What the surge of American tourists can expect as they are welcomed back to Cuba.
Old cars, cheap lobster, and living history.
In Five Take Flight, we jump on any opportunity to travel. A few weeks back I overheard that a trip to Cuba was in the works… I invited myself. Next thing I know I am on a G150 flying the first flight direct from Salt Lake City to Havana. On the flight over I did a Cuba history Crash course, watching a few documentaries.
First impressions, the runway had some bumps, and the General Aviation airport (terminal 5) was a ghost town. Ours was the only plane parked outside, and from the look of things, the airport staff had not seen much action that day. Only 2 of the 5 urinals in the bathroom had pipes…. but any holes in the amenities were filled by the kindness of the people. We felt safe and welcome.
Our hotel, the Melia Cohiba, is acclaimed by many to be the nicest in Havana. If you’re used to traveling to Hawaii or Mexico, you’ll be disappointed by what you find in terms of lodging in Cuba. You have to understand that, as of summer 2016, the tourist economy of Cuba has been limping along since the early 60’s. Room size, amenities, and Wifi suffer. If ours was the nicest, I’m guessing things get pretty raw.
One welcomed side effect of the time capsule of Cuba are the cars. You see them everywhere… Gems of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Like a perpetual classic car show. As the surge of tourists hit Cuba this is likely to become even more pronounced, given the choice of riding in a classic pink convertible or a regular Taxi, which would you choose? Speeds are slow and traffic non existent. One highlight of the trip was our open air tour of Havana in one of these classics. A must-do.
But there are accidents, in fact I was in one! You can hear the story in the video above. But long story short, my taxi had ample time to stop but ran right into the back of another car. Sending me flying into the driver seat. Not knowing the traffic laws I choose to flee the scene after paying my agreed upon fare plus some extra.
Food was awesome. Huge lobster for the equivalent of $10-15 USD. It was really hard to find ‘local’ places.. we tied but I don’t think we ever really found where your average Cubans eat.
One trip unforgettable was the Cabaret show at the Tropicana. This is the Genesis of the spectacle you find in Las Vegas. I was pulled up not once but 3 times to dance with the performers. If you don’t want to dance… don’t sit on the aisle.
Final thoughts, Cuba is full of very interesting modern history. Not a trip to the museum kind of history… walking the streets of Havana you are actually seeing history and watching it unfold. Along with the cars, Cuba is rich in people, culture, and food.
You’ll find better beaches in Hawaii, but who wants to hear about your trip to Waikiki? One trip to Cuba and you’ll have stories for the grandkids… hopefully not about your Taxi accident!
– Derek Tillotson
Speical thanks to Sandie Tillotson!