Hello travellers! Didn’t mean to leave you hanging … OK, I did 😉 But I’m back now with lots to report on my recent all-inclusive vacation to Cuba, where I spent 7 nights at Playa Costa Verde in Holguin.
The flight started out great! We flew Canjet, and while the 737 aircraft wasn’t the most spacious, the service was impeccable. Not only did we receive a complimentary hot meal, but we were also given a small glass of champagne to start our vacation! In addition, we received a complimentary glass of wine with dinner. A nice touch, I thought.
When we arrived, however, things began to take a bit of turn. We found ourselves stranded in the Holguin airport for more than two hours – but for good reason. Two extra flights were brought in from Venezuela to help with hurricane relief, so we had to wait our turn to use the one and only baggage conveyor belt. Airport staff brought out a cooler filled with beer and water – 2 for $5. That seemed to kept the cranky crowd at bay for a while.
Unfortunately for me, after two beers, nature was calling and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. So I ventured into the ladies restroom (if you want to call it that), where I was faced with every woman’s nightmare — no toilet seat, no toilet paper.
Once we got our luggage and boarded the bus, we were happy again, as the festivities continued, the drinks flowed, and we were the first of three hotel stops. It was about 2am when we finally arrived to check in at Playa Costa Verde. Another long wait … but fortunately, the lobby bar was open! Unfortunately, the power went out every 10 minutes or so, and there was no running water, which meant no ice in your drink either.
At first glance, our room seemed fine — it was spacious, very colourful, and featured all the necessities, including a king sized bed (which felt like sleeping on a box spring), TV (cable came and went periodically), and a sitting area with table with chairs. It was a corner unit, which gave us lots of light with the side window in addition to the patio doors.
Unfortunately (I seem to be using this word a lot), our room also came with bugs. Little bugs, A LOT of little bugs. Ants lined our bathroom vanity and bathtub, and some other small critters gathered and scurried at the foot of our bed. We also had a little lizard in the room (I think that’s supposed to be good luck). He was a cute little guy — good thing neither of us are afraid of lizards!
The toilets did not flush the first night, as there was no water at the resort. But this was fixed by morning, and we had hot water running by late afternoon. Considering a major hurricane had just blown through, I was impressed by how quickly things were back up and running.
Although we requested a 2nd floor room, we were denied. Our room was far from the pool and offered a less than stellar view of utility buildings, complete with Cuban workers staring back at our patio on their breaks.
Well, we never went hungry, but the food certainly left something to be desired. it didn’t matter if it was lunch or dinner, the buffet consisted of rice, raw turkey (careful!), dried out chicken, pasta, stewed beef, lots of bread and desserts, fruit and salad, and two stir fry stations — where we ended up most meals.
We tried one a la carte dinner at the Cuban restaurant, which was so-so. I had chicken and angel hair pasta soup as an appetizer, lobster with rice for dinner, and a tiny piece of very dry cake with a bite of ice cream for dessert. The experience did not give us any reason to return, so we stuck with the buffet.
The 24-hour snack bar was decent — serving burgers and fries, sandwiches, calamari, fish — all quite good. The all-day ice cream bar was not open, nor was the beer garden. I did get food poisoning once, on day six — bad calamari, I suspect.
Daily activities at the pool were always entertaining. The staff was fun and energetic, giving salsa lessons, playing “crazy games” for grown ups as well as for kids, and they had daily aquafit classes. I won a bottle of rum in poolside bingo!
Our pool bartender, Marlanis, was wonderful! Each drink she made for us was better than the one before it. We enjoyed “Crazy Canadians” frequently, along with a variety of other daily “Marlanis Specials.”
The beach was in better shape than I thought it would be, considering the recent storm. The water was rough at first, but after a day or two it settled down, revealing the stunning clear, turquoise waters.
We took out a couple of kayaks (free of charge), which was lots of fun. We paddled along the coral point watching crabs scatter about. We also tried our hand at snorkelling, which was fun. The number of fish in such shallow water, however, was somewhat disturbing! I had no idea there was so much going on just beneath the surface. We heard from others that there were a lot of jelly fish, but luckily we didn’t run into any.
By far, the best part of the entire trip. The staff was amazing, so much fun, very happy and friendly. The shows were good, too (and I’m a tough critic, having been a show girl myself once upon a very long time ago). Great music, choreography and lots of talent.
There is one nightclub on the resort. It is small, but served its purpose. I’d read about a piano bar at the resort, which turned out to be a piano in the lobby, played at 7pm each night for about one hour. Nice touch, but a piano bar it was not.
There is a kids club as well — although it was closed the entire week, so I really can’t comment on that.
When it came time to leave, we decided to splurge and pay the extra 25 pesos each for the VIP lounge at the airport. After my first experience at the Holguin airport it seemed like a very small price to pay. To my relief, it was worth it! Free drinks, snacks and the cleanest bathroom I’d seen all week. Plus big comfy leather couches and TV – the VIP lounge is well worth the money.
All things considered, we had a nice time. The sun was shining, the drinks were flowing and the waters were inviting. And when you think about it, that’s really what makes a sunny vacation successful — for me, that is!