we didn't expect much after reading reviews beforehand. we brought toilet paper and pillows and pillow cases. we had a toilet seat and toilet paper at the hotel so we considered ourselves very lucky. the pillows were fine. we picked a balcony suite on the second floor. it was on the quiet side of hotel which was nice. we didn't even notice any sand mites. they are not out in the heat of the afternoon sun. they come out in the morning or the evening...you know...when you are trying to get the sunset pictures and you foolishly are walking around in your bathing suit and skirt.
it is right on the beach. really nice. we learned the way to walk into town from another couple and it didn't cost us a thing to walk into town. we took some tours.
we brought tons of stuff to give to people. I had a hard time getting out of the airport because some of the light wands I bought for the children lit up in my bag and they could see it. I don't know if they thought it was a bomb but they held me back and the woman didn't want to let me pass. some little guy helped us get our bags...I didn't ask him to...then he asked for money...I said I hadn't switched to Cuban money yet...he said that was okay and took my $5. then we ran on to the bus...we must have held up the other passengers...then the tour guide on the bus to our hotel told us we should be giving him a tip of $5 and the bus driver too. so I gave him $5 also...ten dollars gone and we were just at the hotel. we learned after that...after we got change we just gave tips of one or two pesos.
the guy at the front desk...his name was nelson...he was a sweetheart and carried our two heaviest bags up to our room and there is no elevator....I felt so bad for him. he also helped us reserve dinner in this special room that was really nice. he had two children. a very kind, respectful man. it felt good to give things to him for his children.
there was also a woman with dark hair working at the front desk . she wasn't sweet or warm or kind. we asked her if we could exchange our canadian money for cuban money and she said yes. then she gave us 83 cents on our dollars. then we were talking to this other woman who came the same time as us. she asked us what the exchange rate the woman at the front desk gave us. we told her. she said that same woman just gave her 86 cents on the dollar. she came back with us to the front desk and told her we were her friends and to give us 86 cents on the dollar so she did. that woman was never helpful and knowing she tried to cheat us and take advantage of us left me with a bad feeling.
we didn't really get a chance to give the things to the people who needed them. it was so disappointing. the people working at the hotels get all the neat things. we tried to give out things in varadero...we got to do it a little and that felt nice...but there is no elementary school in varadero...and the high school kids we met acted liked snobs and wrinkled their noses at the things we were passing out. we brought crayons, colouring books, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair elastics, wooden toys to make, gum, chocolate bars, light up wands, drawing pads, pencil crayons, erasers, pencil sharpeners, candy, magic cards, little cars, bead kits.
we went on two tours: the day trip to Havana which was nice, and the trip to the sugar cane fields...where they give you two bottles of rum at the end as a gift. you also get a chance to taste sugar cane juice which is soooo delicious..
when we got off the bus in Havana all these people crowded around you asking for things...money, clothes...something for their children but there were no children with them. it felt terrible...everyone attacking you all at once...we got back on the bus right away and felt safer. when everyone came back on the bus, our tour guide told us if we bought anything from anybody we might get arrested because you are not allowed to...of course he told us this after not before.
later on. on the walking tour part it was good and nice. if you go to any museums you have to pay extra if you want to take pictures. we saw some stilt walkers and if you take pictures of them or anyone else they may insist you pay them.
the trip to the sugar cane fields......our tour guide. who was a sweet little guy . stopped the bus to pick up this woman who would explain everything to us about our trip...except she only spoke Spanish and for the most part we were all Canadian and we all spoke English. she had a son with us. I gave him one of the bubble gum banks and he thanked me and when it was time to take the train he came and stood near us....I think he was hoping I would give him more things. his mom, the Spanish speaking woman told our tour guide to tell me not to hand out any things to the children following the train because last week their was an unfortunate accident with a girl and the train. she stood beside me too to make sure I didn't...and all these children came up running behind the train wanting us to throw them little things and the other people did...but I couldn't. which was too bad.
when we were planning the trip it felt so good spending what little money we had on toys and things to make their lives a little nicer. we were thinking such nice, loving helpful thoughts. the reality was a little different. maybe if we got a chance to get closer to the people who were poorer or more isolated. I carried all of the stuff we had left into town...it was 6 and a half km to the bank...and we walked to the end of the main street...way past the bank...till we found out there was no elementary school....and then carried it back...we stopped off at the beach and there were some kids playing there. I was thinking how to pass the things out to the kids respectfully and one woman refused our things...I then tried to motion to her maybe she could pass out our things to the other children that were on the beach beside them and she gave these hand motions like "you expect me to do what?" I don't know if we just ran into snobs or we just had bad luck but if really left a bad taste in my mouth. I wouldn't bring things down again I don't think. maybe if I didn't have my hopes up trying to do what we thought was good.
now about the hotel. they have cats and dogs there. we read about them before the trip. the cats and the little white kitten are really neat. the dogs are nice. it was so nice to see animals there and the staff didn't treat the animals mean or scare them off all the time. the little kitten, when you would try to feed it...it wouldn't take food from your fingers...it would touch your hand twice with its paw to tell you to drop the food and then he would eat it...the kitten was so cute...and always chasing something...a leaf...a little stone...and he would sit on the chairs on the outside tables..and then fall off the chair...it was adorable.
the dog with the bad leg...someone said her name was isabelle. she is doing good. still limping a bit...and hanging out with the brown dog...he has a open wound by his back leg the size of a nickel...and he gets sand caught in it...and sometimes the little black bugs get in it and bug him. they are really nice dogs. the cats and dogs give it such a nice relaxed environment.
there is one cat there...a white male cat with only one eye...the place where the eye is gone...this liquid keeps running out of his eye. he let me wipe the liquid away with a Kleenex. I feel so bad for him and when we sit outside on the patio he would sit beside us on the tile or on the chair. the bossy male cat in charge of everyone...he is black and white...he would try to bully this poor one eyed cat so I had to tell the other cat to leave him alone...at least while we were eating he was safe from the bully. someone said if you took any of the animals to the vet you could bring them home to Canada. I already have two cats but someone else might want to bring some home.
we read the reviews about very little food...or plain food. I like plain food. there was rice, pasta, potatoes, chicken, beef, pork, soup, shredded cabbage, sometimes shredded carrots and shredded beets...fruit....pineapple, orange slices, papaya, cake with delicious icing, cookies and ice cream and soft drinks...or water...if you wanted delicious pineapple juice they had it at the bar but you should bring a cup....we brought big plastic cups from home so that was good. less trips to the bar that way...we tried to tip a peso at the bar. the menu was good and healthy and sadly to say I didn't lose any weight.
breakfast they made great French toast and they cut up ham that was delicious...and fruit and fruit juice. we didn't catch on till our vacation was almost over that the chef in the corner made omelets. he also made special dishes at supper time too...we gave him a peso if we got something from him...but his food was delicious. most of the staff in the kitchen were nice. it was a good experience. sitting on the patio was my favourite..and the table in the corner where you could look out and see the palm trees and the ocean was the best. we did see some plates where people just wasted food. it was such a shame. and there was a young tall guy there who ate but then took the food off the premises to feed his friends and he would laugh about it. that really wasn't fair.
our beach was really nice...we mostly had it to ourselves...but it was full of garbage. I don't understand why the Cubans didn't seem to care. bottles, glass, plastic, Cubans would come to the beach at night...just outside the fence of the resort...they would start little fires...drink..party I guess...and then they would smash bottles...it wasn't safe to walk there in where they had been smashing their bottles if you couldn't see very well or you were walking barefoot...and the dogs...it wasn't safe for them either. we picked a bit of the garbage up and left it by a tree and we assume some of the staff took it away....but it just seemed a lack of self respect to let it get like that. it is such a beautiful country. the beach was amazing and full of corral and shells and sand and yet they didn't seem to care if it was clean or safe or not.
there were at least two grounds keepers there. one was luis. he was nice and easy going and a smaller guy who acted nice too...he showed me the banana trees. but when they cleaned the yard..they mostly just picked up the big leaves that fell off the trees. maybe they didn't think the beach was their area. I don't know. that was disappointing as well.
the guides all told us how cuba is wonderful because schooling and health care is free. then my friend told me they saw a documentary on cuba and it said Cubans had to work for the state for 2 years to make up for the free schooling.
our door locked which was a bonus. the toilet kind of ran all the time...but it still worked and we just closed the bathroom door if we wanted it quieter. when you walked out onto the balcony you had this big beautiful tree right there. you could see the ocean from the balcony. a little tiny gecko came into our room....I finally got a picture of him...he would always run away. he was adorable. there were no cockroaches in our room. that was really nice. the tv plug didn't fit the plug in but we didn't go to cuba to watch tv so that was fine. where we went for the sugar cane tour...there was a factory the guide pointed out to us...it was where they made toilet paper...he explained that sometimes when it shut down for a bit it was hard to get toilet paper. jour air conditioning worked but we only put it on a little to cool down the room then we switched it off. in the reviews we read people said there was no hot water. we didn't find that. it was cool for a very few minutes and then it warmed up and was great...and actually cool when it is hot is good sometimes.
it was so humid in cuba and it seemed that it was almost impossible to keep the walls from molding. if they kept up with painting them all the time...but even in Havana and in varadero some of the buildings looked in rough shape.
there is corral there...it is hard and it is so easy to cut yourself on it. a guy at the hotel told us if a person touches corral with their finger they kill it...it oxidizes it. that is really sad. I never knew that before. this one guy on the beach told his girlfriend to stand on the corral in the water for a picture. she told him it hurt. I wish he was on the corral. she could have gotten badly hurt.
we left some things for our maid and some pesos but she came in and saw all the stuff on the bed we were planning to hand out and I think she wasn't impressed with what we gave her because even though she thanked us I sensed she had a little contempt for us.
we did get a really good deal...unbelievable. the flight was held up....but they gave us a meal voucher which was nice. we were very lucky. the weather was gorgeous.
when we went into Havana the tour guide said we could visit the market for 40 min. I saw a church with stain glass windows across the street. I wanted to go there and get some nice pictures. there was a big, tall, white guy with tattoos, and a jean jacket with the sleeves cut off....he seemed rough...trouble...I tried to walk around him...there was a woman in the church and they were taking donations...especially if you used .the bathrooms...so we asked her if we could leave things for the children there and she said yes, I took my pics and used the washroom and then the rough looking guy....he looked kinda mean and scary...came in and started going through all the things we gave the woman...and I realized the socks and pencils and colouring books and crayons and candy and chocolate would probably not make it to any children....it was kind of sad. I gave some little chocolate bars to this one boy outside the church...he looked about 8 or 9 years old...to share with his brother and his mother. I went to pass them some gum each and I realized the boy wasn't sharing it with his older brother who was a teenager and I told him to share it...so I made sure the older boy got one gum but I bet he didn't get a little chocolate bar even though I told the younger boy to share. the next guy said to me...right after I came out of the church:" hey ladies...are you ready for me?" the guy was maybe 17 and leaning against a wall..that was creepy. it makes a funny story but yuck.
I would also like to talk about the treatment on the flight down to cuba and back. it was wonderful. they took really nice care of us...and gave us juice and food...even a little chocolate...and some banana bread. I didn't really expect anything...and oh yes, we got a glass of champagne....and hot towlettes. pretty neat. and headphones to watch the movies..i got to see gravity on the way back but I kept nodding off to sleep. the pilots did a really nice job...it wasn't scary at all. the flight attendants were helpful and courteous. I was really impressed.
I hope you find this useful and you have a nice holiday.
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- Also Known As:
- Islazul Oasis Varadero
- Hotel Islazul Oasis