.......And another trip report
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Nov 8, 2012 6:37 PM Last Post By: chefhagan
Nov 5, 2012 3:51 PM
.......And another trip reportI just returned from my 4th (or is it 5th?) trip to Cuba this year. I am a US citizen who lives in Guatemala but I have a US passport.
I flew TACA with ff miles from GUA-SJO-HAV and returned HAV-SAL-GUA. TACA sells TCs at your departure gate for $15.
I will have to break this report into two parts; one will be my normal report in which I just note any differences I've seen since last trip and check on some questions that are brought up on the forum and the other will be my direct experiences with "Sandy" since I was on the last flight to Santiago so to speak.
I flew into Terminal 3 going VIP as usual and broke my own personnel record. From the time I walked off the plane to the time I was sipping my first Crystal in the VIP lounge was 6 minutes.
No insurance was asked for or purchased.
The exchange rates, which still perplex me, seemed the same and again I was told that AMEX TCs were changed at about 94 CUCs per $100.
The upper level ATM was down but the lower level one was working and for the 2nd time only had 50 CUC bills. I loaded up anyway.
The taxi to Terminal 1 for national flights was 5 CUCs.
Security is tighter going on national flights for whatever reason but once they realized I was Brad Pitt in disguise all was well (mind you I was carrying a 4 foot high stuffed Teddy Bear and felt like the fool I am).
The flight to Holguin-Santiago was packed! I only saw about 4-5 yumas on the flight.
I got off in Holguin and took a taxi to the Hotel Pernik for 10 CUCs and by that time I'd had a few and did not care if it was the "right" price.
The Pernik is one of the better (if that word can be used) of the Cuban chain hotels. Rooms are spartan but ample, phlegmatic a/c unit, decent bath with hot water and a hose shower from some Chinese version of hell (also typical for Cuba). Nice bar, good pool and at 17 CUCs with breakfast what do you want?
I rented a car from REX for $85 a day (with insurance and no drop off charge) and went to Las Tunas and then Camaguey.
I stayed, as usual, at the Hotel Gran Camaguey but I did discover that I have been staying in one of the 4 suites (I always tip hotel receptionists) which is excellent. But I peeked into the other rooms and they are small and some have no windows.
I went to Oxio and found it a bit dingy for my tastes but maybe it is better at night. I asked and walked around and still only found two working computers at Ectecsa. 3 CUCs for half an hour. I also went to the best paladar I have ever been to in Cuba. Oh my!
Due to Sandy a six hour drive to Havana turned into 3 days. I stopped in Mantanzas which along with nearby Playa is very underrated IMO.
I met a poster in Havana and went to my usual penthouse wet and worn.
Customs entering and leaving has not changed at all as far as I could tell.
Cubans who have passports that were issued within the last 2 years can have them reviewed locally starting January 1st. New passports are now 250 CUCs up from 50 CUCs before the new law was announced. Now that there has been more information put out and various "mesas redondas", people realize it will not make much difference so the original excitement has died down.
I saw no yumas in Holguin, a few "old dogs" in Las Tunas and 30-40 in Camaguey. What amazed me was the number I saw in Santa Clara. I dump of a town IMO but maybe Che lives on.
Havana, as usual, was full of tourists with guide books in hand, ordering mojitos and riding around on that ridiculous (to me) bus with no top.
The malecon was closed and I could watch the waves break over it from my penthouse.
I'll be back in December.
Part Dos to follow.
Nov 5, 2012 5:01 PM
1Thanks chef. You could almost be an honorary Australian but for choosing Cristal over Bucanero :-)
And interesting news about the Cuban passports old/new. 250 CUC is a hell of a lot of money and a hell of a lot more than 50 CUC. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose for sure.
Nov 5, 2012 5:13 PM
2Hey Jen that's a very big statement re Hon. Oz - do I get a vote?
Thanks Chef - look forward to part 2.
Coincidentally we watched one of those Mesas Redondas this am to help out a Cuban here who is on a PVE. You won't be surprised to hear that some of the things the official experts were saying were at variance to what the actual regulation says.
ps what floors are the suites on at the Gran?
pps - 85CUC - what happened to Carlos's 5 CUCday car option? Sorry just kidding.
Nov 5, 2012 6:09 PM
3Thanks Jen. You had to figure they were going to make up for the $150 they lost by eliminating the LOI. The good news is that recent passports recipients can just have a "reviewed" stamp done locally (unless there are problems) and not have to wait the rumored 3-6 months for new applicants.
John, "my" room is #301 and the one above it is #401. There are two more on the other end but I don't remember the numbers. I had the numbers for Carlos but failed to call him. The good thing about REX is although a bit more expensive (they do not rent economy cars), you can rent a car for a day with no drop off charge. So four people could drive from Havana to Camaguey in a day and pay $85 plus gas. Cheaper than Viazul.
Nov 5, 2012 6:27 PM
Nov 5, 2012 11:21 PM
Nov 6, 2012 4:46 AM
6Old passport price was 55 CUC, not 50 CUC.
Everything I've seen online about new passport price is that it will be 100 CUC, not 250. Where and from whom did you get the 250 CUC figure?
Not needling - genuinely interested. (especially because it's so often foreign inviters who end up paying the whole cost of a Cuban's travel paperwork.)
Nov 6, 2012 11:56 AM
Nov 6, 2012 4:15 PM
8#6, That information came from the immigration office in Camaguey. That is also were I paid 50 CUCs for a passport last year but there was a charge (maybe 5 CUCs) for sending it to and from Havana.
Nov 8, 2012 5:23 PM
9Chef forgot to ask you about this "I also went to the best paladar I have ever been to in Cuba. Oh my!"
Where/name etc please!
Nov 8, 2012 5:59 PM
Nov 8, 2012 6:08 PM
Nov 8, 2012 6:16 PM
12No, it's out by the disco on a side street (surprise). Cowboy theme with gals wearing sombreros, saddles on the wall, etc. I don't know if we just hit it on a great day but wow! 4-8 CUC for more than anyone could eat. N had chicken cordon bleu and was able to take a doggy bag that fed her, mom, crazy tia and the dog.
Nov 8, 2012 6:27 PM
13Ah you can take the boy out of America but you can't take the American out of the boy - big meals are good LOL!
I assume it is quite new Chef. Was there a mechanical bull as well?
Nov 8, 2012 6:37 PM
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