Cuba , 2006

My 1st all inclusive vacation.
We booked a last minute vacation with Transat Holidays through to the Gran Caribe Puntarenas resort in Varadero, Cuba from January 21st to 28th.

Looking north and east from our 6th floor balcony and then south across the canal.

Around the pool

Sand along the beach was mainly finely ground up shells

Inside the resort

No safety regulations in Cuba!!

The bar where we spent a LOT of time!

Our ride into Varadero on a Tour Train

Scooter rentals

Flea Market at 11th Street

Scenes around Varadero

Red flag beaches after the winds came up

Red flags are good for Para Surfing.

Flowers and Plants

Cuba has oil wells

Crude oil pumps (with RED ends) and storage tanks

Refinery with burn off chimney, top right

"Maid" art

Evening entertainment at the buffet

A buffet Chef carved up daily specials

Craft vendor displays his wooden crafts at the resort

Using a crude "burner" from 220v to engrave names and designs

Leaving the resort

At the Cuban airport

Yes, Cuba has computers

Cuba is composed of 12 provinces with Havana being the capital for the 11 million people that live there. It is 173 km's from the Veradero airport to the Key West airport and 295 km's from the Varadero airport to the Homestead airport. Our flight was 3 1/2 hours from Toronto, taking 2 1/2 hours to get there and 4 1/2 hours to get home because they are 1 hour behind us (the same as east coast time).

Varadero is a peninsula with a canal where it joins the mainland to allow ships a short cut around the peninsula. Our hotel was the last one on the north west end of the peninsula at the canal. We had about a 20 minute bus ride from the Varadero airport to our hotel. Downtown Varadero seemed to start at the east end of the canal and was only a few minutes bus ride for us.

Late in 2004, Cuba switched to the Cuban Convertable Peso for tourists and US currency is not accepted at the hotels. Supposedly, the Cubans are not suposed to use the convertable or tourist peso. On my first trip to the bar I asked the bartender how I should tip in Cuba. He said he could take anything - US, Cdn or convertable peso. He goes to the bank to exchange US and Cdn currency.

I suggest taking lots of $5.00 and $10.00 Cdn bills to change into small amounts of Cuban Convertable Pesos. They will not take back coins and may only have $20.00 Cdn bills to give back when exchanging Cuban bills back into Cdn bills.

We had some employees ask if we could exchange a US dollar or Cdn looney for a peso. This was a good deal for us and they didn't lose on the exchange rate. There were people at the airport when we were leaving asking to exchange Cdn into pesos, so take Cdn currency to exchange into convertable pesos but you can tip in US, CDn or convertable pesos.

The rate at the airport was 1.31 Cdn dollars for 1 convertable peso and at the hotel it was 1.36 Cdn dollars for 1 convertable peso.