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About nicedream

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    Harrisburg PA
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  1. Several sources on Twitter are saying that no Cuba-bound ships will be allowed to depart effective midnight tonight. This seems to be in conflict with the language in the regulation that says those that already purchased travel will be grandfathered. https://twitter.com/CNN_Oppmann/status/1135999989723779074?s=19 https://twitter.com/mweissenstein/status/1135956931548499968?s=19 https://twitter.com/reuterssarah/status/1135999923407785984?s=19
  2. The actual exchange rate is 1USD=1CUC. There is a 3% conversion fee that applies to all currencies. Then an additional 10% fee/tax that only applies to USD. That's why you get 0.87CUC for each USD.
  3. I brought both CUP and CUC back from Cuba with no problem. As a previous poster said, some cruises have multiple stops in Cuba where passengers would spend more of their money, not to mention the cruises that have overnights in one city, or passengers on one day visits that may just need to return to the ship for whatever reason before going back out. What are they going to do? Search everyone's pockets and purses for bills and loose change? I suspect that Cuba doesn't mind tourists leaving with Cuban money, as that probably means their US dollars, Canadian dollars, Euros, etc. on the island. Sent from my AOSP on msm8996 using Tapatalk
  4. Sorry for not being more clear in my description, but when I said "guide" I meant the printed guide to the city. Not an actual person. I went back and checked it to see if maybe it was aimed at driving, not walking, but it seems pretty likely that's not what they meant.
  5. Could be. I really can't say what the reason was. But I can confidently state that it was *not* due to "local regulations" as claimed in the Azamara description.
  6. Indeed, to each his own. After taking many cruises and hearing complaints from other passengers, I'm fully aware that something that can be a major issue for one person won't even be a blip on the radar to another (and vice-versa). Make no mistake, we had a great vacation. To be honest, I probably would have barely noticed the forgotten tender announcement and the poor street directions were it not for the constant hype about Azamara giving guests the local experience. As for the waterfall excursion, I don't know where you draw the line between the tour operator and the cruise line. But when Azamara is the one selling the tour, which they have obviously planned out with a local operator, I don't see how they are absolved of responsibility here. Furthermore, Azamara alone is responsible for the copy that goes into their tour description, which is clearly incorrect and misleading. Glad you enjoyed the pictures. 🙂 I hope you enjoy your trip to Cuba. We thought it was absolutely fascinating.
  7. Problem 3 Maybe I shouldn't call this a problem so much as heightened expectations that went unfulfilled. We've been on many cruises, most of which were with one of the other two major brands under Azamara's corporate umbrella (Royal Caribbean and Celebrity). I know that Azamara is not supposed to be in the same league as Seaborne or Regent, but I do know that they position themselves as a "boutique" cruise line, and a step above the other two lines I mentioned. They even have the word "Club" in their name, to showcase themselves as a country club like environment at sea. To be honest, I didn't really see any of that upscale-ness manifest itself in the delivered cruise experience. As we all know from reading cruise reviews, things like food and service can be so subjective. One person can have the best experience ever while the next finds it to be mediocre (or worse). I can only give you our opinion: the food and service delivered did not live up to the image that Azamara projects. I didn't eat in either of the specialty (upcharge) restaurants, but still I expected to be at least a little bit impressed somewhere along the way. But while the food was adequate and I certainly didn't go hungry, I don't think I had anything in 9 days that was any better than what I've had on Royal Caribbean. And I think Azamara has a long way to go before they can match the food on Blu in Celebrity. Service was similar: Not terrible, but not what I expected from what some would refer to as a 4.5 star line. Service was often a lot slower than I would have expected. On the White Night, apparently they forgot to put salt and pepper on the tables on the upper deck. I asked one waiter for some salt, and he went to get it....never to be seen again. None of the hiccups with the food or service ruined our cruise. In fact, we were off the ship much more than usual due to all the exploration of Cuba. But overall Azamara really needs to step up its game considering its price point, and the quality of its sister brands. We booked this cruise in November of 2017 and got a balcony cabin for ~$6400 all in after taxes, which I believe was at one of its lowest points. Just for fun, halfway through our cruise we priced a balcony room for the 9 day Cuba intensive that sailed immediately after ours. All in, it came to $11,100. We had to laugh at how absurd it would be to pay that price for the cruise we were currently on.
  8. Problem 2 Azamara disappointed us again the first day in Santiago de Cuba. The ship arrived into the port on schedule around 5pm. We went to the grill on deck 9 for a quick & early dinner so that we could hopefully get a tender to be in the town before dark. While eating we see one tender boat leaving empty. Must be the government people that clear the ship or some other "official" business we thought, because no announcement had been made that guests could depart. After dinner, we go to deck 5 and watch the tender boat below. One person in regular clothes (non-uniformed) gets in and it drives away. We say to ourselves "who is that guy?" He must be some frequent cruiser or other VIP guest getting some private tour or something. A few minutes later....and *another* tender goes out, this time with just 2 guests on it. What's going on? I picked up the nearest phone and called the front desk. "Hi, when will guests be allowed to leave the ship to tender to shore?" "Sir, the tenders are already running. You can leave at any time." "Ummm....no one made an announcement." "Oh I'm sorry, they must have forgotten. I'll have them make the announcement right away." As I said in the opening post, this is my 12th cruise. I can't recall a single time when this announcement wasn't made. So it was somewhat frustrating to be on the "destination immersion" line, which then forgot to make the announcement that it was time to immerse. [.....fast forward a few hours.....] We didn't make it to shore before dark, but oh well, we still made it. The Azamara guide to Santiago de Cuba said that the best way to get to the center of town was by taking Vicente Aguilera street. It wasn't the prettiest street, and there were lots of buses and motorcycles pumping out black smoke speeding by, but it did get us into town. Eventually we walked all the way up to Plaza de Marte, and watched the party scene that was going on. When it was time to head back, we noticed that just one block north of Aguilera was Jose Antonio Saco - a brightly lit pedestrian-only street that was full of vendors and restaurants, not to mention scores of families and other people out enjoying the night. Check the satellite view on Google Maps. This street goes from Plaza de Marte the entire way back to Avenida Jesus Menendez, where the tenders docked. So why on earth would Azamara send us down a mostly deserted street with very little going on except for speeding vehicles, when there is a much more interesting (and much *safer*) street just one block over? And on top of that, it's a street brimming with activity and full of real local Cuban people. My best guess is that the person who wrote up the guide just quickly looked at the map and found the street that had the most direct route. But again, a real disappointment from the destination immersion experience.
  9. Thanks for reading. I've been following along with your thread since before we went on our cruise, and continuing to still follow now that we're back. My review here isn't trying to show every single thing that I did or saw. You have that pretty well covered ;) It's more of a quick summary of some of the main highlights and/or unique things that probably won't show up in every other review.
  10. Overall Impression As I said at the start, the destination and itinerary were really the best things about this cruise. Seeing 3 different cities in Cuba (all with overnight stays) was incredible. My experience with Azamara as a cruise line was a definite disappointment, for the following reasons: Aside from the itineraries, all their talk about "destination immersion" seems to be just promotional puffery. When you compare price to the experience delivered, it's painfully obvious that Azamara is punching far above its weight class. Problem 1 By far, the biggest gripe I had was with the El Nicho waterfall excursion we took in Cienfuegos. The day before we were scheduled to go, my wife noticed the description in the brochure said "Due to local regulations, swimming is not permitted at the waterfall" That seemed odd, because I could have swore that I saw picture of people swimming there at one point or another. But the description seemed pretty unambiguous, so I just assumed that maybe this was a recent change that went into effect. So imagine my surprise when we hike to the waterfall and are greeted with these scenes: Dozens of people swimming....And they even have lifeguards on duty! What the heck? I asked our guide if swimming was allowed, and she said yes, of course it was....It just wasn't part of the itinerary for the Azamara excursions. When we got back to the ship that day, I filled out my guest comment form and described what had happened. Later I received a voice message from the excursions desk telling me that they had double checked and found that the description in the brochure *was* correct. I went down to the desk to ask them - How can the description be correct when it's quite obvious that there is nothing that forbids swimming and lifeguards were even on duty? The explanation was that the agreement between Azamara and the local authorities does not include a provision for guests on their tour to swim. Whether this was due to money, insurance, or something else altogether, I don't know. But I do know that the description provided by Azamara is an outright lie to their customers, and is probably worded that way to prevent their customers from booking private tours that are cheaper. I generally try to just roll with the punches and I usually don't complain about things that are subjective, such as how delicious the food is or how comfortable the bed is. But things like this tour (and its description) really leave a bad taste in my mouth. Also - Just think about the absurdity of the situation for a moment: The park is full of tourists and locals, all enjoying a swim in the natural pools under the waterfalls. While the guests who booked their tours through the cruise line that prides itself on "destination immersion" merely observe from the sidelines for a moment before continuing on.
  11. Santiago de Cuba - Day 2 Two goals for this day before we set sail at 3pm: See the changing of the guard at the Santa Ifigenia Cenetary, and the bullet holes on the Moncada Barracks building. Passing by the rail station Entrance to Santa Ifigenia Cemetary Soldiers during the changing of the guard Castro's tomb Mausoleum of Jose Marti Moncada Barracks Two choices: Coffee or Pineapple Juice Another one I hadn't tried before
  12. Santiago de Cuba - Day 1 We didn't get into port until the evening, so we just walked around a bit to see what we could find, hitting Parque Cespedes and Plaza de Marte along the way. We stopped for a drink at the rooftop bar on Casa Granda "Domino's Pizza"
  13. Cienfuegos - Day 2 We took Azamara's excursion to the El Nicho waterfall, which I'll discuss a bit more when I post my complaints later.
  14. Cienfuegos - Day 1 We spent this day walking from the ship to the Plaza Jose Marti, then down the Paseo el Prado all the way down to Palacio de Valle. Some homes seem to be well-maintained 10 pesos (MN) each This store sold a bit of everything, including car parts Lots of different rums here A hot dog from a street vendor...not worth the 10 pesos I paid Not sure if any metal remains on the body of this car Looking back at the ship Along the waterfront Found another new beer Palacio de Valle The rooftop Looking down from above Taxis waiting outside Our taxi driver with his Vauxhall Coppelia, the state-run ice cream parlor The only type of advertisement found in Cuba
  15. Havana - Day 2 The main activity this day taking the local commuter ferry to the Christ of Havana statue. There are two ferries that leave from the a terminal just south of the cruise ship dock and go to Regla and Casablanca. They only cost 10 centavos to ride, which comes out to a fraction of a penny due to the local peso (moneda nacional) being worth about 5 cents. If you only have convertible (tourist) pesos, I saw a few people from my ship just paying 1 CUC to ride. Once you get to Casablanca, there is a small hill which leads to small park, and just past that are some steps that lead to the statue of Jesus. The ferry docked on the Havana side Looking back at the terminal on the Casablanca side Steps leading to the statue A bit farther up the steps, looking back Waiting for the ferry back, I bought this beer from a street vendor because I never had it before Waiting inside the Casablanca terminal The ferry ride back Later that night I took this photo a few doors down from La Bodeguita Del Medio in Havana Vieja
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