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Old October 10th, 2017, 04:34 PM
nlb1050's Avatar
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Default My review of my cruise to Cuba and review of the ship

Trip to Cuba
Norwegian Sky Oct 2, 2017 to Oct 6, 2017

Monday Oct 2
We left the house just before 9 am heading to Premier Parking on NE 2nd Ave arriving at 11am the time they stated in the email for arriving. Had to wait a bit for a van to arrive to take us to the port and after it arrived we waited until 11:30 to leave. Being on the Sky we were the first ones dropped off and after waiting a short time to register we were on the ship a bit after noon. So we went to the buffet for lunch. It was just before 2 when we got in the cabin #4222 an outside with a large porthole window. When we checked in the agent asked if we had gotten our Visa for Cuba on our own and when I said no she went a got them and for us to fill in completely prior to leaving the ship on Tuesday. Since we had a $50 credit I decided to get a reservation at Cagney’s Steakhouse for Wednesday night at 6:30.
About 15 minutes prior to the signal for Muster we left the cabin and I had decided to take my cane and am glad I did as we were able to use the elevator to go up the two floors and we went in one of the lounges for Muster, so we got to sit for it. When it was over we waited a bit before getting up to leave and we then went to deck 11 and found a table under cover and got a couple of drinks, on all of the cruises on the Sky drinks are included on the price of the cruise unless you want a premium liquor so that was nice. Just prior to leaving it decided to rain and it rained hard for a short time. Once we got to the ocean we went to the cabin and I unpacked the luggage. For this 4 night cruise I got almost everything in one large suitcase and one small one which we had checked both and got both just before going to muster. Found one problem with the cabin in that there are only three drawers and we had just enough hangers, with having to hang Bruce’s shorts and my skorts.
A bit after 6 we went to the Palace dining room for dinner and requested a shared table. Well the person that was taking us to the table could not find the table number so sat us at another table and just after ordering another couple arrived and then one man. I had Salmon Tartar, Avocado & Pineapple salad, French Onion Soup and Sliced Sirloin and some Warm Bread Pudding for dessert. Bruce had Shrimp Crevasse, Avocado & Pineapple salad, French Onion Soup, Sliced Sirloin and a Banana Split. We both had a couple of glasses of White Zinfandel with dinner and a cup of decaf coffee with dessert.
We got back to the cabin at 8:15 and the stewards had not gotten to the cabin yet. When they did get there I asked for ice and that in the morning they split the beds. With the beds being split with the room between them makes it much easier to get around in the cabin. The seas are a bit rough but with being on deck 4 close to the water it is not too bad of motion.


Tuesday Oct 3

Woke at 6 and we were in the buffet for breakfast by 6:30. We had a table that we were able to watch as we were getting to Havana. As soon as we were done we went back to the cabin to get our ponchos because of rain and while there put on suntan lotion. We went back to the pool deck to watch as we docked. Then went to the theater to meet up with the tour. They called our tour at 8:05 so we got a sticker with our bus number and then went down one deck and got off the ship. Cuba has 16 customs desks and we lined up to go thru. For some reason it would take some line a long time to get a person thru but the line I was in was quick. And I was surprised that they took the Visa but they did stamp the passport. Once going thru customs it was thru a security scanner and then I went to exchange money to the CUC but that was not open yet, I waited a bit and then I went on down to the bus. Bruce was not there yet so I waited for him and once he finally got there we got on the bus. All in the group where there and we left at 8:45. The tour guide was a young girl who said she was in University studying to be a veterinarian and hoped that once she was finished she would be able to come to Miami to work as there really is not work for veterinarians in Cuba.
The first place the tour went was a Cigar Factory. They do not allow any cameras or bags of any type. We went to the second floor and the first room we went in is where they take the stem off the leaves and sort them according to size. These leaves will be for the very outer or wrapping leave, they are the best leaves as far as looks go but may not have the best taste. We then went to a room where the workers actually roll the cigars and the inner leaves have the stem removed and once all but the final layer is put on the cigar goes in a mold and then is pressed for about 30 minutes. One person will make the whole cigar beginning to end. The factory makes about 16,000 cigars a day with many labels but all that are made at that factory have the HABANA name on the label meaning they are the best cigars. These cigars are mainly sent to about 85 countries for sale and of course to the different stores for foreigners to buy. The guide there said the workers can smoke however many cigars a day that they want and can take home 4 cigars a day. All cigars, no matter the name or quality, have a total of 5 different types of leaves with the inner 4 being for the flavor and the outer for looks and being able to light easily. The stems that are pulled off the leaves go to make fertilizer and the pieces that the workers cut off go to make cigarettes, so none of the leave is wasted. The workers are paid a flat wage but if they can make over a certain number of cigars a day can earn more money. They work Monday thru Friday for 8 hours a day. It was interesting to see.
We then went to a Rum distillery but it was not running so we went to the area on the third floor where a man told how they make the rum then we went in the store. They had bottles of almost all the different liquors that they sell and we bought 3 bottles of the coffee, one of the Anise and one of the bananas for a total of $19 and a small bag of ground coffee for $2. We then went across the hall to the souvenir shop where I bought a set of handmade bongos for Max for Christmas for $20.
We then went to an area that some people, mainly different artists, formed in the 1990’s to help them earn money since the country was in a bad recession, they would group together to live and sell their works of art and share the money made amongst themselves . The art work was interesting and the statues were to my strange but nice. While there we went to a room where musicians and dancers that did a dance of the Santorini religion, which was interesting. Could not of course understand what the song was saying but it too was interesting. One of the dancers was wearing a straw hat so she basically passed it around to collect money.
When this was finished we got back on the bus to go to one more area of Havana. The new area you have to go thru a short tunnel to get to and the homes in this area had belonged to the wealthy people prior to the revolution and they decided to leave Cuba so had to give up ownership to the country and all the belongings in the home. These homes are now mainly used by different Embassies but a few have been made into restaurants or as room rental for vacationers. So these homes are much better looking than the majority of homes in Havana. These homes are the most expensive homes in Havana costing anywhere from 500,000 to one million dollars, and since you have to pay in cash is why other countries will buy for use of the people that are diplomats to Cuba. We got to an art instillation that has a number of different types of art with one building housing works by one man. There is a small but well used library that has about 2000 books of different things. Most of all the art works have something to say/do about the revolution. There is a small theater that children of different schools use to perform in. They also have a café and many chickens running around.
The people can and do own homes but with having to pay in cash have multiple generations living in a house. Because it is so expensive most of the people only make sure that the inside of the house is kept up and not the outside, so you will see one house that looks good next to one that has some of the outside falling down. Part of the trip we were on a road that runs along the ocean and there are a couple of areas where the waves splash over the wall and if large enough will get the road wet. One thing Havana has is a lot of parks, so the people have places to go that do not cost anything. There is an outside theater that is only open on the weekends so people can go and not have to worry about having to get up the next day for work or school. School is free for everyone to the age of 16 and then if you want to go to more, then you have to work and pay for whatever you want. The guide said that everyone in Cuba will learn how to say “My name is_________” in English and maybe a few other words but if you want to learn more then you will pay to learn. She said that women work until age 65 and the men until age 75, you then will receive money from the government equal to what you had made. And that most jobs only pay about $15 a month with Doctors getting the most which is about $50 a month. Health care is free to all but most people don’t go unless they really have to.
Just a bit before the dock there was a barge which they were unloading a very large horse statue and because of the cranes and truck with a flatbed traffic ended up coming to a stop so our driver drove down to the craft market to turn around and we ended up stopping about 100 meters from the entrance of the port. We sat in the bus for about 15 minutes when they decided to let us get out and walk the short distance, so we did not get back onboard until 2pm.
This tour turned out to be much better than I thought it would and would recommend. We had to turn in the bottles that we had bought. Once thing that is strange is you have to go thru a scanner and then thru customs again before getting back on the ship. Once on board we took the bongos and the coffee to the cabin and then went to the buffet for lunch. We then got back off the ship and got a taxi (5 CUC per person) to the Arts/Crafts market and walked around, but did not buy anything. So took another taxi back to the ship.
Went to dinner at 6 in the Palace dining room and asked for a table near the window, it did not have to be next to but close, I did this because the light is better so it is easier to read the menu. I had the Salmon Tartar, creamy spinach soup (okay but not great) and the sirloin steak which was good but so big I could not eat the whole thing. Bruce had Teriyaki skewers , tortellini soup and the Sirloin. We both had two glasses of White Zinfandel and a cup of decaf for dessert.
We then went to the Dazzlers Lounge for a drink and watched part of the Battle of The Sexes show which was funny. Got back to the cabin about 9:30 and set a wake-up for 7am.

Wednesday Oct 4
Got up at 7 and once ready went to the dining room for breakfast. I had tomato juice, Salmon Eggs Benedict and pork ling sausage with coffee. Bruce had regular Eggs Benedict, corn beef hash, cereal, orange juice and coffee. The night before I made a list of place to go to to buy cigars, rum and coffee, one place was a good way from the port area so it was crossed off the list. So off the ship, back thru customs and scanner and then out and across the street to see if we could find any of the places. After walking around a bit I needed to rest a bit so we stopped at a restaurant and ordered cappuccino, 2 CUC each and I checked the map, had bought it the day before for 2 CUC, to see if I could figure out where to go. While walking to the first plaza a guy drew a drawing of Bruce and said to pay whatever we wanted so I gave him a 3CUC. So we went back in the terminal and went to the shop and bought one bottle of rum and a large bag of coffee beans. Since the only scanner is done by the Cubans and we were past it we put the rum and coffee in a bag and that bag in another bag and walked on board. It was only 10:30 so we then got in our bathing suits and went to the pool for a while. At first the water felt cold on my back so I got out for a while and then tried again and this time I was able to get in fully. When the buffet opened we got lunch and ate it outside and of course each had a couple of drinks. Had really just finished lunch when we finally moved off the pier, half an hour late but okay. Bruce took my camera and went upstairs to take some photos and so I used his camera to take some photos. We went to the cabin about 1:30 and took a nap.
Woke a bit after 4 and I got a shower. About 6:15 left to go have dinner at Cagney’s, which was for 6:30. Had only one small problem getting there but got there on time. I had lump crab salad, split pea soup, rib eye steak and beets. It was all good but I guess with 2 glasses of wine I could not eat it all. Bruce had baked potato soup, NY Strip steak and coleslaw. He also had two glasses of wine and then we only had decaf coffee for dessert, which was very strong. We went to the buffet for dessert and then to bed early.





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Old October 11th, 2017, 09:54 AM
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No pictures?!

Guessing you are a US citizen, so did you have to do any notifications to the state dept or anything since going to Cuba? Or just book and show up at the port like any other cruise. Also I read they issued a travel advisory due to the unknown illnesses a few of the embassy staff got recently. I'm wondering if NCL is going to cancel future sailings perhaps you heard about something.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 10:43 AM
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There is a form you have to fill out prior to going and you have to get Cuban Visa, which we got at the ship check in, it is good for one year and costs $75. As to "the unknown illnesses a few of the embassy staff got recently " this actually happened last year and only to some of the workers at the Embassy not to any tourists so we did not feel like there is any problem. I believe that the US gov't is using this as an excuse to try to repeal all that had been put in place by Obama as has/is being done with so many things that Obama had done. I don't believe that NCL or any of the lines that are going there will cancel any of the cruises to Havana, there really is no reason for them to cancel.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 10:46 AM
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Thanks for sharing
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Old October 11th, 2017, 10:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aerospace View Post
.


Also I read they issued a travel advisory due to the unknown illnesses a few of the embassy staff got recently. I'm wondering if NCL is going to cancel future sailings perhaps you heard about something.


That is the 'Trump Illness'. A phony excuse to undo the improving relations between the US and Cuba. Trump does not want Americans to go to Cuba because he does not own any hotels there.


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Old October 11th, 2017, 10:56 AM
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Nancy, I enjoyed reading your reviews.

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Old October 11th, 2017, 11:14 AM
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Nancy, I enjoyed reading your review. Brought back memories of the time we spent in Havana and Cuba.
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Old October 11th, 2017, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
That is the 'Trump Illness'. A phony excuse to undo the improving relations between the US and Cuba. Trump does not want Americans to go to Cuba because he does not own any hotels there.


TM
You hit the nail on the head.
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