Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed account of your experiences on La Isla Grande (AUB), your feedback is very important to us and we read it carefully. I will be discussing your comments with our local operator and reviewing our Trip Notes for errors. Whilst we don't attempt to hide the fact that this trip involves some long distances by coach, I realise this could be made clearer by having the journey times present on each day and so I will be adding this information to the Trip Notes shortly. At the moment they are left out because they can be variable (e.g. a 3 hour journey could become longer if the planned stops escalate, as may have been the case on your trip), but I believe that approximate times would be useful.
In Cuba most hotels are run by the state and although some private hotel chains can be found these are typically of the 'all-inclusive' variety that you mentioned and tend to be in coastal locations only. This leaves very limited options for accommodation in towns and this is an area where the country struggles as a whole because there aren’t enough hotels to cope with the demand. In Trinidad there are just a handful of properties, of which only 3 are suitable for our groups and all of these are resort style accommodations. This wouldn't normally be our first choice (like you, we prefer small, characterful properties) however, there simply aren’t any alternatives in some of the areas that we visit.
All Cuban guides work for and are trained by the state but we select a pool of guides who regularly work with us, which ensures consistency and enables guides to receive additional training led by Exodus. Our guides tend to be a highlight for many of our clients and receive a lot of praise - several have been nominated or received recognition in the 'Tour Leader of the Year Awards' in previous years. I will be sending out a reminder to them about offering different options for lunch wherever possible (as you noticed, there aren’t many places to get snacks in Cuba so this can be one of the reasons why larger meals are eaten at lunchtime).
I hope this helps to explain some of the issues that you felt affected your trip and would like to thank you again for providing feedback. I think Cuba has a huge amount of charm precisely because it works so differently to the rest of the world. Despite some frustrations with the system and limitations in regard to hotel choice it remains one of my favourite countries! I hope you have some wonderful memories of your trip.
With kind regards,
Vicky Boughton (Trip Manager)