Jenny Jones review 22 Oct 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
We’d never done a guided tour before and normally organise everything ourselves, it was definitely nice to have someone else handle all the travel in-
between locations. It was great to see so much of Cuba and have many of the little details already taken care of for you. All of the Casa Particulares that we
stayed in were lovely and our hosts were all incredibly friendly. We particularly loved going snorkelling in the Bay of Pigs and Trinidad was a beautiful and
relaxing town to explore. Our guide also took us to a nightclub in a cave while we were in Trinidad which was so much fun!
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
One thing that future travelers should be aware of is that pretty much all of the restaurants that we were taken to with our group were a bit pricy, it would
have been nice to have had a range of different restaurant tiers instead of just going to the expensive ones. We definitely found that when eating on our
own the prices seemed to be around 30-40% cheaper even though we were still going to really nice looking restaurants with delicious food. I think in some
places we may have been paying a higher price because the guide was getting all his meals for free, so maybe that was being included in the price of
everyone else’s meals. There were also times when we were driving that we’d stop in the middle of nowhere for lunch and the guide would ask if we wanted
to eat there as the price was really cheap and only 5 CUC per dish but then when we’d sit down to eat the price was actually double that. Of course once
you’ve actually sat down at the table with the group you don’t really feel like you can say no to the price.
Also, optional activities seemed to be pricier when organised through the guide then when organised by yourself. So I’d definitely recommend that you do
research before you go on the tour so that you know what’s available in each place you go to and can then arrange for things like taxis on your own instead
of asking the guide to do it for you.
When we were in Trinidad we were told by the guide that we could have a salsa lesson either in Trinidad or Vinales but that Vinales would be the better
place to do it. When we got to Vinales we were told that the salsa lesson was an optional activity and not included as part of the tour. I was pretty sure that
when I’d looked at all the included activities that it was included but unfortunately I hadn’t brought a printed list with me so thought that maybe I was just
mistaken. When I got home and checked I was annoyed to find out that I had been correct and that it was an included activity. So I’m not very happy that I
had to pay an additional 20 CUC for the salsa lesson considering that we’d already paid for it as part of the tour.
As I mentioned above, I’ve never had a guided tour before so maybe I’m just being a bit naïve about this but I thought that our guide would do more to help
protect us from people trying to scam us. We did a walking tour of Trinidad and our guide took us past a restaurant and told us that it was really nice in
there and that it was only 8 CUC per dish. In the evening our group went out dancing and drinking and decided to go get some food together. We went to
the same restaurant that we’d walked past earlier, our guide translated what the waiter was saying and told us about an ‘amazing deal’ that they could do for
us that night which would only cost 15 CUC per person. One of the ladies in our group pointed out that earlier the guide had said it was 8 CUC for any dish so
why had it suddenly doubled. The guide grinned and then said something like “argh, you’ve got a good memory!”, the price then suddenly dropped back
down to 8 CUC…
Also I noticed on the tour operators website that bottled water was supposed to be offered on car journeys between destinations longer than two hours and
also an internet access card. We weren’t offered any of these things and brought our own throughout the trip. While these weren’t big expenses it’s not
quite what the tour promised.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Cuba seems to have quite a big tipping culture so I would definitely say that it benefited local people. I doubt that the trip had any positive environmental
impacts or helped to support conservation.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
In hindsight I wish that we’d done the 8-day tour instead of the 10-day one as I don’t feel that the additional 2 days offer very good value for money. There
are only 2 additional activities included on those two days, a tour of a cigar factory and a rum factory. You can do both of these activities within a few hours
so you could easily do them during the free time you get on the 8-day tour. I don’t think it helped that everyone else in our group was only doing the 8-day
tour so we were on our own at the end. Also, the guide stopped meeting up with us at our Casa on our last couple of days there, and we had to walk into the
center of Havana to meet up with him. This felt quite different to the first 8 days of the tour and so it felt like the tour was a little less personal.
Overall, I’m glad that we did an organised tour as we got to see lots of Cuba and it made getting around really easy. We saw some pretty amazing things,
like when our guide took us to a nightclub in a cave when we were in Trinidad. But at the same time there were some issues like restaurant prices being
higher when we were with the guide, I’m also not happy that we had to pay twice for the salsa lesson and so would recommend that people keep an eye on
prices and keep a list with them of what should be included on their tour.
Read the operator's response here:
Thank you for submitting your feedback for your recent group tour. As one of the managers of our operation in Cuba I really appreciate these detailed comments, as feedback (including contructive feedback) is in fact a great help to us to improve our services. It is the number
one way we monitor the quality of our services and is critical in helping our guides to continually improve.
Firstly I am happy to hear that you enjoyed your time on tour, including your accommodations and the activities included. I is also great to hear that you don't regret taking a guided tour as you got to see lots of Cuba and it made things really easy for you.
I would like to re-enforce that our guides are not permitted to take commission from any of the restaurants they take our clients to (or from any activity or transportation provider). We are sorry to hear that you found some of the guides restaurant choices to be on the expensive side. We ask our guides to select a variety of restaurants to take our clients to that showcase Cuba's burgeoning private restaurant sector. As we do not include many lunches or dinners as part of the tour, we give our clients the flexibility to follow their guides recommendations or they can choose to eat elsewhere. We will use this feedback to inform
our guides that they should offer our group tour clients a number of restaurant recommendations depending on their budget.
With regards to the inclusions on the tour, you should not have been asked to pay for the salsa lesson in Vinales if you hadn't taken the complimentary lesson in Trinidad. We include 1 x complimentary salsa lesson as part of our group tours and this can be taken at a location that is convenient to you. We have contacted you by email to apologise for this and processed a refund for this portion of the tour.
Including water for our clients (and the internet access card) is a relatively new initiative for our group tours, and we are very sorry these elements were not provided as promised. We have again contacted you by email to offer an apology and refund.
We wish you all the best for 2018 and beyond.