HAVANA TIMES, 9 ene — For December 31, the majority of people in Cuba manage to stretch their tight budgets to have a dinner, lunch or a special toast as they usher in the New Year.
According to predictions in the national media, “This new year we’ve just entered will be a prosperous one, raising the quality of life of the Cuban people. It will only be necessary that everyone put their nose to the grindstone and work.”
Near the end of last year, the marketing done on television to promote recreation facilities and food service centers for domestic tourism (i.e. those that offer services in both national pesos and in hard currency) were touted as being “ready to provide quality and excellent services to the people as they await the New Year.”
These ads made me take the initiative to break with the traditional December 31 dinner at home and instead to kick off 2012 in a beach house to enjoy the opportunities advertised on the little screen.
The day that I booked the first night of lodging, an employee with the Baconao Company explained the features of comfort that the premises offered.
She also described the special attractions such as the 24-hour-a-day showing of videos and movies in the cabins, and the right to buy one case of beer daily during one’s stay, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant.
They also planned a special dinner on the last day of the year for everyone waiting for 12 o’clock midnight.
This detailed and helpful explanation helped to convince me that I’d made the best decision.
The day we arrived, while in the lobby paying for the rest of the nights that we planned to stay there, I asked about the price for the cable service, which got me the following response: “That service hasn’t been offered here for a long time.”
Without losing our composure, we bought our daily case of beer and headed to our apartment, where the attendant explained:
“The TVs don’t have any remote controls because the channels are determined from the office in the lobby. This is because there’s such bad reception on the individual TVs. So, if you want to see a certain program, you’ll need to ask the guard in the lobby. But you’ll have to walk over here to the main office because the phones to the rooms are still out of service.”
After just a few hours being in that place, three of the “amenities” initially offered ended up being unattainable.
Nonetheless, my good mood didn’t flag, and after a filling lunch, we went to relax on the Caribbean beach.
That evening, when we were ready for dinner, the server informed us that out of all the selections listed on the menu, “The only thing left if roast pork.”
I then asked her, “How is that possible if you just started serving dinner a few minutes ago.”
She replied, “We’ve been working like mad since lunch, which is why everything else is sold out.
“So why weren’t people in the cabins alerted of this,” I asked.
“Because that’s not my job, what I do is sell food,” she said.
I don’t even want to talk about the quality of food; I don’t want it to look like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I only want to mention that on three occasions we sent the plates back to the kitchen and on the last time the annoyed server said something like, “This is what’s left, and please don’t dilly-dally around, because we’re supposed to leave soon.”
The problem was that it was only 7:15, and the restaurant was supposed to be open until 10 p.m.
The rest of the days, we bought lunch and dinner at the same time to avoid running the risk of being left without anything to eat. The single cases of beer that were supposed to be offered daily in national pesos to each cabin then stopped coming. They could only be purchased in CUCs (hard currency).
On the 31st they didn’t serve dinner, and the next day there wasn’t any gas in the kitchen. We had to go to a paladar (a private restaurant). On our last day the pump broke, forcing us to carry water in buckets from the building across the street so that we could take baths.
As my dear readers will see, there’s nothing more naive than believing the ads and news in the media about our comfortable facilities for domestic tourism, meaning for working Cubans.
The paradox is that on the channel that the guard in the lobby chose, there was no shortage of programs with journalists featuring reports about the “quality and excellence of the services provided and which the Cuban people deserve!”
Ha, ha, haaa…