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  1. Just stumbled on two articles regarding Cuba re-opening travel to the island. First stated that borders will open August 1st - not earlier. But it has not been confirmed officially. Second is a report on Casas Particulares that are struggling to survive without foreign tourists to rent to. While they are "officially" closed and not allowed to rent to locals by law, some have gone to renting "on the side" to local couples on an "hourly basis". From charging 35 to 40 CUC a night to a tourist some have been renting as low as 3 CUC without A/C or 4 CUC with A/C an hour always fearing being fined/closed by state control officers. But the more ominous news is that is is feared that when re-opening to tourism it will be mandatory for visitors to stay in hotels as Casas Particulares will not be allowed to accept tourists for fear of uncontrolled virus propagation, which is a good excuse to shut down the private renting enterprise that competes with the state hotels. Not confirmed - yet - but if so there goes Cuba travel for many of us that stay in Casas and would not stay in a hotel.
  2. Hey all FOH, Finylly will fly to CUBA after many yyears lurking on the forums (FoH and others).... I just wanted to share my future and first trip to Cuba in May 2020 (4th - 20th ca.) After a long time waiting to get the possibility to travel again, I decided to fly to the Cuba finally and also I wanted to gift my dear mom to discover it too. Will travel there to an acquaintance parents in Havana and maybe a few days in a resort (has to be defined at this moment... ). Will also be very happy to meet with any Foh Members who will be there on these dates PS: More infos will follw here as I get confirmations
  3. Something I found out on my last trip from an expat friend in Cuba is that "somebody in Cuba" is cloning some users' phones, that is, phones with a Cuban sim card. I'm not sure about international sim cards. In case anyone might be worried that this may sound like a groundless accusation of underhanded dealings, there is a code that lets you check and see for yourself if it has been done. With your Cuban phone, open the phone app and dial *#06# and press "Call". the following screen will open on your phone, this has to be done in Cuba of course, on the Cubacel network. Edit. This works outside of Cuba too. I just checked. I've blurred out some of the data. One clone is enough thank you! This phone is dual sim so there should be one IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) code and one MEID (Mobile Equipment identifier) code for each sim. If this screen shows more than one code for each sim in your phone, your phone has been cloned. And somebody else can see everything you do on your phone. Calls, messages, etc. They can even make calls and send messages using your account. I have been told that this is done to phones that show "unusual" activity. "Unusual activity" can be an odd mix of sending messages to Cubans and tourists, international and local, as I do, and lots of us do. Quite a few Cuban locals told me their phones have been cloned too. About 50%. Mostly in the tourist industry, so again an odd mix of messaging and calling locally and internationally. I don't care personally, I have nothing to hide, I don't care if somebody sees what's on my phone screen, and I know no calls have been made other than from me. I have been told, if you change phones, they will know and will update the clone identity from your existing number. If you change your Cuban sim card/number, they will update the code from your existing phone ID. So the only way to get around it is to put a new sim card into a phone you haven't used in Cuba before. Then they have to start again. Just a heads-up! Edit. I just did a test and it seems that *#06# isn't a Cuban thing, it seems to work on any phone, anywhere, to check your IMEI code on your phone.
  4. I got some images this morning from a friend in Cuba with details of the events in Havana for the 500th anniversary. Some of these will overlap with the Partagas event. Quite a bit going on. The big public event on Saturday the 16th, and probably the place to be, is a concert by Los Van Van on the Malecon by the Piragua, that's the space between the Hotel Nacional and the Maine Monument, basically in front of the Gato Tuerto. Anyway, here are the images.
  5. @nino just gave me the idea for this. Quite a few of us have just returned from Havana and some members will be going in the next few months, February etc. Any new paladares to recommend? Or any that have gone downhill since the last visit? Here's my, short, list to begin. Michifú It's very new, not even on the Alamesa app yet. I was brought there by a friend who lives and works in Havana. It's about 1/2 block east (towards Habana Vieja) from La Guarida. Great spot, smoking indoors and out with no complaints, in a courtyard style setting. I was there 3 times for dinner on the last trip. The food is Cuban/Spanish/French fusion. The mixed chicken/pork skewers are very good. So is the ratatouille. A friend had the pargo (red snapper) and was very impressed. It was opened by the original owner of Sia Kará (one of my favourite cafes in Havana). Very cheap. Starter, main and a couple of beers won't be much more than $20. Casa Nostra Currently my favourite Italian in Havana. Very close to El Sauce. The owners have another place (Il Rustico) in Habana Vieja. They have their own herb and vegetable garden in the back. I test Italian restaurants with a plate of penne and pesto, with the thinking that if they can get simple right... The pasta is homemade as is the pesto from basil they grow on site. It was brilliant, as good as I have had anywhere. They have a wood fired pizza oven. I was told by a friend in the know, to order the octopus. They put the octopus on the pizza spade and shove it in the pizza oven for less than a minute. It comes out crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked inside, extraordinary. I was in the mood for a White Russian (not on the menu), they apologised that they had no cream, until they magicked up a bottle of cream from somewhere about 15 minutes later. Great service. I highly recommend. On the downslope Unfortunately, La Corte del Principe I hate saying this, as it was one of my favourite restaurants in Havana. I was going there with a friend on one of my first days and was warned by some ex-pat friends in Havana that it had gone downhill. There was still a good crowd there. The grilled eggplant and cheese is still very good. But the pasta was stale or poorly cooked and the prices have really gone up. Service wasn't great either. Some of the staff are still the same and I believe it is still owned by Sergio but something has changed. We were charged $66 for two for lunch, what would have been $40 in February. 2 starters, 2 mains, 4 beers and coffee. Honourable mentions of other good places. Tocamadera, ate here a few times again, met @nino there one of the days. Good dining, but I really like the hamburger there, new comfortable outside furniture. Owner and staff are great. La Guarida, still brilliant. Was there for Punch Joe's birthday. Those marlin tacos.. Bone'Ma, I can't remember where I heard of this place, none of my Havana resident friends had heard of it. On Calle 21 between L and M. A block uphill from the Hotel Capri. Very nice spot, lovely staff. Very clean. And they do a doner kebab. Some people will disagree, but I sometimes get an urge for one and had never seen one in Havana. Very decent. They do chicken kebabs but had lamb on the menu in a different dish, they were happy to make lamb doners for us, and the chips/fries were great too. A rare thing in Havana. I brought Stuart there on his first night. I think I saw a tear. Muelle There is a new fairground area at 1 av and 70th in Playa. Bouncy castle, rides for kids etc. It is surrounded by bars/restaurants, chiringuito style on the beach (it's a rocky/concretey beach but nice view of the sea). Muelle is the one closest to the Hotel Panorama (to the west) and is owned by the same people as Espacios. Obviously very new and they're still shaking it out but service was great. Drinks cheap and a great view. I didn't eat there but I heard decent reports. Very nice spot for a sundowner, along the lines of 7 Dias. Espacios Still great staff, good drinks at a reasonable price and very decent pizza as a quick bite. Espacios was our launch pad on many nights.
  6. After 18 months away from Havana I was again able to go for a few days with a small group of the cigar gang here in Toronto. This seems like a good opportunity to provide a quick update and also include a few photos from the trip. The photos are mix of phone and DSLR, so the quality will be different. The colour/lighting/exposure are based on my preferences so that may not appeal to some. Considering the weather we've been having in Toronto it was an excellent reason to get away. Here's what I was leaving behind on the day of the flight to Varadero from the back of the cab: I thought for sure that the flight would be delayed quite a bit but as luck would have it we only took off 2 hours past the scheduled time. Of course leaving on an afternoon flight to Varadero with a two hour bus ride to Havana meant we would not make it to the hotel until late Wednesday/early Thursday. But, that's no matter when the thought of Havana beckoned. We got into the hotel around 12:30-1:00am. Check in, drop off bags and head straight to the back of the Nacional for a quick night cap. The next day i got up early, had a quick breakfast and again headed out to the back for the first morning smoke of the day - can never get enough of this place: First smoke all done, the rest of the gang started to stumble out into the 30 degree (celsius) heat (sorry all, that's up to the attendees to post their own photos). We had to figure out what our day was going to shape up to be like, cigars then shopping, shopping then cigars or shopping cigars and food or some other combination. We decided to have a couple of more cigars at the back then head out to the old city to visit Conde de Villanueva. That is a Reynaldo custom sublime - great cigar. That done we decided to walk around a bit and head over to the Partagas store. It's sometimes nice to get there when there's no festival going on to get the fill of the place, and that we did. We almost had the back room to ourselves. A nice small cigar (sorry no photos, and I can't remember what I smoked) and an espresso rested us well from the heavy workout we had with walking over from the Conde to Partagas. Quick update; neither Conde nor Partagas had anything other than regular production cigars. This was true of most everywhere we went. After the walking trip around the old city what could we do but head back to the Nacional for more smoking before dinner. Again, not many photos of this as I was too busy blissing out on the cigars and cocktails. When dinner time came we headed out to La Guarida: (sorry about the cutoff fidel quote, I was too busy trying to get the flag into the frame and missed) And of course, after dinner back to the Nacional for more, you guessed it, cigars (and some music): (like the cut off head?) Onto Friday. The big day. Rent a car and go cigar shop hopping. First up Melia Cohiba for a quick look at the humidor, all regular production. We then went to Club Habana to pick up some customs there (and I found the first stack of 50 cab Punch DCs. Of course I had to get one). Then onto El Aljibe for some chicken. Too busy eating to take photos (mainly). Popped into the shop there, not much to see. After lunch we headed over to 5y16, again mainly regular production but there we a couple of boxes of Libertadors there. After that onto Comodoro for some puntillas and talk to Alex for a few minutes. Then onto Melia Habana for some coffee - a few more Punch DC 50 cabs here too. Then back at the Nacional for a quick drop off the cigars/coffee, and of course another cigar. Then off to Terazza for an early dinner and then back to the Nacional for a cigar and some more music (are you noticing a pattern here?). The next day was a bit lighter with most of our time spent at the Nacional, but we did make a jaunt out to Parc Centrale for lunch as well as a quick stop off at the Cohiba Atmosphere lounge to check out the stock there. The Cohiba Atmosphere was the only place we saw the Monte Maltes and Dumas together, as well as the only place that had an open box of Cohiba Esplendidos @ 50% markup though (32 CUC). Which reminds me, for the first time in a long time there were many more Cohibas in Havana than the last few trips I made in 2016/17 - Robustos, I, II, III, IV, V and VI could be found in most places. There was one shop that had three pack Esplendidos but I forget which one. As for the Monte 1935 line, there were some Dumas at a few spots. Nacional had four boxes of the Maltes, but they were gone within a day. No Leyenda in any shops in Havana. The last bit of the trip was pretty uneventful. Just lounged around the Nacional mainly. Monday (March 4) was the end of the trip so we headed back to Varadero for the flight back to Toronto. What could the trip be without walking around the airport to check the cigar wares there? There were a few boxes each of the Monte 1935s - Dumas, Maltes and Leyenda. There was a lone box of Cohiba Talisman at one of the counters. And, there were boxes and boxes and boxes of the Punch 2017 - Regios de Punch - LE in the main humidor at the airport. Here are the final batch of random photos from the trip as well as the haul I brought back (the same as the one posted in the Cuban Haul thread).
  7. From this news, it looks like anyone with a Cuban sim card now has access to 4G in Cuba (Havana at least). Handy for those who need some internet during a stay.
  8. Hello FOH, Recently discovered your website and forums and have been enjoying all of the information you guys bring on so many different topics! Going to La Habana, Cuba next Tuesday March 5, 2019. Staying right there in La Habana for a whole week. Im interested in a few things while im in Cuba: good cigars, good rum and good places. Starting with my main interest, CIGARS! I've been reading on here and have concluded I want to visit Alejandro "Alex"Gonzalez Arias at the Hotel Comodoro for some custom rolled cigars, probably his canonazo or his Behike 52. Do I have to order before hand, how could I come in contact with him in these days before my trip? Or can I just go to Hotel Comodoro the day I get to La Habana and just make an order of some cigars on that day? Im open to other suggestions of custom rolled cigar makers around La Habana but have read the review and believe Alex is good and his cigars more around my feel. Also, I want to buy some real COHIBA in Cuba. Mi gf brought me a box of 25 Cohiba SIglo VI last November and once she came from Cuba and I inspected the box and the cigar it was obvious they were FAKE. She paid $140 por the box in one of the "Cooperativas" and it was obviously a scam because they are not legit real Cohibas. Is there really "cooperativas" that sell real cohiba cigars for cheaper prices than LCDH? Ive heard there is but don't really know. Where in La Habana could I buy real Cohibas for a reasonable price if not in LCDH? Im fairly new to the scene so sorry for the questions. Regarding places to go out night, enjoy some rum and good music and people. Any suggestions in close proximity to Hotel Nacional or any other area in La Habana worth visiting during the nights to have fun? Thanks for any suggestions and any replies! Will post on my experiences after I come back from CUBA!
  9. As a new "special period" looms, some solutions suggested ...…/ostrich-rodent-on-the-menu-as-cub… Ostrich, rodent on the menu as Cuba seeks food miracle Sarah Marsh 4 Min Read HAVANA (Reuters) - From breeding miniature cows to importing water buffalo, Cuban leaders have long gotten creative in their effort to remedy food shortages. Now, they are proposing ostrich and rodent farms as an answer, prompting ridicule from a weary population. A flock of ostriches is seen at a farm on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Fernando Medina Meat and eggs have become hard to find in the Communist-run country in recent months due to a declining economy. Meanwhile officials are touting the potential of the flightless African bird and the hutia, a rodent native to Cuba that can weigh up to 8.5 kg (19 pounds). “An ostrich lays 60 eggs, and of those you get around 40 chicks, and from these 40 chicks per year you get four tonnes of meat - whereas a cow just gives birth to one calf and after a year it’s only a yearling,” said Guillermo Garcia Frias. Garcia Frias, 91, holds the honorary title of commander of the revolution as a former guerrilla in Cuba’s 1959 revolution and heads state company Flora and Fauna that is developing seven ostrich farms. He spoke at a roundtable discussion broadcast on state TV last week. He lavished praise on hutias for their “level of protein higher than any other meat” and “high quality pelt,” noting his company was also breeding crocodiles. His comments have prompted sarcastic memes and jokes that have gone viral on social media since Cuba’s food schemes have often failed to fulfill expectations. In one meme, a Cuban arrives home with a live ostrich he got via the state ration card. In another a flock of the birds from Cuba arrives at the Mexican-U.S. border seeking asylum. Cubans also joked the state might give them an ostrich per household, as it did with chickens during the deep economic depression of the 1990s following the fall of former benefactor the Soviet Union. “They should be focusing on chicken, a basic foodstuff that has disappeared, rather than something so unusual,” said Elizabeth Perez, 22, a law student who said she hadn’t been able to find chicken in the supermarket for a month. Ostriches are already farmed around the world, particularly in South Africa. In the United States, the bird is often served more as a novelty than a staple. The red meat is said to resemble lean beef, with a gamey flavor. For some, Garcia Frias’ comments recalled late leader Fidel Castro’s genetic engineering project to produce high-yield dairy cows. His cow Ubre Blanca or White Udder is in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest milk yield by a cow in one day: 110 liters (29 gallons). Her offspring were not as productive so the experiment petered out. Cuba imports 60 to 70 percent of its food because of inefficient central planning of the state-run economy and the effect of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo. But the country has also had to cut back on imports over the past three years due to cash shortfalls resulting from problems with its deals with former and current leftist allies, in particular declining aid from crisis-stricken Venezuela. Whenever chicken arrives at supermarkets in Havana these days, long queues quickly form and do not peter out until the stock is exhausted. Communist Party leader Raul Castro on Wednesday warned the economic situation could worsen in coming months as the United States further tightens its sanctions on the island although it would not become as dire as in the 1990s. Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Cynthia Osterman Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
  10. Looking for information on cigar shops in Cayo Coco, friends going to Pullman resort there. Wondering if there are specific stores to stay away from? Any which seem to have good storage conditions and selection? Thanks RP
  11. A big step backwards for the Cuban economy : "The new regulations make one thing abundantly clear: The Cuban government, state-owned enterprises and the ruling Cuban Communist Party do not want to risk major competition to their own interests—economic, commercial, and political—from a potentially capital-rich, diversified emerging private sector. Apparently, perceived interests in security and stability have overruled Cuba’s own declared economic development goals." Cuba moves backwards: New regulations likely to impede private sector growth Richard E. Feinberg and Claudia Padrón Cueto Friday, July 13, 2018 In a leap backwards, the Cuban government has published a massive compendium of tough new regulations governing the island’s struggling private enterprises. The new regulations—the first major policy pronouncement during the administration of President Miguel Díaz-Canel—appear more focused on controlling and restricting the emerging private sector than on stimulating investment and job creation, more concerned with capping wealth accumulation than in poverty alleviation. Many small businesses that cater to foreign visitors are already suffering from Trump-era restrictions and travel warnings that have decimated the U.S. tourist trade in Havana. But the new regulations are more a product of domestic Cuban politics than foreign pressures. On a positive note, the Cuban government promises to renew the granting of licenses for many categories of private businesses by year-end, repealing the extended suspension announced last summer. But the new regulations greatly empower government rule-makers and intrusive inspectors, casting a gray cloud over the island’s business climate. Many existing businesses are likely to retrench if not close altogether. The private sector grew dramatically in recent years, to include nearly 600,000 owners and employees by official figures, with many more enterprising Cubans working informally; in contrast, the state sector stagnated and further decapitalized. Indeed, many thriving private businesses began to compete successfully against state entities, notably in restaurants, bars and night clubs, guest houses, construction, and transportation. The healthy wages paid by profitable private firms often eclipsed the meager salaries paid to disgruntled government officials and factory workers. The extensive, highly detailed regulations, which go into effect in December, read like “the revenge of the jealous bureaucrat.” Drawing on a multitude of ministries and operating at all levels—national, provincial, and municipal—interagency committees will now be empowered to authorize, inspect, and regularly report upon private businesses under their jurisdictions. The regulations are replete with astoundingly specific performance requirements and innumerable legal breaches that seem crafted to allow government officials wide discrimination to impose heavy fines (or extort bribes), suspend licenses, and even seize properties. To cite but a few such regulations: Private restaurants and guest houses must cook food at a minimum of 70 degrees Celsius for the time required for each food; day care centers must allocate at least two square meters per child, have no more than six children per attendant, and be outfitted with pristine bathroom facilities described in exquisite detail (private schools and academies are strictly prohibited); and private taxi drivers must document that they are purchasing fuel at government gas stations, rather than buying on the black market. Further, local officials can deny new licenses based on “previous analyses,” even if the proposed business plan meets all the other specifications, and can fix prices “when conditions warrant.” The regulations could help shield state enterprises from unwanted private competition. The very ministries that stand to lose market shares are in charge of approving licenses in their sector. For example, the ministry of tourism has the lead in judging licenses for private guest houses. Appeals are possible, but to administrative authorities, not to judicial courts. Government agencies are also seeking to reassert control over the island’s vibrant artistic communities. The regulations prohibit artists from contracting directly with private restaurants and bars; rather they must be represented by public-sector entities that charge commissions up to 24 percent of revenues. Moreover, performers must not use “sexist, vulgar or obscene language,” which if enforced could imply the banning of popular hip-hop and reggaeton songs and videos. Perhaps most telling are the restrictive rules squarely aimed at inhibiting private capital accumulation. In a sharp turn from past practice, Cubans will now only be allowed one license for one business, effectively outlawing franchising and diversification. Capacity at restaurants and bars is capped at 50 guests. Most biting, the new regulations establish an upward-sloping wage scale (whereby wages rise as more workers are hired); hiring more than 20 workers becomes prohibitively expensive (six times the average wage). Unlike in the past, employers will now have to pay taxes on the first five workers hired as well. Many private businesses must also record their transactions (revenues and expenditures) in an account at a government financial institution and keep three months of prospective taxes on deposit. Intended to reduce underreporting of income, this measure will significantly raise the effective rates of taxation. Investors must also explain their sources of funds. In a country where political authority is unchecked, these financial impositions alone will discourage many potential entrepreneurs. The Cuban authorities have repeatedly asserted their interest in attracting foreign investment, to compensate for weak domestic savings. However, foreign investors are likely to view these new regulations, even though they apply to domestically-owned firms, as indicative of an official wariness if not hostility toward private enterprise in general. Risk-averse foreign investors will also note that the Cuban government is quite capable of precipitously altering the rules of the game. The new regulations are the first major policy initiative promulgated during the administration of President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Many of the resolutions were approved by the Council of State under Raúl Castro, prior to Díaz-Canel’s inauguration in April, but nevertheless were issued during his young tenure. Not a good sign for those hoping that Díaz-Canel, 58 years old and ostensibly representing a younger generation, might quickly place his own imprimatur over the extensive state apparatus. The new regulations make one thing abundantly clear: The Cuban government, state-owned enterprises and the ruling Cuban Communist Party do not want to risk major competition to their own interests—economic, commercial, and political—from a potentially capital-rich, diversified emerging private sector. Apparently, perceived interests in security and stability have overruled Cuba’s own declared economic development goals.
  12. I have been going on about the value of Ron Caney Anejo Centuria for years, since Hamlet told me about it in November 2011, that it had been his favourite rum. Every time I visit Havana have have a guy have some bottles ready for me. For the last couple of years he has had a harder time finding it. Last February, there was only one shop that had it that we could find. A supermarket at 12 and Linea in Vedado. They had about 100 bottles on the shelf. For me, it was the best value rum in the world at $7.60 for 7 year old and very very nice. I had been hearing rumblings about discontinuation or repackaging, and I had seen a different package style in Italy. Then last week my worst fears were confirmed They have repackaged it and upped the price by 600% It's a nice tin tube and all but for $42 extra? To be honest a part of me feels vindicated in going on about what great value it was all those years. Mostly, it's sh**e. My favourite rum and rum-deal now costs more than Santiago 11. And if anybody's wondering, it's the same rum. I've done a few side-by-side tastings and can't see a difference at all.
  13. Gotta love reading the reviews from visitors to Cuba: Quick quiz, which one is by a clueless American? The Penthouse is beautiful and it’s right on the Malecon, 3 min wall to National Hotel and restaurants. The breakfast every morning was wonderful with fresh fruits , veggies eggs and juices. Juvie and Adrianna took care of our every need . The place is absolutely amazing. The views from every room are spectacular. Excellent choice. Would definitely recommend. Isabel is definitely a superhost! This air bnb is outstanding. We came here to celebrate our 40th bday. (Guys trip from college). The place is spectacular. The location is amazing. The views are fantastic. We looked at tons of places in CUBA and this place surpassed all expectations. The rooftop was superb. The rooms were clean and spacious. The showers were modern. We had Juve and Adriana as our in house hostess and they were both extremely helpful and made our trip run smoothly. They are like (Hidden by Airbnb) . They helped with reservations and making sure we had what ever amenities we needed. Honestly I have stayed in a lot of airbnbs and this is by far the most amazing unique one I have ever stayed in. Our entire group could not stop commenting on how amazing this place was. It felt like the four seasons airbnb. Spectacular! We can't express enough how amazing this place was. The location was perfect, far enough away from the touristy cruise ship crowds but close enough to everything that it is extremely convenient. There is a gas station across the street that made stocking up on bottled water very easy but there is a mini fridge stocked with waters and sodas if you don't want to be bothered. Hotel National is right next door which made getting a taxi super easy. The views from this place go on for days and we enjoyed watching the sunsets from the balconies each evening. The housekeepers were available for everything we needed at any time and the breakfast feasts they prepared each morning were delicious! We were only 2 but this place could easily accommodate much larger groups without anyone feeling cramped. Cuba is HOT so the AC's in the bedrooms were much appreciated after long days in the sun. We loved our 9 days in Havana and are looking forward to future visits and would not hesitate to book Isabel's place again. On a side note we would recommend a day trip to Vinales- Beautiful! We also did a walking tour of both Old Havana and Central Havana through freewa (Website hidden by Airbnb) that were phenomenal and were blown away that they were free (except for tips of course). A great way to get aquainted with the city too. THE ADVERTISEMENT WAS COMPLETELY MISLEADING! The house DID NOT have air conditioning throughout. It was only in the bedrooms and two (2) of the units did not work well. There were several plumbing issues. The tub backed up water, there were times when we had no water or only cold water. We could not flush toilet paper, it had to be placed in the trash can next to the toilet. There was no continuous access to WIFI as listed in the advertisement. There was no free parking on premises. There was street parking only. We DID NOT have access to a kitchen and could not prepare meals. Everything that was available was for an additional fee including WIFI and laundry. The WIFI did not work even when we purchased hourly access cards for $2 per hour. There was someone living in the unit with us, which was not disclosed on the advertisement. The first person (Juvi) was very hospitable and pleasant. The second person (Adriana) had a guest stay over night in her room and was often unable to be found when we needed things. The rate changed from $167 per night when viewing in the app to $379 per night when booking. The mattresses were very uncomfortable with springs pressing through into your back so we could not get a good nights sleep. Overall this unit lacked creature comforts. The only upside was the location was close to everything; however, there is constant traffic, noise from the busy street below, the smell of carbon monoxide coming in the windows and load music from the club right next door that blasts music Thursday - Saturday night. I would not recommend this place to anyone nor would I ever stay there again. My family and I feel deceived and ripped off!! Our Stay in Cuba was amazing! We stayed with a group of friends and this was the perfect place to stay and enjoy the beautiful views below from the balcony. The place is even better than the pictures and the hosts were very nice and accomodating. They helped us in making dinner reservations and giving us tips on where to go. There is very limited wifi in Cuba so it would have been difficult to organise our trip without the ladies help. The breakfast was great and the very early morning coffee made before our flight on the last day was a lovely final touch. Thanks so much for having us! Laura Please note all were comments from Americans..... All reviews here: ----- For us it was: Fantastic place - we had a great time. Perfect location (Tangana!), very spacious and comfortable, outstanding service, highly recommended. Huge props to Isabel, Juvi and Adrienne!
  14. Here we go again ... guess it's sablerattling for the Miami audience, but you never know ... John Bolton just gave an “Axis of Evil” speech about Latin America The US will now go after a so-called “Troika of Tyranny”: Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. By Alex [email protected] Nov 1, 2018, 3:10pm EDT National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech changing America’s stance toward three Latin American countries — Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua — on November 1, 2018. Alex Wong/Getty Images National Security Adviser John Bolton just gave a modern-day “Axis of Evil” speech, this one focused on three countries in Latin America. In a 30-minute address at Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower, Bolton said the Trump administration will take a hard line against Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua by sanctioning the countries and cutting off diplomatic relations with them until they meet US demands. “This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere,” Bolton said. “Under President Trump, the United States is taking direct action against all three regimes to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region.” Bolton’s speech seems intended to usher in a new era of US relations with Latin America. It portends a massive escalation in US foreign policy: one where America is trying to dictate how three sovereign countries should operate. The Obama administration famously said that it wouldn’t interfere much in the Western Hemisphere’s affairs. The Trump administration, however, just announced it will do the opposite. “This is not a time to back away. It’s a time to increase the pressure, not reduce it,” Bolton told the audience after the speech. The Trump administration’s new policies for Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua Cuba The Trump administration will minimize diplomatic ties with Cuba. Some reports indicate that Cuba — or at least some other country with Cuba’s permission — has attacked US personnel in Havana for the past two years. In response, the US will remove some of its diplomats from the embassy in Cuba. But that’s not all: Washington will also cut off any secret backchannels between the two countries. The US also won’t allow US cash to reach Cuba’s military, security, or intelligence services. Instead, it plans to impose financial penalties on Cuba until it frees political prisoners, allows for freedom of speech, embraces all political parties, and ensures fair elections. Venezuela Bolton said Caracas must release all of the country’s roughly 340 political prisoners. What’s more, it should allow for humanitarian aid to reach those in need, allow for free elections, and champion the rule of law and democratic institutions. President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order to place new sanctions on Venezuela, Bolton said, which “will target networks operating within corrupt Venezuelan economic sectors and deny them access to stolen wealth.” One of the biggest moves is to stop people around the world from engaging with Venezuelans involved with its gold sector, which Jason Marczak, a Latin America expert at the Atlantic Council think tank, told me is a lucrative illicit market for the country. Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, has been criticized for undermining democracy in his country since he assumed power in 2013. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on December 3, 2016. Joe Raedle/Getty Images Maduro ramped up the imprisonment of political opponents. He has cracked down on growing street protests with lethal force. He has repeatedly postponed regional government elections in order to stave off threats to his party’s power. And last year, he held a rigged election for a special legislative body that supplanted the country’s parliament — the one branch of government that was controlled by his political opposition. Trump has heavily criticized Maduro in the past, and at one point openly considered a military invasion to overthrow him. It’s no surprise, then, that Venezuela featured so heavily in Bolton’s address. Nicaragua Bolton also criticized Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega for his “regime’s violence and repression against its citizens and opposition members.” The US doesn’t want Ortega’s government to detain protesters or target civilians anymore, though that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, as more than 300 people died during protests against the government this year. Bolton said that the Trump administration wants fair and democratic elections soon, or “the Nicaraguan regime, like Venezuela and Cuba, will feel the full weight of America’s robust sanctions regime.” Put together, it’s a marked change for how the US deals with these countries specifically and the region writ large. “Bolton’s speech today signaled a ratcheting up of pressure on Venezuela and Cuba, but also a new level of administration focus on the crisis in Nicaragua,” Marczak said. “What will be critical is using this moment to strike up new ways in which the US can work jointly with regional and global governments to put even further pressure on Maduro and his cronies.” Bolton’s speech is troubling Though Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua do indeed have repressive governments, there are still major problems with the speech. The first is that it sounds like a renewal of America’s Cold War stance toward Latin America. The US spent decades opposing, and in some cases fighting, communist forces. From Nicaragua to Guatemala to Chile, the US used its power to squash many left-leaning movements in the region mostly because of its opposition to the Soviet Union. Sandinista fighters man barricades during fighting in the streets of Leon during the civil war. The war, fought between the Sandinista government and US-backed Counter-revolutionaries (Contras), lasted from 1981 to 1989. Alain Dejean/Sygma via Getty Images While Bolton didn’t offer Cold War-like policies, the speech definitely echoed many of that era’s sentiments. Second, Bolton just aligned the US with a repressive politician. He called Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand who won Brazil’s election on Sunday, a “likeminded leader.” That’s scary. Bolsonaro has expressed fondness for his country’s past military dictatorship and wants to bring back torture to his country as a way to stem rising crime rates. He may not be a dictator, but he could usher in an era of massive repression and imperil human rights in Latin America’s most populous country. To align the US with Bolsonaro implies the goal really isn’t about improving “freedom,” but about eradicating far-left leadership in Latin America. Some experts don’t find Bolton’s overture that odd, though. “It is not surprising that Bolton and the US government would see the president-elect of Brazil as an ally,” Jana Nelson, a Brazil desk officer at the State Department from 2010 to 2015, told me. “Jair Bolsonaro is an open admirer of Trump. He believes a closer relationship with the United States will be beneficial to Brazil and so do his followers,” she continued, and “it may the first time in over a decade that Brazil will be a reliable ally in the region.” And finally, Bolton made statements that don’t correlate much with the Trump administration’s policies. Take this passage aimed directly at members in the audience: You breathe the free air of this beautiful city. Your children have experienced the possibilities of liberty. And your grandchildren will never know the firsthand heartache of repression. Your descendants can be anything, and achieve anything. ... And as they grow and flourish in America, they will carry with them your history, your sacrifice, and the memories of your incredible triumph. Their success will be your enduring legacy. It’s a moving, uplifting message about how people around the world can escape tyranny and thrive in the United States. The problem is the Trump administration wants to deny that opportunity to thousands of people. About three hours after Bolton’s Thursday address, Trump will give a speech about how he plans to restrict those seeking asylum in the United States. That continues the president’s extremely hard line against immigrants coming to America, which has hit time and time again ahead of midterm elections next week. He’s even massively curtailed the number of refugees who can come to the US. From October 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, the US admitted only 10,500 refugees. That’s down roughly 74 percent from the same period the year before during the Obama administration. Estimates show the US may only accept around 21,000 refugees in 2018, which would be the lowest total since 1980. The Trump administration may praise those who sought a better life in the US, then, but it has done little to help those seeking the same fortune.
  15. So US Tourism to Cuba falls by 30% first half of this year and a 5% increase in June is good news .... ?? Interesting reading, specially on hotel and restaurant price increases ... : The number of U.S. citizens visiting Cuba in June 2018 reached 68,000, a 5 percent increase from 12 months earlier, according to published reports based on Cuban tourism statistics. It is the first year-to-year increase in 2018. In a series of Cigar Aficionado interviews with tour operators, airlines and cruise ship lines, the rebound in American visitors to Cuba is leading them to add cruises, flights and People-to-People tours. Vance Gullickson, of Carnival Cruise Line (CCL), says the company is adding 22 new sailings to their schedule, bringing the total of scheduled trips, mostly three to five days, from now until 2020 to 44. The CCL spokesperson says those cruises will include for the first time a departure from Charleston, South Carolina, aboard the passenger Carnival ship Sunshine, also the largest cruise ship to make ports of call in Cuba. An American Airlines spokesperson says the airline is adding an additional daily flight from Miami to Havana on October 3, bringing the weekly total to 70 American flights from the United States to Cuba. The airline, which provides more Cuba flights than any other U.S. carrier, also has requested permission for an additional daily flight from Miami to Havana. “We believe that this additional weekly frequency will help us better meet the needs of local and connecting traffic through our Miami hub,” the spokesperson says. Both Delta Airlines and JetBlue have also announced additional flights to Cuba in the upcoming months. Tom Popper, of InsightCuba, the largest agency for legal People-to-People tours between the United States and Cuba, says that he is finally seeing more inquiries from people wanting to visit Cuba during the 2018–2019 winter season. “The most important news is non-cruise arrivals are trending up and that’s not only good for Cuban tourism but good news for the Cuban people who are the direct beneficiaries of non-cruise visitations,” says Popper. “We’ve received triple the amount of group requests in July than any month since July 2017. Our web traffic is also up 30 percent year-over-year as well as leads and interest,” Popper added. Popper said that the company has about 150 trips planned this year to Cuba, whereas at the peak of U.S-Cuba travel, they conducted over 200 trips a year. However, the one-month jump in June has so far done little to offset the 25 to 30 percent decline during the first five months of 2018. The drop in U.S. visitors was triggered by several factors, including the Trump Administration’s announcement to more strictly enforce People-to-People travel regulations (the legal way to visit Cuba), the declaration of a travel alert based on U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana coming down with a mysterious illness and the devastation from Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Popper says that InsightCuba arrivals during the first half of 2018 were down more than 30 percent over 2017. Based on interviews with tour operators and other visitors to Cuba, the impact of the downturn has been severe. At one early point during the usually strong fall and winter season, some luxury Havana hotels were reporting less than 10 percent occupancy. One long-time veteran of the travel industry in Cuba reported that he took a group fishing on Cuba’s southern coast in July, and they were the first foreign visitors there since December; all the bookings for the winter months had been cancelled, and most of the cancellations were by Americans. But the local buzz also is that the Cuban government, which sets most hotel room rates, has not responded to the drop off in visitors by reducing prices, a factor that had already begun to reduce the flow of visitors, especially from Europe, during 2017. “Some of the hotels are still quoting $600 to $700 a night for rooms. The Cubans have forgotten that you have to offer value for money and higher standards that people expect when they pay those prices,” said one travel industry source. As a result, last year many large tour operations in Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada removed Cuba as one of their recommended destinations and began encouraging people to take trips to other islands and resort areas in the Caribbean. “Every tourist who came here and felt ripped off by overcharging taxis, restaurants and other services goes home and tells 10 people not to go to Cuba,” says the source. During our last visit to Cuba in February, Cigar Aficionado confirmed the sharp increases in prices for restaurant meals, and for things like rental cars, which are always in short supply in Havana. Iconic tourist activities, like riding around Havana in a vintage U.S. convertible, were also being hit by criticism that prices had gotten out of hand.
  16. We're celebrating our 27th anniversary, and completely out of the blue we just spontaneously booked a last minute cruise that stops in Cuba for a day. I have already realized we need a Cuban visa, an extra $150 I didn't count on, but the cruise deal is pretty sweet, so no big deal. What do you all recommend for the first time visitor with about 10 hours on the island? What cigar shops should I visit? Where should I have lunch? What is the one must see, if you can recommend one or maybe two? Should we book the shore excursion from NCL, or just do our own thing? We sail in 6 days. Thanks in advance for your recommendations.
  17. Just back after a three night trip to Havana with my wife...first time in Cuba, and as I said in the introductions forum, this board was an amazing resource to plan the trip, and some cigar shopping. Below, a few notes on particular favorite meals and drinks, and some shopping reports, and one thing I learned about dealing with customs. Eating/Drinking: Had a couple of awesome meals -- O'Reilly 304 was a particular favorite, especially due to some of the truly insane drinks they are serving there. I write about food and bars, and they're doing some of the weirdest stuff I've ever seen there, but it works somehow. They have a drink they call the Habana Londres, which is a gin and tonic topped with a blue frozen daiquiri. I know this sounds insane, but it somehow completely works. I will be replicating this at home, but without the intricate garnishes. Also had great meals at Cafe Laurent, and El Cocinero. We loved the Fabrica del Arte Cubano next door to El Cocinero as well -- a cool cultural experience. Probably our favorite spot ended up being El Chanchullero for the tapas, the mojitos (the best we had in our stay), and the cool vibe that felt like it could be plunked down in a hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn. Cigar Shopping: My wife had no interest in dealing with me and cigar shopping, but I was able to convince her. First stop was Club Havana, where I was able to have her go sit on the beach while I went to the store. Bought 25 Monsdales, and smoked one in the store with a coffee. From there, went to visit Alex at the Commodoro. It turns out it was his day off, but he happened to be in the store after playing tennis. We had talked over Facebook before the trip, and he was a gracious host -- gave me one of his coronas to smoke as we chatted, and then we pawed through boxes together to pick out things for myself and friends as gifts. Got a beautiful box of H.Uppman Petit Coronas from Dec 16, and a box of HdM Epi 2s from Oct 17. Also bought 25 of his coronas, which I loved. Marital harmony kept me from doing much more shopping, but was so much fun getting to meet Alex and talk about his life and work. Random observations: No marble ashtrays at the Nacional, either on the patio itself, or for sale. In a conversation with the concierge, he said they "were waiting" for them, and despite my best efforts wasn't able to persuade him to find one in the back. Mentioned above that I'm a cocktail nerd, and I bought a case of various rums to bring back. I actually brought a special shipping box with me with cardboard inserts to protect the booze -- that was a very smart thing to do, as everything got home perfectly. The non-smart thing I did was write FRAGILE on the side of the box. That caused every customs agent to ask what was in the box, including the agent on our return to Newark. I told him it was 12 bottles of rum and that I was happy to pay the duty, and after being pulled aside in the customs area and having a short conversation with another agent, we were waved through without a duty being charged. Note to self -- next time, don't write FRAGILE on the box. Again, thanks to all here for all the ideas, help and suggestions that we took advantage of. Happy to answer any questions, obviously.
  18. "Colectivo" taxis in Havana are public taxis that basically act like small buses. They follow a route, well mostly, or at least sometimes. Since 2011, they have been able to pick up foreigners. You'll recognise them. Pre-embargo cars, not nicely fixed up, with a taxi sign in the front. If you ever need a very cheap (cents) way of getting around Havana in something not remotely approaching comfort but in the mood to have a laugh with some locals, they're the way to go. They have their own sign language, see video More here
  19. Driving out of Trinidad to Valle de los Ingenios and Torre Iznaga last month I saw several signs pointing to a "Disco Ayala" .... intriguing to say the least. I even saw some really nice people looking up the way to that Disco. Pity I didn't have the time to enquire further as I was headed back to Havana that day, but congrats Prez, nice venture .... :-) .....
  20. Have any of you guys heard of this rum before? Ron Vacilón. Their website says that the rum was first created in the 50's then ceased production in the 60's and has recently been revived. The international distributor is in Germany and it seems the whole thing has been revived for the German (European) market. The lineup consists of a 3, 5, 7, 15, 18 and 25 year old aged rums. Seems a lot for a brand that just started out again. The ronera is located in Remedios in the heart of Cuba.
  21. So I left Cuba in June of 1980 via Mariel Harbor. I was a month shy of my 4th birthday. I haven't been back since. The wife and I were looking into taking the 3 kids on a three city tour of Spain as a graduation present this summer, but that's a little pricier than we initially thought. I immediately pounced on the opportunity... "WHAT ABOUT CUBA?". I still have aunts and uncles in Pinar del Río. Cousins I've never met. I'm thinking about doing 5 nights total. I'm sure at least a day and a half if not two days will be full on with family. We're definitely going to stay in Habana. If I'm going to be traveling to PdR, should I look to book a room there for the time I'm there? What kind of tours are available in PdR to go to the fields? Are there any factory tours available in Habana? I see people's favorite paladares or hotels in the travel thread, but I'm not sure I've seen details on how to book tours or anything to the effect. Are these available to book before you get there? Once you arrive via maitre d'? One or many thoughts on any of the above are greatly appreciated. Thank you guys! Here's to hoping my plans materialize! Cheers all, Javi
  22. Hey everyone, I have a friend travelling to veradero at the end of the month and I am interested in some custom rolls. I've done a little research and found that Alfonso at the LCDH at 63 calle does custom rolls. I'm curious to know if anyone has tried them and what their thoughts were. Thanks and Happy Smoking!
  23. Intense Rains in Cuba Force Delay in Tobacco Sowing to February With around 65% of the country’s production, the Vueltabajo area, in the province of Pinar del Río, is the largest supplier of the leaf. (DC) EFE / via 14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2018 — The intense rains in Cuba in recent months have forced the island’s farmers to extend until February the sowing of tobacco for the 2017-2018 season. During the season, they plan to sow over 73,000 acres in tobacco, the raw material of the famous Havana cigars. Rainfall damaged nearly 1,500 acres already planted and several areas used as seedbeds, causing delays that have led to the extension of the plan’s target dates, according to the head of the state group Tabacuba, Gonzalo Rodríguez, speaking to the official news agency Prensa Latina. Rodríguez insisted, however, that the “situation is encouraging and the producers are optimistic,” having already planted more than 64,000 acres. The current season’s sowing of the leaf began last October. Tobacco is the fourth largest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product; it accounted for some 445 million dollars in 2016 from the sales of the Cuban-Spanish joint venture, Habanos.
  24. Hello fellow brothers / sisters I will be traveling to Havana Jan. 13-17 2018 if anyone will be in Havana let me know we can meet for drinks and cigars. If you will not be there during those dates let me know when I travel to Cuba every two weeks. Thanks Robert Rogers
  25. Hell FOH'rs I will be Havana, Cuba again January 13-17 and if someone has time and will be in Havana these dates let's get together for drinks and cigars. If not these dates I go every couple weeks. Can call me on my Cuban cell or US cell. Message me to get the #. Thanks Robert Rogers

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