PAX doesn’t just tell you about hotels. We show you hotels.
Which brings us to historic Havana, where Canadian travel advisors recently toured a collection of hotels and resorts with Transat as part of a one-week FAM in Cuba.
The trip, which PAX covered exclusively in December, was held to highlight Transat's “Duo Package,” which combines an urban EP-plan getaway in Havana – the heartbeat of Cuba – with an all-inclusive vacation, roughly two hours’ away, in Varadero, a sun-kissed beach town.
This package, which includes transfers, give travellers “the best of both worlds,” Sherri Bourne, Transat’s business development representative in Atlantic Canada, told PAX, noting departures from Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Moncton, Montreal and Quebec City.
But central to our visit – beyond discovering Cuba’s new and improved services, like stronger Wi-Fi – was unearthing the latest in hotels, many of which were upgraded during the pandemic shutdown.
From Havana to Varadero, agents completed a marathon of site inspections, touring 24 (yes, 24!) properties in total.
Seven of those visits took place in Havana, Cuba’s vibrant capital city, where history and influences date back more than 500 years.
With a bustling Malecón (a waterfront esplanade/seawall) stretching roughly eight kilometres around the city’s coast and classic architecture blending Moorish, Baroque and Art Deco styles, Havana presents one of the most poetic cityscapes one will find in the Caribbean.
The classic American cars from the 1950s that line the city’s streets are a colourful sight, unique to the region, and the city is a prime place to smoke a Cuban cigar or sip a minty mojito.
Havana’s hotels, however, pack a unique punch, as agents witnessed during their visit.
7 punchy properties
Hosting us was the new Grand Aston La Habana, a stylish, 600-room hotel that Indonesia-based Archipelago International opened in March last year.
With contemporary design, the hotel’s interior is a fusion between Havana’s style of the 1930s and the Asian refinement of Grand Aston.
The property also has a 24-hour fitness centre, a spa with authentic Balinese treatments and a 56-metre long swimming pool overlooking Havana Bay and the Malecón.
The 397-room sea-facing Melia Habana, meanwhile, is located in the city’s residential Miramar district, which is roughly a ten-minute drive from the city centre.
This hotel offers a free shuttle service to Old Havana (or guests can pay $10 USD for a full-day hop-on, hop-off transportation service).
Melia Habana, full of natural light, hanging plants and spacious rooms, felt like a relaxing resort…within the city.
Then it was over to the 426-room Hotel Nacional, once a club house for the Mafia in the 1930s and former playground for Golden Age stars like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ava Garner, Mickey Mantle, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway (and many others).
This luxury-appointed, old-school, seaside hotel is a mishmash of art deco and neo-colonial styles.
READ MORE: Air Transat resumes flights to Havana, Cuba
It even has its own museum that features neat artifacts (like a trunk that was forgotten in a baggage room in 1930) and photographs of famous past guests. That, alone, is worth a look-see.
Iberostar’s 321-suite Grand Packard was up next. This modern and glossy hotel opened on Havana’s emblematic Paseo del Prado, near the city’s Velasco palace and National Capitol buildings, in 2018.
The hotel’s infinity pool on the sixth-floor terrace offers incredible views of Morro Castle, a fortress that guards the entrance to Havana harbour.
The pool is also lined with half-submerged loungers and shaded by the floor above, which would come in handy on scorching-hot days.
With three bars, five restaurants and a spa, the Iberostar Grand Packard, too, has the feel of an urban resort – a luxurious one at that.
Accommodations at the 427-room Iberostar Parque Central Hotel, in the heart of Old Colonial Havana, range from classic to modern – the hotel, in 2009, opened a new section in a connecting building that has contemporary rooms.
With four restaurants and bars, the hotel’s two rooftop pools are stand-out amenities as they offer soaring views of the old city, which is at the hotel’s doorstep.
Old Havana is where we also toured two boutique hotels by Hoteles Habaguanex that are new to Transat’s portfolio – the recently-opened Marques de Cardenas Monte Hermoso (21 rooms) and Hotel Palacio De Los Corredores (56 rooms), which both overlook San Francisco de Asis Square.
The reasonable nightly rates – especially for stays in Presidential Suites – at both properties impressed the group.
“It’s a new market,” Bourne said of boutique stays. “We're seeing more clients who don’t want the same cookie-cutter vacation.”
What do these Havana hotels look like in real life?
PAX had its cameras rolling during the tours and has produced the ultimate site inspection megamix: scenes from all seven hotels, in just two-and-a-half minutes!
Watch our exclusive video here!
Stay tuned as PAX brings you more exclusive content from Cuba with Transat. Up next, we take you inside 17 resorts in Varadero!