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Our Amazing Cuba Cruise on The Crystal 2/10-17


Wanderlost
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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.

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Wanderlost, great review, you truly summed up this really unique and enjoyable cruise. I went with trepidation and caution and I was surprised and delighted. Not your typical cruise mind you but I say that in a good way. ...

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Wanderlost, great review, you truly summed up this really unique and enjoyable cruise. I went with trepidation and caution and I was surprised and delighted. Not your typical cruise mind you but I say that in a good way. ...

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  • 1 month later...

You mentioned ( the neighborhood where Jose Fustar, the mosaic artist, turned his neighborhood into a colorful, vibrant display of mosaics). How far is this from downtown Havana? We are only there for one full day.

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