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Celestyal Crystal to Cuba-March 10, 2017--Random thoughts


jalynn
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We are looking forward to finally getting to visit Cuba. If anyone else is on this sailing, please go to the "All other cruise lines" part of the Roll Call boards and join the roll call so we can communicate a little ahead of time.

 

We plan to spend a few days in Montego Bay prior to the cruise. We have a tour set up with a guide we have used on previous trips to Jamaica and are anxiously awaiting lunch at the Pork Pit.

 

Anyone who's already completed this cruise, do you have suggestions on excursions other than the ones included in the cruise? Should we stick with the ones that we can book through Celestyal? Or branch out with locals as we usually do on "traditional" Caribbean cruises? Neither of us speak the language, so that could be an issue.

 

Cash. I know that there's a surcharge on changing US$ to Cuban, but there's nothing we can do about that, as far as I know. When/where do you change money? Euro users, do you have a surcharge also? (I have some Euros leftover from a European cruise...is that a better deal?) And I read somewhere that you don't need a lot of cash because there's not much to buy. True or false? I always rely on credit cards, but understand that I can't this time.

 

Thanks for reading my random thoughts and questions. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can answer my questions.

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There is a currency exchange office right at the dock area in Santiago de Cuba. There was no surcharge if you used Euros. I had both and used my Euros because the exchange rate was better and no surcharge. For 200 Euros I got 202 CUC. For $200 I would have gotten 174 CUC. Worked since I had gotten the Euros a while ago at a good exchange rate.

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Thanks, surfcitygirl. Do you mind me asking...how much cash do you think you spent? I'm trying to get a handle on how much cash to take. (I always stress over this for some reason.)

 

And that's quite an interesting list of cruise ships on which you have sailed! Makes mine seem so generic!

Edited by jalynn
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jalynn, We did not spend much. Only about $100, which included a few hats and little items and 30 CUC for lunch in a paladero in Havana (my husband's favorite meal of the trip 14 CUC for a huge lobster tail with 2 sides, coffee and dessert). If you are into art, there is a lot a nice stuff.

 

I fell in love with ships in 1963 when I crossed the Atlantic to visit my grandfather in Holland and since then, my favorite way to travel! Live in NJ so easy access to many lines, but usually go for the destination.

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Thanks for that info. I hope I'm not bugging you with questions too much. Would you mind answering these questions?

Did you strike out on your own in Havana or were you on tours?

How did you find the paladero where you had the lobster? (and do you remember the name of it?)

Did you do the ship provided tours (the ones included with the cruise) or do the "optional" ones you pay extra for?

And...hope this doesn't sound creepy...would you mind me giving you my phone number and you call me at some prearranged time and let me pick your brain? If you're not comfortable with that, it's okay :-).

 

Thanks-

Jo Ann

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jalynn, it's really not a good idea for anyone to post their phone no. online where the public can see it. A better way to go is the private message route. On tripadvisor.com, there is a way you can send private messages through that site to another poster on tripadvisor. Just click on the screen name of the poster you'd like to send a message or request to (whose post you are reading). Neither person's actual email address gets exchanged this way. Of course, you can only send one to someone else who is a registered poster on that site. Mess around on there a bit and learn to use tripadvisor's website. Just do search for the forums for Cuba. Read some of the posts and if you want to communicate with someone further, click on their screen name and then click where it says "message'. It's an excellent source of info. on anyplace in the world. It's not cruise oriented especially, but you can get info. that is very useful. Plus, occasionally even cruise info. from those who use that site and happen to see your post. Hope this helps. If not for this trip, maybe some other one you take in the future. Good luck!

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jalynn,

 

There is a money exchange at the airport and in all ports. Only the official money exchanges are allowed to change money (that´s why you can´t change money onboard).

 

On land there´s no problem to pay in Euro or USD. Take the number - currency doesn´t matter. So 1 CUC = 1 USD = 1 Euro.

 

Actually I spent more cash that I had planned. I had to retrieve some CUC from an ATM. But we had a bus round trip plus a 4 night stay in a beach hotel in Varadero.

 

At many tourist spots they ask for 5 CUC if you want to take photos. This adds up quite a bit and I´m sort of convinced that this is sort of a rip off. You receive a little paper which is regarded as your license. But I never ever saw anyone checking whether you paid or not.

 

Actually in Cienfuegos we´ve been out on our own and went to the theater. We paid an entrance fee of 2 CUC pP. The girl did not mention anything about a photo license. A couple of minutes later a ship tour arrived and the guide said that they have to pay 5 CUC for the photo license... :rolleyes:

 

Make sure that you take a lot of 1 dollar bills with you (the smallest Euro bill 1 5 Euro) for tips (bus drivers, tour guides...).

 

We saw quite a few (professional) beggars asking for pens and/or shampoo. They acutally sell the pens to make their living. If I had known about it I would have taken some with me (we do have lots of pens which nobody uses - I wouldn´t buy any).

 

steamboats

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jalynn, we did the included people to people tours and after they were done wandered around on our own. There are vintage american car taxis all around the squares and near tourist hot spots and you can negotiate a price for a ride. They generally want to do at least an hour tour for 45-50 CUC. We only wanted a short ride and it took a while to find someone to agree. The paladero was Cafe Lamperilla. We were trying to go to one that I had found on trip advisor, but it was fully booked with a tour and this one was down the street and those lobsters looked inviting. It's only a short walk from the terminal at the corner of Mercaderes and San Ignacio. The second afternoon in Havana, you will have plenty of time to see more sights on your own, the tour is done around 1 PM. The only extra tour we paid for was the Tropicana nightclub show the first night. This can also be done on your own, but once you add the taxi costs for the roundtrip and the entrance fee, the price differential with the ship wasn't that much. I have posted a review n the member reviews section and have more comments there. surfcitygirl

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Thanks for the great info. Surfcitygirl & Steamboats.

 

Interesting the variations in what people post that they paid for a tour or ride in one of the vintage cars. Someone posted a reply on TripAdvisor today. They had a 7 hr. ride for about the same as others pay for a much shorter tour. On the same thread others paid 30-40 CUCs for much less time. Guess it depends upon the demand and maybe even where you are when you choose a car and driver. I imagine anyone who seems to be a cruise ship tourist just in for a day or 2 is more likely to get stung and pay a high price.

 

I have been debating whether to do the Tropicana show through the ship or on our own (which is more usual for us). However, if there isn't much difference in price, and because it would maybe be easier for my husband (who has a sight mobility issue), maybe we'll just go w/the ship. We went to Ireland in Sept. and were planning to go to this "touristy" Irish show some ways on the outskirts of Dublin. I researched it well, called the place and was able to make a reservation. I thought we'd save a fair amount of $. However, in the end the transportation situation was going to be pricey and complicated. So we ended up going with a group. It worked out well because the group had the best seating, too. Another time in Istanbul we planned to go to a well known dinner and show on our own. Again, the transportation issues were going to complicate things too much. Going with a group paid off because the leader was good friends with the manager and had gone to school with him. So we all got free drinks and champagne, along with very good tables.

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Hmmm. Pretty significant difference between the cruise line's excursion tickets and going it on your own it seems. Is the venue pretty far from the ship and expensive to get to via taxi? Does the 2nd level have the best seats or view or something?

 

Thanks for the particulars, steamboats! I'm sure we'll go to that show one way or another! If we go through the ship, though, at least we might sort of "know" someone there. Sometimes that can enhance the fun and enjoyment! :D

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I don´t know the taxi fare. But I doubt it´s more than 100$ (which actually is the difference between the ticket prices and the excursion price for two).

 

There are three levels of tickets. 95$ sit in the front row. 85$ middle row, 75$ back row.

 

steamboats

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The quote we got was $50 each way. It was about a half hour. So with the 170 for the tickets and 100 for the taxi, we thought $28 was a small savings for the convenience of the easy trip. On the way back is was past midnight and it also felt better being in the bus with the group than driving through pretty empty streets in a cab.

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Thanks, mlbcruiser, for the info and concern. I actually thought about the phone number issue after posting the message. I figured I'd find a way to communicate if it became an option.

 

And thanks everyone who is chiming in with suggestions and info. This is so helpful. I agree that, it the price differential isn't great, sticking with the cruise ship tours at night are the way to go this time. It's always nice to not be in a huge bus load of people, but then sometimes there's comfort in numbers...and someone who actually knows where they are going.

 

Please, those of you with Cuba experience, keep the info coming!

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