Just returned from a week of r&r in Varadero, Cuba, on one of the best beaches in the world.
My wife and I first visited our favorite resort (Los Cactus- formerly Superclub Varadero) in 1996.
It is the 11th time we have stayed here and the 15th time we have vacationed in Cuba. Our trips to Cuba have been strictly for the purpose of recharging the batteries, (and getting away from the kids for a week-we love our children dearly however we also enjoyed rekindling things with just the two of us)
One of the things that attracted us to Cuba I must admit, and still to this day, is the value for our hard- earned dollars. For a little over $1100 each; a full week on an all-inclusive resort. And yes, by North American standards the resort would be rated no higher than a 3, based on the rooms, amenities and the food. However, the well-kept grounds with many species of plants and the beach are 5-star. And as well the Cubans we met and have become friends with is a major factor. Beautiful people!
I must say though that when the opening up of US relations with Cuba was declared by the Obama administration, it did send a shiver down our spines. One of the things we really love about Cuba is the lack of Westernization. No Walmarts, , Costco’s, McDonalds, Coca-Cola or any signs of the impressions that bombard us daily, on the commute to work in Toronto. Even compared to a beach vacation in Mexico, it really does make you feel like you are getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
So, this being our visit back in almost 2 years, we were very curious to see what affect the opening up of US relations was having. And I am happy to report, very little!
Now I must admit, we did not go to Havana, and we never have in all the times we visited. (have never mustered up the desire to get off the beach and endure the 5 hours or so in a car to get there and back in a day) But based on what we saw and talking to the Cubans, there were only a couple of tell-tale signs that things are changing.
- There are 2 multi-story hotels (approx. 800 rooms) being built
- There is now a scheduled daily flight to Miami from Juan Gomez airport (most of the people we saw in that lineup looked like Cubans to me)
It is still a challenge for Americans to fly directly from the US. There is a lot of paperwork involved and a detailed questionnaire with why you are visiting Cuba, could take months to be approved by US officials. Americans can apparently fly to Cuba from Canada no problem, as the Cuban customs have no problem letting Americans enter the country.
One of the nice things about Cuba is that things change at a snail’s pace. It will be years before the infra-structure is in place, to accommodate a massive influx of American tourists. The airports will require massive upgrades in the years to come. And construction happens very slowly in Cuba. Main reason is probably a lack of raw materials.
However, the labor force also has an attitude. No six sigma or continual improvement process thinking is in play here. There is a saying which translated goes something like this; “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”.