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Home > Destinations > Cuba > Trip Reports > Trip Report

Cuba - Trip Reports

Coralia Club Bucanero, Santiago de Cuba

We visited the resort in March 2001. And here is what we can say about it:

The resort is operated by a French company (ACCOR) with mainly Cuban staff. There is only one French entertainer (Patricia) that participates in all the shows and activities on the resort. She is the only one to speak French and Italian without an accent. She also speaks German, English and Spanish. The rest of the staff speaks decent English and French (some speak German) in addition to their native Spanish.

As any vacation spot this resort has it's pluses and minuses.

First the positive:

If you like snorkeling and diving, this is the place to go. The coral reef hosts a variety of marine life, and you don't have to go far to see it all. Just a couple hundred feet from the beach there is a drop of about 60 feet where different fish, octopus and everything in between lives in harmony. We have seen some big predators (not sharks but very mean looking monsters), parrot fish, and schools of bright colored, strange shaped fish (just like you see on TV on Discovery channel). All within 200 feet from the beach. Most people we talked to, came for the sea alone. On the beach there are some pretty big iguanas wondering for meat that bartenders live for them. They scare the living *(^% out of some, but are fun to watch. There were also a lot of hummingbirds and other creatures.

The staff is very friendly and will help any way they can with any problems you may have. Every night there is a show. Basically a bunch of people having a good time and making you laugh. After the show there is a discotheque that can host up to 10 people ("tres privée" as a very polite French girl put it). Apart from the entertainers there are a lot of service people that are also very friendly. There is a gardener named Omar, that got us a coconut and cut it for us. We gave him $1 and he was very happy.

During the day you can join the activities organized by the staff. These are: Cuban dance classes, stretching on the beach and by the pool, water polo at 11:30, different games, Spanish lessons, etc. The highlight of the day is LA BOMBA. A simple dance that everyone dances at 11:00. Even I learned the moves in 4 days and eagerly joined in at every opportunity I got. It's funny and cute.

There are two bars, one by the pool and one by the beach. The bartenders show off every time they have an opportunity to do so, this way entertaining the patrons. The drinks are OK, the most popular being PINA COLADA. There is a variety of local specialties, such as Hemingway, Cuba Libre, etc. There is a bartender named Karim. He would make me something not on the menu that was very good. Can't remember the name, but there is some fresh lime involved.

The rooms are OK. The ones on the second floor have higher ceilings and appear bigger. We had no problems with the water (which is potable on the resort), electricity, AC and TV (13"). Everything works and it's relatively new.

The bad:

The food is bad. Not the products themselves, but the way it's prepared. It is dirty and we even found larvae in the salad. You have to constantly search for non potables in your food such as onion peel, small rocks, insects, etc. There is no consistency in preparation. If you liked the pancakes today, there is no guaranty that you will like them tomorrow. The fish was always overcooked. They use very little or no spices. The beef was of poor quality, very old and impossible to chew. The pork was OK most of the times though. Once they surprised us with a tasty dish (roasted pork), but even then it was hard to enjoy the meal knowing how sloppy (read dirty) they prepare. We were surprised how poor the selection of fruit and vegetables was. There were mostly potatoes, cabbage, oversized cucumbers and poorly ripen tomatoes. The fruit selection was oranges, some tasteless thing and papaya. Papaya would have been very good, if only they had a separate knife for fruit and didn't use the same one for roast, fish and everything else in between. Imagine eating a sweet piece of papaya when all of a sudden you feel a strong flavor of bacon. What a turnoff. The only thing that was really good was the coffee.

You get the food yourself and bring it to your table. When you're done with the first course, you get up and get the dessert or whatever else you want. When you're finished get up and leave, the waiters will collect the dirty dishes.

Oooooh, the waiters. They're never in a hurry. Don't expect anything from them. There are five or seven of them at any given time, but all they do is watch you eat and collect the dirty dishes when you leave. Sometimes they wipe the table with a filthy rag. It's hard to tell whether it is a good thing or bad. There was only one guy that knew what he was doing, and we tipped him every time we sat at his table. But it was hard to get a spot that he was taking care of, because everybody figured out that he is the best there. Here is what set him apart from the others: He would bring the wine and the beer to the table for you (normally you would have to do it yourself), he knew exactly when we were done and promptly collected the dirty dishes. His tables where cleaner.

The city of Santiago de Cuba:

We planned the trip on a Tuesday. There were only three of us. Me, my wife and our daughter. We paid $70 US for the whole day. The trip included a visit to the former rich neighborhood (where Baccardi family lived), the cemetery, former Baccardi rum factory, and other places. Just to let you know they where all in ruins with the exception of Hose Marti's tomb. The guide would proudly point at some abandoned jail (so I thought), and would announce that this is a new housing development. It was sad. Imagine a +35?C temperature weather, concrete boxes with windows (read holes) covering about %10 of the surface. We were sorry for the people living in this Caribbean paradise.

The downtown was no better. Ruins, ruins and more ruins everywhere. We couldn't wait to get back to the resort. There was a place where some old guys played very good music, but we were bothered by the illegal cigar vendors every 15-20 seconds, so it was impossible to stay any longer. After the city we went to San Pedro fort. I won't describe the fort itself (it's OK), but they charge $1 if you want to take pictures. The ladies who are employed there (as guides I assume) speak only Spanish and lead you to a dark cave and ask for money. We had to give them a dollar each as they started to almost cry in their attempt to squeeze a buck. It was no fun. Here you have the poor women struggling to survive and you, trying to entertain yourself in paradise. They make you feel guilty. And you pay for the guilt you feel.

We ate at a nearby restaurant. The food was included in the trip, BUT THE DRINKS WERE NOT. And boy, do you pay for the drinks. A small bottle (250 ml) of water is $2.00 US. They don't have BIG bottles by the way. So the food was NOT free after all. We felt cheated. Overall the trip to Santiago de Cuba was not a pleasant one. Ruins, lies about free meals, cigar vendors that grab you by the sleeves, begging staff all contributed to the bad experience and we decided not to go on trips anymore.

Thanks to R.M. for this trip report ...
April 2001

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