We've been to Cuba over 30 times so I pretty much know what to expect in every corner of this gem of an island. You have to remember what you are paying at the Atlantico; to be near Havana at an all-inclusive. Having said that here is my review:
The trip down: I've heard horror stories about Cubana and they were really good. Decent food, Left on time both ways. Watch though that you have to pay for your drinks (even pop) on the plane (about $2.00) and if you are leaving from Toronto get to the airport really, really early (like 4 hours) because the line-up to check in is ridiculous. Cubans living in Toronto are going home to see family and they bring flat screen t.v.s, air conditioners and such and they all have to be wrapped. Stood over 1 1/2 hours in line. Stopped at Santa Clara to let passengers off.
The hotel: Very basic 2 1/2 - 3 star. They are upgrading to a 3 star so things are looking better. We had a room on the third floor, very clean, big fluffy towels, balcony overlooking the ocean. The bathroom needed updating for sure but it was fine considering how much time you spend in there. Always lots of hot water. The buffet again is basic but we always found something to eat and they had the best fresh fruit I have ever had in Cuba and the pasta is always good. They had a grill station for meats at lunch and dinner and great eggs any way for breakfast.
There is a nice lobby bar and great bartenders (Juan Migel - all the girls loved him!). The drinks are hit and miss. Sometimes the beer is great and sometimes just so-so. They do run out of some things and some things get broken but hey, it's Cuba, The staff in the restaurant were absolutely amazing. They would save our seat and even remembered what we drank. They have long, hard jobs and yet smiled all through it. Had al la carte and although they only had 3 things on the menu they were good and the ice cream was to die for.
The beach is spectacular as is the cool water. The pool is nice too and they have an amazing massage therapist (Fidel). For $15.00 I had the best massage of my life. There is a shuttle to Havana twice a day at 9.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. We stayed for lunch a couple of days in Havana (paladar - lobster $10.00) and came back on the 2.30 p.m. shuttle after taking the 9.30 shuttle in.
Havana. What can I say. To me the most beautiful city on earth (and I've seen some pretty spectacular ones). A lot of people say it is in a state of decay but quite the opposite is true. Now that Havana is a world UNESCO site millions are being poured into restoration and preservation. Beautiful Spanish architecture with blues, yellows and pinks. The malecon has pictures of what each building is going to look like when it is done and will contain restaurants, cafes, shops, museums. It will rival any European city.
Things to do in Havana: Many museums to see. This trip we went for 2 weeks and spent at least 12 out of 14 in Havana. The revolution museum and Gramma for sure. Museum of fine arts if you like period artwork (I do - hubby was kind of bored). We found, get this, a street all done up and restored to look like Paris (and did it ever). On this street was the chocolate museum. Best chocolate of my life. The hot and cold chocolate especially, Nice little air conditioned cafe is attached. The rum museum is interesting as is the tobacco museum. You can of course take a guided tour of the city but we had a book on Havana with maps and just found our way around (not difficult). Revolution square is very interesting and there are so many parks to just grab a beer and watch the world go by.
You will be accosted once you get off the bus for pesos and horse and buggy rides. Just say no graciously and move on. If they are persistent just say no a little louder and they will go away. As long as you keep moving they will think you are a seasoned tourist. Happens in every city.
What to bring. Insect repellant, a high SPF sunscreen, something very cool to wear into Havana. Stay away from denim (too hot). Guys can wear shorts everywhere. The cobblestone streets are hard to maneuver sometimes so wear flat sandals.
Gifts: I always bring suckers or candy for the kids to give out in Havana. Soap is hard to get but what they really would like are electronics they can't get down here. We usually bring a DVD (portable) player or a hard drive and exchange for trip (this one we went up into the mountains in Pinar del Rio (amazing). Ear buds, kids clothes and toys, pantyhose, cosmetics and perfume, sports equipment, pens, crayons and books, hair accessories, etc. etc. Anything you use at home they can use down there. The embargo is punishing to them but I noticed for the first time that things really seem to be getting better.
Wrap-up: If you want an inexpensive, basic hotel a stones throw from Havana with everything included this is for you. If you are a 5 star person where the food has to be amazing and the accommodation spectacular, stay in Varadero. As the Cubans say, "Varadero is not Cuba".
Flight home was on time and fine (except we flew in an all black plane - that was weird). Day one back home and I am missing my favorite city and country already.
Back in October........
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Caribe Club Atlantico Hotel Havana
- Gran Caribe Hotel Atlantico
- Gran Caribe Havana