2 independent reviews for Discover Cuba tailor made vacations

Reviews for Discover Cuba tailor made vacations

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review 7 Sep 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Cuba is a fascinating and beautiful country - from the crumbling glory of Havana to the stunning countryside of Vinales this is an incredible place. Its unique history and culture add additional layers of interest and complexity typically not found elsewhere. However, in many ways the most memorable part of the trip - that will stay with us the longest - is the people of Cuba. Ingenious, inventive and entrepreneurial; they somehow manage to keep the whole place working.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Challenge yourself! Travel around, stay in a homestay, experience as much of this diverse place as you can. Don't stop at Havana and the beach. Don't expect a slickly organised, smooth vacation. Things are different here. The plan rarely survives the reality on the ground and time is a relative concept - a Cuban 5 minutes is not the same... But, don't get distracted or irritated by this. Take it easy, you might not always end up doing what the itinerary says you should be doing but it will all work out in the end. You'll probably end up doing something even more fascinating. Machismo is alive and well in Cuba, especially Havana. Women should be prepared for the fact that they might attract the interest of some of the local men, who are not afraid to call out, whistle or approach women they find attractive. We found that a polite but firm response, or simply ignoring them generally did the trick but travelers who are unused to this might be made to feel a little uncomfortable, especially outside the busier tourist areas. If you are interested to scratch the surface of the history and culture of Cuba it would pay to do a little reading before you visit if you're not already familiar with the history of the revolution etc. Most of the historical sites and museums have little or no information in languages other than Spanish. You can still figure most things out for yourself but some background reading or a little Spanish will make it easier. Knock off a star rating or two on accommodation. This will give you a more realistic expectation of facilities etc. in hotels. Public transport is scarce and unreliable due to the poor infrastructure. Plan in advance if you can! And when it goes wrong (and it will) - see the second comment above. There are a few banks with ATM's you can use in the larger cities. More common are currency exchange offices or most larger hotels will change currencies. If you take cash with you, Euros or Canadian Dollars are best. You can also exchange US Dollars but there is a large fee... Internet / wifi is scarce, expensive and unreliable. Be prepared to be off the grid.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Almost everything in Cuba is owned by the Government or local private owners, so most of the money you spend stays in the country. There are a few internationally owned all inclusive resorts, especially around Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria. Given the economic and political context of Cuba, there are real environmental challenges that are not high on the agenda of most Cubans. However, there are increasing efforts in educating people about the environment. The re-forestation project at Las Terrazas is fascinating and beautiful and a visit there certainly contributes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A mind opening experience. Beautiful place, beautiful people and a fascinating and unique history. If you don't learn a few lessons in humility from the Cubans you probably weren't paying attention!

review 15 Nov 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

We really enjoyed Havana - what an incredible city. Perfect for exploring on foot and packed with friendly interesting people.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Try and book the trip yourself rather than using a tour operator. The company we went through booked through a local agent who outsourced everything to another local agent so it was one mess up after the next with no real way to get in touch with anyone who could help. Three lots of travel agents all taking their commission also meant out trip was really bad value for money.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely not. There was nothing on this trip that was socially or environmentally responsible. Not sure what these companies are doing on Responsible Travel and made me question how they are being selected.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Disappointing. We won't be back unfortunately despite good experiences booking with Responsible Travel previously.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you very much for taking the time to send us your comments, and we appreciate the detailed feedback you've sent us via email too as this will enable us to improve our services going forward. We do wish you'd be in touch from Cuba so that we could have rectified things during your trip, but we can only apologise that you encountered any issues. We are really disappointed to receive this negative feedback, and we are in the process of evaluating our services in Cuba as this isn't the typical services we offer and we usually have great feedback for our trips. The complexity with Cuba is that legally we have to book transfers, cars and guides via an approved government agency, so we don't have the same level of control in Cuba than we have when operating trips in other countries. To ensure a more effective service, we use an approved ground operator to assist with the logistics. I am very disappointed to hear that they have not fulfilled their role satisfactorily this time. It appears that in this particular instance they assigned a third party guide (without our knowledge) who frankly appears to have been inadequate so you did not receive our typical services. This is obviously completely unacceptable and we are taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again. Usually we take customers on local cycle routes where you get to see an off-the-beaten track side to Cuba, and we use local casas to provide an authentic experience where you get to stay with locals, eat meals with them and learn more about the Cuban way of life while contributing directly to local families. We are very sorry that you didn't get to enjoy the best of Cuban culture on your trip, and are taking steps to monitor the local guides and casas selected to ensure we don't have similar issues in future. Thank you again for your valued feedback. We do hope that you enjoyed visiting Cuba in spite of the issues encountered.

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