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KimberlyC

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About KimberlyC

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  1. KimberlyC

    Florida to Cuba

    I was in Fort Lauderdale when the tornado hit last Sunday, I boarded the ship on Monday, spent Thursday and Friday in Havana and just returned from Majesty of the Seas yesterday. I can attest to the fact that Old Havana itself was not badly affected by the tornado at all. The outskirts is another story from what I heard but we were only in port from 8am Thursday until 1pm Friday which is not nearly enough time to venture far for those of us who hadn’t seen Old Havana before. As for which line, this was my first time on RCCL. I’ve previously sailed on Norwegian along with 4 other cruise lines. 4 people in our group sailed Norwegian less than a year ago. We would all say Norwegian hands down (those 4 made a lot of comparisons not in RCCL’s favor), but in fairness, it is impossible to compare this cruise to other cruises. The port at Havana currently can’t handle the larger ships. The Majesty of the Seas is the oldest ship in the RCCL fleet and it’s evident. It may be the same with Norwegian but I didn’t personally select our cruise so I didn’t research it. We had a group of 11 and for the few who hadn’t cruised before the ship was nice. For everyone who had anything else to compare it to, the ship was dated and lacking many amenities. Now we knew the ship would be smaller and dated before we cruised. We knew that besides Johnny Rockets, there are no specialty restaurants. But there were several things we didn’t know. For example, the RCCL app to message each other on the ship doesn’t work on Majesty and the Digital photo package available on every other RCCL ship is not available on the Majesty. Also, the staterooms are among the smallest at sea and there are very few balcony cabins. The ones they do have are mostly suites and come with a big premium price tag. Deck 9 has larger cabins but an obstructed view - I went for that just to have the extra size because these cabins are SMALL comparatively speaking. I’ve never had more problems on a ship than our group had on the Majesty - mostly IT related. Example, our group decided to book an excursion on the fly the day before we reached Key West (conch train) and when 4 of us booked just prior to second dinner seating our tickets couldn’t be printed due to printer issues so they were to be delivered to our stateroom later that evening. Didn’t happen so I was dealing with guest services at 1am prior to an 8:30am excursion. The booking never went through and apparently the problem couldn’t be fixed due to IT issues. I was told to return at 7:30am so I did but the issue still couldn’t be fixed at which point I raised holy hell. To their credit they did everything to make it up to me afterwards, but this was just one of 4 major problems our group experienced. That’s 4 major problems more than I’ve ever had before and far too many for a 5 night sailing. Our group had an amazing time overall due to the PRIVATE tour we booked in Havana and just being on vacation together, but while I can recommend Cuba I can’t recommend sailing on RCCL’s Majesty of the Seas. Perhaps I might enjoy one of RCCL’s newer ships, but the Majesty of the Seas simply isn’t up to par despite having a great crew onboard.
  2. Oh as for the show, there are a few and some I was told are less expensive than the Tropicana (the most well known) and also a great experience, but we booked the Tropicana online in advance for those who wanted to go. We were able to pay in advance via credit card on the Tropicana website, so they must run that through Miami. Dinner and the show was $115 per person. Dinner started at 8 PM and the show started at 9:30 PM. For $5 you can take all the photos you like including photos afterwards with the dancers. Guests were invited to go up on stage and start dancing, and our group did. The ship was charging significantly more although that included bus transportation. We did pay for our own vintage cars to take us there and pick us up which cost about $20 CUC per person plus $5CUC tip. I was exhausted when we got out around midnight and headed back to the ship, but my friends had their drivers take them to the street with the bars close to the ship terminal on the way back. They felt rough in the morning, but the drivers Mikey arranged for them got them back safe and sound.
  3. Our bill at the BuenaVentura restaurant we went to was $388 CUC for 11 people including the 10% gratuity that was added although we gave additional tip. They provided us with one bill and we all just kind of pitched in so I can’t say exactly how much mine cost, but I can say that we ordered appetizers and plenty of drinks were flowing. Fernando had stated about $20 per person, but if you plan on drinking a beverage or 2 and having an appetizer I think $40 per person is more realistic. They did have small bottles of rum, and the place that we went to will let you sample for free. I did tip the guy pouring the rum samples a few CUC’s. I tipped our guides $50 each and our drivers $20 each. Now that’s total about a 46% tip, but I just looked at the timestamps from some of my photos and we actually went and hour and a half over our quoted tour in addition to the fact that our crazy group was so large and the guides provided extras. In addition to the personalized gift, my significant other mentioned to our guide Mikey that his daughter only wanted currency for a souvenir and without hesitation Mikey literally opened his wallet and handed him 2 different Cuban pesos (not CUC that we tourists must use) as a gift. They were very generous people despite the fact that they earn so little. For example, a dentist earns about $70 per month there. I recommend you ask for plenty of $1 CUC coins because even though I did research and brought toilet paper, the government does not pay to keep restrooms clean even in government buildings. Ladies pay rent to the government, and will insist you pay to use the restrooms they clean. I did not use the restroom at the restaurant, but my friends did and it had toilet paper with no attendant. Even the restroom at the Tropicana has an attendant. They expect a small tip. Our guides really made the experience fabulous for us. They are great people we all plan to keep in touch with via Facebook.
  4. We had a group of 11 adults (who refused to do any adulting) traveling on the Majesty of the Seas to celebrate my bestie’s 40th Birthday. Since she cares more about experiences than material things, my gift to her was a group tour in Havana on January 31, 2019. I did a lot of research, especially here on cruise critic reading reviews/suggestions (thanks to all for those), so now I’m sharing our experience. It was amazing! I booked a tour with Fernando at FERTOURS. From the onset he responded to all of my inquiries. He provided a detailed summary of what our tour for 11 would include, but stated we could certainly customize it. He quoted a very fair price in my opinion. He also confirmed our arrangements shortly before our departure inclusive of a photo of our lead guide, his name and number as well as a map to our meeting location just a short walk from the terminal (where the cars could park). This was great because I suffer from some serious planning OCD! I requested 4 vintage cars including a convertible for the birthday girl and 3 sedans. Fernando did not disappoint! Our Birthday Princess had a pink Chevy convertible to ride in for the day and I’ve never seen her so happy! Simply stated, our guides were the best! We had 4 cars each with a driver (including one English speaker) plus 3 guides, Mikey, Yosvan and Wendy! Now keeping track of 11 adults (many of whom are car enthusiasts from Detroit and as I mentioned these people refused to do any adulting) is like herding CATS! Our group actually had a VIP escort off the ship (that’s a long story for another time that can be filed under ship review), but in the spare hour + we had before our tour began I thought for sure at least 2-3 would run off to chase stray dogs or whatnot and would go missing for hours only to be found sunny side up in some bar later on. Oh I have photos of a Chihuahua wearing a hat and sitting on the head of one of guys in our group, so I’m not exaggerating. But our fabulous guides constantly counted all the little ducklings for me and nobody got lost despite the fact that we all kept hopping into different cars at every stop in order to experience them all. Winning!!! We saw everything we planned to see and then some! There was a stop at the rum and coffee factory where we enjoyed flaming coffee and sampled many kinds of rum - such a treat! Our guide Mikey was even kind enough to carry my heavy bags of rum for me. Yeah I brought back a bit, but just FYI while customs didn’t care, the UPS in Fort Lauderdale won’t ship alcohol. So the rum had to get bubble wrapped and put in the suitcase while the dirty laundry is being shipped back to Detroit. Priorities! Did I mention how fabulous our guides were? During a stop to see Cuban artist Jose Fuster’s artwork (highly recommended) our guide Yosvan even gifted our birthday princess with a personalized souvenir. Just WOW... so thoughtful and unexpected! Another highlight of the day was the restaurant we had lunch at! Not only was the food delicious, but our guide Mikey arranged for the entire waitstaff to sing happy birthday with a slice of cake! Our guides continued to go above and beyond for our group and the tour ended up being about an hour longer than quoted. Our guides even arranged transportation (last minute) for those of us who had decided we were going to change and head out to the Tropicana for dinner and the show. While we had not requested it, my significant other had mentioned his desire to ride in a ‘57 Chevy, and to our surprise Mikey had one waiting for us as we set out for the evening! He even made sure we knew how to get to the souvenir market the next morning. I’ve booked my fair share of private tours over the years (since I’m not a fan of being herded like cattle on overpriced ship tours) and this tour ranks right at the top! I’m so grateful for the recommendations and I now I highly recommend FERTOURS. Our birthday princess and all of our non-adulting ducklings had an amazing day we will never forget!
  5. If you stay close to the pier, you’re not going to get a true sense of Havana. Nevertheless, if that’s what you want to do there are shops and restaurants in walking distance. Also a few of their squares are in walking distance and from one you can take great pictures of the fort across the bay. For inexpensive souvenirs, there is a market that’s only about a 5 minute walk from the cruise terminal. We turned left out of the terminal and it was a short walk down on the water side. If you do decide to venture out, there are vintage car taxis all over and you can negotiate a price in advance. We were just there Thursday and Friday and had an amazing experience.
  6. Our group of 11 just got off Majesty of the Seas yesterday and were in Havana on Thursday and Friday. I booked 4 cars through FERTOURS and my only request was one convertible. We received a pink Chevy convertible that made our birthday girl extatic. I personally wanted a sedan with air condition even though it wasn’t terribly hot in Cuba this week so we also received 3 sedans. I can say that pink convertibles are very popular and there are several private “taxis.” Also, you will see far more Chevys than any other brand of car. For some reason, Chevy parts are easier to come by which was fine with us since we are from Detroit and had 3 GM engineers in our group. I cant say enough wonderful things about FERTOURS. My significant other (a GM emoloyee) really wanted to ride in a ‘57 Chevy which I didn’t request, however some of us planned to go out at night and our wonderful guide Mikey helped us arrange (last minute) to be picked up at the ship terminal later in the evening. He arrived with 3 cars including a green ‘57 Chevy, so I had yet another happy camper. From what I saw here’s how it seems to work with the private tours...the owner of the tour company may own his own vehicle and may serve as a guide/driver personally but by and large to accommodate larger groups or multiple customers on one day, they contract with their friends. The drivers own the cars you ride in and may or may not speak English. The guides hired by the company spoke perfect English. These were highly educated people. Among our FERTOURS guides was a mechanical engineer, a Cuban born man educated in the US before returning to Cuba as an adult, and a female with an accounting degree from the university. I was particularly impressed that Fernando from FERTOURS provided us with a female guide since it was particularly helpful when we ladies needed to use the restroom. In short, you can request a specific car and a good private tour company will do their best to accommodate you. There is no guarantee, but all of our requests were met and I must say it was one of the best (if not the best) private tour I’ve ever booked in any country. The service we received may have even surpassed the service I received in Civitaviccia/Rome some years ago which until now set the bar for me. I don’t recall seatbelts but I honestly didn’t care so I didn’t bother to look. Definitely avoid the ship’s tours. I felt so sorry for the folks hopping on giant busses being herded like cattle through the city. Heres a pic of the cars waiting for us on time as requested.
  7. I just got off Majesty of the Seas yesterday. Spent Thursday and Friday in Havana. It’s actually a 3% exchange fee to convert USD to CUC (to convert back as well) PLUS a 10% penalty to convert USD. So $1 will get you .87 CUC. Change only what you think you will need because you will be charged 3% to convert back what you don’t use. US credit cards are not accepted. USD is accepted but it will cost you more because the Cubans must factor in the penalty to convert. Phones generally won’t work but we bought an inexpensive WiFi card that worked fine. We purchased the card at the Tropicana. The staff brought it to our table upon request, so no line.
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