Would do it again in a heartbeat. Coming into Havana with the sunrise -- that's pretty special and very rare.
5 out of 5
Embarkation was far smoother than I expected. Chose to park at the terminal, which I think made things even easier -- no lines, parking deck, easy walk to the terminal itself. Chose the 9:30 window, which meant no lines and a fresh, friendly staff. The process could not have been smoother. Boarded ship before noon.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
An initial disclaimer: I only ate at the Seven Seas main dining room, so I can't speak to the buffets or the specialty restaurants. And I'll have to say reading previous reviews had lowered my expectations some. However, I was really blown away at how consistently good it was. I felt the variety should have been enough to have made anyone happy, whether for lunch or dinner (breakfast was fairly predictable from day to day). The Freestyle dining option was the perfect option for us -- allowing the ultimate flexibility. Never had to wait to be seated, and the slow pace of the meal may not be for everyone, but it was exactly what we were looking for. Typically had two appetizers, a main course and desert, with beverages and coffee for dinner. That adds up to well over an hour, which is as it should be for that kind of meal. The staff was friendly and attentive, some more than others, but never had a bad experience. The language barrier was sometimes a challenge for more prolonged conversations, but it was never an obstacle to ordering. As far as the open bar -- that really made the cruise, but not in the way you might think. Though there were several folks who looked a little rough the morning of Day Two, I did not see one person who was was out of control or obnoxious or in any way over-served. On the contrary, the open bar gave the ship a really relaxed feel. I imagine part of that had to do with the itinerary (most of the passengers looked to have moved beyond the "it's all about the booze" portion of their lives), but still, if I ever cruise again, I will choose an all inclusive drink cruise.
5 out of 5
Didn't take advantage of many of the activities other than the bars and the wonderful areas for relaxing and conversation. Oddly enough (or maybe not, considering the main destination), the smokers had what for me was the prime spot on the ship. I would have chosen those tables had I not had my cigars at the ready.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Across the board, the staff was friendly and attentive. The bartenders were cheerful and the drinks they made came quick and strong.
5 out of 5
The Sun is smaller, but perfect for this kind of cruise. It did not have a lot of "wow" factor, but that wasn't a drawback for the cruisers, who seemed to break off into the pool crowd, the buffet crowd, the relaxing/meandering crowd and the casino crowd. Though there was a spa and art auctions, they did not seem to be a huge draw on this ship, but maybe I just wasn't in the right places at the right times. The design made the ship easy and quick to navigate.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
The cabin was far roomier than I expected and laid out in a very functional way. Having the natural light made a huge difference. For this particular cruise, the balcony didn't seem all that necessary, and it turns out it wasn't. Though it's certainly a great feature, it would have been mostly unused this cruise.
The only thing I would recommend is doing a little bit of research before booking your cruise. If you're traveling with kids or have a real need to have several off-the-charts entertainment options to choose from at any given time, this probably isn't the ship for you. But for me, for this cruise, it was perfect.
Started here, so can't evaluate as a destination, but there are several waterfront bars along the port. Fish Lips in particular is a fun place to be and offers a familiar view for anyone who's watched the port cam in anticipation.
Something for everyone here. Duval Street is about as subtle as a neon sign, but it's got its own vibe and you've got to respect that, whether it's your thing or not. I'm glad I hit Sloppy Joe's because it wouldn't have felt complete if I hadn't, but the First Flight Brewery on Whitehead Street was more satisfactory to me -- hit it on their first birthday. Open, friendly and with good beer and a great atmosphere. Also, don't miss the Hemingway Rum Company -- probably one of my favorite stops. Friendly folks, very cool space and free rum tasting.
The experience is too much to review, so I'll hit the highlights: an OldCar Tours 5 hour tour of the Havana area. Tony, our English speaking guide was amazing and made the experience so much better. Great lunch at a paladar. Saw the Finca Vigia, Cojimar and later, on foot without a guide, much of Old Havana. It's a little intimidating, but do it anyway -- you won't regret it. Be sure to have a frozen daiquiri at the Floridita and a mojito at Dos Hermanos near the Havana Club shop by the terminal. Wear comfortable shoes and when you get off the ship and cross the street, be prepared for the roving artists, who will immediately identify you as a cruiser because you'll be awed and wandering in circles trying to take it all in. They'll sketch you and then try to sell it to you. I figured it would qualify as the piece of original Cuban art that I wanted to take home with the rum and cigars and memories, so I was fine with it. But just be prepared. And the women in the dresses smoking cigars? They're going to want a tip for getting your picture taken with them. It's just the way things are.
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