Recent posts by Hollydog | Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews Forums

Bumping this back up. We just booked the Memories in HolguĂ­n end of November (our only Cuban trip in 2015; better late than never lol) and the TA will cover our exit taxes. In researching this trip I did notice that some TAs do NOT indicate on their websites that the exit taxes are included in the ticket.

Just wondering why that is.

I’m not sure about every TA, but most operators (like Sunwing), have just added it to their ever-increasing "Taxes and Surcharges". They don’t itemize what those are, but most of it is fuel surcharges, currency exchange loss, and airport fees and a miriad of other "hidden" fees.

When we returned from Manzanillo at the end of July, the collection booth was still there, but unmanned. No issues at the airport at all. The Sunwing rep was including the information about no longer having to pay the departure tax in her orientation speech.

Hollydog: We leave for Galeones (2 weeks) and are leaving Nov 26. Sounds like the same flight we’re having (same departure & arrival times). We were there in March/April this year and also had a short stop in CL, not even enough time to finish our beer! 20 minutes or so later, we were at Santiago. This trip we have direct back to Pearson with no stops. We’ve travelled with them several times now and everything has been on time and crews are efficient. I’m going to try to get our check in clerk at Pearson to allow us to book our return seats; wish me luck!

Good luck, Sund0g! Maybe I will try the same thing for the return trip.

CanJet already parked all but one of its planes. While this is sad for the company and its employees, I doubt that it will artificially create much of a lower supply.

Got the flight info from my TA yesterday. Leave Toronto at 1250; fly down via Cayo Largo (even a brief stop there will be pleasant); return departs Santiago at 7:25, arriving TO at 11:55PM.I don’t want to start a debate about morning/afternoon departures. For me – and me alone – this is PERFECT! I have to stay overnight in Toronto anyhow before catching a connection to North Bay. So spending the better part of a full day on the beach and then arriving home at night is awesome for me.Fingers crossed for a good Cubana experience. My nephew is already offering to download movies to my iPad for me. (I usually read books on planes, but he is trying to be helpful.)
I go there regularly – they do not "run out of food" as such, but there are times when the choices get more limited. For example – at the snack bar there will be lots of french fries the first few days, but then they will run out until their next delivery, which may be a couple of days away. They will still have sandwiches, but no fries to go with them.At meal times, if you go as the dining room hours are ending, then they might have stopped putting out more food, so the choice may be more limited. I think it is more of a restocking issue than it is of a "lack of food".On the other hand, if you arrive later and ask for something, they will generally get it for you from the back unless they really have run out!
Thanks everyone!This would be my third time at Carisol los Corales, so no worries there.I have private insurance, so don’t need to worry about that either.I’ll give it a shot! After all (famous last words from a very experienced Cuba traveller) what’s the worst that can happen??
I’m looking at doing a week at Carisol los Corales (Santiago) this November. Hola Sun is offering it for $120. less than Sunwing (they are getting very greedy this year). The flight shows as being with Cubana Airlines (with a stop at Cayo Largo on the return).I have checked the reviews and they are all over the place, but nothing too recent.Has anyone flown with them recently? Bad? Good? or meh? I don’t care about food and drink (I can buy my own) or leg room (I’m a short-ass), but am interested in how "on time" they normally are, and if there is any reason why I really should pay greedy Sunwing my extra $100 bucks.The also haven’t made any flight times available yet. Does anyone know what they have been in the past?Thanks!
We are leaving for Marea del Portillo on July 22nd. This will be our 7th (8th?) trip South in the summer.It started as a last minute can’t miss deal so we did it on a whim, thinking that if it was just too darned hot, we wouldn’t do it again. YES it is STINKING HOT. So we pace ourselves accordingly, drink tons of water and spend more time in the shade.But there are a few things we love: 1) a resort mostly to ourselves; 2) a chance to mingle with tourists from other countries (Europe, Cuba) and not just Canadians getting away from the cold; 3) a chance to go on group tours with four other people rather than a "gang"; and 5) the cheapest vacation you can imagine! This summer we are paying less than $500. each for a full week at an AI in the sun. Can’t beat that!

Oh – I live in Northern Ontario – love it here, but can only look at so many cold lakes, rocks and trees. For those of us in the North, Cuba in the summer really is a good deal.

They do think it is rather extravagent that I take everyone to a restaurant at least once during my visit (its almost as though they are humoring me) as it is "so expensive" (the one we go to is a local cuban one – the bill is in CUP). From their point of view it is extravagant. And perhaps they would rather have had the money you spent on the occasion, but are too polite to express that thought. How many of us receive expensive but (to us) unwanted gifts for birthdays or Christmas and face the same dilemma of what to do with the item without appearing ungrateful? Perhaps the Cubans aren’t as practiced at dissembling as we are…..

We’ve had that conversation and they told me that they really like being able to go out – it is a very special treat that they wouldn’t be able to do if it wasn’t for me paying. I have known this family for 10 years; their kids have grwon up calling me their Tia. We usually go to the restaurant for a collective celebration of all our birthdays and have a great time. We always order lots of food, and they bring a few containers for the leftovers. I also give them money for household necessities. Last summer, my friend said it was so nice to know that she didn’t have to cook today! Fortunately for me, it isn’t a dilemma, but I do understand what you are saying.

quote]You can take more than one 100ml container in your carry-on… ;-)Cheers,Terry[/quote]

Good point! I will try that next time! Thanks for reminding me of the obvious, Terry! I really never thought of it – and I am a very seasoned traveller! How embarrassing for me…

Every year I’m on dozens of international flights and loads of domestic legs. 90% of the time I travel with carry-on luggage only.I have an Osprey Porter 46 that goes into the overhead bin and a PacSafe Daypack with my valuables that goes under the seat. Once I’m on-board the aircraft my luggage is stowed in seconds and it’s just as fast when it’s time to deplane.After the plane lands I’m out the door with a beer in my hand while many people are still waiting in line for Immigration or for the checked baggage carousel to be turned on.

To expand on the insignificance even further… In other words I’m the perfect traveller and everyone should be just like me.



I travel extremely "light". I’d love to travel carry-on only, but a 2-week trip south in the winter, when my maggotty-white skin has not seen the light of day for endless dark winter months, requires (demands) that I take more than 100mL of sunscreen!

I also brought some items for their new baby, some of which were special requests from them, and the wife just looked in the bag, smiled and put it aside. She didn’t even remove the items from the bag to look at them.

It makes you wonder….

I asked my cuban friend once why it was that sometimes when I gave a small "gift bag" it was just tucked away and not opened right away. Apparently some of it is just pure "shyness", but it is also because the recipient does not want to flaunt their gift in front of people (in your scenario, other cubans working in the paladar). Keep in mind that Cuba is still a society where informing on your neighbours is considered acceptable behaviour. In some cases, people hide their gifts so that others won’t take it from them.

My cuban family always thanks me (usually more than once) when we go out or when I give them gifts, regardless of size. They do think it is rather extravagent that I take everyone to a restaurant at least once during my visit (its almost as though they are humoring me) as it is "so expensive" (the one we go to is a local cuban one – the bill is in CUP).

I guess that since I have been to the Marea del Portillo hotel 16 times (and 17 is already booked), I can claim it as my "favorite".But I also really enjoyed the Melia Santa Maria (but in July when it was quiet AND one of two hotels on that Cayo) and Cayo Largo (Barcelo at the time). Both would easily make it back to my "definitely if the price was right" list!

I always use Air Miles to fly to Toronto on my way South in the winter – it used to be 950 miles return (went up with their new pricing model) and cost me $149. in taxes, etc. The cost of a return ticket with Jazz (our only option from North Bay) is close to $600.00! For me, it is the best way to redeem my points. Last year I flew twice and barely made a dent in my points.

I know it is early days, but for those who have been/returned, can you give us a sense of what is happening at the airports with the customs officials now that the new rules are in place?


We are leaving July 23 for two weeks at Marea del Portillo. As I say to my Canadian friends who ask "isn’t it hot" – "STINKIN’ HOT"! But we have become masters of the Cuban slow-paced stroll, always wear hats, carry water bottles at all times, stick to SPF 45, have hats and t-shirts for the pool (just in case), and have definitely mastered the art of "resting". We have giant mosquitoes here in Northern Ontario – Cuban ones are pretty tame in the summer. I always take bug dope. There have been summers here that never really get hot/sunny for any length of time. A summer trip south guarantees that I have had a summer.
I think I would win if a contest involved the smallest number of guests at a hotel where one was staying. When I visited Los Galeones in 2007, I was one of exactly three guests at the hotel for the first part of my week. Staff outnumbered the guests, of course, and the personal service was great. Then I come a close second – my first trip to Cuba, I stayed at the Don Lino – there were 5 guests for my first week. Same thing – wonderful services – the animacion staff even arranged to take us to a "private, quiet and deserted beach" on a beach party one day. We agreed to pay the cost of the staff bus ($5CUC each) to take us there, the lunch and bar went with us. We stopped to pick up a security guard at his house on the way. When we got to the lovely beach (down a dirt track that hardly met the definition of "road") there was the most gorgeous stretch of beach imaginable. They had set up a a mini-bar, all our chaise lounges were there, and we had our very own life guard, too. The daytime staff from the hotel – entertainers, bartenders, band, etc. all came with us. We had a real cuban beach party. I will never forget this day – it was one for the memory books.

At the time, there was a hotel under construction in the distance – this lovely piece of paradise today is no longer private, quiet or deserted – we were at Playa Pesquero. Sigh.

I love low season. We just booked for two weeks at our home-away-from-home Marea del Portillo. This will be our third summer trip (and around 15th trip to this resort). We love the fact that the resort is so quiet. Yes, some things may not be as they are at peak in January, and the limited variety of food is even more limited, but we don’t have to worry about where to sit and get up at 6AM to beat the crowd in a game of towel wars, there is no line-up at the bar, I get the table "I" want for dinner, etc.We go with the understanding that some services may not be 100% available. One summer the beach bar was closed for renovations. So we had to walk an extra 100m to the pool bar. Poor things! During Tropical Storm Isaac, all the sound equipment, etc. was safely put away so it could not be damaged, and the dancers and other entertainers were sent home. We had to entertain ourselves with a small band for most of the week. So what!

Overall, I love a small resort with an even smaller crowd. Bring on the off-season.

cubaking was not being funny. this guy was a "regular" at Marea del Portillo. What a creep! It was hotel guests who first alerted officials to his suspicious activities.

We rode in the back of a very large dump truck with about 15 others (2 Canadians, the rest Cubans ranging from 1 to 70 years old)- standing of course – on "roads" into the Sierra Maestre mountains to campismo for the day beside a lovely river in the middle of nowhere! Music blaring; singing and waving at everyone we passed; holding on for dear life at times; we had a blast!But as we were riding there, ducking under all the overhanging branches on what we would call "bush roads" here in Canada, all I could think was "I wonder if this is covered under my travel insurance" and "I’m sure this is high on the list of things our mothers told us never to do"!
Just a note that some of the Club Amigo (perhaps all hotels in Cuba, but I’m not positive) hotels have changed their e-mail addresses – they have replaced the "co" with "tur" – example the ending is now instead of

So for the Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, the contact address I have is now [email protected]


Last year at the Manzanillo airport they started restricting you from taking money (CUC) out – they installed a money exchange booth in the departures area and made everyone go there.The Sunwing rep was warning people during her briefing and it was posted on her bulletin board taht if you had any CUC, they could (and would) confiscate it and you wouldn’t get anything in exchange.Those of us who like to keep a little for the next trip have started to "hide" a little in our suitcase or in a sock. LOL.The rationale for the new ban was twofold – a possible move to one currency and also there have been a lot of incidences of people making counterfeit bills and coming back to Cuba with them in order to flood the market (blame the CIA for that one, I’m sure).

Apparently you can keep coins. Its the bills that are the issue (see my CIA comment above), so for those who still want a couple of pesos to tip the luggage folks on the return trip, you will be fine. Personally, I stopped keeping too much because I don’t want to arrive one trip to find out that my CUCs are worthless.

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