From the first moment we all met our wonderful local guide Rayselis, she very much stressed we would 'taste' Cuba with all our senses - and we did! We packed in so many experiences and sensations into just 8 days it was fantastic! I felt the trip absolutely made the most of every minute and it was a sensational trip - literally! We danced, we drank rum, we smoked cigars, we savoured all the charms of Cuba! Great trip and highly recommended, very well planned.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
So many great and inspirational moments. Old Havana is fabulous and we all loved the wonderful colonial hotel we stayed in for the last 2 nights in Havana Vieja.
I loved the salsa class on the first day - leave your inhibitions at the door! I just felt it set me up for the whole week and I was able to dance with local Cubans at different venues for the rest of the week! Including with our wonderful driver Andres!
The beautiful pastel painted colonial towns of Trinidad and Cienfuegos were lovely to visit. And I loved the day out in the countryside of western Cuba on the last day - Vinales, where we visited rum and cigar factories and a farm.
I opted to do a catamaran day trip in Trinidad (optional) and had a fantastic time - snorkeling, relaxing on the desert island we ended up on, paella cooked up by the boat crew, stroking tame iguanas, rum and coke flowing all day. It was fantastic and a real highlight for me.
There was also the dinner out in Trinidad arranged by our guide where we were taken in classic cars to a fantastic resataurant in the countryside where I had the most delicious lobster ever!
Another huge highlight was dancing at the Buena Vista Social Club in Old Havana on the last night. And getting our photos with the band afterwards!
- What did you think of your group leader?
Rayselis (Rai) was amazing - she had abundant energy and incredible knowledge of Cuban history, culture, music, everything. She was fabulous! She kept us dancing the whole 8 days!
Cuba is complex in tems of where to go to get the best food - she certainly excelled on that throughout, taking us to (or suggesting) incredible restaurants where we could have lobster, fish, or the best of local food. She took us to an incredible place on the last day in Vinales where we paid about £9 a head for this absolute feast - lobster, snapper, chicken, pork, black beans, rice. Totally Cuban food in a country setting - it was amazing.
All in all, she was an excellent guide - she just made the whole trip so enjoyable throughout. I'd also say that our driver Andres was exceptional - Cuban roads are not great but he such a safe driver and most charming as well.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Take sterling cash and change plenty at Havana Airport (good rates there) because you don't get another chance to change at good rates until day 4/5 in Trinidad. Our guide when we were met at Havana airport helpfully told us to change at least £150 per person and I agree that was a sensible amount to change at that point.
Be nicely patient at Havana airport - they are pretty slow at immigration....In fact really really slow!
Prices are OK but don't expect mega cheap. Mojitos about £2. Lobster meal maybe £10.
People in Cuba ask foreigners for soap and toiletries - bring some from home or stash the ones you get in the hotels and then give them out to locals, they appreciate it.
Having a few words of Spanish goes a long way.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
The accommodation throughout the trip was good, for Cuba. But it's important to understand that many Cubans don't have regular water let alone hot. Some of us, including myself, had one day without hot water in one of the hotels. No big deal. But I would say be prepared to accept that with good grace!
Bring insect repellant. There's a night on this trip in a country resort (in lovely chalets in beautiful gardens with chirping frogs!) and an optional bird watching walk in the morning - go for the walk, we saw loads of birds but also got a bit bitten! Not mozzies, I think they have other biting things like sandflies and chiggers, I've still got a few bites itching 2 weeks after return!
Overall, great trip and packed so much in for 8 days.