Our friend Steven Bereznai — travel writer, personal trainer, and the author of numerous books, including Gay and Single…Forever? 10 Things Every Gay Guy Looking For Love (and Not Finding It) Needs to Know — chimes in with a fascinating piece from his trip to Cuba this past January. (He’s Canadian and has the legal right to travel there as a tourist from Canada.):
“Don’t book anything less than a 4 star.” “The food will be terrible.” “The booze will be watered down.” “Your all inclusive won’t include drinkable water.” “The resort won’t look like the brochure.” “Tip everybody.” “The locals will want to marry you.”That’s what people were telling me in advance of my first trip to Cuba in January of 2015. They were right about booking a 4 star and up (a three star is like a zero star to North Americans). I went with a 4.5, Memories of Holguin Beach Resort, in Holguin. My friend, who has been to Cuba 15 times, assured me that Holguin has the best beaches. On the down side, it’s too far from Varadero or Havana for a day trip.That said, if you’re strictly looking for a cheap beach get-away (we were), it’s tough to beat Sunwing’s $870 (Canadian, prices vary) all-in from Toronto, including flight, hotel, pickup and drop off from Holguin airport, along with fees and taxes (as per the advice above, do tip the driver, and there is a 25 CUC Aiport Departure Tax when you leave.)Since this was my first time in Cuba I can’t compare it to other resorts, but my friend tells me that Memories of Holguin was the nicest Cuban resort he’s stayed at. Contrary to many of his past experiences, the resort, which boasts 7 pools (on different levels, so be prepared for stairs) did match the online photos. Also, when we arrived shortly after 9pm the buffet dinner was still open, and there was a 24 hour cafe with chicken and burgers available.For someone like myself who eats a lot, and claims to have hypoglycemia, this was a huge relief. Better yet, the food was on par with what I’d expect from an all inclusive: far from gourmet, but diverse enough (fish, pasta, burgers, salad bar, dessert bar) and well-prepared. If you’re a foodie, forget it, but for $870 I got my money’s worth. They also had specialty restaurants with full table service. Frankly, they provided little variety from the buffet, you had to stand in a long line to make reservations, but the change in atmosphere was enjoyable.They also had a lobster beach dinner for an additional 20CUC, which was delicious, and eating on the beach at night was a trip highlight (that said we could’ve done without the blaring country music, or the intense spotlight that blinded us from certain angles). As one fellow tourist said, “if they just got a few more details right, they’d really be up there.”I’m not a big drinker, but for review purposes (wink wink) I did try the wine once (terrible) and indulged in pina coladas for most of the trip (I barely felt a buzz, though I cut myself off at two drinks). Those in the know brought their own giant insulated receptacles to take to the bar (which the bartenders were happy to fill) and the rooms came with their own bottles of upside down dispensers, so sobriety is easily dealt with if that’s a concern. Water, as it turned out, was included as well, along with one hour of free wi-fi per day.My biggest complaint from an LGBT perspective (Sunwing take note) was that during the evening beach party, the host started with an ice breaker game and called on couples to take part, specifically girl/boy couples, which he repeated numerous times. On two separate occasions my friend and I caught staff referring to us as “maricon,” as if one needs to be fluent in Spanish to recognize we’re being called faggots (I will not apologize for my Speedo or fabulous tank tops). Worse, contrary to what I’d been promised, no one wanted to marry me, let alone the cute entertainer with the faux hawk who played Mowgli (in a terrible wig) on Disney night. Perhaps I should’ve tipped him.