Sitting in the Lobby of Havana’s Hotel Cohiba.

Irina Pino

In the Melia Cohiba

HAVANA TIMES — I had just bought some things at Havana’s Galerias Paseo shopping mall and, thinking I could use a break and some air conditioning to replenish my energies, decided to sit at the lobby of the Hotel Cohiba across the street.

The sliding glass doors opened and I went in like any tourist would. I made out a comfortable sofa where I could sit and give my legs a rest. I’d been running errands the whole day and and my skin was covered by an uncomfortable film of sweat. I hate this hot weather.

I looked at the foreigners, coming and going. Many who were sitting had their cell phones or laptops in front of them, and you could tell they were either navigating through the Internet or trying to do so. Everyone was immersed in their own affairs.

A cleaning lady emptied the ashtrays full of cigarette butts. Another, further away, mopped the floors. They are almost always dark-skinned – that never fails – a curious detail that brings to mind the employees of other hotels.

Suddenly, I had the urge to pee. I had drunk a pop and glass of water. So I looked for a bathroom to relieve myself. I walked around some, and the only bathroom I came upon was locked. I thought that, if a foreigner who wanted to use the bathroom came in from the street, they would have to go all the way up to their room. I decided to return to the sofa I’d been sitting on and to continue reflecting upon my respite there.

At the reception desk, they were addressing a number of guests with extreme courtesy. The receptionists were speaking in a low tone of voice and didn’t gesticulate once. From where I was sitting, I was also able to make out a small bar, with only one patron inside.

People carrying luggage would arrive while others would go out in search of a taxi, to leave the hotel.

For a moment, I struggled to get a daydream going: I’d arrive at this place and they’d greet me with respect, as one should any human being. I would check in at the counter, sit down and connect to the Internet just as easily and naturally. Then, in my room, I would take a hot shower, call room service or come down to eat at the buffet.

It’s true that, in order to make a dream like that come true, one has to work very hard and save a lot of money. I know of two or three people who have managed to make reservations at a hotel, but these have been terrible, two-star dives, where the Cuban-styled treatment has made their stay similar to one at a campsite, where the food has been poorly prepared and conditions have been generally awful. All of those services are part of an “all-inclusive” package, a publicity stunt that seduces and deceives many.

I suppose that is not an adventure, that the true adventure is the one before my eyes.

Finally, I got up and left. The sliding glass doors opened once again. I started heading home. On the way, I could only think about one thing: that I had to hold in the urge to pee.

6 thoughts on “Sitting in the Lobby of Havana’s Hotel Cohiba.

  • I was staying at the Hotel Cahiba (one night), and I had to use the public restroom. I found it to be unlocked. I guess I was lucky that night.

  • I agree Ramon

  • Hi Irina this just breaks my heart. I have stayed in similar hotels and you know what every time I go to Havana I would rather stay with a family than surround myself in a fake bubble which is the Cohiba. Please don’t worry one day you will be staying there and you will see it’s not what it is made up to be. I wish we could swap lives for a year.

  • I beg to differ Moses. The Melia Cohiba is a cut above ‘average’. I see no benefit to creating the conditions of unhappiness Think about it…we are never satisfied, none of us.

  • Hello Irina,

    I had my own “virgin” visit of a 5 stars hotel, in my city in China, 25 years ago. I remember it was the first 5 stars every opened, called – Crystal Palace. It was such an awkward experience, especially with the video camera brought by my uncle, to whom, the motivation of recording it on a v-cam was probably to brag about it, among friends.

    We did not realized how awkward we looked, until we review the video tape, as my mom put it “…like we suddenly forgot where we put our hands…”. It was such a embarrassing but fun moment!

    One thing has changed for better, thought, 25 years later, was that Chinese are no longer treated as 2nd class in their own country. Back than, no staff would ever talk to us in a 5 stars hotel. Now they treat you just as respectfully as those “foreigners”. So I totally get how you feel, siting in that lobby that dedicated to foreigners and the fact that the washroom was locked up. Which is so disrespectful, in my opinion.

    Keep your dream going, it might soon, come true 🙂

  • The Melia Cohiba is an ‘average’ hotel. I can only imagine what Irina would think if she visited the Four Seasons Hotel here in San Francisco or the King George V in Paris or the Helmsley Palace in New York or any number of truly top shelf hotels in the world. When my wife visited the Four Seasons here in San Francisco for the first time after arriving from Cuba she was blown away. She was meeting friends for Sunday Brunch and afterwards shared with me how amazing the service was and how ‘rich’ they made her feel even if it was only for a few hours.

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