drinks at your demand. The excursions are primarily intended to be educational with a bit of tourist shopping, and for the most part, they were. On the excursions, do not expect any discussion about the missile crisis or GTMO. The shipboard "view" of GTMO was after dark and pretty far away, but it was lit up. Remember that GTMO is a huge military base and only a small part of it is the infamous prison. A family that had relatives in Cuba was able to visit them, and that family left all sorts of goods with the relatives, OTC meds, towels, shoes, t-shirts, extra CUCs, etc, if you are in a similar spot, you may want to do that. The economic situation is complex and troubling. It isn't as bad as Juarez with beggars on the street, but still difficult to see with our western lens, the tour guides and waiters earn more then the MDs. You may only exchange money at the ports, everyone says to bring Euro or CAD rather than USD, and I can agree with that, a few vendors accept USD and there is a premium for USD exchange to CUC. Do not expect an ATM or credit card acceptance. This trip had few teenagers or families or 20-somethings. It was adults and seniors. Spend the $12 at reception and schedule a bridge tour, it's worthwhile. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Picked this cruise as it is the only itinerary that circles Cuba and makes 3 major port stops: Santiago, two full days and overnight in Havana, and Cienfuego. Originally, the itinerary included Maria Gouda but that was replaced with stop ... Read More
Picked this cruise as it is the only itinerary that circles Cuba and makes 3 major port stops: Santiago, two full days and overnight in Havana, and Cienfuego. Originally, the itinerary included Maria Gouda but that was replaced with stop at Punta Frances, which was dropped from the itinerary. We were not notified of this until two days before departing. Would have been nice to know but it actually turned out fine. Punta Frances is a marine preserve and Cuba is evaluating the impact on the environment because of the increased cruise ships. In the end, the itinerary was packed full and wonderful in any case. This is a fabulous cruise, especially for Americans who have to participate in the People-to-People experience. DO IT! You will be immersed with Cuban artists, dancers, musicians throughout. Entertainment on board each night is spectacular -- first rate!!! All performed by Cubans, who love to talk about Cuba and learn about USA. The excursions gave many opportunities to interact with Cuba culture and talk to people. All guides were Cuban. We had THE BEST lectures on board done by a young Cuban professor -- he was fun, full of information, dedicated to "teaching" us, answered all kinds of questions and spent endless hours talking to us about anything and everything. A big THANK YOU to him and all the performers and cruise director, Danny, and whole animation team. What a great trip and experience. Cabin great. Stayed in 7001 with two other friends. Two-room suite, lots of closet space, great bathroom, spacious balcony. Food sometimes really good; sometimes only fair. Wine list very lacking. Buffet breakfast food always cold, but you can have omelets or waffles made and they were hot and great. You don't take this cruise for the food. Pool small, most of the trip not operational because of netting over it because of waves; never saw anyone in it. No place to sit in loungers after swimming anyway. You don't take this cruise for the pool, but that doesn't matter. You take this trip to see CUBA! and see and enjoy you will. I've been all over the world and this visit to Cuba was powerful. GO! And go on this cruise for a full, real Cuban experience. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We chose this for a true Cuban experience before it all changes. Embarkation and Disembarkation was a breeze. The best in a long time. Don't go on this ship if you're expecting all the bells and whistles of a megaship. ... Read More
We chose this for a true Cuban experience before it all changes. Embarkation and Disembarkation was a breeze. The best in a long time. Don't go on this ship if you're expecting all the bells and whistles of a megaship. The capacity is around 920 passengers--a little cramped for this size ship but still manageable. The decor of the common areas is mid-century modern to 60's but very clean and well-maintained. The swimming pool is salt water and in the middle of the outside dining area. The hot tub is in the aft bar area. There is a full-service spa as well as a small gym and a ladies' and a men's sauna. Since the food is the same no matter if you eat in the restaurants or at the buffet, it's your choice for atmosphere. I personally prefer the Olympus Restaurant (Deck 5). The layout allows for the service to run like a well-oiled machine. Our waiter, Eduardo, and our drink steward, Tatiana were the best--always friendly and always accommodating our requests. Mind you, it's open seating, but we always gravitated to their serving area. The Amalthia Restaurant (deck 8) had mostly tables for 8, seemed very cramped, and did not lend itself to the kind of service as at Olympus. The food is not "Top Chef" worthy, but it is very good and always served hot as opposed to other ships where it may be only lukewarm. I would advise the drink package. The mainstage shows were quite professional given the size of the shop. Vladimir, the cruise director, always kept things hopping with his high energy, and the Latin dance instructors, Marta and Sonny were great, and they all kept it fun. All in all, the service was great. My only complaint was the Reception Desk staff. They got the job done but were less than friendly. The upper echelon of officers were not friendly either, but I guess their job was to get us there not to smile or say hello. We were with a group so our excursions were already booked for us. One nice thing--there was a professor from the U of Havana (PhD) on board who gave talks and lectures about his country and it history which was great. This is not a cruise for children as there are no activities geared especially for them. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Sailing Celestyal is a great way to visit Cuba if you are eager to go now, especially if you’d like to explore beyond Havana. The “Authentic Cuba” program ensures you will meet conditions for U.S. cultural exchange. Celestyal makes ... Read More
Sailing Celestyal is a great way to visit Cuba if you are eager to go now, especially if you’d like to explore beyond Havana. The “Authentic Cuba” program ensures you will meet conditions for U.S. cultural exchange. Celestyal makes it pretty easy. I've rated the cruise "very good" overall *only* because of the Cuba itinerary. Upsides to sailing with Celestyal, include: ease in obtaining Cuban visa and navigating customs and immigration; documentation to satisfy the U.S. government; simplicity in logistics; consistency in accommodations; the assurance of a culturally-rich experience; a nice variety of Cuban entertainment, food and drink on board. Evening shows exceeded our expectations, performed by an entirely Cuban staff (in Spanish). The itinerary was especially good, with an overnight in Havana and two additional cities, both of which we enjoyed at least as much as Havana. We have few substantive complaints. Many of the downsides to sailing with Celestyal may be attributed to restrictions imposed by Uncle Sam on U.S. citizens! Among those attributed to the company itself: clunky website lacks important details; uneven and inaccurate call center support; small and aging ship -- clean but a clunker; primarily elderly clientele; limited social space and entertainment venues; tiny pool (only 1) and minuscule hot tub (only 1, poorly placed); mediocre dining with open seating (ugh); most staff are surface-friendly, not highly engaged, not service oriented, many would not last long on big brand ships; company exerts no effort to build brand loyalty (i.e. no perks and special attention). Find more details about our experience -- including lots of photos and individual posts on each port of call at northcountry[dot]seasons[dot]com Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We chose the Celestyal Crystal for our Cuba cruise due to their multiple Cuban ports, their experience and history offering People to People programs in this market, and the ease of flying into and staying in Montego Bay pre-cruise. There ... Read More
We chose the Celestyal Crystal for our Cuba cruise due to their multiple Cuban ports, their experience and history offering People to People programs in this market, and the ease of flying into and staying in Montego Bay pre-cruise. There are lots of mixed reviews, so I will give my opinion and my recommendations, as a participant in the Authentic Cuban Experience program for US citizens. This cruise exceeded my expectations, and exceeded my experiences with the larger mass market cruise lines with their Tea Time buffet, their Gala Tropical Buffet, their recognition of a birthday with “free” birthday cake and a serenade by 3 waiters and a guitarist in their dining room, their nightly Chef’s (Cuban) specialty entrees, their desserts, the nightly productions shows 6 out of 7 nights, the variety of specialty (Cuban) cocktails and the easy availability of bottled water for shore excursions in their Blue Drink package, the educational lectures, the announcement of our sailing past Guantanamo Bay, the pleasant and stimulating fellow guests, and the modern safe and comfortable coach busses used for shore excursions. We were glad that we booked, emailed and communicated directly with Celestyal, as others who booked through agencies complained of poor communication, despite having group coordinators on board. We were also glad that we embarked in Montego Bay, as those who embarked in Havana missed a day of the ship sponsored shore excursions, and the lecture series seemed out of sequence for them. Regarding the ship, wifi speed fluctuated during busy times. Our stateroom had one US-type electrical outlet located under a small shelf at the desk, and we brought a multi plug adapter device but did not use it, preferring to take turns charging our devices. We also brought 2 plastic over the door hooks that were helpful for hanging items on the closet doors, and extra hangars. Even thought the schedule is busy, don’t miss the lectures on Authentic Cuban Orientation, Cuban Cigars, Culture and on History. Regarding excursions, we exchanged $200 USD cash for 173 CUC at the convenient exchange shop in our first port, and had 40 CUC left that we exchanged for USD at the booth in our final port. Guests with Canadian dollars and Euros seemed to have a harder time exchanging currency. There is limited running water and limited toilet facilities in the ports, so bring tissues, hand sanitizer and wet wipes on excursions. Some of the days are long and hot. You each can bring one water bottle. Food is not allowed to be brought on shore, but I was told that one sealed granola bar might be allowed for a medical condition. I did see one guest stopped at the debarkation temperature screening station in the medical tent due to a fever. I wish that I had printed out and brought small maps of each port area, so that I could have been better oriented to each city. Remember that you must be flexible, and recognize that Celestyal may not have control over itinerary changes due to what I see as increased demand exceeding the supply of Cuban resources. Our beach stop was cancelled months prior to the sailing, and our berth at the port in Havana was revealed to be “triple booked” on the day of embarkation, but Celestyal did an excellent job of making adjustments resulting in an excellent cruise experience that I would highly recommend before Cuba gets even busier. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Going to Cuba has been a life-long dream of mine, which I realized this past February onboard Celestyal Crystal. I did lots of research on here which helped with my decision. I hope my long review helps some of you! This was my 30th ... Read More
Going to Cuba has been a life-long dream of mine, which I realized this past February onboard Celestyal Crystal. I did lots of research on here which helped with my decision. I hope my long review helps some of you! This was my 30th cruise, and I will admit that I am a big fan of smaller, more traditional ships. The Celestyal Crystal was perfectly-sized for the smaller ports of call in Cuba such as Santiago and Cienfuegos. I consider this less a mainstream cruise than a casual learning experience with like-minded passengers. Unlike the Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean ships that are now starting to visit Havana, this wasn't about a fun-and sun vacation and quite frankly I was glad to be there just ahead of the cruise ship invasion. While this is sold as a "5-star ship" it is clearly not; it is a comfortable, unassuming vessel which I became quite fond of but will not appeal to everyone. You can either board the ship in Havana, or in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I opted for Jamaica mostly because by doing so, there is more time for you to enjoy in Havana as a passenger, versus boarding the ship in Havana and losing a significant part of the overnight stay. I will also point out that on our sailing the guests embarking in Havana did not get to embark until probably 9pm...meaning the whole day that we had just enjoyed in Havana was a waste to them. Additionally, Montego Bay has an excellent airport with a great VIP lounge, Club MoBay, which I highly recommend. As an American passenger, I was signed up for the People to People program sold as yourcubacruise.com. Due to US Treasury restrictions, US passengers can only visit Cuba for 12 specific reasons, the most lenient being the previously-mentioned P2P program. While there were Cuban entertainers, lecturers, etc. onboard, the primary "requirement" of the program was participating in the included shore excursions in Santiago, Havana, and Cienfuegos. At the end of the trip, you receive a certificate which you are advised to hold onto in case you are ever asked for it by the US governement. I doubt very seriously if this would ever happen; accordingly, there were passengers who participated fully, some did not. In the case of Havana, there is a tour both days. On the second day the excursion was over around noon, and then I spent quite a bit of time walking by myself all over Havana. I will say, there are quite a few tourists in Havana; some areas of old Havana near the dock and the central squares were downright crowded. When you got out of that locale, it was much more casual. Cuba's largest economic engine is now tourism. The Celestyal Crystal Cuba cruise is interesting in several ways (to me at least)...first and foremost it wasn't a typical cruise environment although the ship had really good facilities for her size (25,000 tons). The passengers onboard were there primarily to see Cuba and the ship was secondary; a form of transporation. The ship does NOT have the mainstream cruise amenities like rock walls, water parks, etc. This is a traditional cruise ship which has been, among other things, NCL's Leeward, and a Silja Line Scandinavian cruise ferry. Much of the ship is dated in that 1990s fashion, with the reflective ceilings of that time and more pastel colors and brass. I loved many things about the Crystal, such as the real teak decks, the ability to walk completely to the bow (on most days, and especially spectacular when arriving or leaving port), and the great bar and terraced decks overlooking the stern. Recently, a number of balcony cabins were added to the ship. In addition to American passengers, the Crystal attracts an interesting cross-section of Cuba-centric travelers: lots of Canadians, and in Havana a large number of Germans arrived. The split boarding also means a portion of the passengers will change out during the voyage. In many ways, this was an EXCELLENT value trip: I went single occupancy, and was originally booked in an outside cabin at the usual 2x premium. Later, there was a single special offered with no single supplement...to take advantage i moved my departure date forward by several weeks and moved to an inside cabin vs. an outside one. Also, tips were included as was a beverage package. This all added up to a really great value. Haven't had an inside cabin in forever but the savings made it a no-brainer; while it was rather small it had been recently had some renovation. One important consideration is that the cabins don't have many electrical outlets. Mine for example had one US fixture and one European one...accordingly I carried an adapter and could use both outlets which is important on such a photo-centric itinerary where you need everything to be charged and ready! The bathroom is rather small and dated but the shower was really nice with a curved glass door. Some reviewers have mentioned the moody plumbing onboard, but I had no issues with my cabin toilet...I suspect this problem exists in certain areas of the ship, for example lower decks. As I mentioned, the Crystal is a small ship, 25,000 tons, about 500 feet...it is extremely easy to get around from day one...there are two elevator/stair towers which you can almost see from each other...there is a pool with glass cover, which stayed semi-open the entire trip...there is a tiny jacuzzi at the stern near the bar which perhaps could fit 4 people. There is a surprisingly large 2-story show lounge and a tiny casino which I never saw a soul in. The dining situation onboard is as follows: compared to a mainstream megaship, there is less food availability, which wasn't an issue for me. There are two smaller dining rooms (one each on Decks 5 and 8) which operate with the same menu. Additionally, there is a small buffet restaurant on the port side near the pool (with another one on the starboard side for overflow seating). I doubt that each restaurant seated more than 100 people. I ate in the sit-down restaurant several times...you can arrive between 6 and 8:30 or 9; you are seated at random with other passengers. At the buffet, it was easier to have your own table. The dining room menu offered a Cuban specialty each night. I got quite frankly bored with the food at the buffet...basically it was either: chicken legs, pasta, and a fish fillet. Each night, the preparation of the three changed. There was also a carving station. Other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your other dining option onboard is free room service, which looked nice. I honestly didn't miss the usual mountain of food usually found on cruise ships. I could bore you with all sorts of Cuba info but I figure you are primarily here for the ship info! I will say that Celestyal Crystal is the perfect-sized ship for Cuba. In fact, the size of most Cuban ports thankfully exclude the new mega ships...the largest ships going to Cuba seem to max out around 70,000 tons. I saw three other cruise ships in Havana, the European MSC Opera one day and MSC Armonia the next. Also, the tiny Hamburg was there. Being that there is only one currently-operating pier in Havana, we had to play musical ships on our cruise...on our first day in Havana, we had to arrive at the dock, disembark all the passengers, then the ship had to anchor in the harbor to make room for another ship...during which time the Cuban government wouldn't allow tender access. This made for a very long day in Havana: we weren't able to reboard the ship until around 9pm that night...in fact we were scheduled to reboard earlier but there were issues which delayed that. Also, the People to People shore excursions were quite good (there's nothing I hate more than a bus tour usually). The guides were generally open and frank about life in Cuba. To compensate for the additional time in Havana which we couldn't access the trip, a nice lunch was added to the trip. I will be glad to answer any Cuba-related questions you have. The most important thing I will tell you is to absolutely positively have your passport on you at all times as well as your Cuban visa, which is included in the ticket price. You will also need CASH, as US credit cards (with one exception, those issued by Stonegate Bank in Florida) do not work. There are currency exchanges at all three ports, which will charge you about 10 percent. It is also very important to remember there are TWO currencies...a Cuban peso and a tourist peso. Be careful receiving your change as they have vastly different values. In conclusion, the Celestyal Crystal is a great way to see Cuba as you circumnavigate the entire island. The size of the ship is, for me, perfect. You won't have to worry about the expensive (and mostly subpar) hotels available in Cuba...and in the instance of my sailing the prepaid gratuities and beverage package were nice bonuses. Your fellow passengers will be a more worldly lot, primarily interested in the uniqueness of discovering Cuba versus having a traditional tropical cruise experience. The food onboard was OK but there was one fantastic Cuban waiter who constantly smiled and seemed to sincerely enjoy his job. I'm trying to remember his name. Alberto maybe? I found the staff to be really great onboard, although some were initially more reserved. Both the cabin attendants were perfect and took great care of the room. During my voyage there were several issues at the reception desk...my problem got fixed immediately, however a friend onboard go the runaround for 6 days regarding his issue. I think this was a personality issue on both his behalf and whomever helped him. Other than that glitch, I really liked the staff; one day, it struck me that every single crewmember I encountered had greeted me with a smile and a "good morning" etc. I thought the senior management onboard however was distant and treated passengers as an imposition on their ship. Maybe this was my perception. Overall though, the general friendliness level was much greater than the impersonal megaship I cruised on several months earlier. If you aren't expecting a spanking new, huge resort-style ship, and you want to make a historic trip to Cuba in an intimate setting with passengers interested in the same, Celestyal Crystal is a good value, especially for small-ship lovers not expecting the latest amenities. Next year, Celestyal is adding the Celestyal Majesty (at one time NCL's Norwegian Majesty) to the Cuba lineup. I am seriously considering taking another trip onboard Celestyal Crystal to Cuba. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
I chose this ship as an easy way to visit large areas of Cuba on a US approved people to people program. The company really covered every aspect of Cuban culture from Cuban staff, Cuban professor on board, Cuban food specialties on the ... Read More
I chose this ship as an easy way to visit large areas of Cuba on a US approved people to people program. The company really covered every aspect of Cuban culture from Cuban staff, Cuban professor on board, Cuban food specialties on the menus, Cuban music, dance lessons, a wonderful Cuban entertainment company, films, lectures, demonstrations, tours and drinks. The programs were at a high level, well organized and well done. The food was mostly very good to excellent and certainly abounding. The cabin was lovely even for an inside space and it never felt cramped with the tv turned on to the bridge so one could see the weather outside and follow the map of where were were. I loved it. My only criticism is of the internet service on board. It is not only spotty but expensive and very difficult to use. More time is used up trying to log on or log off than is actually used on line. A very small criticism compared to a wonderful experience over-all Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
What can be said about a seven day cruise to Cuba which includes an overnight in Havana along with stops in Cienfuegos and Santiago? To simply say this was a great cruise would be an understatement which would not do justice to this ship, ... Read More
What can be said about a seven day cruise to Cuba which includes an overnight in Havana along with stops in Cienfuegos and Santiago? To simply say this was a great cruise would be an understatement which would not do justice to this ship, the welcoming crew, the entertaining cruise director Danny, the amazing and talented entertainers, the restaurant staff, housekeeping, and the first class People to People Program developed by Jerry Pagoulatos and Dr. Jorge Arocha. We are seasoned cruisers who had waited patiently for many years for the privilege to travel to this mysterious country located less than 100 miles from the U.S. Since Celestyal offered the choice of embarkation in Havana or Montego Bay, we chose Mobay since we could easily fly from Orlando on SW airlines and immediately board the ship. The ship was lovely in a retro kind of way. It reminded us of cruising in the 80s, prior to the construction of mega ships. The Crystal provides an intimate ship experience which works especially well on this Cuba itinerary. We had cabin 6029 which has an obstructed outside view, twin beds, a small chair, adequate storage, and a small bathroom. The room was spotless and well cared for by our cabin steward and her assistance. The main stairway is located in the middle with two elevators for those of us who returned to the ship after full days of touring, and were too tired to climb the stairs. The Leda Buffet is located on deck nine along with a small pool and covered deck area for dining. The Amalthia Restaurant on deck 8 served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the Olympus on deck 5 was also available for dinner only. After reading other reviewers who complained about the quality of food, we were somewhat worried but found the food to be very good in all dining venues. There was a wide variety of Cuban dishes and we especially enjoyed the barbecue buffet one afternoon at sea and the late night dessert extravaganza. All of the staff made sure we felt welcomed, so much so that we felt like a small part of the ship's family by the end of the cruise. The cruise director Danny was the best we have ever met on any of our 36 cruises. Dealing with a multi-cultural ship full of passengers from many countries can't be easy but since Danny speaks 8 languages, he handled all with charm and charisma. As I write this I can imagine to those who read it, one might wonder how this cruise could have been so special. I'm trying to save the very best for last while trying to cover everything. So, I'll now review the entertainers which again, were the most talented we have ever had the pleasure of seeing on a ship. The twelve entertainers all come from Cuba and performed at every show, danced with the passengers after the show, and were available to interact with the guests during the cruise. We even saw one of the performers checking in guests during the Havana embarkation. Don't miss the shows if you go on this cruise! The house band Latin Souls and Duo Curerdas de Crystal entertained during various times and were also exceptional. Since we are Americans with restrictions on how we travel to Cuba, I have now reached the best part of this cruise. Imagine our excitement when we sailed into Santiago de Cuba on our second day. The developer of Celestyal's People to People Program, Jerry Pagoulatos should be commended for developing this program. We toured with others in a large, modern (yes these busses do have bathrooms) bus to El Morro Castle, an African Cultural Center where we had a dance performance, San Juan Hill, and the Moncada Barracks. Our tour guide provided a good overview of the history of this fascinating country. Next stop was Havana for two full days with tours throughout the city, cultural events and performances along with trips to the Museum of the Revolution, Havana Art Museum, and Revolution Square. One of the highlights of our visit to Havana was visiting the neighborhood where Jose Fustar, the mosaic artist, turned his neighborhood into a colorful, vibrant display of mosaics. Our last stop was Cienfuegos, known as "The Pearl of the South" where we toured this quaint city by the sea and visited Project Tranzos Libres which supports local artists and performers. To us, the very best part of this trip was the educational component which was provided by our knowledgeable tour guides and the informative lectures given by Dr. Jorge Arocha from the U. of Havana. His enthusiasm and love for this beautiful country was infectious. We cannot wait until we return and feel so blessed by the experience. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Being American it is a little harder to see Cuba(as we cannot go as pure tourists). Upon researching ways we discovered Celestyal and their People to People Program. Leaving out of Montego Bay Jamaica was effortless, we had a direct flight ... Read More
Being American it is a little harder to see Cuba(as we cannot go as pure tourists). Upon researching ways we discovered Celestyal and their People to People Program. Leaving out of Montego Bay Jamaica was effortless, we had a direct flight and it was a 30 min cab ride to the port. Embarkation was the easiest I have ever experienced with just a few checkpoints where you showed passport and signed for your Cuban Visa. Our luggage was actually on the ship about the same time as we were. We had originally booked room 3113(an interior cabin on deck 3) . the room was fine but when I saw that they had upgrades available we decided to take advantage and pay 400.00 add'l to get an outside cabin. Glad we did we ended up in Room 3209 right by the elevators midship, also on deck 3. Room was fine a little worn and the bed was saggy but no real complaints. Our room steward serviced the room twice daily and it was always neat and clean. I had just been on the Carnival Esctasy over the holidays which was also an older ship and the Celestyal definitely had better service. Both ships are showing wear but the Crystal appeared cleaner. The Food while not a tremendous amount of options was good, I always managed to find something to eat and the desserts were amazing, some more than others. There was not a lot of traditional cruise fare but they incorporated the Cuban cuisine. I did not like the wines offered with the all-inclusive Blue package but I am not a big wine drinker anyways so I i usually had water or a soda with my meal. most others liked the wine. The tours were informative and I think as Americans we got a very nice overview of the different cities. The evening in Havana we went off on our own and had a nice dinner in the city but others did the Tropicana and said it was fun. We did get to watch the Superbowl on Sunday night and it seemed the Americans bonded over Football. People were very friendly and the good thing about a smaller ship is getting to meet new people. I would definitely recommend this cruise if you want to see Cuba. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
My wife Coco chose this cruise because of the Cuba experience and the Jamaica connection. We enjoyed Runaway Bay Jamaica for 3 days before boarding, so we were rested and ready for our first ever cruise. We were not ever disappointed! ... Read More
My wife Coco chose this cruise because of the Cuba experience and the Jamaica connection. We enjoyed Runaway Bay Jamaica for 3 days before boarding, so we were rested and ready for our first ever cruise. We were not ever disappointed! The food was very good, with lots of Cuban cooking thrown into the mix. We ate in both the buffet and restaurant venues and always felt delighted and satisfied. Drinks from the various bars featured lots of Cuban influence, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Our suite cabin was very comfortable and cleaned/freshened at least 3 times a day. Shore excursions were well organized and meant to maximize our contact with the Cuban people. Entertainment and activities revolved around the "People to People" program that is re-acquainting North Americans with the Cuban way of life. In all, Coco & I thoroughly enjoyed our week's cruise around the wonderful island of Cuba! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Let me start by saying I am not a frequent cruiser. So my review is not a comparison to other cruise ships. Our objective was to see Cuba in different ports above and beyond just Havana with the convenience of having our accommodations ... Read More
Let me start by saying I am not a frequent cruiser. So my review is not a comparison to other cruise ships. Our objective was to see Cuba in different ports above and beyond just Havana with the convenience of having our accommodations follow us around the country and not deal with hotel jumping. My wife and I really enjoyed our week on the Celestyal Cruise around Cuba. We were happy with the 3 ports of call and we knew going into this that the ship is older and somewhat dated so our expectations were in accordance. We were pleasantly surprised at the comfort of our cabin (6013 SBJ), the extreme cleanliness of the ship and the overall great service! The food was plentiful and delicious. It was certainly not gourmet but it was good quality. The evening entertainment was great and the Cruise director, Danny, was fun and very energetic! It was nice that the whole cruise was of a Cuban flavor, from the food to the Cuban entertainment to the authentic Cuban cocktails! For us US Citizens this cruise was a convenient way for us to see the country according to our travel restrictions. The guided tours were thorough, comfortable and educational. They do have some room for improvement but everyone wants different things out of their tour so you can get it 100% for everyone. It was great that we were able to spend two days in Havana and that us US passengers had some free time to get out and around on our own. My wife and I took full advantage of that and explored quite a bit of Havana beyond the included excursions. Be sure to take an Old Car taxi tour. For about 40 CUC pesos ($45) the driver will take you around Havana for about a hour. Try for a convertible if possible. Great way to see the sites!! So overall we loved our trip and the cruise ship. Manage your expectations and have a great time!! Read Less
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