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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cuba Trip - January 29 to February 5, 2011

The first question everyone seems to ask me is why Cuba and not my beloved Dominican Republic this year? Well, for one, DH wanted a change of pace so it was either Mexico or Cuba. Secondly, some family had just returned from this resort in Cuba so we knew exactly what we were getting and with no time to research it just made life easier. 

Now, maybe it’s just me but in some ways it seems like our trip to Cuba was cursed the minute I booked it! However, in the end, I have to say that everything was pretty good and should I ever go back to Cuba I will definitely stay at this resort again and I would recommend it to anyone of any age as well. It had something for everyone! 

The curse: About 4 days after booking the trip, I was looking into prices for someone else and found that had I waited just a little longer I could have saved 300$ each!!! I had only booked 8 days in advance so I didn’t think the price would have changed that much at that point. Then, 3 days before leaving I caught one of my dreaded sinus/ear/throat infections and had to get antibiotics the morning before we left because I was in so much pain! In addition, the day before that I took a chunk out of my ankle shaving and DH burnt his hand on the stove burner. Anything that could have gone wrong before the trip went wrong! Then, to make matters worse, our flight was delayed leaving for Cuba and I needed to take my antibiotics so I took them… without food. About an hour later, dinner was served on the plane and after just 1 bite I thought I was going to throw up. I managed to control it for a little while but then I had to race to the bathroom and there went a day’s worth of food and antibiotics! I don’t know if there is a mile high club for vomiting on an airplane, but if there is, I don’t suggest any of you join it!!! It was an awful experience. To make matters worse, after landing in Cuba we had to wait 2 hours for our luggage! We finally arrived at our resort around 3am! Very, very, long day….

Air Transat: I know that we have flown Air Transat before, but for some reason this trip was much more enjoyable. The seats were leather, large and comfy. I got to pre-select my seats so I took the window and DH got the aisle next to me so that was nice. The plane going was 2 seats, aisle, 4 seats, aisle, and then 2 more seats. On the way home the plane was 3 seats, aisle, 3 seats, aisle, 3 seats and we got lucky! We got a whole section to ourselves. We got to sleep in peace!

The hotel: Iberostar Laguna Azul - simply gorgeous. I have seen many pictures on-line and none of them really show just how grand this place looks. Just driving up the road to it I was in awe. It looks like a large villa in Spain. Clean, spacious, multiple pools, long and clean beach, chairs galore by the water, nice landscaping, you name it! If you want to see pictures just ask! I haven’t had a chance to post any yet.

The rooms: Large, clean, lots of hot water and good pressure, plenty of towels left by the maids, and even joining rooms if you want them! The only thing that I didn’t like was that our room, 16319, is on the same floor as the main lobby and elevators. This was very convenient, but also very LOUD at 2am when people are leaving the club and at 7am when people are checking out. The view was great though and the central location of the room was good, but I would rather be a floor up or down in future.

Food and drink: Drink – no complaints. Food – you won’t starve but you won’t be going back for seconds either, unless you are at the a la carte restaurants! The breakfast buffet had your standard omelet bar, pancake station, fruits, etc… but I found their bacon disgusting. It was mostly fatty and undercooked. Their lunch buffets remain pretty consistent but you have a couple to choose from. I found that lunch became more of a “snack” to tide me over until dinner. Dinner was odd. The buffet was not very good at all in my opinion; tough meat, not much selection, and often undercooked. But, the a la carte restaurants were so could I would have paid extra for them! We took our standard 3 reservations and after 2 nights of those I could not face the buffet again so we went to an a la carte and asked if they had room and they seated us with no problems. If I go back, I am hitting the restaurants every day! Now, for the restaurants… we ate at the steak house and had perfectly cooked and tender meat with a nice quiet atmosphere outdoors by one of the quiet pools. I hadn’t eaten much for 2 days at this point so it was heavenly. The following night we went to the Cuban restaurant for some lobster. Not the same lobster I am used to from home but still quite good. The next night we snuck into the Romantico and I had some really great lamb. Very good! And on the last night we tried the Japanese restaurant everyone had been talking about on tripadvisor – and I have to say that while the food was good, the show was awful. For anyone who has ever been to proper Japanese restaurants the show is really dreadful and laughable, but for those who have not been it’s a nice introduction I guess. 

The entertainment: The first 2 nights had singing and dancing shows and I have had just about my fill of those over the years so I was preparing for the worst… but then things just got better and better all week! My only complaint has nothing to do with the entertainment – it’s the guests. I understand that we are in Cuba, the land of cigars…. But in a mostly closed in venue with kids and bad air circulation, do NOT light a cigar! I was sick the week we were in Cuba and had to carry my asthma pump with me everywhere because of the inconsiderate smokers. I have to say that this is not something I have ever experienced before when travelling to DR so this took me by surprise. The other thing that bothers me about Cuba is that there really isn’t much to do at all off the resort. I had thought about the Catamaran but not for 100$+! 

What to buy and where to buy it: Alcohol, cigarettes, and cigars along with the regular souvenir stuff are pretty much equally priced on the resort as it is at the airport and anywhere else from what I saw/heard. The only thing we were unable to get at the resort was coffee oddly and we had to grab that in the airport itself. We did not bother going into Varadero for the day as there was really only shopping to do there and we weren’t interested. Oh, and interesting point… you can buy Prozac, Valium, and Viagra at the airport!

So, that’s it. I would definitely recommend it if you just want to relax, travel with family or a large group of friends… but as another “just the 2 of us” trip I would have to say DR still holds my heart! So much more to see and do and they know how to cook!