Tag Archives: Cuba

Santa Maria, my 3rd home…

8 Apr

It is no secret that I have a beautiful extended love affair with Santa Maria. Every trip to this region has been a dream, woven in a fantasy, woven in a dream. I was able to visit Warwick resort, last November, a perfect ending to the year’s travel season.

The resort was modern in style, fairly new and clean, however; it seems as though they lacked in trained staff. It also was designed poorly. Sometimes I wonder if the developers actually think about the hotels they’re building, the types of rooms offered and the location of rooms – and not just focus on genrating money. There were no elevators, all the updated high-end suites were at the far end of the resort, miles down the resort, and the suites on the top levels were inaccessible for anyone with a disability. Basically, we paid for bigger rooms, and didn’t get it.

Other than that major sh*t-show, it was lovely. The beach was absolutely fantastic, the food was great, the pool area was clean and up-to-date.

My mom and I took a tour around the island, did our shopping in the local plaza, scored some deals, and had our own little adventure. Due to a medical emergency, I had to be taken to Santa Clara hospital 1.5hrs away – very arduous and stressful trip.

It was something out of a horror movie. Like the aftermath of a doomsday apocalypse. The hospitals looked as though a bomb had gone off 60yrs ago, and nothing was cleaned or fixed since. Sad and scary. The doctors worked in this rubble and the patients were expected to heal in this insanity. I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to exist in this madness. At any rate, they did the best they could with what they had.

Despite the chaos, we made the best out of a horrific situation. It’s still gorgeous with some of the best beaches in the world.. always my first choice… but next stop… who knows!!

P.S. it has taken me since November to recover from the trauma of that trip! If you’re wondering why such a late post.

 

 

 

Punta Cana: Royal Suites Turquesa – NOT SO GOOD

12 Oct

Just returned from my birthday week in Punta Cana. Sadly, this resort was a BUST. I contracted a food poisoning bug on the 2nd day, but recovered somewhat thanks to some natural alcoholic remedies suggested by one of the locals. 😉 HaHaHa. What else can I say? Had a wicked SwimUp pool though?

As far as resorts go – I’ve never been sick in Cuba! And personally, I much prefer the Cuban vibe. The service is kinder, cleaner and the visitors (less, the Americans), are definitely friendlier, more open and warmer. It’s not surprising that Canadians love Cuba, it’s like an extension of the Canadian attitude. This DR resort definitely catered to the Americans, where everything had to be in US funds. I couldn’t even see the doctor without paying $175USD first. Of course I didn’t. But I can’t imagine what it’s like to live under that type of insanity. (So Happy to be Canadian!)

In spite of the food bug madness, I still managed to enjoy myself! Met some beautiful and kind people who helped me through it. A family from Kentucky, a couple from Detroit, New York and Berlin. It all comes down to the people surrounding you. Sadly the couple from New York and Berlin also suffered from the same food bug. What a shocker! We laughed and commiserated over the horror. The German man kept telling me stories about every aspect of his trip that were, “Not So Good,” and at that point I realized it wasn’t just me. Oh well…

By now, I realize that these resorts are a complete gamble… most times it will be a decent time, and you’ll meet amazing people, and other times, aspects will fail and you just have to make do somehow. I definitely made do.. I slept, and slept, and slept… on the beach of course… but I could totally do with another vacation right about now. 😀

But on this Thanksgiving weekend, just thankful for the ability and opportunity to travel, see the world, experience it with my madre, and be enlightened. That’s exactly what travel does, enlightens you to the realities, and makes you appreciate what you have in your life. Truly blessed!

shadow

cabana

fanta_swimup

sunset

hangin out

arial3

Movie on the Marina

1 Jul

And so our circumnavigating the Caribbean saw us again in Cuba… it’s becoming my 3rd home. And while each trip has its indelible moments, this particular trip seemed to bring the most joy and comfort. I went to visit a friend who works in Cuba, and chose Marina Veradero because it was closest to his home, and because it was a newly built resort.

The resort itself, was fantastic, clean and spacious, friendly staff… but the details are what makes the experience. And while I am satisfied with bare bones accommodations, I think certain improvements and higher standards would have made it an exceptional experience. If you raise the bar – you’ll get higher! 😉

It’s apparent that there is a forward-thinking strategy occurring with the building of this type of resort. Anticipating perhaps a new clientele in the future… from a very close, yet distant neighbour? It’s very ambitious. But they’d need to increase the wow-quality if they want to ‘keep’ them. The resort had three distinct vibes, the pool vibe, the beach vibe, and the marina vibe.. which resembles the St.Maarten boardwalk scene – with supermarkets, small shops, cafes, and places to lounge around.

Again, I met amazing people on this trip, from Toronto, England, Germany, Switzerland, and of course meeting the Cubans. The highlight of meeting new friends is what makes the experience fulfilling. I love the Caribbean vibe the most, because it’s more community-oriented, sharing and giving. We went around, bummed on the beach, and another  purpose of the trip was my health recovery, so I attempted to do that.

I am a great supporter of traveling, I feel it’s the best form of education you can achieve. You learn about other people and their cultures, gain breadth in your thinking and mindset, hopefully become open and available to new possibilities for yourself and for others, and again hopefully recognize what you have and become thankful for everything even more when you get home. I think if more people traveled, they’d be more enlightened, more appreciative, more accepting of others, and less judgmental. Or perhaps each has their own journey to have and lessons to learn, and either way.. traveling just enhances that experience.

I think of trips as mini-movies, where you can lose yourself for a moment, become that lead protagonist and have that star-quality moment and shine. I always feel more confident when I return from a trip, always ready for the next one. 😉

Are you ready for the next trip? I’m packing! 😀
condo view

the marina3

beach hat

on the beach

 

Holguin is Paradise, Paradisus Rio De Oro was NOT!!

16 Sep

Just spent a week in Holguin at the Paradisus Rio De Oro, part of the Melia group of hotels – had a CRAPPY time! I’m surprised at the accommodations and level of service for a so-called 5-star resort. I’ve stayed at 4.5-star resorts in Santa Maria that were a million times better than this.

THE ROOM – INFESTED with ants and insects, in the bed no less! We spent 3 days moving, packing and unpacking. The room was dirty. The service was non-existent, days waiting for anything you requested – for simple things like bottles of water.

CLEANLINESS – DURRRTYYYY! One of the dinner servers was seen playing with her hair and picking her nose and then setting the table. Unclean. The food was often reserved – making some people sick. I mean, I’d rather just have a smaller selection of food, than reheated and stale left-overs!

The UPSIDE (if you can call it that) – Because of this universal lack of service – we actually commiserated with one another to lessen the agony. But in doing so, met some amazing people! Pearl from Toronto – my new Yoga buddy, Serge from Montreal – my gym buddy, and a couple of British couples who’ve invited me to London for a visit!

I’ve been to Holguin before – it’s a gorgeous location. It’s unfortunate that this has marred my experience of it. Sadly, I’m reminded that our experiences are all relative – and some people actually loved this resort, because they had only experienced worse!! So this was an upgrade for them?! I shudder to think where they’ve been staying!! *wince*

I’ve already written a scathing letter and sent it to the Melia Head Office. Received a note that they’re “reviewing my query” – let’s see what happens with this… Not expecting anything. Just going to stick with Santa Maria, where my heart belongs…

steffy veil 2

Intangible Santa Maria, I Love U.

18 May

I truly believe a place can hold a special energy that can actually help you heal your soul. In the months after my father’s passing, I took my mum to Santa Maria, a little island off the main island of Cuba, all in an effort to lift the veil of grief a little.

We went for two weeks, and during that time I met some amazing people – who are still a very important part of my life today. One specifically who has helped me heal my spirit and body tremendously. It was a life-changing and life-saving experience. 🙂

Perhaps it was connecting with these people and forgetting my sadness for a while that made me want to return to recreate a similar experience. So, soon after we returned from St.Maarten, we set out again in the quest for more healing, more culture, and more connection…

This time to Melia Buenavista, for an equally powerful experience. If you’re searching for a party resort – this is NOT for you! This is for the person who wants to decompress, de-stress, detach, but connect with something else…

BUENAVISTA is small, peaceful, beautiful, remote, and minimalist. It’s located on the very tip of the island of Santa Maria. It has a personalized concierge service that brings intention to your stay. There’s yoga and a spa – which is fantastic, but the entire space (air, space and water) is spa-like. The stretch of beach along the coastline is just other-worldly. One really has to wonder… One could walk for hours and just lose track of time. I spent my days playing beach volleyball and sailing at the other resorts with thousands of people, then returned to my peaceful zen resort in the afternoons. A great combination. And the music. Always soulful and transforming for me – all you need is some SiCK Salsa music!! 😉

But apart from all the tangible things – there’s something about Santa Maria that I really haven’t been able to capture with words, I’ll just leave it here and sum it up to: MAGIC. And let you experience it for yourself! 😉 There’s a metaphysical pull, something that will always bring me back there.

santa maria beach

Along the coast of Santa Maria. En Route to Barcelo.

view from hammock

One of three beaches at Buenavista Resort.

the bay

The very tip of the island of Santa Maria; The Bay at Buenavista Resort.