Our bunco group (dice game) starting planning our get-away in August of 2018 and finally set sail June 3rd of 2019. Little did we know due to US policy change with Cuba, we would literally be the last cruise ship in the Havana Port!
Our trip started in South Beach, Miami, Florida at the Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club found at Collins and 39th. I have stayed at many hotels in South Beach and the Cadillac was one of my best stays in Miami. The service was excellent and they accommodated my many special requests. I enjoyed their room service, beach side service and pool side dining. Their room rates include two beach chairs and access is easy and convenient to use.
I arrived on the 1st anticipating the rest of the group to begin arriving early on the 2nd. Sadly thanks to weather and/or American Airlines, all the Sunday flights were delayed and the rest of our group didn’t get in until 7p, 8p and 9p o’clock, Sunday night. When your travel agent recommends arriving (at least) a day early for your cruise, listen!
We were still able to slip in a late dinner at Nikki Beach and enjoy friends and food!
The next morning, Monday, we left the Cadillac for the port of Miami for a 12/12:30p check-in. We had a great Uber driver the evening before that we used again for the Hotel-to-Port run in a big Suburban. He was able to fit all our ladies and luggage! What a champ!
We turned our luggage over to the porter, made our way through security and Norwegian check-in to the ship. The process was simple and easy. We stepped on board and started exploring the ship. I made my way straight to guest services to book our dinner reservations for the three nights we would be dining on the ship. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to eat in the specialty restaurants especially with a large party. We were aboard the Norwegian Sky, which was refurbished and completed in early 2019. Overall I think everyone felt that the ship was lovely with plenty of entertainment for the period of time we were aboard. I would recommend this ship for any short cruises with Norwegian.
We received access to our rooms later in the afternoon and luggage was delivered shortly after. We were all in row on level 9, balcony cabins 9016 to 9019 on the port side of the ship. It was a quiet, convenient, near bow location with good proximity to the stairs and elevators. The next level up was floor 10 which was also directly below most of the action, so I’m not sure I would book myself or clients on anything higher than floor 9. We settled into our rooms and dressed for dinner. Some of us that were ready early stopped in at bingo before dinner at Le Bistro.
As part of our cruise package we had complimentary 3-course dinners at each of the 3 specialty restaurants on-board the Sky. Our first night was at Le Bistro, French Cuisine. I enjoyed mussels, the sea bass and a bite of several lovely desserts.
The next morning we pulled into Cuba and I was up bright and early at 6:30am to get our group ‘disembarkation’ tickets AND had the privilege to enjoy SUNRISE in CUBA! When you don’t have an excursion booked through the cruise line, you need these tickets to leave the ship.
Our reservations with the car tour company, Old Cars Havana, were for 10am, so we had breakfast and left the ship just before 9am. We were off the ship, through security and customs in no time. We also exchanged our money. We took Euros for a better exchange rate than Dollars and each had about 200-300 cucs. We had a little time to walk the streets before meeting our tour guides.
Special mention and thanks to Martha and Somer for booking this reservation from the referral of a friend. Our English-speaking guide, Katherine was quite knowledgeable and interested in making sure we were happy. Our drivers and cars were excellent too. Don’t be afraid to book outside of the cruise line. It was far less expensive, private and easy!
To say Cuba is the land of the ‘classic American car’ is an understatement. They were EVERYWHERE and FABULOUS to look at. Everyone was very friendly about letting us gawk, ooh-n-aww, and photograph their cars.
We drove all over to many historical sites like the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the Marecon, The Jesus Christ, and Revolution Square. For all my sightseeing photos, checkout my photography website. We made a short stop for ‘the best pina coladas’, stopped in a rum & cigar shop and ultimately settled for lunch in a ‘backyard’.
Our tour guides said…’Would you like to have lunch in a family’s backyard?’ We thought….ooooh! How fabulous, yes! We will be their honored guests.’ After a long hot morning and early afternoon of touring we were starving and ready to feast. We walked to a house and sure enough, through the fence was a full blown restaurant called Buenaventura with MANY tables and honored guests! Ha! Excellent, authentic, Cuban food in a fun, music-filled atmosphere. After lunch, we made our way back to the cars, shopped for a few quick souvenirs and headed back to the port for a little rest and relaxation.
This is where things got interesting…we were chilling on the ship when the cruise director came on the PA to announce that we MAY not be allowed back off the ship into Cuba. He was waiting for more info from Corporate and would get back to us. About thirty minutes later he announced all was a go and we WOULD be allowed back off. We decided we better hurry up and get back off before they changed their minds again! We had terrace top, dinner reservations at The Cuban Coin,
Alex and Jordan picked us up in their convertibles after dinner and took us to The Tropicana where we had reservations for the show.
I booked our tickets direct with the Tropicana versus through the cruise line and saved us half the price. We had premium-seat tickets which included rum & coke and peanuts and we were seated directly center stage. The show was amazing! It went on for about an hour and a half and was very entertaining. The opera singers were phenomenal! If you are on facebook and want to see my videos of the show, view here. To see all my photos from the Tropicana, view my photography site, LoveCameraEarth.com. After our evening in Havana, we re-boarded the ship and sought out the dance club. We enjoyed dancing and celebrating Amy’s pre-pre-birthday! 🤣
If we learned one thing about touring in Havana, Cuba is take TOILET PAPER with you as none is provided in most public restrooms and RUM is plentiful and handed out by the bottle when you order drinks!
The next day, Wednesday, we marveled at our good fortune and how we were the LAST cruise ship in Havana!! How awesome! Everyone had a ‘chill’ day and did their own thing. I booked a hot-stone massage, attended a painting class, napped and dressed for the ‘Captain’s Cocktail Party’ Keely and I attended. We met the group for dinner at the Italian Eatery, La Cucina. This was also ‘white party’ night hence why we are all dressed in white!
Our last full day aboard the Sky was spent at Norwegian’s private island called, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. We took tender boats over to the island where we had booked a private cabana. Martha, Irina and Somer went to ‘Swim with the Pigs’ while the rest of the group relaxed at the beach. Our cabana was on a lovely out-of-the-way beach on the island. We enjoyed swimming in the ocean and eating at the restaurants on the island. Since the island is owned by Norwegian all the food and drinks are included in your cruise fare. The only downfall is that they close it up early and stop serving food by about 2pm. Amy and I first stopped at the taco bar, then found some nibbles on the main lunch buffet and Cheri helped me find the dessert bar to top it off! Ha! Last day – had to blow it out! <3
We spent our last evening and Amy’s official birthday dinner at Cagney’s steakhouse. It was a late dinner so we meet up early at our favorite bar on the ship, ‘Sugarcane’, The Mojito Bar for Friends trivia. We played Yahtzee and ate bar snacks until time for dinner. Everyone enjoyed dinner and lots of desserts to celebrate Amy! The thoughtful and amazing, Cheri surprised us all with birthday hats and cups. She really is the best!
The next morning everyone had their own departure plans, so some left as soon as they opened the gate at 7:40am, while Martha, Somer and I were the last ones off the ship at just after 9am. We enjoyed breakfast in the main dining room and took our time getting off the ship and getting a car to take us to the airport. No customs issues with our Cuban purchases and no flight issues for anyone getting home. Amy once said ‘Life is about experiences’ and that is a sentiment very close to my heart too. I thank these ladies so much for taking time away from their families to spend with me and as a group. We all refueled our tanks with adventure, excitement and relaxation…something every mom needs!
A cruise made it very easy to enjoy each other’s company, but have space and freedom to relax and ‘do our own thing.’ Norwegian never made my experience feel restricted and I would hands down recommend the line for your cruising vacation!
Natalie, Founding Author
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