My home for the rest of my Cuban adventure was on the ship, Louis Cristel, for its Cuba Cruise. I do a lot of cruising, so to combine that with a way to see more of Cuba and not be “stuck” on an all-inclusive resort just fit my travelling needs. There is nothing wrong with all-inclusive resorts in Cuba — I understand they are fantastic. For my first time in Cuba, I needed to see more. For me, cruising allows me to get a taste of a country and I learn where I really want to spend more time on subsequent visits. And I definitely want to go back to Cuba!
After my Coco taxi tour of Havana, I returned to the ship for a late lunch and took the opportunity to get settled into my new home. I talked a little about the ship when I boarded, but here is some more information. I had pre-booked some excursions with the ship, so I exchanged my vouches for the actual tickets. I was told that the daily ship newsletter would let me know when and where to meet up for each of the tours. My first four was that night — a trip to Havana’s famed Tropicana. We met at 8:15 at the Muses Lounge, which is where the production shows all take place. Since this was the only tour scheduled, I figured it would be pretty easy to organize, and it was. We were loaded into two buses and headed to the Tropicana where we were treated with champagne, then our own bottles of Havana Club rum and cola. Of course, there was an incredible show! Great music, drumming dancing and over-the-top costumes.
Our next day on the ship was the only sea day scheduled on this cruise. A nice, lazy day with the only formal dinner. After the sea day, we would be making stops in Antilla, in the Holguin province (try finding it on a map!), Santiago de Cuba, then a quick trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica (where the ship picks up other passengers), then back to Cuba for a stop in Cienfeugos/Trinidad, then a beach day at Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth before heading back to Havana.
So, why go on the Cuba Cruise?
- See more of Cuba!
- Great excursions and easy organization. If you have ever taken an excursion on other ships, there is this whole process of checking on, getting a bus assignment, and generally being herded. Maybe because the ship is smaller, it felt so much easier and I liked the process so much better. You meet at the assigned meeting place. Your tour is called along with a list of bus numbers assigned to the tour. You go to the debarkation area, where Cuban medical personnel check your temperature, then out to one of the buses for your tour. With the exception of the Tropicana show, none of the groups I was with were over 25 people.
- Incredible shows — the entertainment on this cruise is comparable — or better — to what I have seen on other cruises. Most of the in-house entertainers on other ships do 3-4 production shows per cruise, depending on the length of the cruise and fill-in with other professional entertainers. On this cruise, every night,for seven nights. the in-house entertainers did a production show with a mix a variety of live music, dance and acrobatics — and great performances. These are not-to-be-missed!
- Great ports of call! Antilla is a small village — you will be amazed by the tiny dock!, Santiago is filled with interesting architecture and unique sights — and the energy is very different from Havana. Cienfeugos is easy to explore from the ship on your own, but outside the city are beautiful natural wonders. There is also a tour that goes to Trinidad. The drive is about 90 minutes one-way, but the scenery will surprise you (I thought I was in California for a few moments) and Trinidad is a very special place. Punta Francis is a glorious white-sand beach that will make you feel that you are the first person to step foot on it.
- The staff is amazing. I cannot say enough of how wonderful they all were. From the cook who created made-to-order omelets, to the incredibly talented waitstaff (wait until you hear Ronny sing!) to cabin staff. Everyone did their best to ensure you had the time of your life. For me, this ranks as one of my top two cruises of all time!
- The spa was a nice treat! I loved my massage and facial — really helped with my bad knee.
- Cuban dance and zumba lessons!
- Did I mention great musicians?
- Then, there is just the incredible Cuban people that you meet along the way.
Cuba is beautiful, warm, inviting and the Cuba Cruise is a great way to see it.
So, after a relaxing sea day, I would be off to see Holguin province and a real treat…