- This is a fantastic trip in an extremely interesting and photogenic country and our guide, Jose, was brilliant with superb historical knowledge and very proactive at planning ahead and getting the best for us that he could.
We have rated the itinerary a 7 because although we expected a 'full on pace' as detailed in the tour notes, we were sometimes only given 30 mins to look at a town by ourselves for example, which became frustrating. This is a tour which gives you a whole island view and taster of some towns and places that you may go back to at some point in the future with more time.
Accommodation was variable in 'standard hotels' with lack of hot water (or any water at all) on two or three occasions, rubbish pillows and lots of noise in some. Bathroom facilities are not great sometimes. The home stay was in a B&B and the owners were hospitable and friendly and provided the best facilities that they could. We actually enjoyed the hacienda/camping the most to our surprise, having been a bit apprehensive about it, even though we shared the camping field with two horses, chickens, cockerels and at one point turkey vultures!
The coach drive is very long back from one end of the island to the other but there is so much to watch on and beside the roads that actually it didn't seem too bad even though it's a very long day and a half or so of driving. Our coach driver, Ray, was excellent.
Evening meals and other costs were more expensive than we had expected, mainly going with our guide's suggestions for meals, and we spent £800 for two of us on all our spending money (including some small presents) in the two weeks, not an insignificant additional cost.
Highlights of the trip were the architecture and liveliness of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, the old 50s cars, the hog roast and stay at the haciendas and the treks to the haciendas, Cayo Levisa and swimming in the Caribbean, the pina colada refreshment stop on our hot walk through tobacco plantations where we met a tobacco farmer, all the musicians we listened to in restaurants and on the streets and the Casa de la Trova in Havana, chatting to our tour leader about life in Cuba.... I could go on!
One last thing to note is that Explore told us we had to fly via Madrid when we booked the trip a year in advance. We ended up on Air Europa with the worst food I've ever been given and travelling for nearly 24 hours door to door on the way out, while others had a much better and shorter direct travelling experience on Virgin Atlantic. I will beware of flight arrangements if we book with Explore again.
Published on: 05 February 2017