Day 2: Day at sea Today’s sail was entirely at sea. This gives cruisers a good chance to check out the ship and sample the many on board activities available. I started with a buffet breakfast at the Amalthia Restaurant on Deck 8.
Originally when I signed up for the cruise as a ‘single’ I was concerned that I might not meet anyone. I need not to have been worried. It seems that at every meal, one ends up seated with new faces, all of whom are keen to talk about their Cuban adventure or misadventure (depending which side of the bed they woke up on).
The breakfast buffet was extensive. Special coffees such as lattes are extra but are included with your Open Bar plan, if you have one. At breakfast I met a couple from British Columbia, one of whom was a travel agent who has booked the cruise for many of her clients but had never had the chance to try it out for herself. She was excited.
After breakfast everyone who had embarked at Havana participated in a general safety drill complete with their life jackets on. At the sound of the alarm we all headed to our muster stations for further instructions. This went off without a hitch.
Next I did a tour of the ship. I checked out the other buffet restaurant on Deck 9, the Leda, which appeared to be more casual than the one on Deck 8. Back on Deck 8 I noticed a full spa offering massages and other body treatments; a small gym; a conference room where lectures on Cuba are held; and the Muses Lounge where the evenings’ main entertainment program takes place.
On Deck 5 is the reception, the shore excursion office, the duty free shop, the Internet centre and the photo centre where you can buy copies of shots taken of you while embarking (and disembarking later on). I went to the upper decks to visit the pool (quite tiny and indoors, surrounded by tables and chairs and a large bar) and then to the deck above that where the sun worshippers were beginning to map out their spots. The ship was immaculately clean and freshly painted.
All in all, the ship can be covered in about an hour, which is fine because I had things to do! At noon I participated in a Spanish lesson conducted by the cruise director, Danny. Then it was back to the Amalthia for lunch. This time is was a set menu with a few choices.
Here I started to hear some rumblings about the ship from other cruisers. Some were very experienced cruisers and were criticizing the age of the boat and quality of the food. I told them I had no complaints and explained I always travelled to Cuba with very modest expectations. If I had wanted first class, five star treatment, I would have looked elsewhere. But so far, I was very pleased with what the ship had to offer and noted the staff was extremely friendly. Plus I was here to see Cuba and not hang out on the boat, per se.
Next I was off for a tour of the bridge. I had never been on a cruise ship’s bridge so this was a bit of a thrill for me. Cruise director Danny (this is one busy guy!) gave us details on the ship’s navigation system, the ballast and fins, and how the captain docks in the ports. The view from the bridge was magnificent and the tour demystified the whole process for me. After a quick nap it’s time to get ready for the Captain’s Cocktail. This is the week’s one semi-formal event (“elegant attire optional”) so I had to organize my somewhat wrinkled outfit.
At the cocktail, we were introduced one by one to Captain Stathis Goumas, who has a head of hair that would make Elvis jealous. Then the Captain introduced his Senior Officers and department heads. Captain Goumas is a bit of a comedian so his presentation drew a few chuckles.
After the cocktail it was back to the Amalthia for dinner. Here I had the good fortune to be seated with three lovely Jamaicans. There happened to be quite a few Jamaicans on the boat, most of whom were visiting Cuba for the first time even though it is only 90 miles from Montego Bay. Dinner was followed by mojitos in the Eros Lounge (seriously, I am not making this up) and an impressive cabaret show in the Muses Lounge. The day at sea had zoomed by. Time for some sleep and to prepare for our first port of call in the morning.
Cuba Cruise Travel Tip: During the day at sea try to experience and explore as much of the ship as possible, including the tour of the bridge if you are so inclined (Cost: $20 CAD). Once the ports of call begin you will find yourself way too busy with excursions, disembarkation and meals.
One of my favourite spots was on Deck 5 at the aft (rear) of the ship at the Hemingway Bar. There one could watch the wake of the ship and enjoy stargazing at night whilst sipping away on a glass of aged rum.
A.J. Twist is a Montreal based travel writer and photographer. firstname.lastname@example.org
To begin AJ’s cruise on Day 1 click here