ImageMy Canadian friends are in for something of a winter treat this year. And no, I don’t mean Celine Dion coming down with laryngitis.

ImageCanadian based company, Cuba Cruises has taken a winter charter of Louis Cruises’s funky little Louis Cristal, for a series of seven night voyages around the highlights of Cuba. The venture has fifteen scheduled departures between December 2013 and March of 2014.

ImageSadly, our American friends cannot avail themselves of this option, simply because of the ridiculous and archaic embargo on Cuba that is still in place.

ImageYou’ll have the choice of embarking either in Havana or, if you prefer, from Montego Bay in Jamaica. Our Canadian friends will have their own charter flights organised for them through the tour operator.

ImageFor Europeans yearning for some winter sun, these cruises can be booked directly with Louis Cruises, acting as a co-seller. If arranging your own flights, Air France flies directly into Havana via Paris.

So, what are you getting for your money?

ImageI did a long weekend cruise on the Louis Cristal around the Greek Islands last year, and came away quite taken by the experience. She’s around 24,000 tons- petite by the standards of the floating monoliths in the Mediterranean- and she has a capacity of around 960 passengers.

ImageShe will feel busy, but not overly so. The two main, window walled restaurants operate in two sittings for dinner. One main public deck features an inviting string of lounges and bars, with a tiered show room right forward.

ImageFood as a whole was good to outstanding, with an obvious emphasis on Greek cuisine. However, all supplies for the Cuba cruise season will be sourced from Canada, and augmented at different Cuban ports of call.

ImageThere’s also an open air buffet for breakfast and lunch, and a nice midships pool area that can be covered by a sliding glass roof. Deck space might be tight when the ship is full.

ImageA series of elegant, cascading terraces at the stern allows for beautiful views out over the wake. And, right aft on the lowest outer deck, is possibly the most exquisitely sited hot tub on any ship at sea anywhere.

ImageCruises from Havana will sail on Mondays, with the option of also embarking in Montego Bay each Friday. Entertainment will be tweaked to reflect the heritage of Cuba and the islands, so expect lots of salsa.

ImageThe Louis Cristal also has a superb, glass walled disco, cantilevered around the funnel, offering almost clear views to the horizon during the day. It’s a lovely room, and should really sizzle in the sultry Cuban nights.

ImageInside cabins are small, but functional. Pack lightly, because this is not a ship- or an ambiance- that will really stand on formality.

ImageIf you need more living room, there are some nice deluxe outside cabins with small sitting areas on the upper deck, and a handful that have small, wedge shaped balconies are located amidships on the same level.

ImageAt the top end, there are two forward facing suites right at the base of the superstructure, overlooking the bow. These have bigger balconies and- a nice touch- each has  a small hot tub. Sweet….

ImageAll things considered, this looks like a nicely packaged venture on a nifty, appealing little ship. Sure, it will be busy, and probably loud. But going on a cruise to Cuba and expecting solace is right up there with expecting all night discos in the Vatican. It’s not going to happen.

ImageIn any event, it all sounds like fun. After having done innumerable cruises in the Caribbean, this is a genuinely exciting breath of fresh air for the region. I can’t wait to give it a try.


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