Cuba – Day One

View from Room

View from Room

After the previous night’s washout I was expecting more of the same. We woke up at something crazy like 6.30am (11.30GMT). I looked out the window and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it nice outside! We had three hours until our “induction” with the rep so we got ready, then left to have breakfast and dander about the beach.

Before we headed out we left a tip for the chamber maid (1CUC) and a note, along the lines of “¡Hola! Gracias – Conor y Leona”.

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We were at breakfast pretty early and was glad to see that it wasn’t as busy as the night before. It was all pretty standard fare, but dead on. It did have a few weird things such as a “chicken coquette”. It also had a “live” omelette station, pancakes, eggs and smoothie! All good.

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After breakfast we dandered on the beach and around the resort to find out where things are and get our bearings.

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We still had a bit of time before the induction so we opted to go to the pool bar. Leona had fruit juice but I had a beer – my rationale being I’m still on GMT.

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Our induction was at 9.30am in the “disco”. Daniel took it and was good to explain a bit about the local area (where the market and local shops where), tipping etiquette, currency exchanging, what excursions were good etc. He also said he could provide a list of what rum and cigars were best – sadly I never got a chance to do that.

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After the induction we popped into the hotel shop to have a browse. It was at this point I thought it might be nice to get a bottle of rum “for the room” so purchased a bottle of Havana Club for the crazy price of 4.95CUC and a bottle of Cuban Cola.

Walking out of the shop there was a stand selling some souvenirs and a 26th July Flag caught my eye. I starting having a look at the rest of the stuff and because of the sun and wanting to recreate the Mungo picture – I decided to get a hat. The one I got was green camouflage (debunking the myth I read online that camouflage was banned) with a red star and Cuban flag on the side. I had to ask the lady selling it if it would fit my giant head but I don’t think she understood but she let me try it on and when wearing it I slightly resembled someone…

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After going through the list we booked our excursions with the the rep Anabelle. We had decided on four but we decided against the Holguín by Night trip when we were told that there wouldn’t be “a show” anymore, it would just be a trip to Holguín… at night. We were going to Holguín on another excursion so we didn’t bother.

We were also planning to do “Sun Cruise” the next day – Anabelle warned that it might rain the next day so it mightn’t be on. She made a phonecall, talked Spanish, hung up and told us to be ready for 8am the next day.

We went for three excursions:
Sun Cruise (which included swimming with dolphins)
Cuba Inside (which included said trip to Holguín)
Island Paradise (which didn’t include a safari as Thomas Cooke didn’t recommend we go on it)

In total it cost about 600CUC – which accounted for most of our spending for the whole holiday.

After we booked our excursions we then went to book the three a la carte dinners we were entitled to. There was a bit of a queue so we went to the bar and I had my first Pina Colada of the week. Once the queue went down we booked our dinners. The plan was to book for days we weren’t on excursions but we couldn’t book Monday’s until Saturday. We had booked Internacial for that night and Buccenaro on Saturday.

After that we got our swim wear sorted and hung out at the pool for a few hours. The pool was really cold but Leona managed to fulfill her only objective of the holiday of swimming up to the bar asking for a Pina Colada, drinking it and swimming away. I swam about too, for the first time in 15 or so years. It took a wee while to remember how to float. I really must relearn to swim!

IMG_4353At one point there was shower that felt like twenty seconds. I was in the covered pool bar and could see the heavy rain hitting the water. I turned round and everyone was clearing the pool and heading to the 24hr bar beside the pool. As soon as it was cleared the rain stopped and the sun was out again. It was strange.

After a few hours at the pool we headed to the beach and hung out there for a bit. As it was getting to late afternoon/early evening it wasn’t as sunny and noticeably cooler so we went for another walk round the grounds of the hotel and try to find the restaurant we were eating in later. En route we spotted the John Lennon Statue that was inexplicably in the Villa area (for some reason the Cubans love the Beatles – like really love them).

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We went back to our room to get ready for dinner (oh, and drink some rum!). The dress codes for the a la carte restaurants were shoes, trousers and shirt. I’d read online that they’d refuse service otherwise – which was fair enough as you wouldn’t want scruffers turning up in swimming trunks and sandals.

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We got to the restaurant early so we went to the “Jazz Bar” which was beside the Villa’s pool bar. It had someone playing piano in the corner and only served cocktails. I had an Abbey cocktail – it was alright. As we finished our drinks we noticed that there people going into the restaurant wearing shorts, sandals etc – so much for an enforced dress code!

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Dinner was weird. The starter was cold cuts of meat, bread and cheese – but we had to walk up and serve ourselves like it was a salad bar. Plus there was a big chunk of ham that we had to carve ourselves. I’m not a skilled carver so on my plate I had a smaller chunk of ham.

We were then brought our soup. Which was alright.

For my main I had ordered Lobster (#13 of my To do list) but sadly it was stuffed with Pineapple (which I don’t like) so all I could taste was pineapple. But the non pineapple tasting parts were okay. Sadly I wasn’t too impressed with my first lobster.

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We had desert – which was just ice cream – it was okay.

The food wasn’t great but the waiter was dead on – he kept bringing me beer – so we left him a few CUC for a tip and left..

Leona wasn’t feeling great after dinner so we were going to miss out on that nights entertainment – which was a music quiz. It was held at the stage beside the pool so I would be able to hear it from the room. The rest of the night consisted of me sitting on the balcony drinking rum and shouting out answers to the music quiz. Leona joined me for a bit but she soon went to bed because we had an early start the next day. I had alot of rum – so much so I couldn’t remember going to bed.

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