Friday, April 27, 2007

Cuba Serves Tourist Minors Alcohol

Gaviota Playa Coco Tina ~ Kent UK
September 2006

Hello we have just returned from what we can only describe as a holiday from hell. We were so looking forward to our first visit to Cuba and even more excited that we were going to the Cayo’s. We had seen several reviews on here and other review sites about the Gaviota Playa Coco, but we decided to be open minded. We truly wish we had gone with our gut feeling.

Upon arrival in Cuba from the UK, we were greeted at Jardines del Rey airport by some very intimidating soldiers who seem to get great pleasure out of making us stand in the cubicle for what seemed like an eternity while they just stared back at forth at us and our passports for some 20 minutes. We then journeyed on our way the short distance to the GPC. On arrival we were greeted by dancers and musicians and handed a plastic cup which was supposed to contain fruit slush, but either it hadn’t had time to freeze or it had melted but either way it was watery and luke warm. Check-in was rather swift and we were given a map that we could make head nor tail of. We then ventured off to find our block, heading in every direction but the right one.

As we walked around the resort we noticed how littered it was with bins overflowing and plastic cups and straws every where. We also noticed how worn and tired the resort looked considering it was only 2 years old. After some 15 minutes we found out block. The blocks are not numbered but painted in bright colours. There are 9 blocks each has 3 floors. We were in block 9 on the 3rd floor. On our way to the block we noticed lots of frogs on the footpaths and in the grass, as we entered our block we saw a young Canadian boy run into the block carrying a 2ft snake. This startled us somewhat to say the least. But we were tired and made our way to our room. As we entered the room it was as it was depicted in the brochure except the curtains were hanging on by 5 hooks at the most. There was an awful smell in the room which I can only describe as rotting cabbage. But the room was spacious and the view of the sea was amazing. The fridge was contained two cans of soft drink and a bottle of water. There was also a coffee maker in the room but the coffee was disgusting and there was no milk. The only thing that was restocked daily was the water. Also note there is no ice in the rooms. We then waited some 2 hours for the bell boy to bring our baggage. When they eventually arrived they were insistent that they carry the luggage up, so as to get their tip we presume.

After getting our cases we decided to have a proper look around the resort. We headed for the beach as this was the main reason we go to the Caribbean. We love the crystal clear waters and white sands. On our way to the beach we noticed an awful lot of water around the grounds, the grass and plant beds were bogged out with water. Leading us to assume they had, had a heavy downpour of rain. We later learned it was nothing to do with rain but more to do with the poor drainage and the leaking blocks. We passed through the beach bar and restaurant on our way to the beach and were shocked to find a stray cat sitting in there. During our stay in became apparent that this cat was not so much a stray but more adopted by the hotel. I don’t know what we were expecting but when we saw the beach we were a little disappointed. The sand was very narrow, and the beach was very dirty with over flowing bins and rubbish strewed around. We then made our way to the main buffet and decided to sample the food. Again noticing the frogs along the way.

We found the buffet and when went in there was no one there to greet you, it was more like a canteen than a buffet restaurant. It has two sections smoking and non smoking, but the only thing separating the two was the food island in the centre. There were no restroom facilities in the restaurant. We also noticed there were no fans or air conditioning. We sampled the food which wasn’t very appetizing and then heading back to our room to unpack. It had been a long day and we had been up some 20 hours.

We traveled with our 11 year old daughter and took her 12 year old best friend with us. We had booked two rooms but the rooms were not interconnecting so they ended up sleeping in our room. The following morning we work early and headed off to breakfast. It was a gorgeous hot day and we were all anxious to work on our tans. The buffet was not busy as it was only 7:30am. There was bread of all descriptions in abundance as you entered but no butter. For the duration of our stay they frequently ran out of black tea and butter. There was a Panini press at the other corner which later broke and was replaced by a toaster which in turn broke after catching fire. There was a man making pancakes and waffles but only one of his pancake grills was worked. There was a omelets man, its best to watch this as often the egg is not cooked before they put it on your plate. Then on the food island you had the usual foods, cereal, yoghurt (which was very very sour) meats and cheese, salad and bacon, sausages, fruit and juices. Frequently they ran out of orange juice but continued to label up mango juice as orange juice. We usually opted for toast or pancakes as they were probably the most appetizing food for us. Its also fair to note that flies are in abundance in the restaurant and its not unusual to see the odd frog or two. We then left the buffet and headed to our welcome meeting, all the while taking everything in.

We had been at the resort less than 24 hours and already I wanted to leave. It wasn’t the 4* AI resort that we had booked or paid for. It was more like a 2-3* and we were even more shocked to see that Gaviota have it advertised as a 4* plus above the reception. Our meeting was interesting and our rep from Thomas Cook told us that we might suffer from travellers tummy and that to consider very carefully before we went to the doctors as it would hurt both our bottoms by way of injection and our pockets by way of cost.

We left the meeting and heading to the beach. We couldn’t wait to step into the turquoise waters which were breathtaking to view. The beach was fairly quiet and there were lots of beds available. We found a nice spot close to the beach and headed straight for the sea. One step into the water had us reeling. It was full of coral. When you waded your way past the coral it was lovely and came to waist level. There were plenty of fish to be seen and several jelly fish too. We went for a walk along the beach but headed back as there was a lot of swamps along the way and they didn’t smell too pleasant.

Later in the afternoon we ate at the beach restaurant/bbq its wise to note that the food for the bbq is pre-cooked and re-heated when you order. The food in the restaurant is the same food everyday. After 5 hours at the beach we headed back to the room and for a shower. The we went for dinner in the main buffet. Again this is very similar by way of the same foods everyday. On entering you have the bread section, there is a dessert bar, where they man cooks flambé bananas, also a selection of cakes and ice creams. Then there is the fish stand where the chef cooks, shrimp, calamari, baby octopus and muscles. There is a man cooking chicken. Beef and pork, with peppers and onions if you chose to have them. Take note by 8pm they have usually run out of chicken and beef. The centre island usually has fruit, salad, cold meats, cheese and potatoes and ready cooked stews etc. there is a pizza, burger and fries area and there is also ready cooked fish, rice and chicken. To the far left of the restaurant there is a pasta man. Please note they think nothing of cooking all the sauces in the same pans, be in the carbonara or the tomato sauce. The restaurant is very dimly lit too. They are also a little slow at clearing the tables and bringing you drinks.

After our meal we chose to go to the lobby bar before going to the show. I waited some 15 minutes or more at the bar. My husband came over to see why I was so long and I was surprised to find him being served immediately. It seems the Cubans see woman as a lower class to men. There were no fans or AC in the lobby area as it was open planned. It got very stuffy in there of an evening.

We then went to watch the show. This was in an open air auditorium. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea with all the mosquito’s that were around. We first watched the children’s bit and it seemed to be made up as it went along. The adults show was very predictable. Once you have seen one you have seen them all. The one thing about it was , that it was well choreographed. There was no audience participation at all throughout our stay.

By the following morning I had already my mind up that I wanted to change hotels. We were told the resort was on a nature reserve but we weren’t told there was a mangrove swamp next door or two huge lakes either side. Nor were we told that a new hotel development was being built next door. Not that it gave us any bother other than being an eyesore. I went to see our rep who told us it would cost us £1200 to move to another 4* resort in Cayo Guillermo but she insisted the GPC was the best hotel by way of food , she also told us to bear in mind that Cuba was a communist country and didn’t have trade embargos so it was inevitable that things would run out. With all this in mind and a hefty transfer fee we decided to give it a fair go. By day 3 my husband had come down with diarrhea and severe stomach cramps, by day 4 both the children had too and then on day 5 I came down with it. Enough was enough he said and we then paid £650 to transfer hotels. This whole experience has put us off ever returning to Cuba. I saw a doctor at the other hotel and she gave me a full examination and then put me on a 5 day course of antibiotics and Imodium. After arriving at the new hotel we were approached by other guests who informed us they too had been transferred from the GPC but at Thomas Cooks expense. They had also been moved for the same reasons that we had initially complained out. Needless to say we are now liaising with the travel company for compensation. In total that week we learned that over 20 people had moved. We also met many people at the GPC who couldn’t afford to move and who too had become unwell.

In brief
Hotel Cleanliness: Not up to par, bins often over flowing. Toilets not cleaned on a regular basis. In fact its fair to say you will rarely see anyone cleaning what so ever. We frequently caught the maid watching TV in our room.

Grounds & Gardens: Barren and water logged. Very little vegetation and certainly no flowers.

Insects & Bugs: In abundance. Flies of every variety, sand fleas, and mosquito’s that give the biggest bites I’ve ever had! Many people were privy to unusual amounts of bites but couldn’t work out if it was the mosquito’s or bed bugs? Saw cockroaches and scorpions. Loads of frogs and toads on resort and snakes of many colours and sizes. Husband also saw the biggest spider he had ever seen in his life that wasn’t in a reptile house.

Rooms: Spacious but basic. They do the job. AC not always working and when it does it is noisy. Nor do cd players. Lovely sea view if you are fortunate to get block 9 or 2. Bedding isn’t changed often enough in my opinion.

Food: Same food on a regular basis. Long queues at the pasta bar and pancake man. Food was not always cooked through. A la carte restaurants were ok but we felt hurried and rushed to eat as they wanted us out before the next sitting.

Entertainment: Boring and repetitive. Discos was filled with teenagers. Only one bar in evening and was usually very busy we usually ended up going back to our room and watching a movie.

Beach: The beach was beautiful to view but the coral was in abundance and was often off putting. There are pedlos and kayaks available to use for an hour every day. I didn’t really care for either of these. If you are going to use one its probably best to use it before the afternoon as the sea is calmer in the morning. We did notice they had a tide. Which would go out mid afternoon this made it easier to see the coral and to step safely into the water. There was usually a lot of sea grass and debris by mid afternoon when the tide came back in. and the see then became a lot rougher.

Tipping: We would normally tip if we felt we had received good service. In this hotel we felt you only got good service if you tipped beforehand. We felt the staff expected a tip regardless.

Service: We found this to be rather poor. As a woman I would often be ignored at the bars and when they did serve me I felt intimidated. The staff in the shop were rude and often changed the prices to suit themselves. The waiting staff were usually slow in clearing tables and bringing drinks. We also found many of them to be rude and ignorant when you approached them. We reported our AC out of order and waited 3 days for it to be fixed, however it wasn’t fixed and we changed hotels the next day so it didn’t really matter. We also reported out cd player not working on arrival it still didn’t work when we checked out.

Resort Overall: Grounds are dirty and smell of sewage. The rest rooms are very dirty and the cubicle doors are very small. The worst rest rooms are by the quiet pool. You can barely get in to the cubicle let alone close the door. The grounds are littered and not maintained.

Lots of black market selling by the staff who will frequently ask you to come see their cigars. Also note if you have children in your party that they will be offered alcohol by the bar staff. Regardless if they are wearing a minors wristband. Our daughters friend who we took with us and is 12 years old was asked if she wanted rum in her pina colada. Needless to say she declined. We witnessed several teenagers clearly wearing minors wristbands, being served alcohol.

Its good advice to change money up at the bank not the reception. Also note the hotel has 3 pc's but only 1 worked for the duration of our stay. Neither did the Jacuzzi at the quiet pool.

The excursions are very expensive as there is no competition and everything is arranged by the Cuban tourist board. A day in Havana for 2 adults and children would set us back £500 and take note that children under 18 cannot go to the Tropicana show.

Note that there is an abundance of bugs and flies and you cannot escape the frogs they are everywhere.

As I have mentioned before we will not be returning to the Kayo’s let alone Cuba and we certainly wouldn’t recommend the island or hotel to others.

Although we didn’t enjoy our stay in Cuba we did take some lovely pictures at both Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo which you can view here

please feel free to sign the guest book.


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3:00 PM  

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