Just returned from visiting Cuba with Journeys of Distinction where we found the visits very interesting (Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad.) Enjoyed what we saw very much and had great weather. Group size just right (20) to give variety of contacts and conversations.
Local guide knowledgeable and pleasant.
However, two days before we left we were notified of two hotel changes - the email said that we would not be disappointed since the changes would "even enhance our experience" Rubbish! Instead of arriving for 3 nights at probably the best hotel in Havana (Hotel Parque Central - we looked at web reviews before we went and were suitably encouraged) we were instead booked into the Hotel Habana Libre, a much poorer, tired old hotel further out from the centre. The rooms were in need of an update, especially the bathrooms. At least three of the six lifts never worked. When we had our final night of the tour at the Hotel Parque Central we were only then able to appreciate just how badly we had been served at the much inferior hotel for the first three nights! Further, our hotel at Viñales was replaced by some chalet type accommodation at Soroa (a trip of about 90km each way which took valuable time out of the holiday) where three of our party didn't even have running water upon arrival. A pleasant forested location but isolated and basic. The restaurant was poor and limited, and several of the party had stomach problems for a few days afterwards. This was supposed to be a good substitution for the beautifully located hotel Los Jazmines at Viñales itself.
We felt we had been short-changed with both of these last-minute substitutions - especially on missing out three nights at the Parque Central. Although they claim their hands were tied by government controls in Cuba, one has to ask, “Were such controls imposed just before we arrived?“ If so it is hard to believe. We feel we might hesitate in future to trust Journeys of Distinction to provide the up-market hotel quality their name implies.
Secret Escapes seeks to offer high quality hotels and holidays at good, discounted prices. We feel that in this instance the quality of accommodation suggested that some cost-cutting had taken place, thereby reducing the effect of any savings you had tried to make for us. We know that many others in the group, presumable only some of which had booked through Secret Escapes, held the same opinion about the moderate quality of the hotels.
We are, of course, writing to Journeys of Distinction to make these points clear to them also.
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