A great holiday with the right mix of sightseeing and relaxation, combined with great company and lashings of rum!
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Swimming in the Bay of Pigs, exploring Havana and Trinidad, the trip to Vinales, and visiting the memorial to Che Guevara. The day chilling out by the pool was a good chance to relax and provided a break from travelling.
We were also kept amused by the sculptures made from towels and blankets that appeared in our rooms every day!
- What did you think of your group leader?
Mariella was superb and very enthusiastic about Cuba. She kept us safe while encouraging us to see the real Cuba and to get our own feel for the place. She was very friendly, knowledgeable and organised, although I'm still not sure that she knew our names by the end of the trip!
Our bus driver Orlando was also fantastic. Arranging to supply us with bottled water from the fridge on the bus during the trip was a great idea and saved us money.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Hawaiian pizza in Cuba is tinned fruit cocktail on a margherita pizza. It tastes nicer than it sounds but be warned!
Some of the optional extra trips turned out to be very expensive so unless you really want to go to a show, it may be worth trying to find some local entertainment in Havana instead. The day trip on the catamaran also ended up being quite expensive, albeit a lovely day out. The Vinales and Hemingway day tours both got the thumbs up from those who went.
Although the trip notes warned that Cuba is more expensive than you think, I actually spent less money than I was prepared to. This may be because more meals were included than I had expected, and also because I decided against one of the trips, however I had still hugely over estimated and I had to carry cash around with the for the entire week. Although as there were no cash points outside of Havana, I preferred this to the possibility of running out of money.
Take strong insect repellant as most people were bitten many times. I use 100% DEET (skin rotting stuff) and avoided getting any bites.
Be prepared to tip everyone and try to ensure that you always have some change.
The water at the hotel in Havana is supplied by tanker every day therefore be prepared for the occasional shortage.
Be prepared to eat the same type of food in every place. The pizzas were a welcome break from this - even the Hawaiian one!
Finally, make sure you like rum - you'll be drinking a lot of it!!
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I was disappointed in the lack of dancing that we saw and could participate in around the country. If the trip could spend a Friday or Saturday evening in Havana this may not be such an issue - perhaps returning to Havana on day 7 instead of staying a night in Santa Clara would resolve this - especially as the Santa Clara hotel pool was full of locals in the daytime and the hotel bar became the local nightclub in the evening. It was my least favourite of the trip.
A kitty for all the tipping would have been helpful as it was a constant struggle to have enough change. Also with everyone tipping 1 peso per time it became very expensive when including waiters, bar staff, musicians, maids, bell boys, etc.
Finally, this was my first experience of a 'Solo' departure and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The entire group were very sociable and I never felt on my own. Since returning from the holiday, we have all shared our photos and I have definitely made some good friends.