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"Trip" pictures

Here are a few pictures from my abbreviated trip. I will add a few more when I have time. The snorkelling ones were taken early morning when the light wasn’t good…other than that, I mostly took pictures to show the tree damage done by Hurricane Ike. I will add some I took of the rooms, etc.

http://s11.photobucket.com/albums/a179/eeeefarm/PRDO%20Mares%20Nov%202008/

I’m not planning to write a review, as I was not there long enough and under the circumstances (imminent hurricane/evacuation) my impressions might have been somewhat coloured by the stress and confusion. I will add a few comments, however.

Being “upgraded” to Paradisus Rio de Oro for a mere 12 hours does not give one a fair assessment of this property. However, a few observations: the rooms are huge. This is not necessarily a good thing. Personally I did not like the step down from the bed area to the living area, or the orientation of the television…impossible to watch from your bed. My room was ground floor, and there was a real problem with a musty odor…probably from water during Hurricane Ike, but not something that went away after running the A/C for awhile. The buffet restaurant is covered but open air. There are smoking sections in it. As the old joke goes, sort of like having peeing and non peeing sections in the pool. (I notice the pool has a swim up bar, so they are being consistent! ;D ) On the plus side, the staff are pleasant and the PR lady was very helpful when I needed to send an email and didn’t want to buy a 30 minute card when I was checking out in a couple of hours. I can’t comment on the food, as I only ate breakfast at this resort and I found it typical of most Cuban resorts I have stayed at…

Mares was as I remembered it from my last visit. I would have had a third floor room had I remained there, and there was no problem with any musty odor in it. Staff were mostly pleasant, but nobody had any info about our imminent evacuation and the tour rep was nowhere to be found most of the time.

I would like to add one more observation…not to reopen a prickly topic, but to perhaps explain the actions of some tourists re: tipping with Canadian coins. The tour rep suggested on the bus to the airport that we tip the driver. He further suggested that any tip, including Canadian money and including “Toonies & Loonies” would be most welcome. So much for the theory that such tips are “useless” to Cubans. What they are is a pain in the butt to other tourists who will be asked to change them into bills or CUCs, but please don’t feel sorry for the Cubans…they have no problem dealing with the money exchange thing, and I would suspect some are making a living changing money for others…“es Cuba”! :wink:

Thanks for posting the link to your photos, eeeefarm :slight_smile: I was surprised to see, considering the tree damage, that the buildings looked non the worse for ware. Had they been damaged and repaired?
Your comment regarding tipping in Cdn loonies and toonies was interesting considering past postings on this very subject. Just when you think you know how things work, in Cuba, you get another slant on it :wink:
It may not have been the vacation you had planned but it was definitely an experience to remember. Thanks for sharing :slight_smile:
steffiej

:slight_smile: Thanks, eeeefarm, for your mini report and your pics. The Rio de Oro certainly looks a lot different than when we were there. WOW!

Amazing just how resourceful the Cubans are, isn’t it? :smiley: Thanks for the “tip”. :wink: :-*

Oh my, eeefarm, how sad! I would have thought that the vegetation would have been picked up and cleared away a little more. Both resorts had such beautiful landscaping and the trees were mature and really added to the whole experience. Did you notice if the beach at Luna y Mares was washed out? I remember reading after Ike that a lot of sand had been washed away exposing a lot more coral at the waters edge. We were at both places in 2006 and I can still close my eyes and see myself on both beaches. Ah, it’s heartbreaking to see. I’m so happy they didn’t get another blast from Paloma. Did you notice a lot of damage to the villages on the road to and from the airport?
As for the toonie-loonie thing. I remember wanting to buy beer at the airport before we got on the bus and told the vendors I didn’t have any Cuban money and they said - no problem at all! We accept toonies and loonies. I guess when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, any money is better than no money at all.
For those who have never seen the resorts before - here are my albums, done in 2006, to use as a comparison with eeefarms pics.
http://community.webshots.com/user/santamom

eeefarm, thanks so much for sharing your pics with us. I’m so sorry your trip was cut short - hope you are able to go back sometime soon!

I don’t ever remember a post here that said coins are a bad idea because Cubans working in the tourist industry can’t find a way to exchange them.

The issue for me is twofold: 1.) Tipping in coins means Cubans have to hassle/scam tourists for CUC, and 2.) Visiting a foreign country and tipping in an nonexchangeable (through legal channels) currency makes you look like a dumb tourist.

In a resort that has a constant stream of Canadian tourists I can understand that these aren’t important issues. Off the resort it’s a completely different situation.

And just to be completely clear… in the previous post I’m not saying that resort tourists are dumb - I’m saying that doing this off the resort with Cubans who don’t have access to tourists to exchange the coins is dumb.

I’ve never understood why one’s behavior in a foreign country should be different simply because you’re in a resort or traveling independently, but that’s just me…

You’re perfectly right Martian. I only once gave Cdn change (for the bus beer) but since then, I always bring back 5-10 CUC with me and use them for tips (or beer :)) when we first arrive in Cuba - saves a lot of embarassement on both sides.

Bingo, Sea Chick.

Is it a crime to use coins in a transaction that involves a Cuban working within the tourist industry? Of course not. Is it something that should be avoided if possible? Of course.

No big deal…

My point was that Cubans actively solicit Canadian coins. Personally, I have never tipped with them, nor would I have a need to, since I always bring enough CUCs home to start my next trip. Beware of the Cuban “coin collector” scam as well…I’ve met lots of avid “coin collectors” in Cuba who are probably at the airport the next day complaining that some dumb tourist tipped them with Loonies that they need to exchange (preferably one to one with CUCs) ;D

“… My point was that Cubans actively solicit Canadian coins…”

Or to be more precise, Cubans who are lucky enough to work in the tourist industry actively solicit Canadian coins.

Why? Because they know it’s a simple matter to scam other naive Canadian tourists into turning them into CUC.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. Just don’t use them away from tourist centres where in most cases they’re completely useless for anything except marking you as a big dumb tourist, no matter how honourable and generous your tipping intentions.

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The “coin collector” scam you mention has been running off and on at Havana Airport and in Habana Vieja for years. One little old lady made an absolute killing in Habana Vieja, hanging outside the Cadeca on Obispo nailing tourists.

After she started recognizing me we’d always sit for a moment and have a nice chat, endlessly discussing money. Believe me, she understood the exchange rates better than any Cuban banker. And, obviously, better than all the tourists who she made her vig from. It didn’t matter your nationality or currency, she was the master. And yes, every now and then I’d slip her a few coins to help with the Canadian side of her “business.” :wink:

eeeefarm, you’ve got me thinking about that old lady now… She could line up a Canadian, Swede, Frenchman, Swiss, Dutchman, German, etc. and present the appropriate coins so fast it’d make your head spin. Her purse must have weighed 10 pounds at the start of her “shift.”

I should dig up some photos and do an original post detailing her little business. It was hilarious. Sadly she passed on about a year ago so it wouldn’t be compromising or hurting anyone…