Celestyal Crystal Review

Editor Rating:  4.0

Celestyal Crystal Ratings

  • Category
    Member
    Editor
  • Dining
    3.4
    3.0
  • Public Rooms
    3.8
    4.0
  • Cabins
    3.5
    4.0
  • Entertainment
    4.0
    4.0
  • Spa & Fitness
    3.1
    3.0
  • Family & Children
    2.1
    2.0
  • Shore Excursions
    3.9
    5.0
  • Enrichment
    3.7
    3.0
  • Service
    4.2
    5.0
  • Value-for-Money
    3.8
    5.0
Editor Rating
4.0
Member Rating
Why Choose Celestyal Crystal?
  • Pro: Only cruise ship to offer round-Cuba sailings
  • Con: Food is variable
  • Bottom line: A great way to experience an authentic Cuban experience

Celestyal Crystal Overview

by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor and Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor

Celestyal Crystal was the first ship to offer round-Cuba sailings (in 2013), operating seven-day Havana-to-Havana itineraries, stopping at five Cuban ports and Montego Bay, Jamaica. For three years it has operated seasonally (November to March), redeploying to the Greek islands for the summer. However, from November 2016 the ship has been based in Havana year-round due to the huge increase in demand from passengers keen to see the island before it changes permanently.

It is still one of the few lines which offers round-Cuba sailings and offers the chance to get a real feel for the island. The seven-night cruise stays two nights in the capital, allowing you to enjoy the city's nightlife; before pressing onto Punta Frances, a pristine beach at the southern tip of Isla de Juventud; Cienfuegos, for the UNESCO World Heritage town of Trinidad; and the second city at the far eastern tip of the island, Santiago del Cuba, which provides a wonderful contrast to Havana. The cruise also includes a stop in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to refuel and pick up and disembark passengers, which provides a stark contrast to Cuba.

The ship has had a colorful life: It started off as a passenger ferry in 1980 before being converted into a cruise ship in 1986. It was destroyed by fire in 1990 and completely rebuilt; partially sunk in 1994 and rebuilt again; renamed five times; and owned by five different lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line (where it sailed as MS Leeward), before ending up with its current owners as Louis Cristal in 2007. The name changed to Celestyal Crystal in 2015 when Louis Cruises rebranded. Past passengers include Sweden's Royal Couple, who stayed onboard during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and President George H. W. Bush, who stayed onboard in November 1995.

It's a small ship by modern standards, but it has a big-ship feel. Holding 1,200 passengers on 10 decks, it has everything you would expect on a big ship, but it's scaled down. You'll find a casino, kids facilities, a library, a spa and gym, a pool and hot tub, three bars, two main dining rooms and a self-service buffet. The only thing it lacks is specialty restaurants, which were removed once it became based in Havana full-time. It's just all in miniature -- except, that is, for the main theater, which could rival that found on any big ship in terms of atmosphere and design.

Celestyal Crystal harkens back to an earlier age of cruising. The corridors are wide, as are the cabin doors, which are solid and aluminum-clad. There are 12 cabin types, and all have a distinct style, as opposed to a modern cookie-cutter one. The ship boasts large picture windows with huge screws and thick metal frames; triangular-shaped balconies cut from the superstructure, rather than jutting out; and lots of polished mahogany decks and banisters.

In late 2015, Crystal went through a significant drydock refurbishment which saw the addition of 43 new balconies (increasing the number to 53), as well as new carpets and furnishings in the converted cabins. It had a smaller-scale drydock ahead at the end of 2016 which saw the replacement of the show lounge revolving chairs and cocktail table tops to improve sight lines in the theatre, and increase capacity by 100. Celestyal also installed cabling in all passenger accommodation areas, so Wi Fi is now available in all cabins, whereas previously it was available only in the public areas.

Celestyal Crystal Fellow Passengers

Passengers are predominantly Canadian and Swedish, though the number of Americans is increasing due to the thawing in relations between the two countries. The rest of the clientele is drawn from the U.K., Germany and Japan. Americans are onboard, generally as part of an officially sanctioned, legal tour group (primarily the People to People Program). The average age is around 55 to 65, with a smattering of younger people and a handful of children.

Celestyal Crystal Dress Code

The dress code is casual, with one night suggested as elegant, but it's not strictly enforced.

Celestyal Crystal Gratuity

The US dollar is the official currency onboard. Gratuities are included.

Next:  Celestyal Crystal Cabins

by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor and Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor

141 Celestyal Crystal Reviews from our Cruise Critic Community

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dudel68
Member Since 2017
1 review
0 forum posts
0 helpful votes
Sailed August 2017
Chose this cruise due to price and location. Had a Jr. Balcony Suite. This room had a very poor.. There was a refrigerator in the middle of the closet, thus no room to hang clothes unless they were to lean against the frig. The safe was on ... Read more
Celestyal Cruises 1, Passenger Services @Celestyal Cruises, responded to this review
Thank you for your constructive comments. All ... Read more
Helen_GMA
Member Since 2017
1 review
0 forum posts
0 helpful votes
The cruise was part of an all inclusive package from TripCentral. Most Canadians go to Cuba for the beach and then maybe fly to Havana. The Celestyal cruise offered an opportunity to see more of Cuba, from Havana to Cienfuego, then ... Read more
Celestyal Cruises 1, Passenger Services @Celestyal Cruises, responded to this review
Thank you for taking the time to share your Cuban ... Read more
mryouness
Member Since 2017
1 review
0 forum posts
0 helpful votes
Sailed July 2017
I wanted a cruise that was basically exclusive to Cuba. The people to people program was very rich although I was disappointed that a cigar factory tour, Castro's grave and a rum factory (not just the store) were included. The staff on ... Read more
Celestyal Cruises 1, Passenger Services @Celestyal Cruises, responded to this review
Thank you for sharing your Cuban experience ... Read more
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