As fiercely independent travellers, we prefer the beaten track. We like the quiet, the lesser known places and being in the wilderness. This year, however, we did something completely out of character and went to an all inclusive resort in Cuba for a week. Let me explain.
A long awaited visit
Cuba has long been on both of our travel wishlists. JR had visited as a child but desperately wanted to go back, having fond memories of his time in the country. Me? I wanted to see Havana, the white sand beaches and experience some Latin America culture. Things in Cuba are changing; the ease between diplomatic relations with the US is likely to have a huge impact on tourism in the coming years. We wanted to see Cuba before things started to change dramatically.
An amazing last minute deal
We quickly saw one major problem during research in early 2015. Flights to Cuba (Havana or otherwise) from Canada’s West Coast were almost 90-95% of the cost of a week in a resort hotel. I was truly shocked. Never before have I seen prices for independent travel be so comparatively high next to the package (organised) alternative. So we put it to the back of our minds. For a little while.
Fast-forward to the first week of April. Talking about our failed Cuba trip with a friend in Vancouver (who had actually got married in Cuba), I had the idea to just ‘double check’ whether there were any last minute deals. The prices for a week in a resort were around half the cost that we had seen a few months earlier. Flight prices had remained steady. Though not our usual style of travel, we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go. Leaving just four days later, we were on our way to Cuba and about the to enter the world of organised travel for the very first time!
beach resort life
It was definitely different. For starters, it was a most peculiar feeling to have to wait at the airport for other people before we could actually leave. And needless to say, what with arriving at our resort at the awkward time of 4am, our first 24 hours or so in Cuba were pretty disorienting. But it didn’t really matter. We had sunshine (especially wonderful after spending the winter in the ‘almost’ sub-Arctic), a gorgeous beach, stunning blue water and unlimited drinks on tap. A different sort of holiday, but most definitely a fun one!
trying to experience the real cuba
As well as enjoying the facilities at our resort, we also took a bit of time to try and experience more of Cuba. As it turns out, however, guided tours are not really our thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad we went, but portions of the tours were exceptionally frustrating.
Our long day trip to Havana included very little time actually seeing the city itself; rather, it mostly felt like we were simply being shuttled between bar to restaurant to museum, only seeing the real sights (well, real to me) from the coach window. Again, fun, but not our preference for really seeing a place.
But that’s OK. We paid a super cheap rate for an all-inclusive resort trip to a destination we had both been longing to visit and it was a wonderfully relaxing experience. The lack of control brought a different sense of peace that I haven’t felt while travelling independently. We had absolutely nothing to plan or think about in the resort besides when to go for lunch or which beach to head to in the afternoon. A week was just enough time to enjoy that feeling before it would have become too controlling I think!
We will return to Cuba to travel independently one day, but for now, this was a great ‘taster’ of Central America and the Caribbean. It may have been a little ‘safe’ and lacked the immersive experience we are used to when travelling, but it was pretty fun nonetheless!