Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Week in Cuba

We just spent a week (Dec. 3 to 10) in Cuba. We usually try to get away for a week or so around our anniversary. Since we hadn't done as much diving in Australia as we'd hoped we wanted to go do some more. A package trip to an all-inclusive resort in Cuba was the cheapest, easiest option we could find. There was a dive place right in the resort and from all reports the diving was good there. And it was a direct flight from Saskatoon to Cuba, which was a definite bonus.

We were a little nervous about the "all-inclusive resort" part. The idea of hanging out with a bunch of people who were primarily there to eat, drink, and lie around just didn't seem very appealing. But we'd never been to one and we figured we could try it at least once.

We went diving every chance we could, two dives a day, except Sunday when they were closed, and the first day when we only got in one, for a total of 9 dives. The people at the dive shop were great, except for one guide (Carlos) who didn't seem very safety conscious. He didn't keep an eye on his clients, and each of the three times we went out with him he ended up having to share his air with a client to make it back to the boat. He seemed to think it was fine to end the dive with no air. (You're supposed to always have a safety reserve.)

We had our own mask, fins, snorkel, and wetsuits. The BCD's and regulators they supplied were ok but obviously old and well used. Many of them had minor leaks or issues. One morning Shelley went through 3 regulators before getting one that didn't have any leaks. Of course, the leaking ones went back on the wall to be handed out to the next person! I think if we came back to Cuba to dive I'd want to have my own regulator at least.

The resort (Sol Rio Luna y Mares) was near several other resorts, but otherwise there was nothing much around except farmland. You could take a horse buggy or taxi to the nearby town of Guardalavaca but there wasn't much there. On the Sunday when we couldn't dive we took a taxi to the nearby city of Holguin. (where the airport is.) It was nice to wander around and see a little of Cuba. Everything seemed pretty poor and run down. Most buildings had peeling paint.

There aren't very many tourists in Cuba outside the resorts. We only saw one or two in Holguin. Perhaps because of this (and the poverty) there aren't many restaurants or tourist shops. We stood in line for an hour to eat at a place called Venecia. The food was ok in the end, but nothing special. We thought the $60 bill was pretty steep but it turned out to be in local pesos, not "convertible" (tourist) pesos, so it only ended up costing $25 which was pretty good considering it included 4 glasses of wine. (a result of slow service!)

The resort itself was quite nice. They're still recovering from the recent hurricanes but most things are back to normal. The main buffet was ok but not inspiring. There was a reasonable selection but it wasn't exceptional to start, and then it sat there for hours. You could reserve at the a la carte restaurant or sign up for "special" dinners which were better. We ended up eating lunches at the snack bar despite their limited selection, just to avoid the buffet.

The drinking and partying didn't seem too offensive. Of course, after diving we were tired and tended to go to bed early. The music seemed to continue all night but didn't bother us too much.

The weather could have been better (and typically is this time of the year). It was cloudy much of the time and rained almost every day. The temperature was comfortable, but not hot. It didn't matter too much for diving (other than a few rough boat trips from the wind) but if you'd come to lie in the sun it wouldn't have been ideal.

We'd go back to Cuba again, to dive or maybe to see Havana, but I don't think we'll be rushing to go to another all-inclusive. It was ok, but just not our style.

2008 Cuba


  1. Interesting that you got into a restaurant and paid local pesos without too much of an issue. When Angela and I went ten years ago the public restaurants were a new idea. We'd often get hassled for eating where tourists weren't allowed to eat, and sometimes surprised the hasslers when we could respond (well, when I could respond, because Angela actually looks more Cuban than Guatemalan).

    It sounds like Cuba truly continues to go at its own rhythm.

  2. Not speaking much Spanish I didn't understand what the waitress was saying. And when I did start to understand I thought they were going to refuse the convertible pesos, which would have been a problem because we didn't have any local pesos. But she took convertible pesos, just a smaller amount.

    They didn't hassle us at all, though. And it would have been pretty obvious we were tourists, even when we were standing in line.

    The only issue was that they wouldn't let me in wearing shorts. But they were zip-off pants so I just put the legs back on and they were happy.