Though our trip was only 52 hours long, too much happened to fit within one brief post. As I write mostly to help me preserve my memories, it is as long as it needs to be. Our two week trip to Japan generated 36 posts (follow the link to follow our experiences).
We were supposed to be in Cuba for three nights, but instead of a morning flight from Miami we had a 3 PM flight that three days before the flight was changed to a 6 PM flight which as we got to the gate was changed to a 6:50 PM flight which as we were about ready to board was announced (in Spanish) to have a 3-4 hour delay and was announced in English to be a 1-2 hour delay (gee, thanks tour company for lying to us when there are many in the group who speak Spanish, what other lies will be we told?). They gave groups of six $100 to find dinner in the airport. Others took the vouchers to Pizza Hut (too many carbs and bad food for me), which I later heard Pizza Hut would not accept. We found a group of six, two took their cut and ran. Two others joined Martha and I for dinner at Margaritaville on the other side of security. We were told to return by 8:45 PM for an update.
Over dinner with Lynn and Martin we talked about how a different tour group had their trip delayed TWO DAYS. That would mean no marathon, and no time to see Havana. They were discussing what to do if we faced more delays. Fortunately when we returned, people were boarding our new plane.
The plane smelled of cigars, but what do you expect on a plane that flies between Cuba and the US? The ashtrays were covered over.
After more delays we lifted off at 9:30 PM for our 45 minute flight.
|First view of Cuba|
We had to wait for a shuttle bus to take us the short distance on the tarmac. Talking to flight attendants on the way home, they said sometimes the airport tells people to walk to the gate, sometimes they are shuttled. It depends on the mood of the people in charge that day.
We were the last flight coming in that day. We waited through customs, which honestly was not as bad as I feared. What was worse than feared was the line for baggage claim. I was yelled at while taking this picture, so though not very good it is the best I could do.
You could tell people had been hanging out there for HOURS. As I only had a carry on, I went to the bus and WAITED. There were about 10 of us who traveled lightly, but they wanted 40 people on each bus. After an hour of waiting (and no sign of the others), the tour company provided a taxi for seven of us. I was happy to get in that taxi to the hotel. The others waited 2-3 hours for their luggage.
Meanwhile at the hotel, the staff held our opening night dinner for us. I tried not to think about how long that food sat out and enjoyed some of it. At this point it was 12:41 AM and I had been awake since 2:30 AM when I woke in NJ to catch a flight at 6 AM from Philly to Miami. After putting my bag in my room I went up to the 5th floor for the buffet. My first thought as I stepped on the balcony (I took the stairs from the second floor to the fifth and came out at a different spot) was WOW! There were so many stars. The night was perfectly clear. I could identify constellations. No, I did not attempt to take a picture, I just stood in awe.
The buffet was quite a spread. This is only a small portion of it. They hotel also provided music for us (I wish I had asked the musicians if they had a CD as I later found it hard to find recorded music). I sat with some people and soaked it up, but sleepiness won out.
Martha and I scored an inside room with shutters facing a courtyard that was never used. Looked like a nice place for a quinceanara party. Normally this may have annoyed me, but the room was pitch black and silent -- perfect for sleeping, which after all was the goal. Others with views complained about the construction noise next door. There is a lot of construction happening in Cuba in anticipation of American tourists.
As "companions," we were on a different showering schedule from that of the runners. The runners complained about lack of water or lack of hot water. We never had that issue.
There were birds in cages in the lobby. I missed the significance of these, but all of the reviews spoke positively about them, and negatively about the rest of the hotel. The hotel was "four-star," in quotes. It was dated. The ceiling in our room must have been 12 foot high. It made the space feel larger. Martha and I each had a bed larger than a twin, but smaller than a queen. Similar to the size we had in Japanese hotel rooms. We were never tripping over each other or each other's stuff. It was not nearly as bad as the reviews led me to believe. Of course I tend to stay in Days Inns and not Hiltons, so my standard might be low. The staff was friendly. I only ever opened the front door once, ironically when the doorman was texting on his new cell phone. It must have been a showcase when it was built 110 years ago, but as the past 54 years have stood still for Cuba, it, too is locked in time.
For more pictures: https://pillsburypress.shutterfly.com/pictures/5566