For breakfast I had beans. I love beans! And lox with sour cream and a fresh baked roll. A good breakfast!

Our bus turned out to be a taxi for just the six of us, a driver and a guide. Very pleasant.

The MSC Armonia

In the morning, after our day of relaxing at Playa Alameda, we were up early to make sure we got our bus to Havana and the MSC Armonia. We had some trouble figuring out when he was coming for us but we eventually got it figured out.

Our ride into Havana was really interesting. Our guide was a very well read man who discussed Cuban politics and the American embargo with us all the way in. He said he was actually a graduate in languages. His English was excellent although we were told that Dutch was his best language.

We stopped for a break at a tourist spot and another to look at the bridge of Bacanayagua, the highest bridge in Cuba. The drive in was actually about two and a half hours and this stop was about half way.

When we got to Havana we were given a small tour of the City but it was more frustrating than anything.



Every block I wanted to get out and explore and we just didn’t have the time. But the impression one gets from such a whirlwind glimpse is one of grandeur and neglect. Our guide told us that there was simply not enough money in people’s pockets to keep up the buildings the way they should be. But at one time, you can still see it, this city was beautiful and that still comes through.

Although we were boarding the ship today it was to remain in theharbour tomorrow so we could tour Havana on our own. That was some consolation but that too turned out to be just a frustrating taste of this fascinating city.

This travelogue has too many pictures to be put on a single page. So I have broken it into several pages which you can navigate with this Menu.

Susan and Real on the Stairs to the lookout at Puente de Bacunayagua

Susan standing looking out over the bridge in the background. Well, actually, she is looking at me but she was looking at the bridge earlier. This is a really pretty spot with really wild country all around. The highway  connects Havana with Varadero and Southern Cuba.

The pool deck of the Armonia just after we went on board. Very few people out and about so it was largely deserted.

Across the harbour from Havana the MSC Armonia towers over the City.

The Armonia tied up at the Terminal San Francesco.

Our first day after leaving Havana we cruised: it was a “Sea Day”. Every other day we had a port of call. I have always liked Sea Days because you can enjoy the ship’s amenities without feeling guilty that you should be ashore doing something. I spent my day prowling from stem to stern with my camera. Susan spent the morning in the gym and we met for lunch. Then she was off to the pool deck for the afternoon.

The lifeboat deck was a great place for walking. 

On deck on our first day out of Havana. One of the striking things on a day like this is the intense color. To a photographer it is a thing of joy!

Nel bleu dipinto de Blu.

And this is the pool deck the way it usually looked. A few more people!

Our favorite spot to sit and chat.

This bar became our place to gather and talk about the day’s events. On one end of the pool deck, it was outdoors but still sheltered from the wind.  In the picture above right we are sitting here enjoying the day. On a cruise sitting has no guilt attached and there is no urge to be anywhere else!

A day on board, for us, is divided into three sections: We relax, we eat and we dance. And the eating is wonderful. I don’t know how they manage to feed 2679 people every day and do it with style and flavor. Susan and I have learned that when we travel we drop into a two meal a day routine. Otherwise you simply eat to much and are uncomfortable all of the time. So we have breakfast late in the morning and then eat in the evening. But we like the early seating so that we can dance the rest of the evening.

For breakfast we liked the buffet. Evenings we liked the formal dining room. We caught up with our friends every night at dinner and then spent the evening with them sitting around the dance floor.

Now this was a place to have breakfast! This little balcony is on the stern just outside the buffet where we had breakfast every day.

There is something satisfying about sitting down for dinner with family or friends, or both. The buffet on most cruise ships is good but we like the dining room. There are specialty restaurants on most cruise ships but we find that the main dining room, the one included in the price of the cruise, is just perfect. You get to select your meal from a menu and it is served with impeccable good taste.

There two seatings, one early, about 6:00pm and one later, about 8:30pm. The later one takes up to much of the evening if your passion is dancing. So we made sure we were in the early seating. That got us to the dance floor around 8:00 and because the second seating was in the dining room, we had lots of room to more. Perfect!

Every evening we sat down to a table laid out like this!

Menu choices were modest but very nice.

Susan and I are salad fans and we were not disappointed.

And the pasta was usually excellent. But then MSC is an Italian company.

Of course seafood crepes are always a winner.

On the other hand, scampi are not my favorite. I don’t like to get my hands messy when I eat.

And I cannot have a meal without my pasta. Susan, not so much, but I crave good pasta.

The main course was always excellent. Oh, you can be picky here and there, but on average, excellent.

The love of my life, even though she won’t let me hang pictures in the house! These pictures are taken in the dining room during dinner. You can see that the setting is rich and colorful.  On the right is another picture of Susan and one of us together in front of the mirrors at the end of the dinning room.

Rose and Real at dinner.

Tony and Elsa sitting at our table.

And we made up the six that sat together.

Evening on the ship was magical. With the wonderful warm weather, especially delightful after the winter we left in Canada, we could sit out at night and not feel chilled at all. The ship was ablaze with color and people out enjoying the evening. There are two times that make for magical pictures: the morning as the sun comes up and the evening as it sets. At those times the light is special. Every photographer knows about it and these are called the “golden hours”.

Our bar that we enjoyed so much in the evening light.

The pool at night.

The pool deck just after sunset.

Cruising is for couples.

Sunset over the Caribbean. Every night was like this and it was magical. This is the time to be on deck with a camera.

The dance music on cruise ships can be good, not so good, and totally awful. Susan and I have experienced all of them But on this cruise, the music was wonderful. The band knew their dance music and we were able to dance every night till the band went home. Add to that attentive servers and comfortable seating and you find the evenings were very enjoyable.

There were two large dance floors. One hosted a Latin band who were very good. They played lots of samba, salsa, mambo, all the Latin music. The other dance floor had a band who played a very international mix of music and much of it was great dance music. This is where we settled every evening.

The Latin dance floor which was always crowded.

This is the lounge where we hung out in the evenings.

It was popular too but there was always room to dance.

The band played an International mix – a little bit of everything.

Our new friends Angelo Scafuto and his lovely wife Giulia at dinner.

Angelo and Giulia after diner when we all went to dance.

Friends of Elsa and Tony from their town, Supino. It was because these folks were coming on this cruise that we ended up on the vaction.

Travelling with a group makes the cruise much more enjoyable. There are more peole to share the adventure with.

Tony and Elsa on the dance floor. They love dancing as much as we do and spend as much time on the floor, or even more.

And that was the MSC Armonia. We have been on grander ships but we have no complaints. The staff were wonderful, the food very good and the dancing was superb. Our rooms were the least expensive, inside cabins, and yet they were very nice. The air was fresh and the rooms actually felt spacious (they were not but they felt that way!).

You can learn more about the Armonia at her website. You can probably book a cruise there too. There is much to know, lots of technical data, a more photos. Take a look.

O.K., so now we get on to Belize and our other stops.