Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cuba: beach days

I've never done the all-inclusive thing before, and when we first began to plan this trip, I wasn't planning to start. But it turned out that a package of one week's 5-star* all-inclusive accommodation plus direct charter flight from Vancouver to Varadero cost only $100 each more than buying just the flights from Air Canada, which would also have entailed spending a night in or near Toronto airport. So in the end, it was a no-brainer. We had to pay an extra $100 each to push the return flight back by a week, but it still worked out as a good deal!

We stayed at Sandals, near the end of the Varadero peninsula.  It's a really well laid out resort; low-rise (no more than three storeys) with lots of greenery, including an area we called Narnia:



We said to another couple we met "the quickest way back to the restaurant is through Narnia", and they looked at us like we were nuts

and some really well constructed public spaces (i.e. bars).

And, of course, the beach.

The beach was simply amazing. Mr E Man said it was better than anything he's seen in Australia, Thailand, or Bali. Powdery white sand, turquoise water, nice big waves to play in... heaven!



wave!

Being peelywally Celts, we always chose shady chairs under the palm-thatched umbrellas to sit and read and play cards or chess, but we spent most of our time in or on the water. There was only one day when the water was calm enough to take out the resort's kayaks, but we made the most of it! They were the sit-on-top kind, but the nice warm water didn't warrant the greater stability of the more enclosed kayaks that we're used to.



Time for a new profile photo, perhaps?!

We had tons of fun trying to kayak surf - and the instructor who once told me that it's a difficult skill to master and that I should take a course before trying it was proven correct, as we managed to roll the thing in a great big wave as we were trying to come back to the beach! I found myself under water with no idea which way was up, or where the boat and paddle were, so I instinctively curled into a ball and covered my head with my arms until a couple of other waves had gone over me and I knew the coast was clear. This caused Mr E Man and a couple of other observers to freak out for a few seconds, until I resurfaced with a big grin shouting "that was fun, let's do it again!" (and we did, after I retrieved my paddle from 30 metres down the beach).

After a long hard slog of grants and manuscripts and swine flu and no vacation days since early March, this first unchallenging week was just what the doctor ordered!




Modelling the latest in beach haute couture

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*A Cuban 5-star is like a 3.5-star anywhere else. Embargoes will do that to ya.

14 comments:

  1. After a soggy walk to work, I am sitting at my desk staring at your photos :). Nice to see the sun again, even if only in pictures!

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  2. That looks wonderful, Cath! My family and I have stayed at a Sandals resort too (actually, it's the Sandals family-friendly line of resorts--Beaches). I, too, was initially wary of an all-exclusive--but now we love them!

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  3. Mermaid, I think I'll be looking at them a lot until the sun returns to Vancouver!

    Bean-Mom, it did make things so much easier - I bet exponentially more so with kids in tow! The travel agent we booked with went to great pains to explain that this Sandals is no longer part of the larger Sandals chain, and is not up to their usual standards, but for us it was just perfect. We can't afford "real" 5 stars!

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  4. That looks nice enough to make even me (not much of a beach person at all) want to spend time in the waves on some tropical beach.

    Welcome back - I'm glad that you had a good time!

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  5. Looks totally beautiful! One day I'd love to do something like that!

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  6. RPS, thanks for the welcome back! It was fun, and I highly recommend it (although if we do the all-inclusive thing again in the future to get cheap flights, we might bail after 5 days - the last couple of days were pleasant, but a wee bit repetitive).

    Alyssa, it was gorgeous! I hope you get to try it some day soon!

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  7. Amazing ... I'll stare at those pictures the whole day.

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  8. Cruises are the same way money-wise. SO much cheaper than a hotel + restaurant food.

    So glad you had a great time!

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  9. Thanks both!

    EGF, it was quite a revelation to me! I'll definitely be checking package deals before booking my next flights! We're thinking maybe Thailand for our next non-UK, non-skiing trip!

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  10. I took my first all-inclusive trip a few years ago when my husband and I went to a Mexico and loved it. I've heard that if you stay somewhere that has sucky food, then the all-inclusive isn't so great, but so far we've been pretty lucky.

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  11. The food was fine - that'll be a separate post! We were given dire warnings about terrible Cuban food, but really, we only had 1 really bad meal (and that was in the resort!) Mind you, Sandals was specifically recommended to us as having the best resort food in Varadero. We met people from other resorts who weren't as happy.

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  12. It is very sad to have parts of the world that are "off-limit," especially when they look like that! A nice tropical vacation sounds sooo good right about now; glad you enjoyed yours!

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  13. Sigh; do you know how grey it has been in the UK?

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  14. SG, very true. May it change soon! And may you have a nice tropical vacation in your future!

    UHDD, sorry! It was very grey when we got back here too, it took some getting used to again. It's sunny now, but sooooo cold!

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