A Travellerspoint blog

Havana Airport

Cuban organisation at its worst

sunny 29 °C

Our coach journey back to Havana airport was a little over 2 and a half hours and we arrived approximately 3 hours before we were due to fly. Unfortunately this meant we were about 30 people from the end of the queue of the 458 passengers checking in for this Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flight from Havana to London Gatwick. What chance of seats together? Suddenly a couple more virgin check-in desks opened but these were for bag drop customers only. It was taking an age to check in this queue of people. A young couple a few places in front of us noticed the bag drop queue was only a few people and was moving swiftly and they dared to do what the rest of us were contemplating but were afraid to do. They left the big queue and joined the smaller bag drop queue at the risk of being turned away at the bag drop desk and have to rejoin the big queue right at the back. Whispers spread along the big queue of onlooking passengers. Would the gamble pay off? Should we risk it as well? Nobody else did but all eyes were on the young, adventurous, daring couple. They were next in line to check in. Hundreds of eyes were willing them to fail and be sent to the very back of the queue. They approached the check in clerk, they put their cases on the scales, they handed over their passports and were then sent............... through to security. They had done it, they had dared where others hadn't and leapfrogged at least a hundred check in places. Well done you two. We finally reached our desk and tentatively asked if it was possible for us to sit together for this eight hour flight. The check in lady did that sharp intake of breath thing. Jo did that I'd be ever so grateful thing. She leaned across and checked something with a colleague. She sticky labelled our cases and they were gone. She printed our boarding cards and said, "I'm really sorry, it's a very busy flight and nearly all the seats are allocated and the only thing we have left are the extra leg room seats near the exit so I've got you two together. The next queue, after over an hour in that one, was to pay the Cuban exit tax of 25 Pesos each, so we joined that queue for another half hour. Next up was the queue to go through security. Usual thing, several single file queues that when you get to the front there is a choice of two customs officers to check your passport, exit visa and again take your photo. We joined the queue leading to kiosks 7 & 8. It was the slowest moving queue ever. Our departure time was getting closer and closer. One of the customs officers disappeared, that meant we were now queing even more slowly for just one kiosk, number 7. We were approximately 3 or 4 from the front of our queue when the customs officer in kiosk 7 also disappeared leaving us queuing for two empty kiosks. Panic spread through the whole of our line of passengers who were becoming increasingly impatient. There were some huge Gallic shrugs from the Air France passengers behind us accompanied by one or two 'sacre bleus' - do they really say that? We all contemplated switching queues but that would mean starting again at the back and how long would that take? Protestations were made to a 'child' customs officer (perhaps that's me getting old but she really seemed very young) who was standing close by. Eventually she went to look for and successfully retrieved the recently departed customs officer from kiosk 7. There was an audible sigh of relief that was short lived as she checked in the 3 passengers in front of us and then switched off and disappeared for good. It was a shift change. We watched a new army of officers march in and take over from their colleagues in all the kiosks. Kiosk 8 however remained unmanned. A new girl took over kiosk 7 and was signing on to her computer when she was told by the supervising customs officer to man (woman) a different kiosk leaving 7 & 8 still both unmanned with yours truly at the front of the now very stationery queue. The red mist descended and the moment the passenger at kiosk 9 moved away I skipped queues, pushed in and went straight to the customs officer at that kiosk and presented him with my passport. A foreign voice of protestation appeared at my right shoulder which I ignored and as the officer now had my passport in his hand he waved the protestor of foul play away and processed me. Now this is where I hadn't really thought this through. Jo was now stranded in that stationery queue, with uproar all around her. The Air France passenger behind Jo had followed my lead and presented herself in front of kiosk 6 to similar protestations and outrage. I had to help. I collared the supervisor lady who had allotted the officers to the kiosks and pleaded " me mujer, me mujer (hoping that really meant wife and not mother) siete y ocho, whilst pointing at my boarding card and my wrist, even though I don't wear a watch. Remarkably she seemed to understand and took Jo by the arm to another kiosk to the obvious disgust of that kiosks line but at the same time, an angry, elderly, overweight, red-in-the-face English passenger wearing something akin to a straw boater, grabbed Jo's other arm to prevent this happening shouting at the supervisor that she should instead get another officer for the empty kiosks. Jo wrestled free from boths clutches and made it through to my side. The chap almost having a thrombosis seemed to have made an impact as another customs officer opened kiosk number 7. We now only had the final obstacle of the single queue on the other side of customs for the 2 bag scanning machines - give me strength! We were patient and got through it without incident. Our flight had been called some time ago and again we tagged on the end of the 458 passengers now boarding the aircraft. What an ordeal! Our Virgin flight home with our extra leg room was superb. I watched the butler, that was ok and I also watched Grown Ups 2 which was entertaining enough in a slapsticky kind of way. The rest of the time we slept and arrived to another sunny morning in London feeling quite refreshed. Simon happened to be working at the ideal home exhibition at earls court so we managed to while away an hour and a half in his company at the show before catching the train home to bring to an end a very enjoyable trip to Cuba.

Posted by justchilling 10:49 Archived in Cuba Tagged havana_airport Comments (0)

wears the sopa

or an old joke something like that, lost in translation

sunny 29 °C

It's our last morning and we've run out of soap. I've been asking the room maids for 'sopa' for the last few days now but they just look at me strangely and keep telling me 3rd floor. I've looked everywhere on the 3rd floor but I can't find soap. As we're packing I come across our Spanish phrase book (unused) and it seems I've been asking the maids for soup all week! Jo's opened one of the hotel supplied toiletries so I use that in the shower. It's bright green, it must be mint and tea tree shower gel so I cover myself and find it quite refreshing. I check the label to discover I'm showering in mouth wash - kinda tingles! When we came out of breakfast we noticed the hotel manager and another chap in a tie with a walkie talkie obviously concerned about something and looking up at one of the glass elevators in the atrium. Two people were in the lift, it was on the 10th floor and it wasn't moving. It was a couple we had met who were from the Isle of Man. Then we realised the lift had stopped between floors and they were stuck. Eventually a maintenance man got the doors open and they had to climb down through the small gap between the lower part of the lift and the upper part of the lift opening, how exciting.

Posted by justchilling 10:33 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Turner holiday trademark

our last day

sunny 31 °C

The beach Hotel Blau Varadero

The beach Hotel Blau Varadero

It's our last full day and it's a scorcher, not a cloud in the sky. The beach is understandably busy and there are some great waves coming in. We spend most of the morning getting sand and sea water in every orifice. Every time I put my head down a waterfall of sea water pours out of my nose, cool! A couple of the beach hawkers have appeared with two white buckets with fish in. They are accompanied by four pelicans. They seem to be parading them up and down the beach for people to take pictures of and, of course, they expect a few pesos for their trouble. After lunch at the pool bar restaurant and a cooling dip in the pool we return to the beach. We spend all afternoon at the beach then return to the pool area. The entertainment team are in full swing with a few poolside games that are quite funny to watch. It's only when we return to our room and look in the mirror that we realise we haven't been very good with our 'sun management' today. Burnt knees, ankles and of course I've got the Turner holiday trade mark 'T'. A stripe across my forehead and also down my nose, a perfect bright red 'T' for Turner on my face - excellent! We've avoided it all week and left it to the last day to burn to a crisp, curse those fantastic waves, fun though.

Posted by justchilling 10:29 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Anyone for tennis?

overcast 27 °C

Tuesday morning and I surprise Jo by booking one of the tennis courts. I can see she's thrilled. There's another couple playing on the next court so I up my game a bit. I glance every now and then to see if they're professional standard. They're not, I reckon we could take them. We have a good knock and our morning exercise continues as we head for the pool to cool off. Today has been a grey out. Grey and overcast and rain. Tonight it's Noche Asiatico (Asian themed night) in the restaurant and I honour the occasion by wearing my flip flops to dinner. Did you know the German for flip flops is flip flops?

Posted by justchilling 10:23 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Plenty of room on top

Is that who I think it is?

sunny 30 °C

Monday morning, early, and I'm on the beach as the sun's coming up, camera in hand. Where's that blooming Pelican? I pick my spot and sit down on the beach and wait. I can see one Pelican happily diving and feeding down the beach to the left of me. I can see two other Pelicans up the beach to the right of me. I walk in their direction but never seem to get any closer. I try down the beach. The same thing happens. They're taking the p**s! An hour later I'm back at the room and a sleepy eyed Jo (is that a song?) asks me how I went on. I've got 218 photos of bloody pelicans, hardly any space left on my memory card and I still haven't got the damn thing diving into the sea. Jo consoles me by suggesting we take the open top, hop on, hop off, bus that traverses one end of the Varadero peninsula to the other. 5 Pesos each and you can ride all day. After I get over my incredulity that it's not included in the all inclusive package, we do indeed hop on, then hop off, then hop on again and finally hop off back at our hotel. In between all that hopping, we saw all of the Varadero resort area including the new marina currently under construction, big markets, little markets and more stalls all selling exactly the same merchandise for exactly the same prices. There's a variety of carved wooden objects, there is every size of bongo or tom tom drums imagineable, various leather products and then the strangest things made out of old drinks tins. There are vehicles made out of these cans and I suppose they look alright but who on earth would want to wear a baseball cap made out of old tin cans? On the bus Jo had the window seat (as usual) except that on the top deck there are no windows. When the driver pulls into a bus stop or drives close to the kerb you are very close to the street's electric cables and of course, trees. If I'd only had the video of Jo getting thwacked on the right cheek by the frongs of a palm tree I'd have made £250 from you've been framed. Or if the camera had only been rolling when the disembarking Canadian woman's hat blew off and was sent tumbling down the middle of the road behind the bus. Or when the German woman in front of us just noticed in time to be just tickled by a few leaves rather than decapitated by the low branch but then unknowingly continued the rest of the journey with bits of foliage in her hair. Life is being sat atop an open top bus surrounded by loud Canadians all wearing green for St Patricks day. Not a drop of Guiness in sight. sigh :-( This evenings meal was interrupted by a special guest appearance of Michael Jackson and entourage. Yes we thought he was dead as well but apparently he's alive and well and playing that world renowned venue - The Blau Hotel, Varadero, Cuba. Well he is tonight anyway. All joking apart it did look very much like him, mmm I wonder?

Posted by justchilling 10:15 Archived in Cuba Tagged varadero_cuba_sightseeing_tour varadero_open_top_bus Comments (0)

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