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Thursday, December 17, 2009

On Holiday in Havana

On Holiday in Havana
By []Rosella Colella

Havana is by many, considered the hub of Cuba, being not only its capital city, but also its cultural centre. On any Cuba holiday, visiting this vibrant city is an absolute must, and there are a number of ways to make the most of you holiday. Whether you fancy salsa, history or cigars, Havana is a city in which you can experience the very essence of Cuban life.

Salsa in the City

Havana is definitely the best city to experience the rhythm and soul of salsa - Cuba's signature dance. No Cuba holiday would be complete without swaying your hips in one of Havana's many salsa clubs. You don't need to be a dancer to enjoy dancing here, as the locals are all very friendly and more than willing to help you learn as they dance the night away with you. But if you're far too shy to take the limelight on the floor, you could always go to a few dance lessons which are offered throughout the city.

Havana is a city where dancing is part of the way of life. And the city's vast array of clubs prove it every day. One of the city's best hangouts is Casa de la Música de Centro Habana, where excellent music sets the mood for a night of salsa in the city. Havana nights will turn your Cuba holiday into an experience of great food, dancing and music.

Old Havana

If you're interested in history, Old Havana is likely to be a source of entertainment for hours on your Cuba holidays. Havana is a colonial city, and it is one of the best preserved cities in South America. There are some fascinating old sites to be explored, such as the Catedral de San Cristobal and Gran Teatro, both of which are architecturally beautiful. Today, the Gran Teatro still hosts ballet performances and if you time your Cuba holiday to coincide, you could incorporate a show into your stay.

There are other interesting buildings to be seen in Old Havana too, such as the Capitilio, which is a replica of Washington DC's Capital building. If you want to learn a little more about Cuban history, you could pay a visit to the Museum of Revolution or the Museum of Fine Art, both of which will tell you the story of your surroundings on your Cuba holiday.

Havana's Festivals

Cuba holidays often focus on the national spirit and rich culture, and both of these are best exemplified through the country's many festivals. Being the capital city, Havana hosts the majority of the larger Cuban festivals, and it would certainly be fun to time your Cuba holiday with one of them. The most spirited festival of them all is the Havana Carnival, celebrated each year during June. The city springs to life and is turned into an enormous street party. Colourful costumes and entertainment await you, and a good time is sure to be had by all.

If street parties aren't up your street, fantastic jazz and ballet festivals are equally magical. Whatever your taste, you can't go wrong with spending a few nights in Havana during your Cuba holiday.

Rossella Colella is a Cuba holiday specialist for key2holidays, an online tour operator offering []Cuba holidays as well as holidays to other destinations in the Caribbean; the Indian Ocean, the Far East, Egypt, Southern Africa, Italy & the Mediterranean, Canada, Australia and the Pacific. key2holidays has a dedicated team of experienced travel consultants to share their knowledge and help you to plan and book your ideal holiday.

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Cuba's Hotels

Cuba's Hotels - Choosing the Sea Or the City
By []Emma Lelliott

The Cuban Coastline.

Because of its location in the Caribbean Sea, Cuba is a great location for spending time on the beach and in the water. Varadero is a prime example of a coastal resort in Cuba: a beautiful spot for beaches, and located a little more than two hours from Havana. The Cuba hotels in Varadero are grand, modern and luxurious with facilities that make the most of the picturesque setting.

Like many of Cuba's coastal resorts, there are numerous scuba diving sites to be found here, so the hotels will cater to divers of all levels. The Melia Las Americas, Iberostar Varadero, and the Princesa Del Mar Resort and Spa are just a selection of the quality Cuba hotels that offer water sports facilities to enjoy on your Cuban beach holiday.

Cuba Hotels in the Cities

Camaguey is a remarkable city designed like a labyrinth with intricate alleys, and apparently with only one way in or out. It was made this way in the 16th century to make it difficult for raiders to attack the city. The result is a series of interesting and baffling streets and squares that you can explore from your Cuban Hotel. An example of the idiosyncratic buildings you might want to stay in is the Colon Hotel in the old quarter. Although it's facilities are basic this Cuba Hotel has a unique feel to it, with the walls pillars and terrace around the courtyard all decorated in turquoise. Also in Camaguey is the Gran Hotel, a more refined colonial Cuban Hotel with a great location from which to explore the city.

Of course, if you want to experience the rich urban atmosphere of Cuba's cities, you will likely look to Havana first. There are a number of Cuba Hotels to choose from in Havana, each with its own character or style. The Hotel Saratoga is a building with a history dating back to the 1930s when it established itself as a venue for decadence. In recent years it has been restored to its former glory with the addition of modern luxuries. Its rival for the crown of best luxury hotel in Havana is the Nh Parque Central hotel. This is a modern hotel with traditional styling, a great location, an open air restaurant and rooftop swimming pool.

Any of these Cuba hotels serve as a good base for exploring the city. Old Havana is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, treasured for its array of Baroque and neoclassical architecture dating back to the early 16th century. The same can be said for Trinidad, a town on the south coast of central Cuba. The hotel that is frequently recommended for a stay in Trinidad is the recently renovated Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad. This is a quiet, charming boutique hotel with good facilities for a comfortable stay in a well-preserved colonial town.

The Best of Both

With the rich culture of the island's cities and the stunning beauty of its coastline, you may find it hard to decide where to spend your time. For the best of both sides of Cuba you should consider a multi-centre itinerary for your Cuba holiday, combining several Cuba hotels and locations for an unforgettable a trip to the Caribbean.

Emma Lelliott is the general manager of Captivating Cuba, an independent specialist in luxury holidays to Cuba. With a large selection of []Cuba Hotels, and offices in both Havana and the UK, Captivating Cuba can plan a perfect tailor-made Cuba holiday experience.

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Cuba - One of the Best Places to Live

Cuba - One of the Best Places to Live - Learn More About the Beauty and Culture of Cuba
By []Stephanie Hofstetler

The iron hand rule of Fidel Castro has not obliterated the charm and exquisite beauty of Cuba, the largest and most western island of the West Indies. Known for the finely textured Cuban cigars, technically gifted boxers and baseball players, political defections, its communistic ideals, Fidel Castro, and the non-Cuban Che Guevarra's underlying role as a revolutionary pop culture hero that helped Cuba instill its Marxist foundation.

An archipelago or group of islands, Cuba's fertile soil and abundant sugar and tobacco production made it the wealthiest island of the Caribbean. Its culture and traditions are a product of its varied ancestry being a former colony of Spain which ruled the island for 400 years. A tourism haven, Cuba offers a good mount of places with significant historical value and importance.

Havana, the capital city, although one of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere, has a modern section and is the largest city in the West Indies. It is particularly one of the places most visited by foreign tourists and backpackers. In spite of the seemingly hard and repressed individuality prevailing in Cuba due to the government's socialist philosophy, tourists still cannot resist the edifying experience it brings and its Eden-like nature.

Its rich mixture of people and customs enabled it to build a society of fun-loving, musical people. Recognized by the international community for the richness and variety of its popular music, Spanish Andalusian, French, and African music have created a special blend of rhythms and melodies that constitute the Cuban trademark in such musical forms as the chachachá, rumba, and salsa. One of the most influential sources of Caribbean popular music, its infectious African drumming and rhythms have inspired dance and song that has made Cuban music popular throughout the world.

Many Cubans have grown into fine tuned athletes fuelled mainly by discipline and strict work ethic. Sports play a major role in the early life of young Cubans; it sows in their minds the seeds of patriotism. It is also particularly a nice way for an expatriate to begin his relations by joining natives in playing baseball, which is a favorite pastime among Cubans.

After years under communist/socialist rule, the Cuba of today has risen to become an excellent place to live in. Its traditions have been well preserved, arguably or in part, because of Castro's steadfast commitment to meld Cuba's past with its present in order to prepare for the future.

After years under communist/socialist rule, the Cuba of today has risen to become one of the best places to live in. Its traditions have been well preserved, arguably or in part, because of Castro's steadfast commitment to meld Cuba's past with its present in order to prepare for the future. Learn about more of the best countries to live at

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Reasons to Visit Havana, Cuba This Coming Summer

Reasons to Visit Havana, Cuba This Coming Summer
By []Paul Symonds

Havana is the capital city and primary commercial centre of Cuba. It is also the birthplace of rum, salsa, and the Cuban cigar. This city was once called the "Paris of the Antilles" because of its flourishing cultural scene and rich architectural heritage. Today, Havana has an old world charm that appeals to the more sophisticated and adventurous travellers. Here are a few reasons why you should visit Havana.

Havana's administration policies are very tourist friendly and visitors are sure to find an abundance of travel modes, places to visit and accommodation options to choose from.

Travellers to the city will find shopping centres and souvenir shops selling memorabilia, clothes, shoes and other items at bargain rates and can prepare themselves for a shopping extravaganza.

Exploring Havana by foot allows travellers to experience the local culture firsthand using a city map. This is the best way for a traveller to truly understand the city. The city's old quarter, aptly named Old Havana, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and houses a number of neo-classical and baroque structures, such as the Castillo del Morro, Catedral de San Cristobal and Plaza de Armas. El Macelon, one of the district's main avenues, offers stunning views of the bay. Another well-known promenade is Paseo del Prado, a popular hangout for residents (or Habaneros). Vibrant with music and dancing from the various sidewalk cafes, the street also hosts an art market and underground realtors market during weekends.

The city is known for its production of rum and cigars and no Havana holiday will be complete without a visit to a distillery and cigar manufacturer. The Havana Club Rum Factory and Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagás offer guided tours to the public from where purchases can be made. Tourists will enjoy the opportunity to see genuine Cuban cigars being made and can purchase them at a fair price.

There are also a number of politically-significant attractions that tourists and history enthusiasts may find interesting. The Plaza de la Revolucion bears a monument of Jose Marti and the iconic image of Che Guevara. The former Presidential Palace houses the Museo de la Revolucion, which outlines the history of Cuba from the onset of the neo-colonial period. Both these places are popular tourist hotspots.

Fans of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro will enjoy a visit to Havana along with the opportunity to purchase Che and Fidel memorabilia such as flags, tee-shirts, papier mache masks or statuettes.

Paul writes about []Cuban travel and culture and about []Rome, Italy travel.

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Food in Cuba

Food in Cuba - Peso Restaurants and Private Paladars Compared
By []Liz Saarelainen

We were waiting for our food with flies buzzing around us. The windows were covered with thick curtains; the table clothes were dirty after the weekend. When we had waited for a long time, a young waitress brought our plates and put them in front of us, Spaghetti Bolognese and lasagna: pasta with ketchup, a little cheese and a grey, horribly smelling shaking cube.

Out of words we looked at each other; is it for this treatment and food that people queue night after night? We had seen long queues in front of the peso-restaurants and had decided to try a local popular pizzeria. On Monday at lunch time there was no queue in the street, but we had had to wait in a small lobby before we were called to enter the almost empty restaurant.

Today we do not serve pizza, announced the head waiter, a middle-aged woman, dressed in a white blouse and a tight blue skirt like the state servants always are in Cuba.

The lasagna was taken away almost untouched. The waitress looked questioningly at me and I told her cautiously that the food was not in my taste. We paid the bill, the food cost 12 national pesos but the big bottle of water had to be paid in convertible pesos (CUC). It cost us 1.5 CUC and we left the pizzeria with our heads lowered.

You have to eat every day and one of the biggest delights of a trip is the food. But in Cuba it is no use to await good experiences regarding taste. The food is tasteless and fat: broiled chicken or pig, rice, black beans, potatoes, canned vegetables and cabbage. A traveler sometimes gets desperate, especially a vegetarian - the vegetable dishes are simply created by taking away the pieces of meat.

A traveler has to consider every day what to eat and where. You cannot digest heavy dishes many times a day. There are not many options, especially for the budget traveler, because the food price is the same as in Europe if you do not use exclusively the peso-restaurants.

You find the best service and food in private paladars - private people are not allowed to use the name "restaurant", which is the privilege of the state owned eating places. The state wants to ensure "equality among the citizens" and has ordered that in a paladar there may be no more than 12 seats for customers, and in additions it is forbidden to prepare beef and other special dishes like fresh seafood.

The casas particulares (family accommodation) often serve meals in addition to breakfast. The hosts always remember to ask the customers about dinner wishes. You can also order one portion for two, one portion of meat is enough for both - it is also a bit cheaper. According to the chef's inventive powers and skill, the portions may turn out to be surprisingly tasteful.

The favorite of many budget travelers is the fast food chain El Rapido. You find their ice cold, air conditioned, eating places in a surprising number of towns. The Bocadillo, ham and cheese rolls, are tasty and they fill your stomach easily for a dollar or so. Also the Palmere restaurants are tidy and reasonably priced eating places. They offer mainly pizzas, hamburgers and other kinds of fast food. At the street kiosks you can buy juicy slices of pizza, they are popular fast food places for the locals.

The menu of the restaurants and bars are often only in Spanish and the price and variety of meals differs depending on the availability of supplies and how big the customer's wallet is seen and whether the keeper has to pay provision to the jinitero, a kind of a hustler.

In this two-currency country there are two kinds of shops: the peso-shops for the locals and exchangeable peso currency-shops. The peso-shops are traditional general stores or service windows where the sellers are behind a desk selling whatever happens to be available for sale. You can buy fresh food at the agropecuario stores (agriculture shops / markets) and bread at the bakeries, which seem to be open around the clock. In the peso shops the atmosphere is often very quiet and depressed.

In the weekends and during rush hours people have to queue for the hard currency stores; those people that happen to have hard currency. The currency stores are modern and the bigger ones have guards who let the customers in and out after the cash receipt and the purchase has been checked. The special items, like seasoning cubes, are sold one by one at the desk. In currency stores fresh food are scarcely seen, sometimes maybe cheese and yoghurt, but the freezers are full of chicken legs - thanks to the lightening of the trade blockade by the US. The export prohibition of agricultural products was removed in 2001.

All food is canned, vegetables, meat, fish. It is hard to understand why in this country of eternal summer, surrounded by the sea, you cannot get fresh fish or vegetables and fruit. The town residents are lucky if they see a farmer selling his produce on a wheelbarrow, calling out "tomatoes, pineapple" and you must hurry if you are going to get something - with pesos in your pocket and a bag for the purchase.

Our friend Yuri wanted to hear our opinion on his country and when he asked if we liked Cuban food, we went speechless. I looked for a polite and true answer. "I see it on your face" Yuri laughed looking embarrassed, but his eyes brightened when I told him that we had never got so many new friends and good company as in Cuba. And the food is crowned by velvet soft strong coffee, mojitos, rum and the smell of cigar and the rhythms that carry you away.

Liz Saarelainen is an independent and adventurous traveler from Finland. She spends all available time traveling to exotic places, often with a very limited budget.

Her and her husband Andy's website with lots more travel stories and picture series is at [] Site for Adventure and Independent Travelers

Welcome to explore her site!

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The Wildlife In Cuba

The Wildlife In Cuba - Birdwatching And The Island's Indigenous Land Mammals
By []Emma Lelliott

The Caribbean is known for its wildlife, and naturally Cuba is no exception. However, if you don't know what you're looking for, you can miss an awful lot - especially with the world's smallest humming bird, and a frog smaller than a penny are endemic to the island! Here's a guide to the animals of Cuba that you should look out for on your visit to the island.

Firstly, birdwatching in Cuba is reason to visit in itself, and the Caribbean's avian life is both graceful and colourful. Here are some of the more memorable birds you might see amidst Cuba's wildlife:

The Cuban Trogan

Known as Cuba's national bird, because it shares the same colours as the Cuban flag - blue, red and white. Found in forests near streams, it is notable for its dark green head and wings, bright red belly and white chest. They feed on insects, fruits and by hovering on flowers.

Bee Hummingbird

The world's smallest bird is endemic to the island, and a highlight of Cuba's birdwatching scene. Growing to a maximum length of 2.25 inches, it's typically found in valleys, gardens and forests but has been labelled as 'threatened' since 2000 due to a loss of its natural habitats.

Cuban Finch

Another small species, the Cuban Finch is 3 and a half inches of impressive energy! Nesting in shrubs, it is best known for its beautiful yellow head, which males can fluff up to attract mates!

Cuban Parakeet

The Cuban Parakeet, once a common sight for those birdwatching in Cuba has now become something of a rarity thanks to destruction of habitat and trapping, as it was regarded as a crop pest.

Those birdwatching in Cuba will likely find it in grasslands with palms, woodland edges and in undisturbed forests. You should be able to spot it easily enough - it is bright green with red spots on the head, neck and breast with red on the bend of the wing, and a white band of flesh around the eyes.

Cuban Kite

In a distressingly familiar theme, the beautiful Cuba Kite is classified as 'critically endangered' due to habitat loss. In fact, it was thought extinct until 3 Cuban Kites were found on the east of the island.

The bird of prey lives in heavily forested land, and is thought to feed mainly on snails.

Moving away from the opportunities for birdwatching that Cuba offers, the wildlife of the island is equally impressive, though sadly in many cases the animals of Cuba are equally endangered.

Cuban Hutia

The Cuban Hutia is the largest endemic land animal that Cuba has to offer, growing on average to be around 60 centimetres in length. If you're looking to catch a sight of one of these during your Cuban travel, you're best off looking around the forests and rocky areas of the island, where you may spy the animal going about its daily business. It's an omnivore and eats a combination of fruits, small reptiles, small mammals and leaves.

Cuban Solenodon

This insectivore was, like the Cuban Kite, once thought to be extinct, but has now been 'upgraded' to endangered status. You are unlikely to spy this sample of Cuba's wildlife by chance, as it is largely nocturnal, and spends its days hiding in trees and under rocks, mainly in forests and thick shrub habitats.

Cuban Boa

Listed as near threatened, those with a fear of snakes shouldn't worry about running into one of these by chance! Also known as the Cuban Tree boa, thanks to the amount of time it spends up in trees, those looking to see one in the wildlife of Cuba are best of searching in woodland and rocky habitats.

Cuban Treefrog

Also up in the trees (unsurprisingly) is the Cuban Treefrog. If you're hoping to catch sight of one amongst the Cuban wildlife, you will need to be around at night, when it is active. It's carnivorous, and will eat pretty much anything it can catch, but even though it's the largest species of treefrog in North America, that doesn't extend to humans!

Monte Iberia Dwarf Eleuth

The text for its name in this article actually takes up more space than the frog itself! Growing to just 0.8mm long, you could fit 2-3 of these endangered frogs on a single penny piece. It's small size and endangered status isn't the only reason you're unlikely to spy one on holiday - they're also nocturnal, finding cover in the daytime.

The animals of Cuba are simply breathtaking, and the endangered nature of many of the creatures means that seeing some of the species is likely a once in a lifetime experience. Whether you're in Cuba for birdwatching, or simply taking in the history, an exploration of the wildlife is a fascinating way to spend a few days.

Emma Lelliott is the general manager of Captivating Cuba, an independent Cuba holiday specialist. With offices in Havana and the UK, Captivating Cuba can design tailor made []Cuba bird watching holidays to ensure you see the fascinating avian life in their amazing natural habitat.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

About Travel in Cuba

Cuba - Beautiful Island in the Caribbean
By []Abby Agier

The magical island Cuba in the Caribbean is an extraordinary place. And so is its capital Havana. The dilapidation of Havana Centro is impressive and the UNESCO World Heritage of Havana Vieja is very picturesque with the Spanish colonial buildings. Cuba is a city inhabited by many colorful characters such as magical artists, talented musicians and true survivors.

The capital Havana
Havana is not an ordinary touristic place. The city has character and has many interesting museums, history and beaches. Being a bastion of Communism, it has been politically isolated which doesn't attract the endless stream of tourists. The few tourists who make it to the island will be overwhelmed by the gentle and warm locals and the amenities of the island.

Nature of Cuba
Cuba is the biggest island of the Caribbean with 1,207 km of mountain ranges and over 200 bays and sunny beaches. The most famous mountain ranges are the Sierra del Escambray in the center, the Sierra Maestra towards the east and the Cordillera de los Organos to the west.

Generous Locals
You will find a lot of culture, food, art and music in Cuba. Your best option is to sit back and relax with a Cuban cocktail and watching the locals and listening to the Cuban samba somewhere near. The locals and very generous and if you meet them you'll find yourself invited into their homes. They share everything they have with you and will even cook you a delicious homemade Cuban meal with pork, plantains, rice and beans and make you a fresh mango juice and many strong Cuban coffees at the end. The people of Cuba are known for their hospitality and it's said that they will even give you their shirt off their backs. They want to be sure your stay at their island is the best you will ever experience.

Architecture and Dreamy Pictures
The colonial architecture could have compelled with the big European cities of Europe during its heyday. Unfortunately it's faded over time and had a lack of descent recourses. Its current state might not be perfect, but it's beautiful in its own way with the peeling paint and crumbling walls. This makes Cuba a place where it's impossible to make a bad picture and therefore the dream of many photographers. You too will take many beautiful pictures of laughing children, smiling locals, romantic lights and dusty streets.

About The Author

Abby Agier has been an editor for the travel industry for over 20 years. Next to publishing about the most beautiful places in the world she is also a editor for home and kitchen tools and writes about []classic stand mixers to advice about the popular []white stand mixer.

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5 Things Cuba is Famous For
By []Dan DeLa Cruz

What's all the fuss about cuba? What's this tiny little island just a few hundred miles of the coast of Florida famous for? You might be surprise... The cigars, the rum, the women, the dancing, not to mention the baseball. Ohh, and don't forget about Castro.

#1. Its cigars. Cuban cigars are known worldwide as the best cigars. As the best they are also very expensive. Cuban cigars have been called the forbidden fruit because of their distinctive flavor and aroma. The Cuban government controls all cigar production in Cuba. Cuban cigars are made from tobacco, fillers, and wrappers grown, made, and manufactured in Cuba. Cuban cigars are for the most part hand rolled by master cigar rollers known as torcedores. Torcedores are considered artists in their field and are respected highly in Cuba and around the world. Although Cuban cigars are considered the best in the world they are illegal in the United States.

#2. Its Fidel. Fidel Castro has been a polarizing figure for decades. He is at the same time loved and hated by many. Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 as a result of the Cuban Revolution against U.S. backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. After the overthrow of Batista in 1959, Castro took charge of the military and soon became the next dictator of Cuba. From 1959 through 1960 Castro began to make sweeping changes throughout Cuba. Castro nationalized all industrial businesses, made agriculture into a collective community, and took control of all American-owned businesses. It was also during this time period that Castro began to cut times with the United States and form an alliance with the Soviet Union. Although Castro denied being a communist, he had effectively transformed Cuba into a communist country.

#3. Its rum. Cuban rum just as Cuban cigars is among the best in the world. Cuban rum has been called the spice of life with its smooth but strong flavor. As with Cuban cigars, rum is illegal in the United States because of the trade embargo that was enacted in 1962. Cuban rum is made from the sugarcane by-product known as molasses. This process of making rum was brought to Cuba by slaves from Africa. Cuba was the main supplier of rum in the 1700's and today the most common brand of Cuban rum is Havana Club.

#4. Its dancing. Cuba is famous for its spicy and sexy Latin dances. Picture in your mind moving passionately across the dance floor as you step in time to the beat of your dance partner's rhythm. Cuban dances are about passion and immersing yourself into the story of the dance. The word Salsa was created in New York, however the dance originated in Cuba. Salsa combines a mix of the Danzon from the French, the Rhumba from Africa, and the Son of Cuba. The Cha-Cha-Cha also originated in Cuba. The Cha-Cha-Cha is similar to the Mambo and gained fame in the early 1950's. The Cha-Cha-Cha is more sensual than the Salsa and can be more complex with its many rhythms.

#5. Its baseball. Baseball is more than just America's favorite past time. It is one of the most played sports in Cuba with a long and rich history. Baseball was brought to Cuba sometime around 1860 by Cubans who had studied and played along side sailors in the United States. Some of the greatest baseball players in the world are of Cuban Heritage. Cristobal Torriente, Martin Dihigo, and Jose Mendez are all in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cubans have played baseball in just about every nation where baseball exists in the world. Not only have Cubans played abroad but many baseball greats from other countries have gone to Cuba to play as well.

Dan DeLa Cruz is a traveler, author, and []international dating coach. He is most well known as the author of the The Global Dating Revolution a guide to foreign women and []brazilian women.

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Cuba Hotel Awards - A Way Through Excellence
By []Giselle Rodriguez

Looking for more than good-value hotels in Cuba? Discover a selection of Cuba hotels that have received several prizes and awards, granted by international tour operators and tourism specialists. These leading facilities could be a fine choice for your perfect Cuba holiday or vacation if you trust well-known experts' criteria.

One of the most prestigious lists of the best hotels worldwide is The Gold List of Condé Nast Traveler. This annual list includes a selection of the hotels around the world that have the best service, rooms, food, ambiance and design, location and leisure facilities. The Saratoga hotel, an Old Havana hotel, received a high rating in the readers' travel awards 2006 survey, since it was at 24 in the hot list 2006 of the 60 best new hotels in the world within the category "Best for Ambiance/Design". You can find this distinguished facility in a prime location opposite the Capitol at Havana City. Art lovers will appreciate the Cuban art in all the public spaces of the property and the "mélange" of colonial and contemporary styles at bedrooms and lounges.

If you look further examples of hotel excellence then you should consider theWorld Travel Awards, voted by travel agents worldwide. They were established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate the achievements in all sectors of the global travel industry. These awards are regarded as the "Oscars" of the tourism industry by The Wall Street Journal. Cuba hotels winners at 2007 and 2008 were Hotel Nacional de Cuba as Cuba's Leading Hotel and Sandals Royal Hicacos Resort & Spa was the Leading Resort. A classy Cuban hotel at the Cuban capitol city and a gorgeous beach resort in one of the best beaches of the island and of the Caribbean, these are the choices of tens of thousands of travel experts, such as travel agents and other travel professionals.

Also Thomas Cook, one of the most important tour operators in the world, recently accorded its Marque of Excellence Award to Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort & Spa, a hotel which received several important prizes in 2008. For those seeking blissful vacations, here you will find a piece of your own paradise. This elegant hotel, located right alongside Playa Esmeralda beach in the province of Holguin, has received for the fifth time the Marque of Excellence Award (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008) due to the quality ratings granted by clients. Since it is a 5-star Ultra All-Inclusive hotel that was conceived for adults over 18 years, it is more suitable for romantic getaways, weddings, honeymoons, events and vacations with group of friends.

Plus, Trip Advisor, the largest travel destinations and tips guide in the Web, granted this Cuba hotel two Travelers Choice 2008 Awards (The Best All-Inclusive in the World and the Most Romantic Hotel in Latin America and the Caribbean). These popular distinctions in the tourist industry represent the views of millions of travelers that have selected this hotel for its outstanding service.

Moreover, Paradisus Río de Oro hotel received the Gold Medal 2008 Award accorded by clients of First Choice, the leading British wholesale company. Also in 2006, the Paradisus Rio de Oro was awarded the Travelers' Choice Prize in the category of Most Outstanding Hidden Jewels of the Caribbean. Want a better reason to go there in your next Cuba vacations?

If you prefer more responsible and ecologic hotels then you should try Brisas Guardalavaca. This Cuba hotel has won the important award "Green Planet Award" presented by the European Tour Operator Kuoni. This distinction is given to the hotels contracted by this tour operator with relevant results in terms of Environmental Care. This facility has also received the National Basic Environmental Award presented by the Ministry of Technology and Environment in Cuba. So if your catchphrase is "a better and a greener world is possible" then you should consider Brisas Guardalavaca in the top of your Cuba hotels choices.

Also for environment enthusiasts there is a fine resort at Varadero beach, the Iberostar Tainos hotel, which has won an Environmental Hotel Award in 2004/05. Singles, couples and families will appreciate the good four-star value of this recently built hotel, set on a beautiful stretch of beach surrounded by tropical gardens.

Other Cuba hotels have won international distinctions like Meliá Las Antillas, which was awarded the Primo Neckermann Reisen 2008 Award thanks to the rankings given by clients of the important German tour operator Neckermann, part of Thomas Cook group. This property ranked among the 100 best and most popular hotels in the world in 2008! So if you want to experience a truly unforgettable holiday you should look after this offer, an All-Inclusive Superior 4-star resort especially recommended for weddings, honeymoons, tourist groups and circuits.

Also the magnificent Paradisus Princesa del Mar hotel was granted the Marque of Excellence Award 2007 by leading tour operator Thomas Cook, in recognition of the hotel's high service standards and quality of its accommodations. What's important about this award is that clients are the ones who assess the hotels by responding to Thomas Cook's satisfaction polls, which measure the service, facilities and quality of the accommodations. It is conceived for adults aged 18 and over and it is highly recommended for those who want to spend some time in romantic environments with extraordinary scenic views and total privacy.

Deciding for any holiday is not an easy thing and planning where to stay is sometimes one of the most stressful parts of planning a vacation. So be a wise traveler and follow the expert's opinion on your next retreats in Cuba.

Giselle Rodriguez is a cuba vacations and cuba hotels blogger and content collaborator at


Business Center Building Kohly III

Apartamento 71

Calle 34 entre 49 y 49A,

Reparto Kohly, Playa

Ciudad de la Habana CP: 11300


Phone : +53 7 206 9606

Mobile Phone : +53 5 263 1106

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