Purple Dog Solutions director Chris Clarke took a trip to Cuba this summer and discovered it has a kind of magical charm…
“We only had a week so concentrated on exploring Havana and Trinidad, which meant we didn’t get to see the beach resorts. But to be honest, if you’re only interested in sitting on a beach, then you’d be better off going to the more traditional Caribbean islands. If you want what much of the Caribbean can’t offer – culture and heritage – then Cuba has all that, but you do compromise on quality when it comes to five-star properties.
Some of the hotels that are billed as five-star are not what we’d expect from a five-star hotel. But that said, we did spend a night at the new Kempinski in Havana, which was absolutely lovely if a little pricey. If that’s the standard being set for new five-star properties in Cuba, then it’s very promising. There are lots of new developments on the island, and they predominantly seem to be at the luxury end.
I loved Havana – it’s gritty, a little grimy in places, but colourful and fun and everything I expected it to be, with the architecture, the American cars, all the shabby chic, and people on the street corners playing guitar. It’s a bit like the big cities in India, that assault every one of your senses, in both good and bad ways. Trinidad was nice and there’s some stunning examples of Spanish colonial architecture, but it doesn’t really have five-star deluxe properties.
The people are also really friendly, and the trip has piqued my interest in Cuba as a destination. I would definitely go back as there is so much more to see. I’d love to be given the opportunity to take a group there, but it would have to be the right group. If I had a smaller group, that wanted history, culture, sunshine, and to stay in style if the budget permitted, but were really up for throwing themselves into Cuban culture then it could work well.”