By Marc Smith on 4 July, 2017
Cigars, rum, classic cars and architecture untouched by modern sensibilities, that is what I am expecting to see when I land in Cuba for the very first time. To say I am excited is an understatement. I will be spending a week exploring the Island with four nights in Havana and three nights in the resort area of Varadero. A mix of culture and relaxation. A perfect vacation adventure in my books. Home for my first four nights will be at the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, an Havana luxury hotel that predates the Cuban revolution. Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, and Johnny Weismuller have all stayed there and now they will be able to add my name to the guest book. I can’t wait to stay in a hotel that has been frozen in time, at least on the outside.
Located on a hill in central Havana overlooking the ocean and the city. This National Monument appears today as it did over 85 years ago when it first opened. This Havana luxury hotel offers a glimpse into our travelling past while offering some new and important amenities like WiFi and air conditioning (more on those later).
My flight to Havana arrived after 9:00 pm so it was close to 10 pm when we checked in. I’ve been reserved a room on the executive floor so check in for us is not in the lobby but on the 6th floor. Check out the lobby though. It is quite impressive with a massive ceiling height, arches and an impressive crystal chandelier hanging from the wood beamed ceiling. My first impression is wow!
Up to my floor I go in an elevator that is older than I am, yet I dare say it runs better. Once inside I know I have stepped back in time. My room is quite a good size with a King size bed dominating the room. Even though the hotel was renovated in 1992 the furniture is classic and would be considered an antique find back in Canada and the USA.
I was a tad worried about how hot the room would be as I am visiting in June and the temperatures are expected to be in the 30ºC range plus high humidity. Not to worry the air conditioning is on full blast and I dare say my room has an arctic chill to it. PERFECT!
My bathroom is fairly basic but very acceptable. There will be no soaking in the bath after a day of adventuring in Old Havana but I am ok with that. It has everything I need including a sign warning guests not to drink the tap water.
Now to hit the sack as I am exhausted. Tomorrow I’ll start with breakfast as it is included with my stay and then I will explore more of the hotel.
Waking up bright and early I head to the bottom floor for breakfast with the other guests. It is quite a substantial offering that includes western fare, fresh fruit, pastries and an omelette and fried egg station. I pretty much stuck to fried eggs, fruit, Cuban pastries, grilled sausages and of course a good shot of Cuban espresso. OMG, the espresso is so good. Don’t drink the drip coffee, go straight for espresso, trust me.
As I expect this Havana luxury hotel offers a day spa for guests and a fantastic pool with outside bar. While I didn’t have time to enjoy a spa treatment I did get some quality pool time in.
The grounds of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba also offer some spectacular outdoor seating and lounge areas. There is one plaza that commands a spectacular view of the ocean.
We aren’t alone on the grounds though. I had to share them with Peacocks and musicians performing at random locations throughout the day. I may have spent a couple of hours drinking Cerveza while listening to the many talented musicians perform. Cubans love music and it seems they all know how to play an instrument.
Coming to Cuba I had prepared myself to be on a digital social media detox. No checking emails, posting to Instagram, Twitter or doing a live Facebook video. I was pleasantly surprised that the Hotel Nacional de Cuba does have WiFi in the common areas and in my room. It is not LTE fast but they do have it for emergency purposes if you need it. I must confess I did post a few images on my social channels but for the most part, I tried to be present and in the moment.
How did the Hotel Nacional de Cuba stand up to my expectations? I would say it exceeded them. I am always wary of 5-star ratings as they are not consistent around the world, however, I found this Havana luxury hotel to meet all my needs including having some very friendly staff.
What a treat to spend a few nights in such an historic property that predates the Cuban revolution and is still going strong today. It is a slice of history that I hope doesn’t get modernised too much.