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Cuba recommendations

Cuba recommendations

Old Jun 5, 11, 3:47 am
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Cuba recommendations

Thinking of going to Cuba next year but havent been before or know many people that have therefore I was hoping to find some hotel/resort recommendations.

We'll be flying into Havana I'd imagine and really would like a relaxed holiday (beach/pool/cocktails/dinners out) but with the option to do trips out to see sights if we wish.

We usually stay at upmarket but boutique style hotels so looking for something akin to a Park Hyatt/Mandarin Oriental/Banyan Tree. Not really interested in package holiday type resports with wristbands and buffets - we'd like something a little more personable if that is possible?

Would very much welcome thoughts on where to stay
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Old Jun 5, 11, 7:56 am
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Originally Posted by LaydeeSarah View Post
Thinking of going to Cuba next year but havent been before or know many people that have therefore I was hoping to find some hotel/resort recommendations.

We'll be flying into Havana I'd imagine and really would like a relaxed holiday (beach/pool/cocktails/dinners out) but with the option to do trips out to see sights if we wish.

We usually stay at upmarket but boutique style hotels so looking for something akin to a Park Hyatt/Mandarin Oriental/Banyan Tree. Not really interested in package holiday type resports with wristbands and buffets - we'd like something a little more personable if that is possible?

Would very much welcome thoughts on where to stay
High-end hotel groups have attempted to secure a foothold in Havana a number of times. One&Only were there for 2 years, trying to put something together, but shortages were so bad (finding nails and wood were a real challenge!) that they gave up.

You will not find anything akin to a MO or Hyatt or Banyan Tree, but what you will find is atmosphere by the truck-load. This means that you also have to expect peeling paint with your history. Saratoga Hotel and Santa Isabel hotel in Havana are much appreciated by foreign correspondents, but unless you are into the peeling paint aspect of hotels, then you may not appreciate the 'atmosphere' and live entertainment.

As far as I know, nothing else has emerged onto the hotel scene of late.

So-called high-end 'luxury' hotels are ridiculously cheap in Havana, so I would advise you book the best accommodation available and cross your fingers.
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Old Jun 5, 11, 6:24 pm
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oxymoron. If you're used to luxury hotels, don't go to cuba
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Old Jun 5, 11, 6:37 pm
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Originally Posted by 12345-06 View Post
oxymoron. If you're used to luxury hotels, don't go to cuba
But don't let that put you off going to Cuba if you want to go there.
I suggest you consider Vuittonsofstyles advice and plan your trip around her recommendations. I'm sure the rough edges of luxury such as peeling paint is what you expect in Cuba,far better I'd say than some other bland 'resorts' in the region.
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Old Jun 5, 11, 7:32 pm
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Another thing to keep in mind. If you have a medical or other emergency - you cannot travel directly from Cuba to the US. Robyn
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Old Jun 5, 11, 7:41 pm
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Originally Posted by robyng View Post
Another thing to keep in mind. If you have a medical or other emergency - you cannot travel directly from Cuba to the US. Robyn
The OP lives in the UK Roybn and I'm sure is not concerned about travel to the U.S.
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Old Jun 5, 11, 8:38 pm
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Originally Posted by paul2 View Post
The OP lives in the UK Roybn and I'm sure is not concerned about travel to the U.S.
Yes - I saw where the OP lives. But if the OP is in a bad accident - or needs an appendix removed - although Cuba is only 90 miles away from Florida - you can't get from there to here fast and direct. And regardless of what Michael Moore has to say about medical care in Cuba - you really don't want to be injured or sick there. Cuba is not unique in this regard. It's just that the physical proximity to the US can be deceptive. Robyn
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Old Jun 5, 11, 9:28 pm
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Originally Posted by robyng View Post
Yes - I saw where the OP lives. But if the OP is in a bad accident - or needs an appendix removed - although Cuba is only 90 miles away from Florida - you can't get from there to here fast and direct. ...
Why would someone choose to go to FL for medical care? It ranks 44th in the world, and there are several other alternatives that provide superior care. Gone are the days when the US was the world leader in medical care. Now it is only in few places (e.g. Mayo clinic), but overall the health outcomes are inferior despite the much greater costs. In any case generally the medevac insurance you purchase decides where to evacuate you to (only home country is by choice of the insured, otherwise it is decided by the insurer).

Back to the original topic, Cuba is a great place to visit as long as you are open-minded and flexible. Much like visiting half of the world, it isn't packaged luxury and there are tangible shortages due to the US boycott. Travel is meant to be an adventure when enjoyed at the highest levels.

As for Cuba being 90 miles from FL, that is true (but not to any hospital in FL!). Havana is only 70 miles further from Cancun than it is to Miami, to put it into perspective.
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Old Jun 6, 11, 8:18 am
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Thanks for the responses so far.

For clarification, when we travel we love to see the 'real' country and get a good dose of culture but tend to prefer to retire to something a little upmarket and boutiquey, so yes, very much want to experience the cuba libra but would like a nice hotel to go back to. Ideally somewhere with beach or a good pool complex and a nice bar for the end of the evening.

I'd greatly appreciate any hotel suggestions. I had a look at vuittonsofstyle's suggestions and the Hotel Saratoga rocks my boat, from their website at any rate. Would also welcome any comments from those who have stayed there?
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Old Jun 6, 11, 8:53 am
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The Cuban government recently announced a new easing of their foreign investment rules and are going to allow a number of higher end properties to be developed. If time is not of the essence, you might consider punting this trip a few years and re-considering the destination following the completion of these new developments.

At the same time, it is important to understand some of Cuba's history with foreign capital. In the late 80s/early 90s, Cuba opened its borders to foreign capital and a number of luxury (a phrase I use loosely in this context) properties were built. After just a few years of operations, the government changed their views on repatriating capital out of Cuba, and basically forced out the foreign owners. While the properties are still open in many cases, they are threadbare and in need of significant capital expenditure. That capital, of course, is not forthcoming.

These recent announcements of liberalization may actually be "different is time," and it seems at least one Canadian firm has bit and said they'll invest.

So, if you would consider my "punt a bit" suggestion, be mindful that I'd only ascribe a 50/50 chance to any of these developments getting off the ground.

The other guidance i'd share is to bring lots of hard currency. While non-US credit cards will work in Cuba, friends of mine who have been there report there are few stores to actually buy anything. Of the few they found, cash (not cards or travelers cheques) was the only feasible way to pay.

You certainly won't find a luxury property in Cuba today - holiday inn quality would be a stretch - but you'll certainly have a memorable experience. Not sure if all will be good, but you'll have a lot of memories.

If I were to go, i'd go the day after the US relaxed it's restrictions on Cuba...simply because you'll see a country of new found unbridled optimism ... And I think you'd still capture today's culture, but with a very positive outlook (unlike what they have today).
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Old Jun 6, 11, 9:41 am
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Originally Posted by number_6 View Post
Why would someone choose to go to FL for medical care? It ranks 44th in the world, and there are several other alternatives that provide superior care. Gone are the days when the US was the world leader in medical care. Now it is only in few places (e.g. Mayo clinic), but overall the health outcomes are inferior despite the much greater costs. In any case generally the medevac insurance you purchase decides where to evacuate you to (only home country is by choice of the insured, otherwise it is decided by the insurer).

Back to the original topic, Cuba is a great place to visit as long as you are open-minded and flexible. Much like visiting half of the world, it isn't packaged luxury and there are tangible shortages due to the US boycott. Travel is meant to be an adventure when enjoyed at the highest levels.

As for Cuba being 90 miles from FL, that is true (but not to any hospital in FL!). Havana is only 70 miles further from Cancun than it is to Miami, to put it into perspective.
I don't think this is the right place to debate the US health care system. And I will note that I live 5 minutes away from Mayo JAX - where my husband and I get a fair amount of secondary and tertiary care. OTOH - we are pretty far away from Cuba (and south Florida).

My primary point was simply to let the OP know about possible health care issues. And there's more. The Cuban government apparently now requires proof of health insurance (including evacuation coverage) as a condition of entry. It also appears that the policy is confusing in terms of how it's being enforced - and that people from the UK may not be able to find such coverage:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010...-cuba-visitors

This is an issue the OP should explore IMO.

And here is the general info the UK government gives to people considering travel to Cuba:

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-...l-america/cuba

Robyn
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Old Jun 6, 11, 1:39 pm
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Originally Posted by robyng View Post
The Cuban government apparently now requires proof of health insurance (including evacuation coverage) as a condition of entry
Oh I hadn't noticed that before, thanks for the tip. We do have that level of cover, fortunately, however it is through American Express. I am not sure if that would pose an issue?

Are AmEx cards accepted in Cuba in places like hotels or it is mainly Visa/MC?
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Old Jun 6, 11, 5:09 pm
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Originally Posted by LaydeeSarah View Post
Oh I hadn't noticed that before, thanks for the tip. We do have that level of cover, fortunately, however it is through American Express. I am not sure if that would pose an issue?

Are AmEx cards accepted in Cuba in places like hotels or it is mainly Visa/MC?
I would check with AMEX about its coverage - and any countries/services it might exclude. And I would get it in writing. Preferably in English and Spanish. Because if you arrive in Cuba without the necessary health coverage - you have the choice of buying it at the airport (suspect it is kind of a rip-off there) - or going home. I doubt there are a whole lot of people at the Havana Airport who can read English.

I don't think you quite understand the way the Cuban economy works. It works in dollars (perhaps some Euros today - but I suspect still mostly dollars - since the US - especially Miami - is the closest place where most Cubans have family). Unless you're going through a group tour or the like - it is pretty much a cash economy.

We lived in Miami for a long time. And our Cuban friends who have family in Cuba bring stuff to their families in Cuba - and get paid for the stuff in cash (if they can't afford to pay for the stuff as gifts). Some pretty primitive stuff - like Tampax. Also take cash - US dollars - from family members and put it in US banks when they get home.

Overall - although I've not been there - I'd say Cuba is pretty much a second world country with no evidence of luxury tourism. Unlike a country like - for example - Costa Rica - which is also pretty much second world but with some luxury properties these days (although not when we were there).

If I can ever travel to Cuba legally - it might be fun (perhaps more funky than fun) - but only because it's close - and apparently the home of most of the 1957 Chevrolets in the world - ask just about any 66 year old guy like my husband what his favorite car is - and it's the 1957 Chevy . Probably like Costa Rica 25 years ago - but with more pollution - and more vintage cars . I am not sure why anyone from Europe would choose to go there - because it's a long trip. If you want a Cuban flavor with a splash of luxury - go to Miami. If you want second world Central America kind of stuff - again with a splash of luxury - try Costa Rica.

And just FWIW - Cuban food is kind of bland and mediocre in general. Not one of the world's great cuisines. Robyn
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Old Jun 6, 11, 5:22 pm
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BTW - one thing we get to see in Florida now that summer is here is Cubans floating anything they can to leave Cuba and get to Florida. The pictures of 1950's cars on pontoons are surreal. There's even a website dedicated to this:

http://www.floatingcubans.com/

Robyn
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Old Jun 6, 11, 5:51 pm
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Wow LaydeeSarah,you have opened a can of worms here!
I look forward to reading your report from Cuba.
Hopefully some others will come up with other hotel suggestions for you.
I know Amanresorts have a site in mind for many years....just waiting,then Adrian will be sorted with cigars!
Much more exciting than (for example) Orlando
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