We spent the last night of our 10 day stay in Cuba at the Hotel Nacional, which is supposedly one of the best, if not the best, hotel in the capital. I am sad to say that like most other "5 Star" hotels in Cuba, the Nacional fell way short of our expectations on all levels, particularly service levels and the quality of the dining. Upon check-in, I was utterly dismayed to learn that we would have to pay CUC3 for the use of the safety deposit box. It is a complete anathema to me that a 5 star hotel can contemplate charging its clients for the provision of such a basic service. I was also told that I would have to pay an additional CUC3 for the use of an adapter, again, a service which should be complimentary. Not a great start to the stay! A bell boy showed us to our room, which at GBP80 a night, was perfectly decent. The bell boy in question did nothing more than his job in showing us around the room, yet he lingered at the door an embarassingly long time expecting a tip. Whilst I appreciate that wages in Cuba are very low and that tipping provides badly needed uplifts on this front, the Cuban tourist industry needs a brutal reality check – staff are tipped for oustanding service and going beyond their ordinary job description, they are not tipped for simply meeting their responsibilities! We left the room to dine at the traditional Cuban restaurant within the hotel, the mojitos were excellent and the food was rather bland, your typical fare of morros and christianos accompanied by dry pork. Breakfast the next day in the main restaurant was appalling. A poor selection of badly cooked food, dirty, unprepared tables lacking cutlery and coffee mugs, surly, unhelpful staff abounding. The Nacional, like many of its 5 star counterparts, relies on its architecture and history to hold itself out as an outstanding hotel. The reality is that it is, at best, a 3 star hotel, and it has a very long way to go before it can claim to be an international class 5 star hotel.
All in all, a complete disappointment, but you will not be able to find much better in Havana. We stayed in the Sevilla and the Telegrapho in Havana and those hotels were appalling on all counts.
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