A Cruise to Cuba on Holland American Cruise Line
Our Delta flight from JFK to Ft. Lauderdale airport was delayed. We arrived in Florida nearly two hours late. My father’s aide, Beverly, picked us up at the airport. Harriet, my dad’s girlfriend, and my dad were also in the car. Dad was going to go with us on the seven-day cruise to Cuba.
After our farewells, we stood on a 2+ hour line at Port Everglades. We weren’t happy. I wondered if this disorganization was indicative to what the cruise would be like.
When we finally got through all the red tape, we got to our cabins on the Holland American line called the Veendam. We chose cabins on the lower promenade. Our room had sliding doors to an outside deck, which also serves as a walking deck. The rooms were generally larger than we anticipated. They were both handicapped accessible so they had room for a scooter, which my dad rented.
We rented two rooms – one for my son and father and the other for my husband and me. The bathrooms were generally large and the steward cleaned the room twice a day.
Outside our room, we had lounge chairs which were thoroughly relaxing.
In the Evening
We had open seating at the main dining room. We went there the first evening and had a lovely meal consisting of prime rib of beef. There was actually a choice of more than five different dishes.
The first night, there was a show in the theatre called Classique. The opener was a Cold Play song and it ended with the Bohemian Rhapsody. It consisted of a couple of singers along with dancers. It was watchable. That’s all I can really say about it. Many people couldn’t stand it and left. My husband and son walked out to go to the Casino.
This was probably the toughest day for us. There really isn’t much going on in the ship. We went to see the Test Kitchen and watched the chef prepare Salmon two ways. While I went up to the gym to work out, Brian, my father and son, Derek, went to play Cuban Dominos where they were ignored for most of it and when they finally got a kit, they had no idea how to play or what to do. The leaders were ignoring them and since they were feeling frustrated, they left.
At 4:30 pm, my dad and I had scheduled Cleopatra massages. When we arrived on deck 11, we entered the spa. Dad was shuffled off to the men’s room while I was escorted to the women’s locker room. I changed into the robe and went to the “green” room, which is what I was told to do after disrobing. I waited there for what seemed like a long time and I headed to the men’s dressing room. My dad never came out. I got nervous and worried. One of the massage therapists said there was an accident.
I went to the front desk and found my father standing there with blood all over the place.
“What happened? Are you okay?” I asked.
“I sliced my arm open on the locker,” my dad said. “There was a sharp object sticking out.”
One of the technicians told me she would take Dad down to the infirmary. “You should get your massage. We will take care of him,” she said. “Don’t worry. We will take him downstairs and then stay with him.”
I did, but I felt very uncomfortable thinking about him, wondering if he was okay.
When I finished the massage, which by the way, if I was in a more relaxed state, I would have enjoyed it immensely, I got dressed and went the lobby. “Your dad is okay. They fixed him up and he’s on the bike,” the technician told me. And there he was, riding the stationary bike.
After that, the rest of the day was uneventful. My dad and I watched a movie while Brian and Derek played casino games. Dinner came and went and it was time for the big show. On this night, there was a magician.
We sat in the front row and watched as a man with a very scratchy, annoying voice showed us some simple magic tricks that would have played well to a smaller audience but for a larger audience, it was difficult to see. For example, he turned a deck of cards smaller and smaller to be a tiny deck. That tiny deck could have been anything because you couldn’t see what was in his hands.
We docked in the Grand Caymans early. However, because the current was rough, we were unable to dock at Georgetown, the main port. We docked at Scotts Bay and had to take tenders off the ship, which took a very long time.
Since the snorkeling excursion that Brian and Derek booked was cancelled, we all got in a cab and went to the 7-mile Beach.
The driver dropped us off at a beach that wasn’t so nice and coincidentally, his son was the chair and umbrella attendant. “This is my son,” the driver said, “he will take care of you.”
But we didn’t want to be taken care of. We walked up and down the beach for a little bit. My dad was finding it very difficult to walk, but he did it. Brian and Derek decided to get into another cab and take us to a nice location, the Westin Hotel.
We got there in no time and it really was a beautiful hotel with all the amenities. We sat on lounge chairs and watched the beautiful blue water crash into the sand. The current was extremely rough. I went in and tried to swim but had a lot of trouble, so I went out.
I thought they would have kicked us off the beach because we weren’t guests, but they were very accommodating. As a matter of fact, the waiter gave us ice cold water.
We ate lunch there and then headed back to the boat.
That morning, we woke up and were told by the captain that we had to make an emergency trip back to the Caymans and therefore we were delayed. We were supposed to get into Costa Maya, Mexico at 1 and ended up getting there close to 4 pm.
At that point, we had to get off the boat. We docked in a “Disney land” type village with street performers and lots of shops. Walking quickly through the village, we got the next taxi out of there and on to a beach.
We ended up at the town beach. The water was very shallow and the weather was cool, around 75 degrees. I couldn’t let another day go by without going in the water. I put on my Roka swim skin, bathing cap, Sable goggles, ear plugs and nose plugs and headed into the thigh high water. I swam back and forth across the beach and ended up doing 1000 yards. In the process, I saw a stingray and ample tropical fish.
And, back on the boat by 5 pm to Cozumel.
We arrived in Cozumel at 8 am, an hour delayed. After getting off the boat, we headed to Chankanaab, a state-run beach and park.
We were practically the only ones there.
After finding a few chairs, we sat at the snorkeling beach. My husband, son and I had gear so we were able to just jump in. Since the current was rough, I told dad, it was probably not a good idea for him to go in. I was a little nervous for him with no lifeguards around.
Instead of snorkeling, I found it a great opportunity to do some open water swimming. It’s amazing to swim in water where you can see everything beneath you. There were so many beautiful arrays of fish and coral, I felt as if I were in heaven. With every stroke, I saw different varieties of fish. I swam about 1500 yards and called it a day. The current was a little rough and I realized I need a lot more training to do my next Olympic race!
We saw the sea lions and the dolphins while we were there. We ate lunch and walked around an archaeological park. Then headed back to the boat.
We relaxed on the deck and watched a beautiful sunset, then got dressed in our “fancy” wear and went to dinner.
We arrived in Cuba late. I expected that since the whole cruise, nothing seemed to be on time. We had a tour around the city for our “cultural exchange” experience. You can’t go to Cuba for a vacation. It needs to be an educational reason for your visit. (This is due to the US government not the Cuban government.)
We took a bus tour to a dance studio where we watched a percussion and dance performance. The performance had African roots and was highly entertaining.
Following that, we were bused over to Revolution Square and then we drove up a hill to get a close up look at the statue of Jesus Christ. It was a similar statue to the one in Brazil except, Jesus’ hands were crossed as opposed to extended out.
Instead of getting back on the boat, my son found a couple of restaurants on Yelp. The first one, which was supposed to be outstanding, was about 10 blocks away down cobblestone streets. Here we got an opportunity to explore the real Havana. We stood on line for at least a half hour and then I suggested we look for another place, since I felt that the line wasn’t moving. I walked with my son another few blocks to the famous Floridita, the restaurant/bar that is famous for making the daiquiri. We thought it looked fun and went back to get Brian and my dad still standing on line at the first restaurant.
We walked over there, got seated right away and had lobsters. Unfortunately, they weren’t fresh, but I found mine to be quite tasty.
The next day, Derek and my dad had an “old fashioned” car ride around Havana while Brian and I had a tour to Ernest Hemingway’s house. The tour for us was quite ridiculous, since they wanted us on the bus at 6:45 am. The house didn’t open until 10 am, so we circled several times, around the city of Havana. It was a complete waste of time. However, the house was worth seeing. It wasn’t a huge house, but the grounds were beautiful and we even saw Hemingway’s boat. That was a real treat.
Things I liked about the trip:
- The itinerary was good and I loved the places we traveled to including Cuba.
- The beds in the cabins were very comfortable.
Things I didn’t like about the trip:
- I found the crew on Holland American to be very disorganized. They cancelled excursions and didn’t let us know until the last minute.
- The boat wasn’t the cleanest and not all of the amenities were open including a hot tub on the main deck.
- The boat got into ports late and we didn’t have enough time on the ground.
- There were few activities that were appealing on the boat, very limited activities.
- The nightly performances on the main stage were pretty lame, including the magician.
- The excursion folks didn’t have enough information about the excursions.
- You had to pay for internet and it was ridiculously expensive and extremely slow.
- Oh, and the list goes on…