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Cuba - general tourist style.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Kitchster_uk, 17 Jun 2006.

  1. Kitchster_uk

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,058

    Location: The remittance desk

    After Freefaller's thread regarding his trip to Cuba, I decided it might be good to have a general tourist thread, for those of us not as adventurous or just plain enjoy a relaxing all in holiday.

    First of all, I would say, the hotel choice is reallly important. Cuba started accepting tourists in the early 80's and some of the hotel's show this, looking and from other people's reports, feeling rather dated. We chose the Playa Pesquero, opened in 2003 by Fidel himself!!! Catering for up to 2000 guests, it is the largest hotel in the caribbean and one of the best in Cuba by soime way. 5* All inclusive, and not your typical all in hotel either as it really is just about EVERYTHING included, from a massive choice at the badr, through the 8 a la carte restaurants, the huge choice of drinks, 24 hour food, 24 hour room serivce and even the watersports, right through the the two 24 hour bars, coffee bar, snacks, the biggest pool I have EVER seen and even little golf buggies to ferry you around - this is some hotel.

    A small army of 400 staff run Pesquero and there is always someone around to help. Your glass is never empty, whether it be rum, beer, soft drinks or water, they keep you topped up. The water is a godsend to be truthful as dehydration over here is VERY easy. The minibar in the room gets 2 cans of beer, 2 cokes and a 1.5 litre bottle of mineral water each day, all free. When we haven't got through the water or beer, I just take it out and pop it in the cupboard and hey presto, more appears in the fridge :D The choice of food is better than ANY hotel I have ever been to. You can have brussel sprouts and cauliflower for breakfast if you choose!!! There is truly something for everyone and you can eat something different every day. Only 4 a la carte bookings are allowed per week, but the buffet is generally as good anyway with a much wider choice. We are talking around 120 feet of food counters, some pre cooked and some cooked in front of you. The La Trattoria snack bar is open 24 hours and does great sandwiches, pizza's etc.

    There are three pools, one for the kids, one general (and it's monumental in size, including a pool bar), one for the kids and one sports pool. Sun loungers are plentiful and there is a good mix of sun and shade available. If you can't be bothered with the pool, the beach is 200 yards away and the atlantic is as warm as the pool. Snorkelling gear, windsurfing, kayak's, sailboats, pedalo's and catermaran trips are all avaliable for free, though you have to book them that day. I've not had any problem getting any of them. The beach is lovely and again sun loungers are in ready supply.

    Playa Pesquero is a strange design from a western point of view as the majority of the hotel services complex has no walls at all, just a roof. There are the odd exception, such as the Romantica restaurant and the karaoke bar, both of which have air con. It does work well - my current seat has a nice breeze blowing through and I am comfortable, even though it's 35 degrees outside. The rooms are ace - we have a super kingsize bed, excellent air con, big TV (with US and mexican satallite channels) and a nice big bathroom. They are set in two-storey blocks and have 25 rooms each. I have yet to be disturbed by another guest.

    Downsides are the ususal stuff - mosquitos are a nightmare and meant Sarah had to have an injection she had that many bites. Repellant seems to encourage them, but lime juice sems to scare them off. The heat is oppresive in the sunlight and doesn't really drop below 25 at night. Humidity is generally above 95%. You burn even when the sun is behind the clouds so watch for that. With the lack of walls, birds tend to get in the eateries. Not in great numbers but they can be annoying.

    We are in Holguim province, around 400 miles from Havana. Day trips are not advisable, you get no free time, it's an awful flight and Havana is full of beggars who interrupt your little freedom. If you want to do havana, do a 2-day trip (costs about £250 each but you get to go to the Tropicana club and another 5* hotel is included). Holguim also doesn't suffer from Hurricane's as it's shielded by Haiti/The Dominican republic.

    Trips through Cuba are amazing. The back roads are literally mud tracks and a 4x4 is needed to get through. Don't drive it yourself, go in a convoy as there are no road signs. There are so many things to do and I will go into those when I get home.

    The final thing is just what an incredible country this is. There is a higher rate of literacy than the UK and all children have to go to school until at least 14. Education is free, even up to top level university. EVERYONE has a smile and a wave, even when you drive past what is a shanty town in the middle of nowhere - it's so friendly. The staff at the hotel say hola everytime you pass them and are genuinely grateful for tips.

    That's it for now, part 2 on Monday as my internet time has expired.

    Well, that's our hote
     
  2. Freefaller

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 5 Jun 2003

    Posts: 87,235

    Location: Falling...

    Great report so far! I look forward to hearing more of your adventures :cool: :)
     
  3. "andy"

    Capodecina

    Joined: 9 Jun 2005

    Posts: 13,904

    a mate just left for an island just off cuba today(i forgot the name :o ) he has been to cuba a few times and absolutley loved it
     
  4. Freefaller

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 5 Jun 2003

    Posts: 87,235

    Location: Falling...

    It is an absolutely awesome place. Will always have vivd memories of it.
     
  5. retribution

    Hitman

    Joined: 23 May 2004

    Posts: 715

    Location: Southampton/Beverley

    I spent three weeks in Cuba last summer, and had a fantastic time. We toured the country, staying in Havana twice, plus various other places such as the Vinales Valley, Santa Clara, Santiago. We also stayed in two different all-inclusives. All I can say is - what a difference!

    For me, the great thing about Cuba was the culture and landscape. However, I found that in the two all inclusive places, it was a bit...secluded. The rep people there would warn you about going outside the "walls" of the hotel, as if the country was one of debauchry and extreme poverty. Having travelled round the country, I found this incredible. People like yourself were spending 2, 3 weeks in these places, and imo they might as well have been in an all inclusive in spain or the canaries. In my experience, Havana was a fantastic, friendly place - sure, there were a few "beggars", but the vast, vast amount of the population were, as you say, very friendly and accepting.

    One thing I did find in the all inclusive places, was that I felt sort of guilty. Having travelled round the country and tried the fairly basic cuisine (chicken, rice, and beans being a typical dish), to see hundreds of westerners piling their plates with various culinary delights, leaving plates half full, drinking expensive champagne - I should imagine it would be really difficult to work there as a Cuban, seeing all this (although I should imagine there are a few "perks", too :p ). I think that Castro has got to be careful that he doesn't create a two-tier society, having supported tourism in recent years.

    My Cuban holiday was one of the best i've ever taken, and reading on the country's history is fascinating (I found Leycester Coltman's "The Real Fidel Castro" very balanced and well written). Having read lots about the revolution since my visit, I find the huge imbargos Cuba has to endure shocking, and Fidel has done incredibly well to create such an incredible society. Yes, Cuba has a dark side, but I think that can be said of pretty much every country.

    If you get the chance to go again, I'd thoroughly recommend touring the country as a whole.

    Cheers,

    Rob.
     
  6. wozzizname

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 29 Jun 2004

    Posts: 2,218

    Location: Rainham, Kent

    Nice post by retribution - I enjoyed Havana too,and spent about seven days there. In some areas there were beggars and touts, but they were polite and wouldn't keep hassling you as the Police were everywhere and keep an eye out for anyone annoying tourists (who are vital to the economy as a source of foreign currency). Lots of bars, plenty of music, cheap rum and the people were always friendly.
    It's a shame that there are attempts to separate the tourists from the locals in places like Varadero, and it can only lead to a degree of resentment from the local population when they are barred entry to facilities that are 'for tourists only'.
     
  7. Freefaller

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 5 Jun 2003

    Posts: 87,235

    Location: Falling...

    I guess it depends what you want from a holiday too. There are all the package resorty sort of places - personally I hate that sort of thing... but then there is real Cuba where you go around stay with Cubans and can see it more from their eyes The latter is a lot more fun for me but it's not everybody's cup of tea. :) The way I see it though is if you want a pearly white sand holiday and you're not interested in culture there are a lot of other places to go. But I'm a grumpy veteran traveller so ignore me :p
     
  8. Kitchster_uk

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,058

    Location: The remittance desk

    Scabbed a little more internet time from my friend on reception :p

    For the money, I really do challenge anyone to find ettr than Cuba. I've got about 130 pictures (30+ of motor cars that will make Mr Penski dribble:D) and I jsut can't begin to describe how gutted I will be monday morning when we leave.

    Got some more snorkelling to do and some underwater pics to get.

    Until Tuesday, I will enjoy every minute:)
     
  9. Kitchster_uk

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,058

    Location: The remittance desk

    Well, we're back in the UK where it's FREEZING and miserable.

    Back to Cuba anyway...

    We did travel around a fair bit, including a trip to Havana. In some ways this trip was the worst part of the holiday, basically because of the time constraints we were under. Cuba is a big place and we had to fly on a dinky little 80 seater propeller driven plane that did not cope well with the turbulance over Cuda at all well. Holguim to Havana is around 1hr40m by plane. Our guide then proceeded to take us to see all the sights and historic places and then took us to Ernest hemmingway's local for dinner. The food was shocking though I ate it anyway;)

    After lunch, we were dragged around for nearly 3 hours without a stop for water and our whole party was wilting. In total, we got 40 mins of freedom before we had to go back and I was truly gutted. The 2-day trip got an excellent write-up from other guests as you are taken to Club Tropicana and have hours of free time each dayso if you stay in Holguim province, do that one!

    Even though we were thouroughly peeved by the whole experience, you couldn't help but enjoy seeing things like Revolutionary Square, the Bacardi building and all the 50's american cars - quite something to behold!!!

    After that, we did the Salsa evening with our tour guides. This was a freebie for doing 3 other trips so even better. We went down to Guardalavaca beach where there was free drink (Havana Club mainly) and a band. We got the basics of Salsa and Merengue (sp?)taught to us and generally had a laugh. Next came a display of traditional African dance which was ace - they really got into it and put on an excellent show. There were a couple of drinking games followed by just some time to dance to the band. It was better than it sounds - honest!! I don't dance and even I had a good time, the Cuban atmosphere is something else!

    Our third trip out was on the Island Paradise tour. If you do this, pay the 10 pesos extra to do the Island trip as well. The boat was well stocked and everything was free. it took about an hour on the coach and an hour on the boat to reach our snorkelling ground and if you enjoy snorkelling - this is the place to do it. The coral was no more than 8ft from the surface in some places and the fish are incredible. The gear from the boat was very good - better than the general cheap rubbish. I love snorkelling and this was the most amazing I have ever seen! Cuba really is a beautiful tropical paradise.

    After that, a short trip to what was Fidel's own hunting island. There are buffalo, Zebras, camels, ostriches, wild horses - all sorts on this island. Lunch was great and we went off for a safari in an old style yank jeep. 2 out of the 7 dials in ours worked and both of them were lying and seatbelts are not required! Seeing animals like these out in the wild is brilliant and I will never forget that trip. It was the best £100 (£50 each) I have spent for a LONG time. The way back - lots of music, beer and dancing on the top deck and the lower deck was sort of chill out zone. The Cuban guys with us were up for a laugh and good dancers. One moment of concern was when the captain got a bit lost and had to ask one of my dancing buddies where he was going, but that's part of the whole charm of Cuba.

    Our final trip out was named the Champion tour. This was a trip through the back of beyond in a Suzuki Vitara convoy and involved seeing the real Cuban countryside and the little villages in he morning. The "roads" aregenerally....mud tracks. Every now and then you basically crawl the 4x4 through a massive ditch and off you go. Again, who neds a seatbelt. I asked the driver if I could have a go but he didn't think I knew how to drive in CUba. After I told him "Drive on the right...when you need to, don't wear a seatbelt and beep youir horn a lot" he said I did know Cuban driving after all!!!

    The first stop was a small plantation for a horseback ride around. The horses were typical Cuban and really couldn't be arsed:D but they were also friendly and accomodating. There was a freh fruit stall on for uswith the most amazing tasting pineapple, orange, mango, papaya and sugar cane. The top of an non-ripe coconut was lopped off and passed to those of us brave enough - the water inside is so nice and refreshing - sweet too.

    After that, back on the road to see a fisherman's village. They didn't have powerlines out here, but the government have installed a generator and a TV room. This is on between 4pm and 10pm each day. The school was great. The kids all had uniform's, their year denoted by the colour of their neck scarf. There are no senior schools this far out so the older children go to boarding school. Another reason why Cuban literacy is better than British!!! In 1961 Castro decreed that all children would be taught until 14 and supported by the state through to any University level of their chose and that illiteracy would be irradicated. They're well on the way.

    Back on the tour, we had dinner in Banes (pronounced Ban-ez). There really is nothing to do with your free time, though I bought some cigars off a guy in the street and chatted to him about when he came to Manchester. To finsih our day, we went out driving speedboats - lots of fun. i had expected a sedate run through some nice countryside. Oh noooooo :D Full throttle, all the way, out to sea - a great thrash about. We took off last after we all stopped half way round and saw a boat ahead stopped. Like a gent, i stopped to help out, only for my throttle to stop working:eek: After some investigation, the throttle linkage on my outboard seemed to have fallen to pieces. ***** repair and we were off:D The other boat had quite obviously run out of gas so we left them and went off for help. Again, the engineer we had with us to help in these situations and who should have been last, was much more concerned about larking around in his boat!! The trip home was spent asleep!!!

    Overall, when they told us our flight back was over-booked and they were puting 5 people up for another week, I would have offeed to stay, but Sarah wanted to get back home. I miss having alcohol in my coffee. I miss the whole place - the magic of it all.

    I miss my mate Ronaldo at the bar and our chats we had. Ronaldo was a happy chap who loved his job. It'd take 12 months of training and paid comparitively well, mainly through the tips her received, though he was keen to point out that he would never expect a tip and that I was not to bother. I bought him fags and a bit of shower gel instead and that seemed to be more popular than the moeny would ever have been. We discussed on of the tourists who kept on about how 'poor' the people where and what a tragedy it was. Roanldo didn't see it that way and he got my agreement on it by the end of the holiday. He has 3 daughters and one son, all of whom are studying hard at school. One wants to be a doctor and he has already been told she is clever enough so if she sticks at it, she will make it. It won't cost him a penny, although he does admit that pennies are no in a ready supply in his house. He talked about how quickly he can see a doctor, how nice his boss is and the total lack of stress he had. Stress, as a concept, had been introduced to him by a Cnadian last year and he was facinated by how seriously we all take everything. he did say that it would, for him, be a very difficult decision to leave Cuba, though others wanted to go.

    One final point, to answer something Frefaller picked up on. If you just want a beach holiday lounging around and relaxing whilst sipping your all inclusive beer and aren't bothered about the culture, DO go to Cuba. I paid £850 each for us to go to the most amazing hotel I have ever been to, with a brilliant beach and pool. Cuba is contagious and the poeple's enthusiasm will make you want to do the odd bit of culture, even if it's baot trips or, if you befriend the barman, trips to the local nightclub.

    Go to Cuba. Go now. Go quickly and you will have a good time !
     
  10. Bear

    Capodecina

    Joined: 24 Oct 2002

    Posts: 12,937

    Location: Bucks and Edinburgh

    Glad you had a nice time. I went during the end of May beginning of April and had an amazing time. Went to Havana and did the over night trip and went to the club Tropicana. Also did a trip to Trinidad then up into the mountians in a giant Russian truck and hiked down the mountain and swum in a waterfall. Also did a Jeep tour into a jungle and ate fresh mangos and chewed on sugar cane.

    Cuba is a wonderful place and the weather was scorching, I got sunburnt on the first day even with factor 30 on. The people were fantastic and were always waving even when we were driving past in a coach.

    Although Im not a smoker, I have taken to smoking cigars now and bought back quite a few back along with a nice humidor I bought over there aswell. :o

    Was going to do a write up and post up pics but never got round to it being a lazy git. :p Was sad coming back but have booked a holiday to the Dominican Republic to cheer us up :D
     
  11. Youstolemyname

    Soldato

    Joined: 7 Mar 2005

    Posts: 5,231

    Location: The Voice Of Football

    Just looking to sort out a holiday to Cuba myself and came across this thread. If you have the time Kitchster_uk it would be really helpful if you, or anyone else, could advise as to where is best to book this sort of holiday.

    I really like the sound of your hotel :)

    Cheers in advance.
     
  12. CChrisca

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 12 Jan 2003

    Posts: 1,286

    Location: Kent

    A work colleague of mine has been staying at the same hotel for the past 2 weeks. Looking forward to hearing how she enjoyed it when she comes back. Have been checking out the usual holiday websites about this hotel and I can't find one bad report. Seriously thinking about going there next year. Can't wait to see all your pics!!!!!
     
  13. wozzizname

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 29 Jun 2004

    Posts: 2,218

    Location: Rainham, Kent

    I booked my Cuban holiday with these people - www.captivatingcuba.com
    Try to escape from the 'all inclusive' resorts for at least some of the time as the Cuban people are really friendly and even run-down areas are safe for tourists.
     
  14. Bear

    Capodecina

    Joined: 24 Oct 2002

    Posts: 12,937

    Location: Bucks and Edinburgh

    I went by First Choice and was very happy with the service, the planes have loads of leg room in economy which made the journey very pleasant. I would recommend staying at the Iberostar Varadero if you want to stay in a resort as its one of the best on the island. We had an amazing time there, it was spotlessly clean, the service was top notch and the evening entertainment was very good, well the Cuba night was fantastic as they have a resident 7 piece band, dancers and singers. Have a look at the trip advisor site and read the reviews of the Ibersostar. :)
     
  15. Kitchster_uk

    Soldato

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 5,058

    Location: The remittance desk

    The Playa Pesquero is excellent, it really is. If you want to email me, my general address is Kitchter_uk AT surfy.net (replacing the AT with @ of course) and I can even send some piccies if you wish.
     
  16. Mike UK

    Mobster

    Joined: 20 Oct 2003

    Posts: 2,522

    Location: Huddersfield

    Spent two weeks in cuba last month resort looked excelent stayed at Guardalavacia everyone was very friendly went speed boating and visited the cigar factory and had a look around holguin was really sick of getting bugged for money I must look rich ..note to cubans janitors ARENT rich lol!.

    Beautiful place was my first time abroad shame i was ill the first week and my girlfriend was ill the second ..ah well its good to be back to mcdonalds think the food dissagreed with me ended up almost living entirely on bread :)

    Mike