Retelling an American family's overview of Cuba

Posted: 05-May-16 17:58

Entertained and charmed by a recent visit to Cuba, a former pro football standout and his wife recently shared their experience with other travellers. Lauran and Justin Tuck revealed a personal account of their trip with readers of Huffpost Travel, outlining their opinions on everything from lodging to dining, plus detailed lists of "must sees" while on the island.

Retelling an American family's overview of Cuba

As professional football player Justin Tuck and his wife Lauran contemplated how to mark his retirement from the sport, they turned their thoughts to Cuba. In a blog post highlighted by Huffpost Travel, Lauran Tuck explained that after retiring from 11 years with the NFL, they sought a journey to experience something new.

She writes that the country is not only beautiful but also safe. While they left the kids at home, she maintains they would have no concerns about bringing them along next time. As a couple, she says, they greatly enjoyed the music, beaches and historical sites, as well as the rum and cigars.

Changing their original plans, the Tucks stayed at Havana’s Melia Cohiba. They experienced sweeping views of the ocean and city from their hotel room, including landmarks such as the Russian embassy, plus the popular Malecon seawall and roadway across the street. Lauran compliments the hotel for its pool and on-site restaurants, but admits the hotel did not live up to its “five star” rating. She says while the staff was friendly, the décor was old, the carpets stained and Wi-Fi was only semi-reliable.

She also touts the virtues of Parque Central, where they visited friends. She praises its location close to tourist attractions and its variety of cigars and drinks in the lobby bar. She also mentions Airbnb seems like a popular choice for tourists, but the only other hotel they considered in the city was Saratoga.

While in Varadero for a day trip, Lauran admired the all-inclusive Melia Cuba. While she says they used a hotel beach without permission, there are public entrance points, though she points out it requires more walking.

As for food, she raves about the menu at La Guarida, with favourites including pollo asado (roast chicken), ceviche, langosta (lobster) and a range of desserts. She explains that while the building is crumbling, it’s beautiful, including its spectacular views from the rooftop bar.

Except for La Guarida, she says they found most of the food underwhelming, though they were impressed by the live music, atmosphere and service they received. She also writes that while she enjoys fancy lattes at home, black Cuban coffee was first rate.

In recommending what to pack for American travellers, Lauran reminds that suitcases on charter flights need to weigh less than 50 pounds. With this in mind, she packed mostly t-shirts, sandals and shorts. She describes local fashion as bright, stylish and accessorised. She also recommends packing a change of clothes for dancing and dinner, saying that some places like the Tropicana have a dress code. She says many locals were especially interested in the stylish shoes and accessories worn by their travel companions.

Lauran also recommends not leaving your cell phone behind. While she says they maintained Sprint service everywhere they travelled, she admits they did not have access to the Internet outside their hotel. She also suggests bringing cash because you cannot use American credit cards here yet (though this is bound to change very soon), plus personal items like toilet paper, because many bathrooms outside hotels do not have it.

While in Cuba, The Tucks highly suggest catching live musical performances, especially Compania Irene Rodriquez and Habana Compas. They also advocate touring in a classic car, like one of the numerous 1950s American cars that line Cuban streets.

Other “must sees and dos” they list include experiencing the rooftop mojitos at Hotel Ambos Mundos, the clear water and clean beaches of Varadero, a scenic two hour drive from Havana, and touring a cigar factory. Lauran says workers there guessed her husband was a pro athlete and were enthusiastic about striking up conversation. The rum factory tour was not as impressive as she had hoped. Finally, Lauran recommends taking in a show at the historic Tropicana cabaret and club, but skipping out on the dinner.

One important note Lauran made was that they avoided the long baggage claim waits that other travellers experience when landing in Cuba because of VIP arrangements made by their travel agent. Instead, they waited for a short time in a private lounge. While she says they weren’t offered a VIP room while departing Cuba, they purchased access for $15 per person, waiting out their four-hour travel delay.

In addition, she adds, their transportation costs were paid up front so there were no worries about running out of money. Even with tips, though, she says she felt like they weren’t offering enough in a country where nurses make only about $15 per month. Regardless, Lauran writes they thoroughly enjoyed the trip, meeting new friends and uncovering new places along the way, as well as looking forward to the next trip.


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