THE FLIGHT. Our flight with Cubana left on schedule and was quite comfortable with larger seats than the normal charter aircraft. They served a lunch on the way down which was quite adequate and was pretty good for airline food. They served coffee after lunch and if you wanted an alcoholic beverage they were $3 Canadian each. For the alcoholic beverage you had the choice of beer or rum. Not bad really. The flight was smooth and quick. Three hours and 15 minutes we were on the ground in Cienfuegos. Getting through Cuban customs and immigration was easy. The airport is quite small but very pleasant and easy to get through. No problems with the luggage.
THE BUS TO THE RESORT. Some chap on our flight brought in some contraband electronics and spent an hour trying to brow beat the Cuban customs into letting him bring them into Cuba. He failed at that one but managed to hold up our bus for one hour and 15 minutes while he argued with the officials. Needless to say people on the bus were a bit upset. Not him though. He brazened it out by complaining about customs officials and how lousy they were. The bus ride to the Ancon Hotel took one hour and 20 minutes and as it was dark we weren’t able to see the countryside but the time went very fast all the same. Our tour representative already had our envelopes with our room keys and room assignment and also our wrist bands for the all-inclusive, these wrist bands we put on on the bus. So we were all set when we got to the Hotel at 12:30 a.m. to take our luggage to the room and go to the 24-hour bar and have our first wonderful Mojito. Yes they had mint. Our first impression of the Hotel and staff was certainly positive.
OUR ROOM. This was just a great room. We had chosen a superior room and we were certainly happy we did. Our room was oceanfront on the second floor with a very nice balcony. The balcony was furnished with two chairs and a table. The view of the garden and the beach was fantastic. The garden was especially beautiful with loads of bougainvillea. Our room was a fairly good size with two single beds, two night tables, a writing table, a blanket box. The room had a safe that was situated in the closet and the safe (no extra charge) was opened with your room key. The room had a television that showed about seven or eight TV stations. Three of those TV stations were English-speaking. There was a small fridge for keeping your water and drinks cold. The fridge is certainly a must as far as my wife and I are concerned. The room had a good size closet with lots of hangers. The bathroom had a shower and a tub and wash basin. It also had a very good hair dryer and the electric plugs were 110 volt. There were two other 110 volt plugs in the room by the bedside and there was two 220 volt plugs on the other wall. No shortage of plugs. Every day we had two clean towels left by our housekeeper who kept our room immaculate the whole week. We had towel art all week as well. We had no problems with hot water anytime during the week. It was hot hot hot. We did try the air-conditioning out one afternoon for about an hour. It worked fine.
THE BARS AND FAST FOOD DINING. There were two bars. One bar was in the lobby of the main Hotel Building. This was quite a nice stand up bar if you wanted to sip a cool drink and people watch in the lobby. They also had maybe six or eight tables that would seat four per table right in front of the bar. They had mostly Cuban domestic drinks. They did have some gin and vodka and some Canadian whiskey(no name), but it was mostly domestic Cuban rum and liquors. No complaint there. The lobby bar staff were friendly and courteous and we never had to wait for a drink or service of any kind. Adjoining the large comfortable hotel lobby was an outside area with about 40 tables and if you sat there one of the waiters or waitresses would get you a drink from the bar if you wanted. Pretty good service with a smile. This bar opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 10 PM. Perfect for to have a drink before lunch, before dinner, or a brandy after dinner when dining at the buffet which was next door. The other bar was in the entertainment area and was a 24-hour bar. The service there was excellent also. They had lots of waiters and English was spoken if you’re Spanish couldn’t be understood. In this area there was a snack bar that served pizzas, hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and different kinds of sandwiches. Service was excellent here at this snack bar also as you didn’t have to wait very long for your food. Mostly the french fries and other food were done in small batches so the food was hot at all times. At lunchtime in this particular area the chef barbecued chicken or fish or pork outdoors on a big charcoal barbecue. Yummy indeed!. The beach in front of this particular area was served by waiters. If you wanted a beer or rum or any other drink the waiter brought it right down to your Palapa, with a smile I might add. I hadn’t seen this in too many hotels before. Not hotels at this thrifty price anyway. Just marvelous. Tough on the waiters, but marvelous for the guests.
THE MAIN DINING AND BUFFET. We ate all our evening meals at the buffet except for one . The one evening we booked at the a la carte we had seafood. Lobster to be exact at no extra charge. We were also served house wine (which was quite good) with our lobster dinner. We had no trouble making reservations for this seafood restaurant. The lobster was very good and we certainly enjoyed our meal. As we really are not a la carte people we mostly dined at the main restaurant buffet.
BREAKFAST. I always enjoy breakfast, and breakfast was good here at the buffet. They had some wonderful breads of all types. They had fresh fruit. They had fresh salads. They had quite a few cold meats. They had cereal, orange juice fresh squeezed, French toast, poached eggs, fried potatoes, crispy bacon. They had an omelet station where the chef cooked eggs any style right in front of you. I had an omelet with different fillings for breakfast every day. They had lots of fillings on hand for the omelets. You never had to wait very long as the chef was skilled at what he did and very organized. The cooking staff worked very hard.
LUNCH. There were many choices for lunch. There was lots of salads. Lots of bread. Soup. Lots of vegetables. Lots of fruit. There was a pasta station where pasta was done for you on an individual basis. There was a grill where the chef would cook you some pork chops or chicken or fish whatever was on the menu that day. The meat was cooked right there in front of you and I thought the speed and service was excellent. There were no really long lineups for lunch. Usually after my lunch and of course after my dinner too I would have some wonderful Cuban ice cream that they served every day during the week we were there (3 flavours). Too much.
DINNER. At the buffet dinner was a mirror image of lunch. We always started with soup and it was quite good. We always had a choice of fish or pork, chicken or on a few occasions they had ground beef with rice. They also had beef stew with large chunks of beef. They had french fries and other types of potato almost every night. My favorite was the different types of rice that they cooked. Some of the rice was wonderfully spiced and I just couldn’t get enough of that. I would say there wasn’t any night that I was disappointed with the food and that’s saying something. There was always a good choice. As with lunch there was a pasta station where pasta was individually prepared for you. Also there was a chef to cook you pieces of fish or pork or chicken. Never a lineup that was too long that you had to wait an undue amount. We were also served wine with dinner if we requested. They weren’t stingy with the wine. The wine always flowed generously. At dinner the waitstaff were the best I’ve seen anywhere. Mostly there were at least two top-notch waitstaff in every section that carried the day. That’s all I’ll say about that.
THE BEACH. We found the beach to be excellent. There are maybe 7 or 8 km total of white sand beach. We walked all of the beach from one end to the other and the sand was white and fine and quite solid to walk on so I didn’t end up with charlie horses every night (leg cramps). It really was great walking. At no point were we approached by panhandlers or people selling merchandise of any kind. At no point on our daily walks did we ever feel unsafe. People were just friendly. We went swimming several times in the ocean in front of the Ancon and the water was quite warm and the sea was very calm for the whole week that we were at the Ancon. You can walk out from the shore at least 30 m in most places in front of the Ancon and the water will be just chest high. Very nice indeed. I haven’t seen too many nicer beaches for swimming. There are lots of Palapas on the beach and lots of lounges. We never had any problem getting a sun lounge or Palapa.
THE HOTEL GROUNDS AND SERVICES. The grounds are kept very well. There are tennis courts for tennis enthusiasts. There are two pool tables just off the lobby for pool enthusiasts. There is a diving Center on the beach to look after scuba diving enthusiasts. There are very good shops in the basement of the Ancon that have quite nice merchandise at reasonable prices for the souvenir shopper. There is a store where you can buy liquor and beer in the Ancon basement also. There is a cigar maker in the lobby almost all day. Also in the lobby is a lady or gentleman who looks after guest services. There is an Internet service in the lobby as well. Downstairs in the basement there is a bank or Cadeca where you can change your money. The exchange-rate for the Canadian dollar at the Cadeca was the same as at the airport. The lobby has big comfortable chairs and sofas to relax and people watch and you can have a Mojito served to you by the waiter or waitress from the lobby bar. The tour reps are also in the lobby most days so your needs are well looked after here at this central lobby.
THE HOTEL POOL. Quite a large freshwater pool. The temperature was always pretty good for me. The depth of the pool ranged from .5 m on one end to 2 m on the other end. There were lots of lounges to relax on and sun yourself. The pool wasn’t too busy the whole week and it was a pleasure having a swim every day. The pool bar was closed on this particular week but the 24-hour bar is just 20 m away so you don’t have far to walk for a drink if that is the case for your week.
THE ANCON HOTEL AREA. I will include the city of Trinidad in this. Trinidad, such a beautiful old city. Well worth the visit. We did take a guided tour which we booked through our Hola Sun tour rep. We had a small group of people and it was really great. Our tour guide was the best I’ve ever had. She took us to a high point overlooking the Sugar Valley just east of Trinidad. What a beautiful place with the Escambray Mountains towering up above the valley. She certainly knew her stuff and was so informative when we visited all of the museums etc. about the history of Trinidad, Cuba, and the province of Sancti Spiritus. This guided tour prepped us for going into Trinidad ourselves the next day and making our way around very early in the morning before the tourists and vendors took over. It just was great being alone on the streets in the morning at 7:30 a.m.. Just wandering around at our own pace taking in the sights and sounds of a busy Cuban morning in a lovely city.
THE WEATHER. The weather. It was mostly sunny every day with small amounts of cloud here and there. The temperature averaged between 27°C and 29°C most afternoons. Glorious weather I would say. I think the poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen from Québec put it in one of his poems or songs exactly how we felt this week "the sun poured down on us like honey". We certainly felt that way every afternoon as we lay on our chaise lounges on the beach sipping our cool Mojitos that had been just served to us by a smiling waiter! Heaven it was..
OTHER HOTELS IN THE AREA. There are two other hotels in the vicinity of the Ancon Hotel. Next door is the Brisas Trinidad del Mar. We got a tour of this hotel and it looked quite nice and we wouldn’t hesitate to go there. It is quite a bit pricier than the Hotel Ancon in the brochures and on the Internet. It has quite a nice beach and from what I gather from guests who stayed there the food and accommodation were pretty good. There is one other hotel about 4 km away called The Costasur. At the moment this hotel is under renovation. It looks very nice. We did have a tour of the grounds and I wouldn’t hesitate to go there. The beach at this hotel isn’t quite as nice as the beach at the Ancon. But it seems quite cozy and small and intimate.
OUR GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE ANCON HOTEL. A bargain. Absolutely no problem all week. We would go back there in a heartbeat. We are starting to save the money now to do so whenever we can go. The one thing I will say is that I cannot comment on the regular rooms in the Hotel as we had a superior room and were very happy. I do believe that the regular rooms are a little bit smaller and most have no balcony. I didn’t hear any bad comments on them from people who were staying in them. All of the Hotel is immaculately kept and very clean. We never seen anything out of place and the staff and management work very hard to make a go of the hotel and to make your stay a very happy one. The manager of the hotel is only there about two years and he seems to have a really good handle on how to treat guests and run a hotel.
OUR TRIP BACK TO CIENFUEGOS AIRPORT. I enjoyed our trip back to the airport at Cienfuegos as it was bright daylight and we could take in the Cuban countryside at leisure as we did have a front seat in the bus. The airport although small was very comfortable and they had a bar and snack bar there were you could buy beer 1.20-1.50 CUC and soft drinks .70-80 CUC and coffee. They had bags of chips etc. there was a duty-free shop but we didn’t find it any cheaper than the hotel. The prices were OK. Our Cubana flight was on time and we were back in to Toronto on time. The flight was smooth and uneventful and they served us a nice lunch followed by coffee. They did serve rum or beer at $3 Canadian per drink. Not bad. We would certainly not have any qualms about using Cubana Airlines again and would actually favor doing so as it was a direct flight to Cienfuegos. Photos and videos of the hotel and general area are posted under "Hotel Ancon Trinidad Cuba" at. http://canuck.webcentre.ca/index.html