Living in South Florida, one of the things that Keith and I have always wanted to do was visit Cuba. So, when Norwegian Cruise Line announced cruises to Cuba, it was the perfect opportunity. We didn’t have to worry about finding a hotel, restaurants, etc. We quickly discovered that it’s hard to find Cuba travel information.
Norwegian Cruise Line started sailing to Cuba in the beginning of May. We were on their third sailing to Havana. In case you’re thinking about visiting Cuba, I wanted to share with you some information about the Norwegian Sky Cuba Cruise, specifically the ship. (FYI – Keith is going to write about Havana next.)
The Ship: There’s no sugar-coating it – the Norwegian Sky is old. I remember the ship when it was the Pride of Aloha (close to a decade ago). In fact, it still has Hawaii posters, meeting rooms, etc. The half-Hawaii/half-Caribbean décor is a little funky. That being said, I believe there’s a difference between old and dirty. Yes, the ship is old. But it was clean.
Cabins: Because the ship is older, it doesn’t have a lot of balcony cabins. We chose a cabin with a large window. The window brought in a lot of light. The cabins also remind me of older hotels in Las Vegas, the rooms are a little bigger than you typically find today.
The Crew: We found the crew to be very friendly – servers, bartenders, cabin stewards, etc. Whenever a crew member walked by, they said hello. I will say that because the Cuba cruises are new, there’s still a learning curve for the crew. For example, we received conflicting information about how many bottles of Cuban rum we could bring back to the U.S. (Side note: Look up Customs information before you leave.) I’m sure the crew will get better with time when it comes to information about Cuba.
Unlimited Drinks: The Norwegian Sky Cuba Cruise is an unlimited drinks cruise. On one hand, it’s really nice not to have to sign a bunch of receipts during your vacation. But I don’t have to tell anyone that “open bar” can also be a negative (envision “booze cruise”). Bottled water is excluded but you can purchase a water package before embarkation. We did – it was in our cabin when we arrived. And we kept it in the refrigerator to stay cold.
Food Service: We took advantage of the buffet for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast buffet included an omelet station, which was nice. It would have been nice to see Cuban food on the lunch buffet. If you’re a coffee/tea drinker, bring a travel mug with you. I loved having a nice cuppa tea in my Yeti each morning. One of the specialty restaurants, Il Adagio, offers pizza and pasta for lunch (no surcharge). You might want to check them out early before everyone discovers it.
Specialty Dining: Speaking of specialty dining, the Norwegian Sky has three restaurants – Cagney’s Steakhouse, Il Adagio (Italian), and Le Bistro (French) – where you can dine a la carte or purchase a dining plan. I would suggest comparing the cost of the dining package to a la carte because the package could be cheaper, depending on your dinner plans. While we had terrific meals in all of the outlets, we loved Le Bistro and thought it was a highlight of our Norwegian Sky Cuba Cruise. It was quiet, great views of the ocean, terrific service, and good food.
Ship Activities: For us, Havana *was* the cruise, so the fact that there was little else in terms of activities that we were interested in wasn’t too big of a deal. That being said, we would have loved to see more Cuban culture in the activities. Because of weather, the Captain did end up canceling the final port stop (Grand Stirrup Cay). This caused quite a commotion on the pool deck. Passengers jockeying for pool chaises. I could only compare it to after-Christmas sales at Filene’s Basement. You can’t blame NCL for the weather. But it is something to keep in mind, especially if you choose to cruise during Hurricane Season.
As we all learn more about traveling to Cuba, I would expect the cruise to change. For right now, the Norwegian Sky Cuba Cruise offers a nice introduction to Havana. In our next post, Keith is going to share his impressions about the city of Havana. Stay tuned…
Image of Havana, Cuba captured aboard the Norwegian Sky