The Hotel Casa Granda is located on the main square in Santiago de Cuba.
As we approached the hotel after a day of biking, Danny explained that the street is so narrow our bus would be blocking traffic while the luggage was unloaded. He asked us all to help unloading the luggage so we would be blocking traffic for the least time possible.
I try to not be judgmental when we are on vacation, but I could not help thinking (judgmentally) that in the same situation in Costa Rica I’d of had 10 people lined up on the street handing out welcome cocktails and whisking the luggage into the hotel. Once again how different Cuba is from Costa Rica—or from anywhere else I have ever been—was about to become very clear to me.
Everybody pitched in without complainant. In record time we were all gathered in the lobby surrounded by chaotic pile of our bags and the bus was on it’s way to the parking lot.
While everybody else marveled at the beautiful architecture and furniture in the lobby,
I noticed Danny deep in conversation with the receptionist. Drawing on my 30 plus years of experience as a travel professional, I immediately came to the brilliant conclusion that the hotel was overbooked and we were getting bumped.
Sure enough we were moving to a hotel 15 km out of town. Rather than wait for the bus to navigate the narrow one-way streets back to the hotel, we dragged all the bags a couple a hundred meters to the bus. Looking back on it we must have looked like a group of refugees, if the refugees all wore Lycra shorts and had modern wheeled luggage.
It was not until the luggage was stowed and we were settled back on the bus that I had time to think, “…in the same situation in Costa Rica…” I looked around at my fellow travelers to see who was going to complain the loudest. Everybody was laughing. Not only was Cuba different from anywhere I had ever been, just being there was making us different—and I daresay better—than we would have been other places.
When we quieted down Dan explained that, like all hotels in Cuba, Casa Granda is owned by the state. Therefore there is no motivation to honor reservations at any particular hotel. It made perfect sense at the time.
Over the next two weeks we were bumped twice more. It was quite wonderful actually. Every check-in was an adventure.
For me it was a delightful throwback to my young wandering days when I never knew where I was going to spend the night. The happy difference was that we really did know that Danny and his crew were somehow were always going to take care of us. It was the fun of adventure without the risk, as befits our age and station.
For her part Yolanda was so relieved that I was not raising hell, as I would have, “…in the same situation in Costa Rica…” she did not care where we slept.
So the answer to the question of how to deal with getting bumped out of a hotel in Cuba is, “Enjoy it.”
Naturally on our next two trips to Cuba we were not bumped even once, but just the possibility that it might happen was enough to keep me from getting bored.
Of course you can’t generalize on the basis of three trips in four years, so I asked Kristen MacQueen to explain how hotel reservations actually work in Cuba. Next Tuesday, I’ll post her insiders detailed view of very different world from the one we are used to.
In last weeks post I offered a bag of gourmet Costa Rican Coffee to the first three persons who got the right answer to what the Cuban Barber told me he used for practice in the absence of peaches. So far the answers have been quite creative, but no one has gotten it yet. The contest is still open.
New Contest: What does Yolanda love about the Newspapers in Cuba?
Yolanda with her newly acquired newspaper. March, 2011.
I’ll send a bag of gourmet Costa Rican Coffee to the first three persons who can guess what it is?