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Just done Celestyal Crystal Havana to Havana Cruise


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Just back from Celeystal Crystal Havana to Havana cruise. Had a fabulous time, have posted a review just waiting for it to be published.

Any questions please ask.


Luckily for us the ship remained in port in Havana for the first two days which enabled everyone to come and go as they pleased. However, on the return to Havana the ship was barely in port at all. On the Monday when we disembarked we had to be off the ship by 9am as it had to make room for other cruise ships coming in. It did not return to port until 6pm. We then found out from a couple we bumped into in Havana who had boarded in Mo-Bay that the following day they had two choices either off all day or stay on all day. If they chose off they had to be off by 06:30 and could not get back on until 21:00. So glad this never happened to us when we boarded it would have changed things for us so much, doubt we would have been happy about it.


Anyway - any questions please feel free to ask.

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So excited! We get on this Friday from Jamaica. Do you happen to have the dailies?


How much did you end up paying for the vintage car rides and where exactly did you get to them?


I have read attire is fairly casual for dinner, is this still the case? Should I bring a cocktail dress for the Captain's Gala or will pants be fine?


I'm sure I will have more questions.

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Yes I've kept all the daily newsletters that they put in your cabin each evening. The classic car rides are never a fixed price and all depends on how much you bargain. An hour one taking in all the usual hotspots we got for 40cuc which we did from the main square where the Telegrapho hotel is. Another one we did which we picked up from outside the Armadores by the port was for 30cuc but all we did there was along the malecon through the tunnel to el morro spent about 15mins there then came back and went to the Nationale hotel where they dropped us off. We then had a few drinks and went to Habana Libre and Coppelia then got a regular cab back to the Armadores near the port for 10cuc.

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Dress is entirely casual, numbers are very low at the moment. Some did nice evening type attire for the captains cocktail party but it's up to you, we didn't even go to it, not really our sort of thing. The weather is very very hot and at about 70% humidity. Most days it was over 30 degrees. But it was nice and cool inside the ship. It rained three times whilst we were there but didn't last very long just heavy thundery downpours, I think the longest was for about an hour, but it quickly went back to being hot and humid again.

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About the cars, we are a group of four. Will all four of us be able to get in one car?


If you get a chance would you mind posting the dailies? I don't blame you if you don't want to as it would be a pain.


What night is the Captain's party?


What do you mean small numbers. Are you saying there are not many people showing up on the cruise?

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Depends which car you choose some will fit 4 adults maybe a bit of squeeze in the back.

The captains cocktails party is on the Weds evening.

When we were on board there were less than 250 people on board.

As a result there was never a buffet option for lunch or dinner they were always a la carte in the main restaurant on deck 8. Breakfast was buffet style on excursion days otherwise that was a la carte as well. Or there was an omelette station on deck 9. If you wanted early bird breakfast that was 6:30 to 7am on deck nine for coffee and pastries.

They did a BBQ on weds lunchtime round the pool otherwise the "snack" lunchtime options if you didn't want a la carte was things like tacos or fajitas or churros etc. The a la carte portions are small (the starters were generally 1off ie if it was samosas you would get one samosa) but there was never a problem if you asked for more or even if you ate what you chose and then picked something else. You could also go back for a second sitting as well if you wanted.

I'll see what I can do with the dailies.

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Clarification please. Am I to understand that if you did not board in Havana, you would miss out in visiting the various land sites? How many days did you actually spend on land in Cuba? One of my co-travelers does not eat seafood; I presume that any meals on shore would accommodate him. Were the transfers to/from the ship from the airport relatively seamless? What was the currency of choice when on land? I assume that on board it was the US dollar. Could you use charge cards on land for purchases? Any problems with immigration clearances when you arrived? Are tips included in the cruise fare? Thanks for any suggestions that you might proffer.

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The Celestyal Crystal has an overnight stop in Havana. You can board the ship either in Havana or Montego Bay, Jamaica (which is the only non Cuban port). Other ports in Cuba are Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. On this specific cruise the ship had to leave the dock in Havana (the day Bluebell disembarked). All other people had to decide to spend the whole day on land (from 6:30 am til 9 pm) or stay onboard. The ship had to anchor in the harbor basin with no tendering.


Currency onboard is Dollar (but you don´t need cash unless you want to pay your final bill in cash - all purchases onboard are payed with your cabin card).


Currency on land is CUC (except for Jamaica, where you can pay in US Dollar). No US Dollar accepted in Cuba (officially). US credit cards are not accepted in Cuba. There´s an exchange booth in every port (CADECA). Only the official exchange is allowed to exchange foreign currency to CUC.



Tipps are app. 60 Dollar pP/week. For our booking (Germany) tips were included in our cruise fare (56 Euro).


Each time you leave the ship in a Cuban port you have to go through passport control and security (like at an airport). Same procedure when you go back onboard. And they scan your temperature (you hardly see that).


I´ve written an extense review with tons of photos which you can see here. Text is in German but Google translate works pretty well (or just have a look on the photos).



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Yer it doesn't happen all the time it just depends if the authorities have made "an admin error" and over booked the two docks at the port in Havana (more like NCL pay more than Celeystal and they have more people on board). Like I said when we arrived to start our cruise from Havana we were fortunate as the ship was in dock at the port for the entire time e.g. from around 7am Monday morning through to 10pm Tuesday night meaning all those already on board were free to come and go as they pleased, (including those that had boarded in Mo-Bay the previous Friday). And all of those arriving or disembarking in Havana, they also could do so without any issue. For those that were disembarking they could use the ship as a base if they had a late flight as it was in dock the whole time.

However, once we had sailed round the island (stopping at Mo-Bay to offload and load passengers) and then got back into port in Havana everyone on board was advised of "port congestion" this meant that the ship was not allowed to stay in dock during the day (other bigger cruise ships were due in and the Crystal had to make way for them) so you had two choices get off or stay on. If you chose to get off you had to be off by 9am on Monday morning and you would not be able to get back on until 6pm that night. During this time the ship would be anchored in the bay with no access. Same again on Tuesday only this time you had to be off by 6:30am and you would not be able to get on again until 9pm. During these times the cruise line looked after you by ensuring that you had access to breakfast/lunch/dinner at a designated place in Havana, in this instance it was at the Grand Theatre, no idea what it was like as we never made use of it as we were disembarking and moving on to a hotel.

To be honest, it seems a bit pointless to stay on board when this happens as you will not get to see any of Havana.

This would have also impacted those arriving in Havana for the next cruise as they would not have been able to check in and board on the Monday until after 6pm. For those that were disembarking in Havana and had late flights, hard luck you had to get off at 8am, you couldn't make use of the ship whilst you were waiting for your flight. For those that had boarded in Mo-Bay - their choice was simple - if you want to see Havana get off and make the most of it!


Rough Schedule

Mon 7am to Tues 10pm in Havana (embark /disembark day)

Weds sea day

Thursday 7am to 14:00 in Cienfuegos

Friday 8am to 8pm Montego Bay (embark / disembark day)

Saturday 7am to 14:30 in Santiago de Cuba

Sunday sea day

Monday 7am back in Havana

Edited by Bluebell247
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My wife was on the Crystal on the May 15 sailing. We arrived two days early and stayed in a hotel in old Havana. Had scheduled a guide for two days and all went well until time to board the ship. We were suppose to board on Monday. Had received an email prior to departure stating the boarding issues in Havana. Was told we should be able to board by 3 pm. Our tour guide dropped us off at pier after a full day of walking and touring. Found out when registering that the ship would not be available until 6:30. We were offered tickets to go to Grand Theater and eat something but we were not hungry due to late lunch. Decided to go back out and find an antique book store and pick up something we had seen earlier in the day. By the time we walked back in the heat and got what we were looking for, my wife started to get rubbery legs. Went found a bar with air conditioning (not many of those around) El Floridian and found a table to cool off. She had just a Shirley Temple. After about 45 minutes we started our way back to the pier. To make a long story short, by the time we were cleared to board the ship, she passed out on the elevator going up to the second level to board the ship. After recovering with the pier medical staff (which was very helpful) the ships team came and got her and she spent her first 3 hours on the ship in the ships hospital. After 2 units of saline in her vein and at about 10 pm,she was finally able to get to her cabin. We were then told we would have to meet in the lounge at 6:15 AM the next morning and leave the ship by 6:30 and be on a bus for 13 1/2 hours, driving back and forth through Havana. Our other choice was to stay on the ship and be anchored in the harbour for 13 1/2 hours without anything to do and limited staff on board. I do not know if this is going to be an ongoing issue for the Crystal but there are only two berths for these type of passenger ships and there are more and more ships coming to Havana as port stops. There was a MSC large ship in port for at least the 4 days we were in Havana. The Tuesday we were sent out on buses all day, a NCL large ship came into port. By that night, the MSC had left and we took its position.

I am sure the Celestyal was put out to pasture so to speak because the govt was making more money on the larger cruise ships coming into port. If this is the case and its Havana port stops remain this way, I would suggest not going on the Crystal. In my opinion it will make your port stop one that you will remember for the wrong reasons. We were planning on going on a 4 hour tour as part of our cruise package on that Tuesday and go back to the market to pick up souvenirs for our grandkids. One would have thought that being on a bus for 13 1/2 hours they would have thought about stopping at the big market for those that wanted to shop. Consequently we for forced to purchase things elsewhere including the airport shop.

When we arrived back in Havana to leave, there was not going to be a conflict of bigger ships so those guests leaving the ship and had late flights could actually use the ship all day (they still had to vacate their cabin). So for those of you booking this cruise, you might want to consider booking late afternoon or evening flights back home and use the ship as a home base for part of that day. Unless this pier issue gets resolved, it will be the downfall of this cruise line as other ships start visiting Havana.

Now for the ship and its staff. I personally loved the size of the ship. Not a ton to do but so easy to get around. Food was OK, nothing great but not bad. I had special diet needs, Celiac, and I was brought the next evenings menu after dinner each night and the staff accommodated me very nicely. I wish there was more options for meals throughout the day. Most times, you had to eat lunch and dinner in the main dining room with tablecloths, etc. A few times, the main dining room would be set up for buffet style. You have to pay for room service and its food offering leaves for wanting more. Because of my wives medical issue on the first evening, we both missed the sit down dinner and I had to order room service and there was no room service menu in the cabin. Once someone brought it, I received my food without any cutlery.

The service overall was very friendly and spot on. I think our room steward and his assistant was taking care of all the cabins on our deck and side of ship. We seemed to always wave to him down the hall but very seldom saw him up close.

Being a smaller ship, we always saw the same staff individuals no matter where the activities were being held and they were usually friendly but not over the top (which works for us). The lectures were in my opinion the best part of the cruise. The Prof on board knew his Cuban history, even though it was slanted to the Cuban point of view, and was very interesting and humorous. He was always willing to stop and chat whenever you ran into him on the ship. Don't miss his talks.

Entertainment. The shows in the evening along with the band is very good for this size ship. During sea days, there would be a food preparation demo by Chefs out by the pool and then food sampling.

This ship is old, although it has been updated to a point. Therefore the pool is very small and covered when in port and on rough sea days so don't plan on doing alot of swimming. There is some really nice areas to sit, some shaded top to bottom at the aft of the ship. That is also where the hot tub is located. A nice setting and also only place to smoke one of those nice Cuban cigars. This cruise line is trying hard to find a niche along with the huge mega ships. Travelling around the island and making two additional ports is what sets this cruise apart but frankly, a two day port visit in Havana would have been more than enough for my wife and myself. As far as trying to recoup some $350 in medical costs that my wife encountered. Beware, the insurance you purchase from the cruise line that you are told you have to have to enter the country(immigration never asked to see a copy of it at entering or leaving Cuba) is based in Greece. Good luck on reaching them. It's been over a month since our return and we are still trying to call them in Greece.

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We will be on this cruise leaving from Havana on Aug. 7. It was interesting reading everyone's post and hearing about the boarding in Havana. We planned this through a group travel company so will be on their schedule. With the new Cuba regulations for Americans, I am glad we are with an organized group tour. When we come back to Havana, we will spend one night in a hotel in the city with the group tour.


From what I have been reading, people are not too dressy on their captain gala night. Is this true? With the weight restriction for our luggage on the charter flight from Miami to Havana, I know my husband would not want to bring a jacket. I am expecting it to be hot and humid so I don't plan on bringing heavier clothes which will help with the weight.


How does the ship work it out for those getting disembarking and embarking in Montego Bay? Would we need to be out of our cabins because new people are coming on the ship? We have been there so many times that we may not be getting off the ship.

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You can stay onboard in Montego Bay if you want to. We only had to wait until the luggage was outside. It´s a smaller group disembarking in Montego Bay. The people embarking do spread over the whole day.


Yes, the formal night is not too dressy. A shirt is totally o.k., a tie would be nice too, jacket is not required.


Embarkation in Havana was easy. The groups arrive at different times. We didn´t have any longer wait. Baggage Drop is on the first floor (street level). Then you go upstairs where you check-in and receive the cabin card. At the next table they check your passport and make a security photo. Then you walk through the hall for security and immigration.



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