4-star Cockroaches / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on August 26, 2015
14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 26 August 2015 – When Francina Islas
and Juan Andres Sanchez planned their Cuban vacation from Miami, they
didn't imagine that their stay in Havana would become a sequence of
discomforts and annoyances. Three days at the centrally-located Hotel
Plaza was enough to know that the excellence of Cuban tourist facilities
is often a publicity mirage with no connection to reality.
The latest figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics
indicate that the country experienced a 21.1% increase in foreign
visitors between January and May of 2015, compared the same period from
a year ago. However, at the same time that the number of tourists was
increasing, customer demands were increasing.
The couple who shared their experience with 14ymedio said, "We were not
looking for luxury, just minimal conditions of hygiene and maintenance,
working hot water, no cockroaches," said Francina, a Mexican traveling
with her Spanish husband and their daughter.
With difficulty, the family managed to book a room in Havana from Spain.
The flood of tourists has left little availability in the accommodation
network which includes 430 establishments throughout the country,
including hotels, apartment hotels, motels, villas, hostels, houses,
cottages and campgrounds.
After working through several obstacles, Francina and Juan Andres made a
reservation through the Logitravel travel agency for a room in the
Armadores de Santander, located in a historic mansion in the city. But a
week before traveling, they were alerted that it was overbooked and they
were relocated to the Plaza Hotel, what was announced as four-stars.
The change didn't bother them at all, because the new place is a few
yards from Central Park, and had a beautiful façade. However, passing
through the most visible areas of the building, they found the rooms
left a lot to be desired.
The musty smell on opening the door of the room was the first sign that
something was wrong. Then they found there was dust on the furniture,
the shower was not embedded in the wall, but hanging, and the water
pressure lasted just a few minutes. If someone closed the bathroom door
from inside, they needed help from outside to open it, and the
bedspreads were dirty and shabby. "Fortunately the sheets had been
washed and changed, and they were the only things we used because the
blanket was torn, ripped and filthy," the alarmed Francina commented.
When they went to breakfast the first time they tried to shake off their
frustration with some good tropical fruits, but there was nothing like a
Cuban pineapple, guava, or mango, nor even natural juices. Their
annoyance grew and the couple – the journalist and her economist husband
– were on the point of slamming the door to the Plaza Hotel, but it
wasn't that easy.
The price of the central accommodation is 120 convertible pesos (just
over $120) a night in this season, but Francina and Juan Andres were
only paying 80 because they got a deal. Contacting the Logitravel Agency
was impossible: the cost of overseas calls too expensive, and the
internet service too slow.
The Plaza Hotel is managed by the Hotel Group Gran Caribe SA, an entity
that is grouped under the Ministry of Tourism, whose slogan is "in all
its splendor." With 12,123 rooms spread over 45 facilities, Gran Caribe
is present in the main tourist centers in the country and now has its
sights set on a possible flood of tourism from the United States.
On the third day, August 6, the couple left the Plaza and rented a room
in the Hotel President. They found the room clean and airy, but "the
bathroom taps didn't fully shut off," they said. Francina ended up
wondering, "How can there be such a lack of water for Havanans and a
permanent waste of water in hotels?"
"We will are not going quarrel with the Plaza, we will complain to the
agency," said Francina. "I lost count of how many cockroaches I found in
the room." For the couple it is not only about complaining to get their
money back, but who is going to give them back their vacation?
Source: 4-star Cockroaches / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz | Translating Cuba