As Canadians, we can travel freely to Cuba and it is generally a less expensive way to leave the cold winter behind when we must escape in February. Our first trip to Cayo Coco, Cuba was awesome – great all inclusive resort, great food and we couldn’t wait to return. Unfortunately the resort was sold and all reports suggested that the new owners were not offering the same level of service. The second trip was a family vacation so we looked for a more kid-friendly resort in the same area of Cayo Coco. We had an “ok” experience. Food lived up to the “bad food” reputation for many Cuban resorts and the promised scuba diving experience left much to be desired. The kids were oblivious to anything but the pool and the beach!
When we went to book a romantic getaway in February, we decided to try the other side of the island in the Esmerelda Beach area outside of Holguin, Cuba. We had great experience with the Melia line when travelling in Spain, so we booked 2 weeks all inclusive – admittedly at our second choice Melia hotel but one that looked good and offered a Premium upgrade. Don’t be fooled by this reference to an “upgrade”!
What Might Keep It Off The Cuba No Fly List
The good, the bad and the ugly … I will start on a positive note to show why you may not place Cuba On No Fly List. The weather in Cuba was close to 30 degrees most days with some occasional light sun showers. We had lots of down time and we ploughed through many books from our fully loaded e-readers. The resort offered several pool options and since the resort was well below capacity on most days, we could have our choice of lounge chairs. The resort only got crazy on the days when the locals could visit for the day.
The resort was on Esmeralda Beach and I have probably never found a nicer powder white sand beach.
Cappuccinos at the main bar were generally good (much better than the resort coffee in a coffee producing country) and about half the Spanish Coffees we got were yummy.
The resort grounds were generally well maintained. When we took a walking tour to the sister Melia resort next door, it was wonderful and we just wished they had space when we booked our trip.
What Might Put It On The Cuba No Fly List
And it goes downhill from there. Our Sunwing flight was late leaving Toronto – partially from a backlog of flights from the snowstorm we were escaping and partly from a mechanical issue found after we were all loaded. This put us very late into Cuba, made more late by delayed ground transport and a bus driver that stopped to load up on more beer for the trip. Arriving at the resort after midnight with only one other couple still resulted in a baggage porter who took an hour to deliver our bags, despite 2 calls to the front desk during which we were assured he was on his way.
Melia has multiple resorts across Cuba. We had read TripAdvisor comments about the rooms needing some care, but we were not prepared for the state of the 3 rooms we saw before we finally got settled. We had paid a premium for VIP service and after multiple escalated discussions with hotel management and with Sunwing, we finally realized the VIP premium did not get you any better rooms but an assortment of extras, most of which we never got or got only after multiple calls. Don’t pay for Premium service. The room they ultimately put us in was deemed “ok” considering we did not intend to spend much time in it but there was nothing in this room that felt “premium”. Unfortunately, we ended up cooped in this room for far too much of the trip.
The a la carte restaurants proved to be a bit better than the buffet, but even there we were picking our way around menus to find something to eat and still leaving our plates half full when we were done. The buffet had lots of choice and a grill, so it looked like a good alternative until that too became repetitive when food showed up re-worked from meal to meal. We are not big boozers, so the mass availability of bad local booze did not create a haze for us to float in. It seemed obvious that the local wines were not meeting expectations when there was wine for sale outside of even the buffet restaurant.
Something I ate made me sick on our 5th day there. I tried to work through it for 4 days until I finally called uncle and went to the doctor. With a cursory examination and a huge shot in the butt, he sent me on my way with the handful of pills we had seen others walking out with (anti-diuretic, antibiotics and electrolyte replacement powders). The medicine was almost worse than the original problem and new symptoms ensured I was not returned to my perky self. When David started to get sick, complicated by a high fever, I shared my medicine and we sat down to think about what we should do. We were spending way too much time in our “ok” room and were afraid to eat anywhere on the resort. The all-inclusive resort was certainly making money on us!
Getting over the cheap girl reaction to walking away from our final 6 days at the resort, we pleaded with Sunwing to get home early. They wanted to look at this as a frivolous decision we were making, but ultimately after a 3 hour discussion, they agreed to help us get home on the seats that were available for that day’s flight – with only a minor charge for extra diving bags (that we had already paid for on our original flights). The resort had “no comment” when we checked out 6 days early and we got no response when we formally raised the issue. Customer feedback sheets, when filled in completely, resulted in no response either.
Not surprisingly, the Sunwing flight was late again. Arriving in Toronto at 3:30am, we waited for slow customs clearance, slow baggage and slow limo service. It seems that the new automated customs machines in Toronto are shut down at 3am, even when they know there are flights still enroute. Apparently limo’s stop service at 3am too? As we crawled into bed at 4:30am, we were just glad to be back home.
Our 2 weeks of relaxing vacation turned out to be anything but relaxing and ended up cut short by 6 days. We put Sunwing, Cuba and Melia Cuba on No Fly List. Maybe it was time for us to give up cheap last minute all-inclusive resorts?
Have you had a great all inclusive experience in Cuba or did you put Cuba On No Fly List promise? Did you get responsive service when you had a problem? Are you still doing all inclusive resorts?