20th May update: I wrote this article yesterday and now realise that I didn’t mention anything about bugs – well that’s because we didn’t see any! There weren’t any bugs in our room, nor were we bothered by any bugs anywhere in the hotel, including the rooftop swimming pool, or when walking around and about in Havana.
We stayed here for three nights as part of a package from The Holiday Place. The original package deal included a different hotel and I was up-sold this hotel during the booking process. I wrote about that in ‘when a great deal turns out to be an average deal’. However, I’m actually glad I paid the extra and we stayed at this hotel – despite it not being perfect.
The hotel is actually two hotels connected by an underground walkway. The part of the hotel where we stayed had a large attractive atrium and bar close to reception. It was always busy as that was also the source of the paid-for wi-fi signal. The other hotel seemed smaller and slightly dated. Both had rooftop pools – strangely the smaller hotel had a larger roof area. I’m not sure how you choose which hotel you stay in as our booking was part of a package.
Check in was quick, we had to show our passports but they didn’t retain them. We were taken to our third floor room (with cases) by a bellman. The room was clean and spacious and had a view of the street outside. The bathroom was modern and contained numerous toiletries, soft toilet tissue, box of tissues, stuff that you’d expect to find in any hotel – people had given me the impression that I wouldn’t find these in Cuba and so it was good to see they were wrong. There were slippers and bathrobes – but the bathrobes were so small that they would only fit a child and not an adult. There weren’t any complimentary bottles of water, only paid for bottles from the mini bar and that was a shame as we’d just arrived on a Virgin flight from the UK.
There was a self-code-entry safe. No in room wi-fi signal. The television had a few English news channels including BBC and CNN. The air conditioning worked well.
I went downstairs to see if I could find a shop with large bottles of water but there was only the bar and they charged me 6CUC (1CUC = 1USD) for a litre bottle. We later found that the hotel across the street had litre bottles of water for 2.50CUC.
We slept well and weren’t bothered by the noise of cars outside. It was also good to watch from the window and see all the activity. But if you want complete peace and quiet you need to ask for a courtyard-facing room.
Next morning we went downstairs for the buffet breakfast which was included. The place was pretty busy and most tables full. It was hot and there didn’t seem to be any air conditioning. There were some good points, such as an egg/omelette station, sparkling wine (although only two bottles that were never replenished) and good quality juices. The worst part was the croissants – they had obviously been made with rancid oil/butter and although they looked great, they tasted absolutely disgusting. I later tried the croissants at the next hotel we visited and they were fine, so this isn’t a Cuba thing. We were also concerned that the cold meats and cheese weren’t in chilled cabinets, combined with the lack of aircon. Staff were pretty friendly and poured coffee at your table.
There is a room next to reception where money can be exchanged. No passport just a room number and cash required. The exchange rates seemed typical to what we’d seen elsewhere, although we didn’t actually visit a bank and compare. There was often a line of guests waiting to exchange money.
There is a mezzanine floor above the lobby/atrium and a business centre sells wi-fi cards for CUC 4.50 (one hour). It’s worth checking that your device can connect to the hotel wi-fi prior to purchasing – if you can display a log in screen, then you can buy the wi-fi card. You don’t need to use the entire hour at once, just log out of the wi-fi when you’re done.
The hotel doorman seems to act as a deterrent against the street hawkers who are trying to sell rickshaw and classic car tours. If you stand at the outside wall of the hotel, the hawkers won’t come any closer than two metres. There was a dog who ignored the rules and was regularly sitting outside the entrance – on the last day there were two but they seemed friendly.
The hotel is very central and it was easy to walk to most of the sights of Havana, plus the two best restaurants; La Floridita and Los Nandos. There are restaurants in the hotel, but none seem to be properly air-conditioned. The lobby/atrium was also hot and uncomfortable to sit in. It’s a shame that the hotel can’t manage this properly as they would have made more money from us.
Some improvements I’d like to see: air con in the public areas and restaurants, better quality control over the breakfast food offering, at least one large bottle of complimentary water in the rooms and a place to buy bottles of water at a reasonable price. You may think I’m being harsh as ‘this is Cuba’ and everyone accepts that not everything will be right. That would be fine if everything was inexpensive – but if a place decides to charge non-Cuba prices for accommodation, dining and drinks, then they must accept that they will be judged against their worldwide peers.