Today was our travel day to the much anticipated Cuban leg of our journey. Cuba was on the bucket list for the family and we wanted to see it before it changed too much. Unfortunately, Brian and his family never quite recovered from their illness and understandably opted to return home for safety reasons. We sadly farewelled them. They would be sorely missed on our 12 day private tour of Cuba organised through Peregrine.
We were picked up by the Tragical Express at 815am. This was our first bad experience with Disney's Magical Express, although it wasn't a complete surprise with the surprising number of not so great transport Disney moments this trip. We had the most rude and obnoxious driver which was a shame as we didn’t want to leave Disney on a bad note. We were unable to utilise the resort check in facilities and had to check in physically at the airport as we were flying with Aeromexico. The check in was easy enough. The security though to get through to airside was horrendous. It took 50 minutes!!!
Once through, we made use of our priority pass membership to enter The Club at MCO. In terms of lounge facilities, it was basic, but it was comfortable and provided food and snacks for the family prior to our flight to Mexico City. Once at Mexico City, the rate limiting step was getting through immigration. The lines were very very long. It was fortunate that we had 3 hours for our connecting flight! They finally moved some passengers from the foreign passport line to the Mexican passport line which shortened our wait dramatically.
|The sprawling lights of Mexico City|
We made our way to the American Express lounge which was a nice break from the crowds. With sign language and made up Spanish, we managed to get some soup (one the best tasting chicken soup we’ve ever had served with very hot green chilli!) pizzas and drinks. Oma and Malcolm had a free 15 minute massage each. Everyone else was happy just to be able to recharge their various devices as the Aeromexico planes did not have any USB outlets. On that note, even though the Aeromexico planes were very basic, their serviced was far better than American Airlines! This was despite the fact that some of the cabin attendants could not speak English. Just goes to show how far a smile and a little bit of effort can go!
Upon arrival at Cuba, we pleased to be greeted with surprisingly quick immigration and customs. For once, our suitcases were amongst the first to come out! We were greeted at the airport by Yoanis, our guide, and Julio, our bus driver. Malcolm took the opportunity to exchange some money. Tourists had to use the Cuban Convertible peso (CUC). One CUC was worth roughly just under 1 Euro. It might be handy to know that American dollars can be exchanged but they are done at a penalty of 20% tax.
It was a pleasant surprise to see a big bus awaiting us. It was air-conditioned, clean, comfortable with reclining seats, had USB charging outlets and most importantly had enough space to fit all our suitcases! By this time, it was just past midnight and we were glad when Julio, our driver for our trip, whisked us away to Havana to our Casas.
We were not quite sure what to expect with the casa. Our rooms were very basic but clean. This much we were told. Peregrine were not able to give us more details or give us photos prior to the trip. The reception room or living room of the hosts though were beautiful. Old ornate chandeliers hung from the extremely high nearly 6m ceilings. Furnishings were very old but elegant. The staff winched our suitcases up to the second floor. A few things of note, there was an assortment of electricity outlets with 2 in our room that could take most plugs. Also, no toiletries were provided so we were glad we took some with us from Disney!
|Our bus for the trip!|
|The door to our room. Note the VERY old and very loud air-conditioning unit|
|The children's room was similar but note the ornate light fitting!|
|Shower. Water pressure only just passable|