An invitation to Cuba! OK it was work, but I was excited and I quickly researched what could be in store for me when I visited with lively and fun Virgin Holidays.

Cuba is the biggest of the Caribbean islands. It has an interesting heritage, years of self-sufficiency and a unique Afro-Latin culture. The weather is balmy and subtropical and has an average temperature between 25 degrees to 35 degrees.

Having arrived at Virgin Atlantic check in, sunglasses at the ready, I was not quite sure what to expect for the next four days but I needn’t have worried – it was bright sunshine, lively people, great music and beautiful beaches! It is certainly different from any of the Caribbean islands I have experienced before.

We arrived at the Melia Cohiba Hotel, in Havana, a very nice 3-4 star hotel, next door to the Havana Café. This is similar to the Hard Rock, with a late night show – Cuba style. The most central and popular place to stay is the Parque Central, a good 4 star, a roof top pool and art-deco throughout. Stepping outside you can stroll to Old Havana or take a vintage car taxi for a tour.

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A show not too be missed is The Tropicana. Famous vintage entertainment – like the Rat Pack meets Copa Cabaña! It’s also a great evening to relax and enjoy the national rum based cocktail Mohita. In fact there are some interesting tours of the Rum factory and the Partagas Cigar factory in Havana.

No sooner had we relaxed into the mould of late nights, rum and salsa music than we were off to Varadero, where the sand stretches for more than 20 kilometres, with 28 diving spots, and clear blue waters. The air-conditioned coach journey takes around two and half hours.

We stayed at the Melia las Americas, which Virgin Holidays rates as 4 ticks plus. The beachfront location was lovely and although the hotel was quite full, the poolside was relaxed and not at all crowded. Very often we had the pool and pool bar to ourselves. The resort is all inclusive, champagne, strawberry dakaris, anything! Good food, a friendly hotel, ideal for families, couples, and travel agent groups!

We visited many of the hotels in great detail, but these are what I recommend:

The Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort and Spa, an all inclusive, adults only hotel ~ with a fabulous layout and a great atmosphere in the evenings, a calm luxury feeling in the day. The rooms are simple but lovely and modern. No 1980’s Caribbean decor here! Or, if you’re travelling with the kids, I liked the Paradisus Varadero, which had a resort feel and was also all inclusive.

As a break from all this work (!) we were treated to a day off and a Catamaran trip to a lovely desert island called Cayo Blanco – a lovely day out.

I was sad to see an end to my short but sweet trip to charismatic Cuba, and as a further treat Virgin Atlantic flew us home premium economy, and yes it is definitely worth upgrading!!  They have enhanced their service recently, the food was good, and the staff were attentive. I loved the way they came round during the movies with a “Pearl and Dean” choc-ice. These little extras certainly made a good impression on me

If you’d like to know more email me: charmaine@hallmarktravel.com

Meet me in the gallery!