A Union President (me), a union member by the name of Sal and his 10 year old son Desman went traveling with some well to do business guys, Dean, Joe and Norm all from Calgary and now good friends for life. At the end of the day during this trip, I came to the conclusion that we are all the same, just good people.
Talking to the guys before we went to Cuba I let them know that a 5 star in Cuba is more like a 4 star in most Countries. Mainly because of the food being bland as they do not add spice, so always make sure to take some with you and of course the beds aren’t quite as nice either. The problem I don't like is the 4 1/2 and up star resorts are too far away from downtown Varadero so you have to take a bus or a taxi to get to where there is more to see and do more interaction with the great people of Cuba too. After I showed the guys my regular 3 1/2 star Cautro Palmas Resort that I normally stay at, they all agreed that my normal 3 1/2 star would be a better place for all of us single guys for the day and night life. Now I will never assume what I think people will like better, I will just explain that at the 3/12 star the food will not be as good, the beds will not be as good as a 5 star and the entertainment (night show will not be as good). I find it better because I am never at the resort anyways through the day or night as there is so much to see and do and by the time I get back to the resort if I make it back I am so tired that that hard bed is so comfortable.
Some people go to the Resorts just to hang out at the beach, pool, eat, party and watch the shows. I'm not going to judge people that just want to hang out and have fun at the resort, that's just not me, I may do a bit of that (get my money's worth) but my thing to do is show the friends I go with the way Cuban's are. Right from the way they live and that you don’t have to be afraid of them as they love to take you to their homes and have you eat and drink with their families.
One of the tours I like to take my friends on is going and renting scooters for the day and going to a small town called Matanzas as it's just a small taste of what they will see in Havana as Havana is totally like a different world. When I take people there I like to hand out candies and gifts to the children and their parents and it feels so good just seeing a smile on their faces as they receive something from us. So when it was time to find a place to stay for the night in Havana I said to the guys that there is a 5 star hotel about a block and a half from where we ended up staying and to my surprise Joe and I stayed at a family's house for $25.00 a night and Dean and Norm stayed at a 2 1/2 star hotel for $31.00 a night about a half a block from us. We all had a blast, Dean and Joe went to the amazing Tropicana show while Norm and I hung out on the streets of Havana and met back at the hotel at around 1:00 a.m. Sal and his son Desman did not make it to Havana as they had plans for a jeep/safari the next day but we did the scooter to Matanzas thing together and I loved seeing his son Desman give out candies and gifts to the children and their families. The whole trip we all had a blast, we all got along and nothing went wrong. Okay I will admit that I do get a laugh when I see people first arrive in Cuba and expect it will be the same as back home but it's not. In regards to their technology and internet you need passions dial up which is so slow and for me to have a Cuban cell it cost me $50.00 for just the SIM card that I rented for 14 days and then I put $30.00 on it for calls and texting at a cost of $1.00 a text and $1.00 a local or Canadian call. If I used the $30.00 up I had to wait in a long line up to put more money on the phone. The good thing is that it was free to receive calls and texts, the Cubans get it cheaper than that.
Talk about communication/technology. We were in a restaurant and Joe mentioned to all of us sitting there to take a look around and see what we noticed different compared to a restaurant back home. We all looked around and none of us noticed anything different at all. He said that people are actually communicating with each other, that no one had a cell phone out texting or what not. It was truly amazing to look around and see what he had just pointed out.
After a week I said goodbye to my trip mates and for week two I had my friend Tony also a Union member show up and I had to do it all again and yes I loved it! We did the scooter to Matanzas and a night in Havana and by the end of the week everyone knew Tony at the resort. I just couldn’t keep up to him (party) but I did see most of the shows that week. The last day we were there Tony and I went golfing and we played with another twosome named Kerry and Marilyn who were from Ontario. I told them I was handicapped, meaning I only had one arm (hand) as my left shoulder is still hurting from the motorcycle accident this past spring. At the start it was bad but after a while I was getting better. I played once this summer in a tournament, not bad and I can play with both hands on short chips and putt. When Tony and I went to the airport to come home, I ran into 2 other people I knew plus 4 union members that were at other resorts.
Other people (union members I hung out with down there was Jason and his girlfriend Christen as they were at the Riu resort too and also my friend Fernando was staying at the 3 ½ star resort where him and I and a group stayed last year.
My first day back to work, Sal came into my office to say thanks for a great trip for him and his son Desman. He also said that when they went to the airport they got pulled over by a baggage handler and the guy said to Desman "Thank you so much for coming to his city Matanzas to hand out candies and gifts to all the people in the pizza place". When we were at the same place, Joe got the bill and said what is this $12.00 for 5 pizzas and 5 cokes he thought something was wrong. I looked at it and said to Joe "No that is the real price so we can just tip big". We always tipped and we always got great service no matter where we went. I know that the people really appreciate receiving the candies, gifts and tips but sometimes it’s even better when you hear it from the Cubans a couple of days later like Desman did it just makes it that much more special. I loved watching Desman hand things out to them because he had a smile that went from ear to ear, which is truly what it is all about. I think it means as much to us to be able to do it, as it does to them!
The bottom line is. Never judge or assume anything or anybody! We are all the same one way or another...
Pictures coming soon as they are in Italy right now, I'm just the tour guide :)