Well just about everything bad I’ve read here about this hotel just plain is not true. Almost everything.
We were there at the Canadian March break in 2010.
The property is made up of two main buildings, the older, larger Soviet-built 7 story cement battleship housing the standard rooms and a 3-story wing to the east built in a Cuban hacienda style with all superior rooms with balconies and ocean views.
We stayed in room 8216, one of the superior rooms. Our second floor room had an almost new bathroom with a soaking size tub. There were two single beds and a balcony with a million dollar view of the Caribbean Sea. The room also came with a Chinese brand TV with Cuban and Chinese channels and a few satellite stations in English including HBO and unfortunately CNN. The room was nicely furnished and came with a small refrigerator. There was a safe in the room that used the door key card.
The clients are a real mix. At March break there were hardly any children. Our flight from Toronto with Hola Sun had mostly retired Italo-Canadians. Once at the hotel, there were other groups of French-speaking Canadians as well as Europeans from a German tour company. As Cubans are now allowed to stay in all Cuban hotels including tourist hotels, there were a fair number of them paying $110 a night for room and board.
There are 3 restaurants and a buffet dining room in the main building. You must reserve the seafood, Italian and international style restaurants but the price is included. For lunch there was also a beach fish barbeque and pizza, fries and hamburgers at the beach bar. The food in the restaurants was superior to the buffet. Breakfasts included excellent made to order omelettes, pancakes as well as pre-cooked scrabbled and hard-boiled eggs. To pacify the Germans there also was sliced deli meats and cheeses. They would be disappointed with the bread however as it was all ‘puffy grey’ and similar. No brot is sight.
Lunches were best from the beach and if you walked up the beach a ways to a small hut, there was spiny lobster at market price. Bring your own bag to transport it back to the hotel where staff will give you plates and cutlery.
Service was ‘typico Cubano’ or slow, unless you speed things up with a well placed peso. Even in the dining room, a peso to the lady meant your beverage would be promptly re-filled and at the bar you would be served in order.
About the hot water issue. We thought we had no hot water on our first day. After multiple complaints to the front desk (twice), our tour operator as well as customer relations, the hot water appeared in the afternoon of day two when we realized we had misunderstood how to use the single tap.
My real issue was actually with the Cuban guests, who being Cuban, believe that the hotel is theirs and do not have to be even civil to foreign tourists, even though we prop up their economy to the tune of $5.6 billion. There appears to be an emerging over-class in Cuba. I am not sure who these people are but they almost always are of European descent. Be aware these Cubans do not know the meaning of the word queue, and will barge into line, loudly giving their orders to the staff in Spanish. I am happy to report that the Cubans do not tip, so for the most part are ignored by the wait staff who prefer tipping guests. Too bad it has come down to this.
The beach is beautiful and long with white sands. Toward the more deserted eastern end of the hotel beach I observed portly European men in the company of local young nubiles. I would not give this type of friendship a name unless I observed some untoward actions. I am relieved to report I saw nothing. How blessed they must be to have friendships which transcends both age and language barriers.
Be aware of biting insects. They are the size of a speck of black pepper, but leave a nasty bite. They appear in the late afternoon through early morning. Take DEET and keep your balcony door closed.
The 15 peso, 5 hour tour to Trinidad was well worth the investment. You get to see the local museum and walk through the old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Better than this, you get an overview of the town if you wish to return for the Casa del a musicas in the evening. Taxis are cheap and plentiful and in Trinidad you may get lucky and get a 1950s Chevy or Pontiac.
Trinidad is a centre of arts and music so the old town is full of galleries and nightclubs playing various types of unique Cuban music. Don’t forget your walking shoes as the old town streets are all original cobblestone. Bring your camera to photograph the donkey carts and street scene. Don’t be surprised if you are asked for soap or pens. Cubans still suffer from shortages thanks to the US embargo.
My travel partners and I have been coming to Cuba since they first opened it up to Canadian tourists in the seventies. Back then we stayed in the villas of ex-pats who had floated over to Miami for La Dolce Vida. Over the years thanks to millions of Canadian and later European tourist, Cuba has been able to build a viable tourism industry. Trash a hotel for its’ accommodation or food if you wish, but if you want a safe Caribbean vacation at a reasonable price, it’s quite impossible to beat Cuba. Hotel Ancon has many of the issues that drive foreign tourists wild. This is not Miama. Back off, slow down and work with the people. Cubans are very accommodating, so with a few smiles, a smattering of Spanish and some pesos, most reasonable issues can be resolved.
• Cuban blue cheese
• custom made omelettes
• fruit juices (especially mango)
• fresh tropical fruit
• pizza from the beach bar
• meals at the Italian and seafood restaurants
• lobster on the beach
• café con leche from the beach bar
• ice cream
• sponge cakes with creamy merangue icing
In conclusion, Hotel Ancon genuinely is a 3 star hotel if you stay in the superior rooms. Canadians get excellent value for their money with air and hotel packages. Come to Ancon for the beach and proximity to Trinidad and all the culture. Stay away if you expect 5 star meals as the food is plentiful but for the most part uninspired and repetitive.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.