A One-of-a-kind Cruise to a one-of-a-kind Country

Cuba Cruise's Louis Cristal docked pierside in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal docked pierside in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

January 10, 2014

Just after noon today, my taxi from the Sea Garden Resort pulled up at the Montego Bay – Freeport Cruise Terminal to a welcome sight: Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal.

Sporting a fresh coat of white paint adorned with vibrant flowers – the signature emblem of Cuba Cruise – the Louis Cristal sparkled in port. Originally constructed in 1980 as a Baltic car ferry, she was completely rebuilt from the keel up in 1992 and enjoyed a stint in the mid-1990’s as Norwegian Cruise Line’s Leeward.

Louis Cristal has been repainted in the Cuba Cruise brand; a fun, whimsical display that differentiates this interesting ship from her Greek Islands itineraries for Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Louis Cristal has been repainted in the Cuba Cruise brand; a fun, whimsical display that differentiates this interesting ship from her Greek Islands itineraries for Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Now, she sails for Cyprus-based Louis Cruises. Her regular itineraries take her throughout the Mediterranean, but this winter she calls the Caribbean – and Cuba in particular – home.

Embarkation was a simple, if confusing affair. I’m so used to embarkations that feature snaking lineups that never seem to end that arriving at a deserted terminal – save for a handful of Jamaican security and customs personnel – really threw me for a loop.

But once through Jamaican customs and the cursory security check, I was walking up the gangway aboard the Louis Cristal, where I was personally escorted to the Reception Desk on Deck 5 to collect my keycard and establish my onboard account.

Everything onboard has been created exclusively by and for Cuba Cruise, from the deck plans to bar menus to daily programs. It's a fabulous touch you don't often see. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Everything onboard has been created exclusively by and for Cuba Cruise, from the deck plans to bar menus to daily programs. It’s a fabulous touch you don’t often see. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Being Canadian, I have simply come to accept that every time I cruise, I will need a foreign currency, be it US Dollars or Euros or Pounds Sterling. But everything aboard this Cuba Cruise is priced in Canadian Dollars – and all onboard information is delivered in both of Canada’s two official languages, English and French.

So this is a rarity for me – the first time in nearly 50 cruises that I have been able to pay for onboard purchases in my native currency! However, it is worth noting that both US Dollars and Euros are also accepted as cash payments on accounts.

Louis Cristal's bright and inviting Reception Desk on Deck 5 handles check-in. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Louis Cristal’s bright and inviting Reception Desk on Deck 5 handles check-in. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Since I was at the Reception Desk, I decided to purchase my Cuban Visa at a cost of $30 Canadian Dollars. Cuban Visas are normally issued to travellers once onboard their flights to Cuba and are typically included in the cost of the airfare. Here, they come at an additional cost, but it’s really negligible. I’ll gladly part with the cash to avoid the bureaucratic red tape that going through a local embassy might necessitate.

My Category XF Deluxe Oceanview stateroom on Deck 7. It may not have a balcony, but the sitting area is a fantastic feature. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My Category XF Deluxe Oceanview stateroom on Deck 7. It may not have a balcony, but the sitting area is a fantastic feature. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report circumnavigating Cuba aboard Cuba Cruise’s Louis Cristal continues tomorrow from our first port of call – Cienfuegos, Cuba! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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