Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fathom Adonia Cuba Cruise Review

Fathom Adonia  -  Cuba Cruise Review

June 12-19, 2016

Just the Facts:
Ship: Adonia
Ports: Miami, USA - Havana, Cuba - Cienfuegos, Cuba - Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

I am so very excited to be on one of the first United States based cruises to Cuba.  This is my first cruise on the Adonia and 114th cruise overall.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW), Son & Daughter-in-law (first cruise), and two good cruise friends. This will be a fantastic experience for all of us.

Sunday  June 12  / Miami  
Miami from MV Adonia
We are already in Miami having just sailed on the MSC Divina.  We were up early and I went to a local breakfast place on SE 1st Street in Miami just a long block from the hotel.  You could actually see our cruise ship from there as it is docked in the Miami harbor side and not on the Cruise ship side. I ordered a Miami omelette (bacon, cheese & Avocado) and it was excellent.  I took a crepe back for the DW and she loved it.  We enjoyed our room, packed, and used hotel internet until checkout time of 11:00 am.  I would not hesitate to stay at The Langford again.  We then took a taxi to the port ($12) and we were dropped off at Terminal J on the Miami side of the port and directly behind the Royal Caribbean headquarters.  It’s been 30+ years since I boarded a ship in this location, but the Adonia is a SMALL ship compared to todays cruise ships.  Porters took our bags without problem and we entered security into the terminal.  We had to fill out a health questionnaire then proceeded to check-in.  Very short lines all around so far.  After check in we sat in the terminal until boarding.  With less than 500 passengers there are maybe half already in the terminal by noon.  We soon boarded and proceeded up to Lido deck 9 for the buffet, it was a bit crowded, but everyone boarded at the same time and did the same thing as cabins were not open as yet.  I had a great cold lunch: salad, cheese, and cold meats. We ate outside on deck with a wonderful view of Miami and Miami harbor…a much nicer view than from the usual cruise ship cut. Before we finished lunch they announced that the cabins were open for guests.  We went down the two decks to our cabin and our bags were already there.  Super!  We began settling into our cabin. We have a nice wardrobe and lot’s of drawers to for our clothes. I used a 220 splitter to plug in my computer and still be able to use the table light. The balcony is small but adequate and the full sliding door and window really makes your cabin seem larger.  Our cabin steward Katherine from Philippines introduced herself and brought ice that is kept inside the small refrigerator. I went to boat drill (yes really) and then we did a walking tour of the ship.  A cocktail on Lido deck then we went up to the Crows Nest cocktail lounge located forward on deck ten and watched us sail out of Miami harbor.  It has an excellent view forward and we enjoyed some sail away cocktails.  We returned to the cabin to prepare for dinner then went to the MDR about 8:00 pm.  I ordered a Seafood Salad, Gazpacho Soup, and the Sirloin Steak.  The steak was about 3 inches thick and very well prepared.  It was a excellent meal on par with a premium restaurant.  We have a big day and night tomorrow in Cuba so we retired to the cabin to rest.  It was a great first day on the Fathom Adonia.

Monday June 13 / Havana, Cuba / Day 2
Sailing into Havana
Very smooth seas overnight and I slept very well although I was awake early.  I had breakfast in the Pacific Restaurant and since Monday is Eggs Benedict day  on the menu that is what I ordered with a side of bacon and potatoes.  I joined the rest of the group in the Conservatory and had some fruit as well.  Very soon we could see the city of Havana in the distance.  We watched the Adonia sail along the Malecon then into the natural harbor.  Very different views and the Hotel de Nationale was easily spotted from sea.  We were docked by 11:00 am.  Our group (B) was called at 11:30ish and we proceeded to the gangway.  We were not meeting our personal tour guides until 1:00 pm but we were anxious and went right away. Once we debarked we were presented to Cuba Immigration…you proceed one person at a time to see the officer.  They stamped our passport and Cuba Visa  and we then proceed into the main terminal.  It is actually a well organized procedure.  We exchanged money into CUC’s, looked at a few shops, accepted a few bottles of complementary Cuban bottled water, then exited the terminal into the city of Havana.  We had an hour before our cars arrived so we went directly across the terminal to San Francisco square. We took our first photos of Havana, got hustled by some Cuban cuties posing for photos, and gathered our bearings.  Our two cars arrived at 1:00 pm, our guide was a nice young lady named Laritza, a teacher of beginning English at Havana University, and the cars were a 1956 Chevy and a 1957 Ford Fairlane. I was in the Chevy with good air-conditioning on this hot day and we were off on our first day tour in Havana.  We drove along the Malecon to the modern area of Havana passing the U.S. embassy, the Casa Verde, the beautiful homes and the Embassies along the famous 5th Avenue of Havana. The Russian (former Soviet) Embassy was a huge building architecturally based on a Soviet rocket ship.  Our first stop was a park with large Banyon trees in the Embassy area then to Jaimenitas a local neighborhood area with unique artists along the Gaudi style.  Very unique and difficult to describe the art style…very different and beautiful. Fusterlandia (Jose Fuster) Art Gallery is link for some photos. Next stop was an intercity forest park a popular location for photographs and the Afro-Cuban religion Santería that is replacing Catholicism on the island.  Next stop was the famous Hotel Nacional of Cuba opened in 1930 and the host to American elites, Movie-stars, and Mafioso.  We did the official hotel tour seeing the beautiful lobby, original casino, the huge cannons installed during the Spanish-American war of 1898, the bunkers built during the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, and the beautiful History Bar and Hall of Fame with mementos and photos of famous guests.  We also enjoyed our first CUBAN mojitos, mailed postcards, and purchased our tickets for the Tropicana show later in the evening.  Our next stop was for great Cuban food at Canonazo located across the harbor near Morro Castle (fortress) and El Christo statue.  It was great and the mojitos were better than the hotel. I had pork with pineapple and onions and DW had fried plantains. Rice and black beans are served family style.   Fantastic place and exceptional food.  We then stopped at the El Christo statue with a view across the harbor to old town Havana and our cruise ship: The Adonia. A great photo opportunity.  We passed an outdoor display of Soviet weaponry and the wreckage of a U.S. U-2 plane shot down in 1962.  It was now time to return and we were back at the ship at 6:15 pm in time to rest and prepare for our big night out in Havana. After a cooling shower and some rest I did go to the Buffet for some Turkey from the carving staton and some excellent Truffle Mashed Potatoes.  A simple meal to hold me through the night.  We met our pre-arranged transport at 8:45 pm to go to the infamous Cuban Tropicana Show.  We did it in style with two convertibles: a 1955 Buick and a 1952 Chevy.  We arrived at the Trop about 9:15 for the 10:00 pm show. We enjoyed mojitos while listening to the classical pre-show entertainment.  The show began at 10:00 pm and was really an indescribable show with a huge cast of singers and dancers.  It was basically a continuous two hour show and very amazing with one set beginning as the previous set ended.  As the show ended we stayed a short while for the post-show entertainment and to allow the crowd to disperse.  We met our drivers just before midnight and started back to the Adonia.  We switched autos so I was in the Chevy heading back, the roadways were not busy after midnight so we had a most enjoyable ride through Havana in the two classic convertibles driving side by side most of the way…the two drivers began a competition with their various custom horns and who would out position the other along the Malecon roadway.  To be honest that was almost as enjoyable as the show itself.  Imagine two classic convertibles cruising through Havana…amazingly fun for all of us.  We made it back to the terminal, through security, onto the ship, and to the cabin by 12:30 am.  An amazingly fantastic day in Havana, Cuba!!

Tuesday June 14 / Havana, Cuba / Day 3
Cathedal Square - Havana Cuba
They began announcements for the ship tours in Havana early so that got us around somewhat early.  We were behind the rush so I had a nice casual breakfast in the Conservatory.  I ordered three eggs over easy at the omelet station and had a side of sausage and bacon and ended up eating with the kids who where already there.  A very nice breakfast. We headed back through Cuban security and immigration to meet our guide at 9:00 am. outside the terminal.  It will be another hot one in Havana today.  We started our walking tour through San Francisco square then on to Plaza Vieja a very impressive city square with a very European feel to it.  Then we walked to the Plaza Armas a beautiful park area with a lot of book vendors  and outdoor cafes.  We did stop at a cafe and I enjoyed an old fashion 7-Up.  One end had a street made of wooden blocks supposedly a tradition from the 18th century when a wealthy resident didn’t want to hear the carriages passing.  We went to Hotel Ambos Mundos the hotel where Hemingway lived while in Havana until he moved to Finca Vigia and also his favorite bar: La Bodeguita Del Medio, that was actually hopping at mid-day.  We then walked to the cobble stoned Cathedral Square were there were several early colonial buildings and La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana completed in 1777. Local artists working on watercolors added ambience to this UNESCO designated square.  From here we were joined by our autos for the day, we have one new driver and car, a 1951 Chevrolet…a very nice car and a very good year.  We drove to Revolution Square a sight familiar to many as it was location of Concerts, the Pope’s blessing, and Obama’s recent address to the Cuban people.  It’s really just a large parking/staging area but surrounded by military buildings with large frescos of Cuban heroes on the outside and a huge obelisk as a monument to the Revolution. You may recall that Obama had the Che figure in his background.  We drove by the Baseball Stadium and we stopped at a Cigar factory passing on the tour, but purchasing  a couple of cigars from the factory store for friends back home.  Next stop was the Hemingway House.  The drive there took us through common Havana neighborhoods and it was interesting to see everyday Cuban life. It is very different in a Socialist country.  Inca Vigia or the Hemingway House was very interesting and we enjoyed the visit.  As a fan of the movie Hemingway & Gellhorn it was featured in that film as well as others especially Cuban movie productions.  I was surprised to find Hemingway’s original boat, The Pilar, also there.  It was flying a US flag just presented by Mrs. Obama to the museum just a few weeks ago.  We returned to Havana through the country and coast road east of Havana.  We stopped for lunch at another Paladar with a view of the sea.  Not as good as yesterdays lunch but some liked it others not so much.  I had a Tropical Lobster.  We decided to split the group, with three continuing on the the Museum of the Revolution and a cemetery and three returning to the ship.  I thanked our guide Laritza and joined the group returning to the ship.  We left Tony our driver and his 1951 Chevy at the pier and boarded the Adonia along with the Cuban Band that will be entertaining us the next few days. The ship tours have not yet returned so the ship is basically empty.  My first stop after the cabin was the swimming pool on pool deck.  The water was very warm but most refreshing on this very hot day.  We rested until just about sun down and then enjoyed our sail away from Havana Harbor.  The locals are quite friendly as we sail past…cruise ships are still new to them.  All six of us went to the MDR for dinner just after 8:00 pm.  I ordered the Crab meat taco, and the Prime Rib with vegetables and potatoes.  For dessert I had the Cuban fruit flavored ice creme and the Key Lime flavored cheesecake.  All were very good.  After dinner DW did some shopping and after listening to the Cuban band retired to the cabin.  Another great day in beautiful historic and hot Havana Cuba.

Wednesday June 15 / Day at Sea / Day 4
Pool Deck on Adonia
I woke early and watched some news on TV…we didn’t get networks on MSC and we have been too busy since so it was good to catch up on the news of the world. The Adonia has very good news channels and also several complementary 1st run movie channels…I’m impressed.  I went to breakfast in the MDR and by chance sat with a lady with Fathom HQ.  She had set up the original tours in Cuba so it was good to visit with her.  I ordered eggs to order and breakfast was very good.  We used the complementary washers & dryers to wash whites this morning…white is the color to wear when touring in the heat of Cuba so we are set for our next two ports. We also attended a lecture on Cuban history this morning in the Cruzon lounge…it was a fair assessment.  I then had a very nice hour+ nap…best of our three week journey.  They were serving BBQ on the boat deck today for lunch, but I went for the Cuban food being served in the buffet area.  I saw the DW so was able to eat with her and the kids…not that many guests on board so easier to find your friends.  She went to a lecture on Cienfuegos our next port and I went to cabin to watch an afternoon movie. I went to the Grill for a snack trying a Cuban Sandwich…it was good. This evening we met for cocktails in The Glass House Wine Bar and that was nice.  Then to the Pacific Restaurant for dinner.  I ordered the French Onion Soup and the Veal entree.  For dessert I had the Bananas Foster and a Panna Cotta.  All very good.  They have Cuban music again tonight, but with an early day tomorrow I retired to the cabin.  A little bit of rocky seas tonight, perfect for sleeping.  It was a very nice Sea Day on the Adonia.

Thursday June 16 / Cienfuegos, Cuba / Day 5
Palacio Ferrer  -  Ceinfuego
We left the drapes open overnight as a wake up since we have an early debark since we are only here half a day.  I was awake about 7:00am and we were already docked so I had a quick breakfast at the buffet.  Our group was called about 7:30 and we were soon off in group 5 to begin our city tour of Cienfuegos.  Our first stop was the city market were we saw local fruit and vegetables for sale from  farmers.  Next stop was the central town square: Parque José Martí with colonial buildings from 1880’s - 1900’s including a college, church, theater, and more.  We spent some time in the square then went to the theater to hear a professional acapella choir from Havana.  They were very good.  They then answered questions and spent some P2P time with the guests.  We then drove down the long boulevard to the seawall and resort area with a brief stop for photos at a palace. Then we went to the main commercial street with modern businesses and shops and browsed several blocks to the Main square then down another street with tourist stalls to the Customs House on the water.  We then boarded the buses for the return to the ship arriving back about noon.  Cuban Customs here was easy both arriving and departing, they did have doctors that took your temperature (by remote gun) when we arrived.  I took a quick refreshing shower then ate lunch in the Pacific MDR…I had a Greek Salad, Stir-fry and Chocolate Rootbeer Cake with vanilla ice creme.  Then to the cabin to watch us sail away from Cienfuegos.  Along the narrow passage sailing out were many Cubans waving as we sailed past.  This is only the 3rd time an American passenger ship has called at this port.  Now time for a much needed nap.I did get a nice Cuban Sandwich from Leah at the Lido Grill as a snack and watched a great movie in the cabin. I love the first run movies they show…best TV options I have experienced on a cruise ship.  The internet is also the best I have experience for a cruise satellite system...granted there are fewer guests on board. We met for cocktails in Anderson’s Lounge then moved to Raffles outside the Pacific Dining Room.  Dinner was good, I ordered two appetizers and had the Cuban Chicken entree with ice creme for dessert.  I was tired after such a busy day and retired to the cabin after dinner.  It was a very good day in Ceinfuego and the Adonia today.

Friday June 17 / Santiago de Cuba, Cuba / Day 6
el Castillo De San Pedro De La Roca
A little bit of rocky seas overnight, I slept very well and was up early.  I got an early breakfast buffet and ate on deck watching the coast and mountains as we approached Santiago de Cuba.  Soon the pilot boarded and we entered the narrow channel of the harbor.  We zigzagged into the harbor and docked about 9:00am.  We soon went down to immigration where they kept our Cuban Visa and gave us a Transit Card.  We were off on Bus 4 for our day long tour of the Santiago de Cuba area.  It was a very hot day, but the bus was actually quite comfortably air conditioned.  First stop was at the el Castillo De San Pedro De La Roca the Spanish castle built in 1638 to protect the harbor entry. We then went to view the monuments at San Juan Hill the location of the famous charge by Teddy Roosevelt & his Roughriders during the Spanish American War of 1898.  We then drove by the Moncada Barracks attacked by Castro and his troops at the very beginning of the Revolution in 1953.  We also drove by Revolution Square with it’s monument and Military/Gov't Buildings…similar to Havana’s being modern and basically a multi-use site.  We then went to Grave and monument to Jose Marti, the Father of Cuba located at Saint Ifigenia cemetery.  Here we watched the Changing of the Guard and saw other monuments to Cuban heroes. Next stop was lunch, we stopped at a Palladar and were served another great lunch served family style.  We enjoyed Salad, Rice, Fried Bananas, Pork, Chicken, Fish and a Banana Flan dessert.  It was very good.  Next stop was a performance by an Afro-Cuban dance group in a small theater.  Final stop for the day was the main square: Parque Cespedes.  On the square is the oldest Cathedral in Cuba, a grand Hotel, Government Bulidings, the Cuban National Bank and more. Here we visited Casa Velasquez the oldest home in Cuba also on one corner of the square. Over five hundred years old it was beautiful with both restored and original features.  We spent most of our allotted time there, but made it to the rooftop of the Hotel Casa Granda to enjoy a nice breeze and mojitos.  A short walk to the bus and we were soon on our way to the port.  Here we exchanged our remaining Cuban CUC’s back into U.S. dollars, paid the $3CUC tax on a print that DW bought, went through security, and finally immigration where they took the transit card issued this morning.  Successfully finished with the government of Cuba and boarded the Adonia. We cooled off in the cabin and watched us sail away from Santiago de Cuba and through the channel into the Caribbean Sea.  We met our friends for aperitifs in The Glass House Wine Bar then went to the Pacific dining room for a great dinner  I ordered the Spinach Souffle with beet roots and the Lobster Thermidor.  DW ordered the Fried Goat Cheese with Apples and Beet Root puree (she said it was fantastic) and the Spinach Souffle.  For dessert I had a Banana Tart and ice creme.  After dinner we looked at the Shoppes onboard before retiring.  It was a great day in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Saturday June 18 / Day at Sea /  Day 7
Adonia Library
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  Looks like a clear and sunny day for our final day at sea on the Adonia. I awoke early and updated this review then went to the Conservatory for breakfast.  I had a Western Omelet from the Omelet Station and some of the amazing fruit they have on board.  The food has been very good.  I took some excellent Blueberry Muffins back to the cabin for DW.  Since it’s Saturday most of the movie channels are now sports channels so they are showing the European Cup and several other live Soccer matches.  With the service provided to passengers on the Adonia it would be tempting to stay an additional week. They did make an tempting offer to guests to stay aboard for the next sailing to the Dominican Republic.  We will pass on that this time.  We did a walk about on deck and saw our friends as well as new friends, first time I had seen the Library…it is large and very well decorated.  It was busy too…lots of books and games available.  I had a nap and almost missed the BBQ on deck arriving at 2:00 pm.  BBQ was only so so though, nothing that a Texan would call bbq although I took some dessert from the buffet back to the cabin to enjoy.  We did some preliminary packing and planning for debarkation in the late afternoon.  We met our friends in the Glass House Wine Bar for cocktails, wine, and aperitifs this evening then to the Pacific MDR for our final dinner.  I ordered the Beet Root flavored Risotto (an entree ordered as a starter) and the Pork Tenderloin.  For dessert a Tiramisu and a Panna Cotta.  Very good.  We retired to the cabin and opened the drapes for an early wake up as I have packing yet to do in the morning.  A nice final day on the MV Adonia.

Sunday June 19 / Miami  /  Debarkation
I was up early and we were sailing by Miami Beach about dawn.  I finished packing and then went for our final breakfast in the MDR.  They were taking short cuts with pre-prepared eggs, etc, but still good to be served. The hot milk was good.  We debarked with all our bags without much problem at all and US Customs examined documents closely, but nothing special even though we were returning from Cuba.  We took a taxi to MIA ($27) went through security an were at the gate before 10:00 am.  Amazing.

Ship—MV Adonia
Maiden Voyage: 2001  I  Gross Tonnage: 30,277 tons
Passenger Capacity: 777  |  Crew: 380  I  Length: 592 ft.
Max Cruising Speed: unknown  I  Avg. Speed 18 knots
Installed power: Diesel (13,500 kW)  I  Propulsion: Two propellers

We had cabin B31 a balcony located on deck 7 near the forward elevators on the starboard side.  It is a well decorated and spacious cabin.  The cabin has a nice small couch, push button safe, twin/queen beds, two night stands with lights, a very large decorative mirror, a small refrigerator, seat at dresser/desk with mirror, and TV.  The bathroom is quite small but functional with storage.

Crew / Guests
The Pacific MDR and Conservatory (buffet) waiters were very efficient as was our cabin steward Katherine. All the crew were very friendly.  Most guests were American and there were many first time cruisers, probably the majority. They were booking primarily for the opportunity to go to Cuba, not a cruise experience.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
The Adonia is a small ship and rare in these days of large cruise ships.  It is a beautiful ship and reminds me of some of the original cruise ships I sailed 30+ years ago.  There is no casino nor theater productions but adequate public rooms for entertainment or gatherings.  Alexander’s is a beautiful and large lounge area as is the Crows Nest.  They had Cuban entertainment, Cuban food, and Cuban lectures during the week.  I would describe the dinner service in the MDR as almost elegant and the food is outstanding even on the buffet.  Dress is much more casual than I anticipated.

Random Personal Observations of Cuba

Cubans are very Friendly people - Very HOT and humid weather - Obvious pollution in Santiago de Cuba and much of Havana - Only recent interest in preserving historical sites as the need for tourism income becomes important - Seeing the numerous vintage 1950's era American cars was even more amazing than anticipated - Not many consumer goods available so shopping is not really an activity... some Cuban art may be purchased in various locations -  Private ownership of restaurants (Paladars) has only been possible since 2010 so food or eating out is NOT a priority in Cuba...If you want great Cuban food you'll need to get that in Miami. 

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable cruises I have ever taken.  Havana was a great port and we had great private tours arranged.  The ship was fantastic in every regard.

Highlights of the Cruise
Havana Cuba
Our personal private Havana guide Laritza
Hotel Nationale
Tropicana Nightclub
Classic American Cars
Santiago de Cuba
Great Food & Service on the Adonia

NOTE:  I have never once mentioned in any of my 100+ reviews that I am a Travel Agent as that is not the purpose of my reviews....I just love to cruise.  I really only take experienced cruisers and friends as clients; however, if anyone is interested in sailing to Cuba I will gladly help with your booking and provide you with valuable personal information.  Contact:

My Favorite Photos

Mojito Time at Hotel Nationale Havana

~~~Click on Photos to Enlarge~~~

Fusterlandia (Jose Fuster) Art Gallery

Hemingway House - Inca Vigia - Havana

Welcome to Havana!

School Girls in Cienfuegos

Tropicana Nightclub Dancers

Artists depiction of the yacht Granma that took Fidel, Raul, Che, Camilo, and 78 others to Cuba from Mexico.