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Published: March 19th 2019
The beginning of a long waited travel. After waking up and a quick breakfast we went to Amsterdam/Schiphol airport for a long flight. Cuba is waiting for us. The check in and custom checks went quite smoothly and there were no delays. We were flying with a Tui fly Dreamliner.
As most of our flights were not too long, we never experienced such a comfortable airplane as this one. The service and entertainment was excellent. 10 hours passed and we landed at Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport. The passport check was not much different than any other passport checks. We had to fill in a tourist card, which is a replacement for a visa for a stay of max 30 days. Apparently they are registering everyone who are entering Cuba. We had to take our glasses off and look into a camera.
When the passport check has been finished for all of us, we took our luggage and went outside to search for the transfer service to our hotel in Varadero. It was advised to us to exchange currency at the airport as the hotel is taking a huge commission on the money exchange. In order to control the foreign
currency there are two different currencies in Cuba. One for the local Cubans (peso) and one for the tourists (convertible peso). The exchange rate of the Convertible peso (CUC) is fixed and equal to the US Dollar. Most of our holidays I prefer to pay by credit card or withdraw cash via the ATM. However paying by card in Cuba is quite difficult (and impossible with credit cards issued by the USA). US dollars are rarely accepted and if they are, the commission is so much that it is unwise to visit Cuba with US dollars. So we exchanged an amount of Euros to CUC and went to the transfer service to go to our hotel.
On the way to the hotel, the representative of the travel agency tells a bit regarding the Cuba and some practical facts about the daily stuff. First impression is that the weather is around 28 degrees, a lot of palm trees and off course the classic American cars.
In approximately 30 minutes we arrived to our hotel. Like any other hotel, the check in procedure as usual, leaving the luggage to our room. We were on time for the dinner and went
to the hotel restaurant to have our first experience with the Cuban cuisine.
After the dinner we took a short walk to explore the hotel and went directly to our room as we were exhausted of the journey. Another surprise was that our room was full of mosquitos. On advice of friends we were well prepared. For this night we put a lotion on ourselves but for the nights after we sprayed insect spray before dinner.
The next morning after the Cuban breakfast, we went to the beach. The water was crystal clear and the sand was very soft. The weather was around 30 degrees and very pleasant. However it was not very hot, but due to the fact we were closer to the equator we unexpectedly got a sunburn. We spent the day as a normal relaxing day till the dinner.
Occasionally we looked for some refreshment at the hotel lobby where we could access the internet. Internet in Cuba is not like any other country where you can buy a local SIM card. There are some WIFI spots and you can access them via a scratch card, which is costing 1 CUC per
In the evening we wanted to explore the center of Varadero. According the guard, in the evening we can get there only by a taxi and there is nothing to explore around the hotel. Off course he knew a driver, (where he gets commission from), who wanted to bring us to downtown of Varadero for 10 CUC. The driver came with a classic Cadillac, who drove us to the city center. At this place there are 2 famous pubs, some cafes and restaurants. There is the Beatles Bar for the fans of the Beatles. For local live music and dancing you can go to “Bar Calle 62”. Beside of this there is also a local street market where they sell local art, like paintings, woodcraft and off course a lot of items with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
After a walk and making some pictures of/with the classic American cars we went to Calle 62 to enjoy the Cuban live music and got some drinks. On the way back to our hotel our second experience with the classic cars was a Dodge Phaeton, the so called All Capone Cadillac. At the hotel we spent some
time at the lobby and finalized the day.
The next day we spent the whole day at the hotel. Swimming during the day and drinking/socializing at the evening. The entertainment show of this day was a magic show. It was just as any other magic shows. The only difference was that they used the themes of classic movies in combination of the magic shows. All with all, Umut loved it.
Another point was that all of us were completely burned by the sun and decided to have a break of sun, sea and beach. We wanted to visit Havana during our stay but did not arranged a date, so we decide to go to Havana the next day.
Which you can read in entry: https://www.travelblog.org/Admin/Blog/review-entry.php?diary_id=1035129
When we returned from Havana, we spent some time at the reception lobby and rested a bit in our room before dinner time. After the dinner there was a circus show where Umut also joined the stage. After the show we went to socialize a bit at the lobby bar till the end of the evening. We noticed that most of the visitors were
coming from Canada. Quite logical choice if you think that they just fly for 3 hours to come over here.
The next day we took it as a relax day at the beach. At the evening we met a couple from Germany who was looking for advice how to travel to Havana. We helped them to find the transportation and accommodation. They advised us to take the city bus to see around and visit the dolphinarium. As we did not had any further plans, it was a nice option.
The next day after the breakfast we walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus. The city bus in Varadero is an open top bus. For 5 CUC per person (free for children) you can use the bus the whole day. Umut loved to see an open top bus and wanted to sit on the upper floor. After a short trip we arrived to the dolphinarium. The admission price was 15 CUC per person and free for Umut. We arrived quite early before the show started so we had some time to look around. Around the lake we spotted many pelicans, who are
hoping to get also some of the fishes which are used to reward the dolphins. At 11:00 the show with the dolphins started. For sure dolphins are one of the cutest animals on earth. During the show all the pelicans collected near the dolphin trainer attempting to get some fish.
At the end of the show we could go to the trainer’s area to make some pictures with the dolphins. Additional costs are 5 CUC. Off course we did not wanted to miss this opportunity. The dolphins were well trained to pose with people. One of them gave a ‘hand’ to Umut. Other one was ‘kissing’ us. After this lovely experience we went to the bus to go to Varadero Downtown.
At Varadero Downtown we visited the Souvenir market. Many market stalls with typical Cuban souvenirs. Cigar boxes, cutters, magnets, most of them made by wood. After buying some souvenirs we decided to go towards our hotel and relax a bit at the poolside. In front of the hotel, one of the workers who was cutting the leaves from the trees, waved to us and said if we wanted to have freshly plucked coconuts.
“For your kid! 2 CUC!” Umut wanted to try it and said, ok here you have 1 CUC. He cut a hole on the top of the coconut and gave it to Umut. The rest of the day we didn’t walked all the way towards the see, but spent the time at the poolside.
The evening was as usual, dinner, live music at the lobby bar, entertainment show. The show of this evening was the Caribbean dance show. The professional dancers were really good. After the show it was again time to sleep for Umut. Cigdem went with Umut to the room, while I took some drinks and chat with some Canadian guests.
The next day we actually reserved to go snorkeling. There was an organized snorkeling trip from the agency at the hotel. It was a combined trip to go snorkeling at the Coral beach and the Saturno Cave. As we had a child of 6 years with us, we thought that it would be too challenging to go to this trip. Another offer was a short snorkeling trip which is arranged by the hotel itself, with a small catamaran at the beach
of the hotel. When we were at the beach, we were approached by the man who is offering the snorkeling trip. According him today was the last option to snorkel of this week. The next days would be quite windy and cloudy.
Immediately we decided to go snorkeling today with the offer of the hotel. After lunch I picked up our action camera and went to the boats. With a small catamaran we sailed towards to open sea, where we could snorkel. The ‘captain’ threw some bread into the water to attract the fishes. We entered the water and it was like we were swimming in an aquarium! Crystal clear water and a lot of tropical fishes.
I tried to make an underwater movie while feeding/attracting fishes by holding some bread in my hand. The result was that all the fishes attached me as piranhas. Attempting to get a piece of bread, they bite us and Umut started to scream. Umut didn’t wanted to continue snorkeling, so he climbed to the boat. While we continued snorkeling, Umut feed the fishes with the bread on board. Approximately 1 hour of snorkeling, making underwater pictures and movies it
was time again to sail back to the shore. We climbed back to the catamaran and our captain sailed us back to the beach. Meanwhile I’d noticed that my arm (which was holding the bread) was bleeding due to the bite of the fishes. Back at the beach together with Umut we ran a bit behind the seagulls and built some sand castles with the fine sand.
End of the afternoon as it was forecast, it became cloudy. As the next day would be also no beach weather, we looked for some excursions. At the lobby bar we met the German couple, who returned from Havana. They were also looking for some alternatives for the next day. I came with an idea to go to the Zapata Swamp by taxi.
This part you can read under another section.
When we returned from the daytrip to Zapata Swamp, we took a nap and in the evening we went to the show. This evening there were classic performances like the final dance of Dirty Dancing and scenes of Greece. Umut fell in love with one of the dancers. At the end of the
show he went to her to ask if we could make a picture together. And so we did.
The next day the weather was a bit better but still not good enough to swim in the sea, so another day at the swimming pool. At the evening the hotel organized a beach party. Unfortunately due to the windy weather it was not a party to be…
Luckily on our last day of our holidays we could enjoy the good weather and swim in the sea. After spending a full day at the beach we said goodbye to the sea. On the evening we prepared our luggage in order to leave the hotel next day.
The journey back started with the transfer from the hotel to the airport. After checking in our luggage and customs check we had some time to buy cigars, rum and souvenirs. We also bought some honey from Cuba.
Our flight time arrived and started to board into the airplane. The flight back was with a stop at Cancun – Mexico. After a short flight of approximately 1 hour we arrived to Cancun airport where
we had to leave the airplane. While the airplane got cleaned and refueled we had to spend a while at the transit area of Cancun airport. We noted the huge difference between Cuba and Mexico! Where in Cuba everything was simple and the airport was as big as a bus station, Cancun airport was a huge modern airport with many fast-food restaurants. As we couldn’t find French fries in Cuba, we immediately bought a family box with French fries and quickly eat it before we started boarding again.
The last part of our journey was a pleasant flight of 8 hour from Cancun to Amsterdam where my father picked us up and brought us home. We could recover now from our jetlag…
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