Why Some Tourists Won’t Repeat Their Trip to Cuba

By Fernando Ravsberg

The Comodoro Hotel
The Comodoro Hotel

HAVANA TIMES — This past weekend I was at the Comodoro Hotel in Havana’s Playa municipality, which was full of tourists.  However, the elevator didn’t work, the remote controls for the room TVs were “lost” and there wasn’t a drop of water to bathe or flush the toilet.

But when we sat down in the lobby bar a miracle occurred right out of a Garcia Marquez novel; there was a leak dripping right above us. We moved to another table since no one could define what the liquid was, considering that it couldn’t be water.

At the front desk they barely catered to the tourists arriving one after another to complain. “I cannot be everywhere at once,” said the manager who explained with a sadness that was pitiful: “I don’t have an operator, I either attend calls or attend to you.”

Finally he was able to attend to the tourists and started with a South American about 40 years old on the brink of despair because: “I arrived with a baby, I had to climb 4 floors flights of stairs carrying my bags and when I entered the room it was unmade and without water.”

These sad realities do not appear on the Cuban TV news in national newspapers and in the speeches from the Ministry of Tourism but they are what will determine that, after the boom for visiting Cuba, tourists return to the island or say “never again”.

42 thoughts on “Why Some Tourists Won’t Repeat Their Trip to Cuba

  • It is a good problem. They need demand to drive investment. They have a window of time to build fast enough to establish sustainable tourist sector that can replace assistance from Brazil, Venezuela and Angola that are drying up. They have a good start, they can make it work.

  • It’s not only a question about Cuba…. I have been to many countries where this can happen…. Run down hotels are run down hotels…. Maintenance in hotels can be big problems. If you compare a 3 star hotel with a 5 star, you will see the difference in the services but also in the price ! So if you want something better, pay for it even in Cuba !!!

  • Neither does Siboney where Fidel lives. But have you taken a walk around Alamar or Marianoa? Have you looked at places like Candelaria where there are no tourists? Have you visited a beach for Cubans such as Salados and seen the garbage stretching for kilometres? I live in Cuba – hence my very sporadic contributions to these pages, but I can assure you that a complete city can experience a 6-7 hour power cut. Water runs down the streets from the leaking municipal system. When hiring a car from CubaCar at Jose Marti Airport, we had to wait for over an hour because there was no water to wash it! Welcome to reality. The fifty eight hotels at Varadero do not represent Cuba or its conditions.

  • The Iberostar in Trinidad, rated by Trip Advisor as No. 1 in Cuba, charges $350 per night but includes breakfast. Supper is an additional $35 (buffet), giving a total of $385. A Cuban schoolteacher with 20 years experience and the addition of a Master’s Degree, receives $350 a year plus $41.20 for the Master’s Degree total $391.20. That follows fifty seven years of ‘socialismo’.

  • As one who got to know Cuba by travelling by Viazul staying in casa-particulars, learning Spanish and marrying a Cuban and subsequently making my home there, I have never used a guide. I have a very positive view about the people of Cuba and a deep admiration for their tenacity, I think the country is beautiful. However, having travelled the country literally from one end to the other – Roncali Lighthouse to Baracoa, living as a member of a Cuban family becoming a member of the community, watching the insidious methods of the Castro family communist regime, as my knowledge has increased, so has my opposition to dictatorship, to ‘socialismo’, to repression, to oppression such as parents being sentenced to up to three years in jail for teaching their own children in their own home that there are alternative political systems, to the CDR spying and reporting system I cannot remain silent when the innocent or ignorant spout off about the wonders of the Castros communist system. A tour guide will always try to keep his group happy and that’s good as long as the group doesn’t imagine that it is seeing real Cuba. Tour buses will travel along the Malecon, along 5th Avenue, visit El Morro and La Cabana without mentioning that that is where Dr. Ernesto Guevara Lynch executed some 357 people before going off on his first world tour in July 1959 They won’t take groups on a tour of La Lisa and Marianoa. President Obama was shown a hospital that is only for paying foreign visitors, not one of those used by the people. I could go on, but will let that suffice for the moment. Glad you enjoyed your visit! Come back again!

  • Have you read the Cuban Democracy Act? Mr. Graves is obviously writing in ignorance and it shows!

  • Wonderful country, wonderful people, hideous dictatorship! That’s Cuba!

  • Elevators are Chinese-made. No parts embargo there. The remotes were missing. That means they existed at some point. Again, no embargo issue there.

  • What does that have to do with my comment? Was my analysis incorrect? I made an observation with regard to the embargo. I did not praise, nor did I bash. I simply made a statement of fact. If you disagree please feel free to share your view. Ahora me entinde chica?

  • This is from Richard Graves:
    How is that related to the Embargo? Parts!!! and the decline in the infrastructure created by the Embargo Under the embargo, the U.S.tried to punish any country offering assistance.to Cuba. The Embargo covered more than just stopping U.S. from doing business with Cuba. The Embargo was created to destroy the economy of Cuba and encourage the Cuban people to revolt against the Government —- although it is lasting for more than 50 years – IT STILL DOESN’T WORK — AND NEVER WILL, NOW THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD IS WORKING WITH CUBA

  • See? Bashing, right-wing fanatic. The solution and the future are in the middle, no extremes, left nor right, entiende?

  • When you only talk about the bad and the ugly, it is bashing, lol

  • Some people go there looking only for rubbish/crap/trash.

  • People there are tough, they had no food, cable or other things. They are not too sensitive. Most animals are not considered pets

  • If you want a luxury beach holiday, there are much better places than Cuba. If you want a real beach holiday, Cuba has one. If you want a real experience, Cuba has that, too.
    It’s a bit rich of people to criticise a country that’s been financially cut off from the USA for decades for looking a bit threadbare. Yes, it does, but it’s people rise above their situation with dignity, and try hard to make visitors welcome. If you’re American and didn’t get such a warm reception, blame your government, not Cubans.
    The Cuban people I met in Havana were kind, sometimes because they wanted a little money but that’s OK; that’s what tourism is for.

  • Typical white wash of history. For the first 30 years of the Castro regime Cuba would not have been part of the western economies (embargo or no embargo) they were planed firmly in the Soviet orbit and relied upon the billions in yearly subsidies. What did they do with this money? Certainly they didn’t use it to help the Cuban people, as is evident in the current state of Cuban infrastructure. Instead they used it to export “revolution” and instability. Today you have numerous companies working in Cuba that are not effected by the embargo, including many hotels and port facilities like Mariel. The embargo my friend is also not responsible for lack of toilet paper, beer, meat, and milk. But all these problems do share a commonality…..incompetent soviet style central planning.

    ….and putting your words in all-caps does not make your argument any stronger.

  • The problem with the guided tours is that you get a sanitized version of Cuba. The only way to see the “real” Cuba is to get out on your own.

  • How is that related to the Embargo? Parts!!! and the decline in the infrastructure created by the Embargo Under the embargo, the U.S.tried to punish any country offering assistance.to Cuba. The Embargo covered more than just stopping U.S. from doing business with Cuba. The Embargo was created to destroy the economy of Cuba and encourage the Cuban people to revolt against the Government —- although it is lasting for more than 50 years – IT STILL DOESN’T WORK — AND NEVER WILL, NOW THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD IS WORKING WITH CUBA —

  • Do you? People with your attitude will never have anything positive to say about Cuba.

  • Carlos’s comments are not criticisms — they are just Cuba bashing.

  • Have you been to Varedero or other areas outside of Havana? I have been there three times last year and never experienced any of these problems.

  • There has been recent articles on that specific subject. There are Cubans that are addressing this matter and helping with the stray dog and cat problems.

  • Cuba is bracing for an influx of tourism and simply isn’t ready. You can’t expect things to be 100% perfect. One way to get the most out or your visit is to go on a guided tour – yes even though you can *technically* go on your own now. The guided tour companies that have been going for years have their ducks in a row, they know where to go, and they know the culture. It’s still the best way to experience Cuba – and you’ll have a better chance of leaving with a positive outlook…not full of complaints. Here’s a good mix of tour companies that operate in Cuba: http://www.stridetravel.com/tours/destinations/central-america-caribbean/cuba.html

  • I believe the problem has to do with the unexpected tourism increase, they are having trouble keeping up with the pace and forced to use hotels that are not in the best condition to service the business. I don’t believe, at this point, that the tourism infrastructure is ready to handle the amount of tourism business that sky rocketed this past year. Is Cuba the only country or Caribbean island that is suffering this problem. Finding accommodations this past season in Cuba was just about impossible and that includes airline seats. It is a problem, but doesn’t require any Cuba bashing. Try booking a hotel in NY during the hight of the season and i am sure if you get something — more than likely the standard is not going to be to your liking. When the destination is sold out things like this happen. I worked in the hotel business for many years in New York and Florida.

    I am not condoning what happened, but this is what happens when a destination is over sold. Cuba, has to slow down and catch up to the demand.

    On my last visit i met with a government group that is in charge of most of the hotels and marinas. In our conversation, they brought up that they would like to have u.S. hotel management companies manage their hotels and U.S. marina management companies manage their marinas.

  • Well, how about letting us know what you disagree with in these criticisms? Pointing out the flaws in the Cuba system is not “bashing”.. Although I will happily comp to being a Castro bashed. The more bashing, the better!

  • I would never return due to the horrific treatment of animals. ALL animals!

  • This is no surprise to me. Cuban people live their everyday life with bigger issues than just no water or no elevator, they go without food and basic necessities. It will take Cuba many many years to be able to handle tourism. Did people really think it was going to be great?? LOL

  • LOL – the waiters at the resorts have better cell phones than I have!

    and this year i had a cook (tending BBQ) take a (cell phone) call in the middle of serving me! 😮

  • Touristic capabilities in Cuba are rubbish. Period. No water in hotels, rubbish food, power cuts, streets full of crap.

  • You have no idea of what you are talking about.

  • …”best spoken” being a relative concept of course. It’s a shame that even the best educated Cuban has been brought down to the lowest common denominator, culturally speaking. Another failure of the Castro system.

  • elevator that didn’t work, lost remote controls for the room TVs and no water to bathe or flush the toilet…..how is that related to the embargo? Sounds like ineptitude to me.

  • Cuba bashing is alive and well in Havana Times, enjoy.

  • That sounds good but I prefer to receive real value for my vacation dollars.

  • WTF does the embargo have to do with a broken elevator or a missing remote? Do you actually read the articles or just cut and paste your comments.

  • Excellent advice when you have paid hundreds of dollars per night for your hotel room.

  • Travel without expectation; embrace what you find. Busque la serendipia!

  • The EMBARGO at work. Stop bullying Cuba!!

  • Hey, I thought that the tourism promotors were urging folks to visit before Cuba suffers irrevocable change? Elevator didn’t work, remotes were missing, no water in the bathroom for washing or for the toilet, leaking ceiling, beds unmade. There is plenty of water running down the streets, why complain? It’s taken fifty seven years of socialismo to achieve these standards and given another fifty seven and its possible that either the hotel door won’t open or more probably it will have fallen off. Es Cuba!

  • One more point: A large number of Cubans who work in tourism have a air of superiority. It comes from the fact that within Cuba, Cubans who work in tourism are among the best paid and likely the best-looking, most well-spoken within their social circle. As a result, they bring their inflated egos to work with them. Only in Cuba does a woman who works in the housekeeping department at the Hotel Nacional command the respect of a queen on the street.

  • Agree completely… about 50% has a loveley time and the other half wants to run away and never return… Mentality and preparation account for much of the difference!

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