The long awaited day was finally here! Havana, Cuba!
I have to admit that I was a bit…well, a lot…intimidated by the thought of entering Cuba and what it all entailed. I’d heard so many stories of how hard it was in Customs and the Money Exchange.
Early to rise!
We got up extra early that morning, just in case. We had booked a three hour classic car tour from HavanaCar, followed by a three hour walking tour. Both of the tours were booked by Stefano, the owner who lives in Miami, and were supposed to have English speaking guides. One thing that I can say is that Stefano was extremely prompt in answering all of my questions via email, and in setting up our tour. I was very happy with his customer service.
Breakfast on the ship
We went to the Windjammer for breakfast that morning. Breakfast is nothing spectacular on Empress of the Seas, not a ton of variety, but it is good. The first thing that you will hear any time you enter the Windjammer is “washy washy” by the cute hostess. They are very serious about clean hands. Sinks and Purel are provided at the door.
You can get fresh omelets or eggs in the dead center of the buffet, but I could not find any toast. I also had a hard time finding the cereals, but there are cereal dispensers across from the omelet station area, along with bowls, spoons, and small cartons of milk. You’ll also find a selection of fruit, meats, biscuits & gravy, breads, grits, and oatmeal. And desserts, because of course we needed dessert for breakfast. So, yes, there is plenty to eat in the small buffet.
Tables and Ice cream on the deck
So far we haven’t had any problem finding a table in the Windjammer buffet, plus there are more tables on the deck outside by the pool. There is one soft serve ice cream machine on the deck near the Windjammer also. It’s only open certain hours, and you can’t get your own ice cream like on most ships I’ve sailed on. It is instead served to you on a cone by a hostess. Guess it keeps the kids from making a mess and touching things that they shouldn’t. Probably a good idea.
In the same area is also a drink station. It has coffee, tea, unsweetened iced tea, water, and flavored waters. The teabags are different flavors also, such as peppermint, ginger lemon, and chamomile. They also have black tea and green tea, along with assorted sweeteners. No Stevia, though.
Getting ready to go into Cuba
After breakfast we went back to the cabin to get our passport and visa ready to go. See below for an example of what the Visa form looks like. Be careful and write slowly so you don’t mess it up. However, our cruise director, Elvis, said that if you do mess it up, try to use it anyway. They may accept it. You can always come back onto the ship and get a new one if they refuse it. Go to the Guest Relations desk to get it, but it will cost you extra.
Use the same name that is on your passport, not nicknames. I used my given name and my middle name on my first name line because that’s what’s on my passport. Make sure you spell it the same as on your passport also, and do both sides, left and right, exactly the same. Visas are $75 and the cost goes onto your ship account.
And then it was time to get off of the ship. Since we had an excursion with an independent party, we left the ship after the ship excursion passengers did, but we still got off by 8:15 am. Captain Diego managed to get our departing time from Cuba changed from 8:00 pm until 1:00 am, so we had plenty of time to explore. I’m not going to write all about it again, so click HERE for my blog on our adventures in Cuba. It was quite a day!
Back to the ship
We got back onto the ship at around 5:00 pm, and I was really hot and tired after all of our walking in Cuba. It was a sunny 90 degrees plus day in Havana, and very humid. Since we had main dining room reservations for 5:30 pm, we freshened up as much as we could in the time we had, and headed to the dining room. I’m sure that we weren’t the only ones hot and worn out.
The dining room wasn’t very full, thankfully. Even though we were late, we were sat at the same table with Govind and Wahyu right away. We did enjoy getting to know these two waiters, they were very good, and very personable. I always love getting to know people of different nationalities on ships. I’ve met some special people over the years.
I started out with lots of iced tea after all that heat and walking. It was so refreshing. Coconut Shrimp, one of my favorites, was the appetizer. It was delicious, wish I’d order two. By the way, it’s perfectly fine to order more than one of anything if you want. Or two different appetizers, entrees, or desserts. We do it all the time. My main course was steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables, which was also good, but not as good as the steak at the Hotel Director’s Table. Then for dessert I had the Royal Chocolate Cake, also delicious. I always eat way too much on a cruise.
Sunset over Havana
The headliner show started at 9:00 pm, later than the usual 7:00 pm because so many people were still in Havana. While we waited, we decided to run up to deck 11 to try and get sunset pictures. The sun was going to set directly over Havana. It really was beautiful and crowded with others people trying to get sunset pictures also.
To get to deck 11, go to the Lido deck by the pool. You’ll see a stairway up to another deck, and that is deck 11. There is no elevator to it. This area has deck chairs, deck beds, and hammocks. It’s a really nice place to just relax. It’s not an adults only deck, but I didn’t see very many kids up there. There is a shuffleboard game up there, and I did seem some kids playing that a couple of times.
The headliner show wasn’t the best we saw during the cruise, but it was entertaining and funny. The entertainer was a juggler named Victor Zuniga. He did a funny bit with a guy from the audience, but it almost seemed like the guy was a plant. It was just too perfect.
And we call it a night
And then we were ready to go back to the cabin and collapse. It was a long day in Havana, and I logged over 20,000 steps, even with three hours on the car tour.