In my previous two reports I described the places we visited and some of the people we met during our cruise round Cuba.
In this, my last report from the ship, I’d like to share some of the highlights during my week onboard Louis Cristal.
The ship itself
I do love big ships, but sometimes they’re just, well, too big for certain ports of call. The 1,200-passenger, 10-deck Louis Cristal is an ideal size to visit the places we visited on our cruise in Cuba; in fact if it were any bigger it’s unlikely it would have made it into some of the ports we called at.
I liked the ship’s design, both outside, like a giant yacht; and inside: wide corridors, characterful cabins (see below), the big picture windows, the backlit lifts, and its old-style charm – which seems very appropriate for Cuba.
What Louis Cristal lacks in balcony cabins (just 10), it more than makes up for in cabins with character. No cookie-cutter-style staterooms, but a wide range of styles and sizes – from portholes to picture windows, front-facing suites complete with hot tubs on the balconies to odd-shaped side balconies – like older-build properties, they are generous with proportions rather than trying to cram everything in. And the suites really feel like suites with a concealed sink and bar a large living room with a sofa, several chairs a table and a wide flatscreen TV, with sliding glass doors leading into the bedroom. It feels chunky and old-school, comforting in its solidity.
I have already written extensively on the port stops, so I won’t repeat that here, but each one is so different from anything I – and I’m guessing most of the rest of the passengers – have experienced that they will leave a permanent impression on me. From the faded glories of Havana, to the craziness of Santiago, the pristine beauty of La Isla de Juventud, and the sleepiness of Cienfuegos and Trinidad, it really was a cruise like no other I have experienced.
I love crew talent shows, I know some readers aren’t so keen, but I love to see the people working on the ship completely out of context; and I love to witness real talent. The standout on this ship is Ronnie, a Filipino waiter whose Elvis impression is so outstanding he now has his own 45-minute show in the afternoon one day a week, where he belts out Elvis favourites, Frank Sinatra and other big ballads. Apart from the amateur talent, the band onboard – comprised of locals – was outstanding, as were the two acrobats. There are 30 people in the entertainment crew, which is an impressive number for a ship this small.
As a general rule, cruise ship staff are always friendly, but on this cruise – whether it’s because there are so few of us, or because sailing round Cuba is such an intense experience – they were especially so. From Danny ‘Life is Beautiful’ the Cruise Director who took us to the Bridge and hosted a dinner for us, to Katya, the head of customer relations, who solved every query I had; to Bruna the waitress in the Sports Bar who knew how I liked my coffee from Day 1 onboard; to Ramon our quiet and shy waiter, who stripped off in a Full Monty-style crew talent show; to Gabriel the Brazilian wine waiter who enjoys screaming karaoke tunes; to officers Christos and Carlos who bent over backwards to accommodate us at dinner.
I’m always sad to leave a cruise, but this one felt especially poignant to say goodbye.