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Just back from CCL Sensation - Cuba- 5/6-5/11/19

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Bucket list cruise for us.  I had booked a private excursion with Cubaoutings, and was notified a few weeks ago they would be closed for a few months due to an accident involving many of their drivers.  I went right back to trip advisor and booked the same tour (classic car/walking tour - 6 hours) with Havana Journeys.  Communication with them was excellent.  They responded quickly, and were very clear with all their emails on what they needed, where to meet, cost, etc.  We booked the tour from 9-3, thinking that would be plenty of time to get breakfast, go through customs/money change station, and walk the 3 minutes to our meeting place. (cruise line was charging $149 pp for the same tour - which was sold out when we tried to book it.  Havana Journeys cost us 180 cuc for the 3 of us - big savings, and probably a much better tour!)

 

I had read many horror stories about getting off the ship in Cuba.  Carnival was trying a "new" system with numbered stickers.  These stickers would be given out at 6:45 a.m. the morning we got to Cuba.  Those passengers who were Diamond or Platinum got #1 stickers the night before in our cabins.  Those with Carnival excursions also got stickers - but different from ours.  We ate breakfast, went down at 7:30 when our number was called, and were through customs and exchanged our money by 8 am!!  We had purchased euros beforehand, as the exchange rate was better euro to cuc than dollar to cuc.   Couldn't have been smoother or easier.  We hung out in the terminal until 8:40, then walked 3 blocks to our meeting place.  

 

Our guide (Yeni) came at 9 am and walked us over to our car - a 1950 Studebaker bullet nose Champion convertible - bright purple.  Supposedly this car had been owned by a famous musician, and was the only one in Havana.  Don't know if that was true, but throughout the driving part of the tour people (other drivers included) kept coming over to take pictures of the car, talk to the driver (Leslie),  etc.  We had a great driving tour, making stops at all the places that we wanted. (cigar store, parks, buildings, etc.)  Yeni was wonderful in giving us history, inside facts about life in Cuba, etc.  We had lunch at a house that had the backyard converted to a restaurant - family owned and run.  Was really great. (don't remember the name of it!)  We invited Yeni to eat with us, and she was so appreciative.  

 

After lunch we were dropped off at the flea market, and then walked Old Havana with Yeni. (we tipped the driver 10 cuc)  We always felt safe.  It was clean, the people were nice, and it was soooo hot - and it was only May! (88 degrees)  After the tour, we tipped Yeni nicely -30 cuc,  which was more than a month's salary for many of the Cubans, who make between 20 and 40 cuc a month. (Yeni was a teacher, but became a tour guide because she made more money touring than teaching.)   We walked back to the ship, stopping at some stores for souveneirs.  We changed our money back (no charge for American dollars, so we switched our cuc for $$) went through security and within 5 minutes of getting into the cruise terminal were back on the ship.  We were hot, tired, but had a great tour, and a much better understanding of the Cuban people!  If you have any questions, I would be glad to try to answer them.

 

 

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Thank you soooo much for this review-we board Sensation in 20 days for Cuba! Most reviews are from Pride.  We too booked private tour but  with Blexie. 

About how much was lunch? Trying to get an idea of how much USD to exchange.

How did you like the ship? Pools crowded? Taking our teens on this cruise too!

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We will be cruising the Sensation in September. We  are booked with Blexie. The Sensation was my first cruise ship in 1996. How is her condition today? Is there anything in particular you suggest as a must in Cuba ?

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14 hours ago, monykalyn said:

Thank you soooo much for this review-we board Sensation in 20 days for Cuba! Most reviews are from Pride.  We too booked private tour but  with Blexie. 

About how much was lunch? Trying to get an idea of how much USD to exchange.

How did you like the ship? Pools crowded? Taking our teens on this cruise too!

Our lunch cost 16 cuc per person for our dishes.  The place we ate at had "family style" serving - each person got their own entree, and the sides (while rice, black beans, string beans, sweet potatoes) were served in bowls we shared all for the 16 cuc.   There was plenty of food.  Soda was 1.50 cuc, as was bottled water and sparkling water.  The alcoholic drinks were around 5 cuc each.  We had exchanged $500 to euro before we went, and got back 480 cuc.  After lunch (86 cuc for 4) and paying the tour balance (150 cuc, 10 cuc for driver, 30 cuc for guide) we got back $248 when we changed cuc back to dollars.  We also bought ice cream, a few souveneirs.  

 

The pool (there is only one on Sensation) was very crowded.  We spent time at Serenity (not with teens though) and the waterworks.  The slides are really fun, and there are spray areas to cool off.  There is a nice breeze up there, also.  Ship was renovated recently.  Main areas looked good - but our balcony rails/ceiling were rusted and could have used a scraping/painting.

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8 hours ago, Negril60 said:

We will be cruising the Sensation in September. We  are booked with Blexie. The Sensation was my first cruise ship in 1996. How is her condition today? Is there anything in particular you suggest as a must in Cuba ?

Sensation main areas were fine. Ship was clean, staff was great.   As I said above, our balcony ceiling/railings were rusted.  The main thing we enjoyed in Cuba was just listening to our guide describe everyday life in Cuba.  The salaries, how their food vouchers work, health system, schooling, history, etc.  was a real eye-opener for us.  Making a choice between a $28 pair of shoes or eating for the month.... well, it made us grateful for what we have here in the U.S.  If you are eating lunch on your tour, see if you can eat at a family owned restaurant instead of a government owned one to support the locals.  

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THank you so much! I have a feeling we will be up by the water slides lol!

its really helpful to have a rough estimate on how much to exchange.

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4 hours ago, monykalyn said:

THank you so much! I have a feeling we will be up by the water slides lol!

its really helpful to have a rough estimate on how much to exchange.

Since credit cards issued from American banks are not honored, we figured we would bring more cash than less.  Oh - and I forgot-  dh bought 3 cigars for his friends (from a government store - ones bought elsewhere may have "fillers" we were told) for 6 cuc each.  People were buying cigars like crazy.  We bought some of the lesser costing ones.  Some of the others were going for something like 18-25 cuc each!

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