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Bimmer09

X cruiser sails Azamara to Cuba Jan 15 to 24 2019

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10 hours ago, Jasperdo said:

Another excellent set of "sail in" photos. Bravo. And a happy belated birthday.


Thank you for the photo comment!

My subject demanded I keep busy with both cameras. I had no idea of what to expect as there was less Youtube stuff on Santiago de Cuba than the other two ports. Humble dwellings, people waving, mountains, a massive fort, oil refinery, cargo ships, sunset- it had it all.

Thanks for the Birthday wishes!

And read on as Santiago was a great stop for us.

Norris

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On 2/20/2019 at 10:37 PM, mevs904 said:

Happy Birthday Norris!  And thank you again for the enormous pleasure that you are bringing into all of our lives.  Your wonderful review tempers the depressing winter weather that we are getting in the Albany area.  I hope that you and Carol enjoyed a lovely dinner celebration tonight.  Life is good!


I echo your last sentence!

Thanks for the great feedback.

Dinner was in Trulucks and I think I have given them two Excellent reviews on TripAdvisor in the past so now they will get number three. They can do no wrong for me! 

Norris, excited to show you Santiago de Cuba tomorrow.

 

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12 hours ago, morbihan said:

Is it tidal Norris? The houses won't flood?

 

Happy Birthday! The key at last😂

 

 Hi, I imagine it is tidal being on the ocean  but the difference in levels can't be great judging by how low some of the houses sit above the water. I think photo number 5 (roof issues) will suggest that they are probably in greater danger from water from above.

Norris

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Belated Birthday Wishes! 

After our cruise, I will be happy to let you know what changes we have noticed since our Cuba trip in 2012.  This time only 2 days in  Havana compared to week in Cuba on our last trip.  We did find both of the hotels used in 2012 to be fine and much better & updated than I expected.  Even the food at all of the restaurants exceeded my expectations. Often the portions were just too big.  We were told that the government regulated our meals.  Remember this was 2012.  Have things changed, who knows?  More Americans, more tourists,  cruise ships......

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Anchored in the spacious bay of Santiago de Cuba harbor just after 6 p.m we hit Discoveries for dinner before mustering for our Azamara Excursion to Casa de la Trova at 7.30.

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shrimp cocktail, always available 

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Carol's avocado, artichoke and Frisee salad

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we both enjoyed the cauliflower soup

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my NY strip steak and fries with Bearnaise sauce on the side (always available)

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and Carol's Osso Buco ravioli (very yummy)

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coffee gelato to finish another fine meal

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Now we hustle our way forward to the Cabaret Lounge to join our group and head to the tender station on deck 3.....

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, NJ Gal said:

Belated Birthday Wishes! 

After our cruise, I will be happy to let you know what changes we have noticed since our Cuba trip in 2012.  This time only 2 days in  Havana compared to week in Cuba on our last trip.  We did find both of the hotels used in 2012 to be fine and much better & updated than I expected.  Even the food at all of the restaurants exceeded my expectations. Often the portions were just too big.  We were told that the government regulated our meals.  Remember this was 2012.  Have things changed, who knows?  More Americans, more tourists,  cruise ships......


Thanks for the Birthday wishes and give my regards to Edison NJ!

They are fairly lavish with the food and I enjoyed everything I ate there although I only had 3 meals. They were pretty welcoming to us Americans (British in my case) and they need to be to keep us coming back which all of the people I have seen writing tourist reviews intend to do. We will certainly return and stop to smell the roses. I, of course, want to sit at a sidewalk cafe with a rum and a cigar and people-watch. The average person there has little of what we take for granted but that's Communism for you.  I recall talking to someone in Miami who had a couple of elder family members visit him and when he took them to a Walmart the ladies were in tears when they saw the variety of goods and the bright lighting and functioning restrooms.

 

We will be drawn back to the amazing architecture of Havana. To the classic colorful American cars from 60 years ago, to the welcoming people, the climate and how different it is from a typical Caribbean Island.

 

I would love to see American firms trading with Cuba and imagine container ships full of toilet paper, soap, toothpaste and paint docking in Havana someday. In the meantime we will gladly spend our tourist CUCs there and enjoy what they can currently offer.

 

Thank you President Obama for not living in the past.

Norris

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Just a short video clip of our tender heading to shore. You can see many tour buses lined up on the dock. This is the dock that was supposedly being worked on over our fall/ winter but it looks like  100 years old of weathered concrete and no sign of repairs. The tender took about 15 minutes so I just show the beginning and end.

 

 

 

Norris

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Norris,

 

As usual, another excellent review!   Your photos of Cuba are over the top my friend.  Carol’s notes and your commentary are painting a wonderful picture of Cuban culture and atmosphere aboard the Journey.  Pam (GrazieMommy) and I have thoroughly enjoyed this “journey” with you and Carol and are with you to the end.  Happy Belated Birthday.

 

Trip

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We will be traveling soon to Cuba on Azmara.   I have done some research on Cuba and illnesses/diseases.   Quite a few folks were treated by hospitals for serious stomach problems after visiting, a few died.   I checked on the CDC site and Cuba is now listed as having a Cholera outbreak in addition to some nasty parasitic infections.   We will enjoy Cuba but will not eat there.   We will also carry bottled water from the ship.   It seems there is a sewage treatment problem on Cuba as their facilities have not been updated in 50 years.   Needless to say with untreated sewage being piped into the rivers and the ocean we will also not be going into the water.

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2 hours ago, MisterMet said:

Norris,

 

As usual, another excellent review!   Your photos of Cuba are over the top my friend.  Carol’s notes and your commentary are painting a wonderful picture of Cuban culture and atmosphere aboard the Journey.  Pam (GrazieMommy) and I have thoroughly enjoyed this “journey” with you and Carol and are with you to the end.  Happy Belated Birthday.

 

Trip


Trip, so happy to know you are still out there reading and enjoying. Many thanks for the kind comments!

I know I have some good shots from day 2 in Santiago. I haven't looked at them since I took them and checked them on the back of the camera.

Work and life is keeping me away from the computer more than I would like.

First World problem.

Norris

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Casa de la Trova

Our first tender trip in the dark and when we arrived at the dock our first Cuban band welcome-4 guys playing...."Besame Mucho!". Crowd barriers directed us to the Customs and Immigration building where bags were electronically checked and a "Transit" card slipped into our passports. Outside, the buses were waiting for various excursions. A young Cuban lady wearing a white shirt and a big smile beckoned us to our bus. A young female member of the shore excursions team was along for the ride (and the rum).

 

The drive wasn't far but it was steep-narrow hilly streets. The big bus stopped at the main square in town. There was a small park with trees and dozens of people's faces lit by the glow of their cell phones as there was a wifi signal here. Each was quietly engaged. I was surprised at how quiet everywhere we went in Cuba was. No musak, no bros hollering' to a friend 10 inches away, no cars going by with their bodywork rattling from the deep bass on their tricked out stereo. No "hey look at me". No ostentation as they don't have the money but also no overt begging. No dogs being walked but plenty of stray dogs that don't bark at you. No dog mess on the streets. No runners, except maybe 2 on the Malecon and they may have been from a ship.

No food trucks and very few cart vendors. Very few billboards.

 

We walked half a block and around a corner just yards from the square was somewhere familiar to us from Youtube videos. There were 25 of us and more on another coach that hadn't arrived yet.

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The guide went in to clear us as there is a 10 CUC cover charge and we were led up a flight of stairs to the music room. No music was playing and we had our choice of seats. The waitress saw me take a chair in the front half of the room and asked if I wanted to sit at the back "it's loud here" she said. "Excellent" said I and dropped my gear on the table. I was halfway back in the room by a door to the balcony.

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There was a complimentary Cuba Libre which she went to get for us. Carol wasn't going to take one but I insisted as it gave me two if she eschewed it upon arrival. The rest of the bus was filing in and taking seats up front. I needed an ashtray even though I wasn't planning to smoke in the room and went to the bar where this guy...

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was giving me a huge smile and saying something in Spanish and giving two thumbs up.

"What's he saying?" I asked the tour guide. "He loves your shirt!" No it wasn't the one with the dancers just another shirt popular with Cubans apparently. The guy I would find out was the compere for the show and each time he saw me he flashed a big smile and the thumbs up.

I felt like "The Man".

 

Carol is very excited-buzzing-to be in this room. It is so familiar to us. Nothing fancy and it is small but there are congas and guitars on stage. The second bus arrives and the back of the room fills too. She tries the rum and coke but just a few sips as booze is anathema to her (except Prosecco or champagne). More for me but at 3 CUC a glass I will be ordering more anyway.

 

 

The band I had never heard of before, but then I don't read music trade papers or just surf Youtube for "Cuban music". They were called Los Jubilados and had just returned from a tour of Colombia. I had my camcorder along to capture some of the music and it will follow after the photos. 

 

To be continued...

 

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Ready for the band

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Hotel Casa Granda at the end of the street where the square is

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below the balcony

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a car pulls up and guys on the street check out the engine

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More....

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Hi!  I’m loving your review and your writing style. You had me with the cat story as I will be leaving 3 - including Wreckit Ralph (whose name is actually Ollie) behind when we sail on Azamara Journey in April. 

 

I love a long review with lots of photos!  My favorite kind. I actually was pointed this way by a kind soul on a Celebrity roll call. We just booked our first Celebrity cruise, so this has a double value!  

 

Thanks for writing it!

 

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On 2/1/2019 at 12:12 PM, Bimmer09 said:


Cathy  there are only 2 upcharge restaurants; Aqualina (Italian) and Prime C (steaks). $30 each.

Everything else is included.

Norris

Sounds great.the activities on board look nice too..have u tried the spa?

 

.Enjoying the review. Photos and commentary are amazing....as always!

 

Have you had much interaction with the Cuban people you encounter along the way?  Are they happy having tourists?

 

  Clearly now a toss up for us between Azamara and Oceana!

Edited by hcat

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On 2/18/2019 at 10:31 AM, Bimmer09 said:


Gordon, a bit of a change? I'll say! Sounds exotic and I'd love to see that Dubai architecture close-up. Have you decided to book it?

Norris

Norris booked the cruise this morning, on our first sea day on Silhouette.

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I'm late. I'm late!

I have a note from my ummm errr doctor since you didn't accept my mother's note last time (I can't imagine why)

Actually we were on an Oceania cruise from Miami (where I missed you by two days) to Rio with an after trip to Iguazu Falls.

Now that darned work thing is getting in the way.

 

Happy to be aboard for another great GSJ (up to page 13).

 

Robert

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9 hours ago, Cyber Kat said:

Hi!  I’m loving your review and your writing style. You had me with the cat story as I will be leaving 3 - including Wreckit Ralph (whose name is actually Ollie) behind when we sail on Azamara Journey in April. 

 

I love a long review with lots of photos!  My favorite kind. I actually was pointed this way by a kind soul on a Celebrity roll call. We just booked our first Celebrity cruise, so this has a double value!  

 

Thanks for writing it!

 


Hi  and thanks for your enthusiasm!

I'm glad you liked the cat story- I just used a couple of cat art pieces we have hanging in our loft to flesh the story out. We always thank Snowy for not being  Wreckit Ralph when we come home after a cruise. She's the kind of cat that would do some dusting or straighten the cat pictures while we are gone. 

I'm glad you like long photo reviews as it's hard for me to write anything else. Having a good camera has made me take more photos as time has gone by.

Which roll call were you reading where you stumbled upon this? I'd like to know whom to thank.

Good to have you onboard!

Norris

 

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6 hours ago, hcat said:

Sounds great.the activities on board look nice too..have u tried the spa?

 

.Enjoying the review. Photos and commentary are amazing....as always!

 

Have you had much interaction with the Cuban people you encounter along the way?  Are they happy having tourists?

 

  Clearly now a toss up for us between Azamara and Oceana!


Hi and thanks for the comment!

Spa? No I never set foot in it even to photograph, which I regret as they are always beautiful spaces. Pampering isn't really my thing or a need I have. That's just  me. It's maybe a Northern Ireland thing, not to be relaxed or soothed unless you have a few pints of Guinness littering the table. I doubt if there was one massage given in the country during my time spent there.I lived in a society with not much sophistication but an awful lot of dry humor used to get through the day. I left when I was 18 and went back for two years 72-74 when finding myself in the midst of two gun battles prompted me to get out.  I do love saunas though.

 

The Cubans we met (Carol can maybe chime in) were very happy to have Americans visiting and if he were alive I am sure Fidel would. Tourism was something he hoped for when their economy nose-dived after 1989 and the glorious fall of the Berlin wall. They need our dollars.

Paint and concrete were another pair of his wishes and Havana particularly needs more of both. They need to trade with the USA. We trade with all kinds of despotic regimes and the only way back into Cuba is through trade in my opinion. 

 

One of our guides, I think Lauren in Havana, said she was proud of her country and acknowledged that the city was in disrepair and there was poverty but said "we don't try to hide it. It is what it is and we want to improve it." She said she would love to visit America but it is not easy to get a visa to leave for a visit. My heart went out to her. I travel freely but I always come home and given the chance she might do the same-or never return and that's what the government fears I imagine-a drain on the educated young people. If they can fill the shops with  soft toilet paper and toothpaste then there's a step to keeping people happier with what they have. Do they look unhappy? Not from what I saw. They are strong people with at least on the surface a light spirit.  Casa de la Trova helped show us that. We saw them as all very helpful- even strangers nearby came over to help Carol down some steps when I was snapping photos over there somewhere. I can say we never had an uncomfortable moment-well maybe one but it was my fault and I'll tell you that at the end of our 2nd day in Santiago. It's a story with a happy ending but also shows the Cuban character well. Wait and see.

 

Do Azamara first. I hate Oceania's  "brochure price/your price" nonsense. They send me one e mail per day. No one on Earth has ever paid the brochure price as it is a fantasy. 50% off is pure BS. All their cruises seem to be 10 days minimum. AZ thrives on overnights which pulled me in to considering them. Azamazing Evenings and White Night are  home runs.

 

I write as someone who isn't swayed by bells and whistles on ships or hyperbolic claims of excellence.

I knew plenty about Azamara before booking. Carol didn't but she trusted my instincts and it's up to her to say whether I was right or not. I feel I was.

 

Hope this helps answer your questions.

Norris

 

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7 hours ago, Gordoncruickshank said:

Norris booked the cruise this morning, on our first sea day on Silhouette.


Two thumbs up Gordon!

I have to go check your itinerary. What is the date?

Norris

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Back to La Casa de Trova where the band was introduced by my shirt-loving new friend and his words translated by a gentleman in white speaking English.

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When the band began it was loud and clear and every molecule of air in that small room was lit by music. A dense rhythm of congas, bongos, maracas and claves, just intoxicating (if you like that sort of thing). The host stepped off the stage and picked one of the passengers to dance with...

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another introduction

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dance fever broke out

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More....

 

 

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A couple of dancers appeared from the balcony, he in that polka dot shirt and she in a red dress if I recall and oh, how they danced! With grace, fluidity and much humor. I hope they are on the video I shot coming later. Always smiling. Joie de vivre in practice. She's not in this shot. The energy in the room grew.

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something reminiscent of a conga line but without that rhythm  developed and circled the room

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"Another Cuba libre por favor", I cried. Emergencia!

Intermission and I stepped onto the balcony for a smoke 

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there I met the rhythm guitarist/singer (L) and bass player/singer (R)

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The guitarist could speak English which made him understand the compliments I genuinely gave them. He told me they had a CD for 10 CUC. I wanted one but my money was at the table in my camera bag. Hold on, said I and went inside only to find Carol holding up their CD. "Look what I've bought" said she. I took the copy back to the balcony to show the musicians. They were thrilled with our purchase. 

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Back inside for more music. They finished with a song I had requested on the balcony- El Cuarto de Tula (Tula's bedroom) which Buena Vista Social Club brought to the fore.

At the beginning the bass player gets another musician from the balcony to take his place while he sings it with much gusto and improvisation (seen in the video).

 

We thought the band excellent and the thing we most like about Cuba-the musicians par excellence- were represented well in this tiny room. The trumpet player pointed his horn towards the balcony doors so as not to deafen the rhythm guitarist in front of him.  I'll say he was the best trumpeter I have ever heard and I don't even know his name. He reminded me of John Coltrane the saxophonist giant on "A love supreme"....a prodigious talent undiscovered playing in a small, insignificant-within-the-world-outside, club where rum only costs 3 CUC. The guitar player reminded me of my favorite Cuban-Eliades Ochoa. Never looked at his guitar but just blew solo after solo with passion and dexterity. Maybe they don't have the distractions or colleges that we have in the USA and just sit and play, day after day to hone their considerable skills. For very little money I guess.

 

The two graceful dancers had met me on the balcony during the break and were carrying a little cup for tips. I had no money out there but told them I would see them later in typical Larry David fashion. After the show I went to the balcony and met them there and gave them 5 CUC and they were so delighted I had kept my word, rather than brush them off. I always intend not to be the Ugly American when traveling. They deserved the tip.

 

Meanwhile our guide had gathered the group together for the bus ride back to the dock. I was missing and Carol was concerned but I was as happy as a clam (odd expression) on that balcony with my rum, my American cigarettes and my warm Cubans. I joined the group, floating on air.

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Color me "blown away". 

Norris

 

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9 hours ago, Bimmer09 said:


Hi  and thanks for your enthusiasm!

I'm glad you liked the cat story- I just used a couple of cat art pieces we have hanging in our loft to flesh the story out. We always thank Snowy for not being  Wreckit Ralph when we come home after a cruise. She's the kind of cat that would do some dusting or straighten the cat pictures while we are gone. 

I'm glad you like long photo reviews as it's hard for me to write anything else. Having a good camera has made me take more photos as time has gone by.

Which roll call were you reading where you stumbled upon this? I'd like to know whom to thank.

Good to have you onboard!

Norris

 

 

One of the members of the Celebrity Equinox Roll Call May 13, 2020 told me I should read your review when I mentioned that we were sailing on Azamara Journey for the first time in April.  

 

We are going to Charleston, SC and Hamilton, Bermuda from NYC. 

 

I’m loving your photos!

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12 hours ago, Bimmer09 said:


Two thumbs up Gordon!

I have to go check your itinerary. What is the date?

Norris

17th October 2020 for 15 nights on the Pursuit. 

Edited by Gordoncruickshank

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Here is the first of the Casa de la Trova video clips I shot. If the music isn't your cup of rum then you can skip the ones that follow, although they feature the dancers and many of the passengers joining in. If you see yourself in the video pop in and say hi.

I'll be uploading them to Youtube this morning and once that is done I'll upload the copies of the Insider from yesterday in Cienfuegos, today in Santiago and move us on to our next long classic car excursion where we will visit Fidel's resting place, watch the changing of the guard in honor of Jose Marti, go way up into the mountains and visit a unique botanic garden. Then that mighty fort followed by lunch on the water.

 

 

 

Norris

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