Varadero Vulgarity

I had never been to an all inclusive resort and I have the feeling that this was the first and last time.  I imagined all the tourists who come to Varadero and think they know Cuba after a 2 week break in a plastic resort.  VARADERO IS NOT CUBA!!!  Do not think for a minute you know anything about Cuba if your experience is a few days in Varadero with a quick trip to Havana to go to the Floridita bar (Hemingway’s haunt and a favourite with the tourists).

I had been told that this was low season and that I would find more Cubans grabbing offers but my Barcelo hotel was 90% blue collar or student Canadians with a surprising lack of families.  Not the school holidays in Canada I suppose unless your children are in the International French school.  Generally, I like Canadians so I apologise for this satirical post and want to stress that it is more about the kind of people who go to all-inclusive resorts rather than a nation.  In Cuba it just happens to be the Canadians that pack these places out.

So, there were a lot of Canadians in my hotel, generally quite amiable ….. just fat, tattooed, red and white striped and getting drunk wielding their huge super size me thermos jugs with straws.  They told me proudly with not one iota of irony, that they purchased them online especially for all inclusive holidays and could fit 10 drinks in them!  I hid behind bushes by the pool that had the bar, like a wildlife photographer getting photos of my beasts, or a daring anthropologist approaching a difficult and unpredictable subject.  One of them spotted me and good-naturedly got together his mates for a group picture.  I happily obliged and snapped away.  $800 for a week all inclusive flights, drinks and sunshine who can blame them??

When we first arrived we headed to our room, the boys scootering ahead of me somewhat recklessly but with no one admonishing them, so I let them go.   And in fact those scooters became very useful to get around the huge smalltown-sized complex.  We had a map and we needed it!   They boys were loving it, only a little disappointed at the lack of children and only one tiny water slide.

After checking out the first pool of drunks, I grabbed the attention of one of the gardeners and asked him if there was a more appropriate pool for children.  He directed us towards the other end of the complex so we had chance to check out the various eateries, the rather exciting (for us Cuban residents!) hotel shop, the large lobby with piano, and of course the undeniably beautiful beach.  We discovered that the Cuban Michael Jackson was playing in the theatre that night.  I promised the boys that they could stay up late enough.  Thinking to myself that I really had to check out the house red to throw myself into the evening ahead.

The boys bought some ‘message in a bottles’, back packs and other assorted pieces of tourist tat. I managed to find a nice pair of Havaianas for 10 cuc then we hit the buffet to find everything to keep us all happy.  In fact, the food was good, as was the service, for the price that we paid I was not complaining.  It was more my fellow guests who were making my jaw drop.  The boys decided to start counting fat people and large thermos cups to see which would score higher.  They then wanted to start taking photos of both things so I managed to negotiate that they could just take pictures of the super size me Thermos jugs.

I was amazed watching how these people ate.  The volumes and the choices.  One man I observed doing 4 or 5 trips back to the buffet with plates piled up with food and that was before he had started on his pudding!  As the boys ran around taking photos, I started talking to some young fresh faced students from Ottawa and found them so innocent that I couldn’t help but shock them with my progressive views on the world!

We installed ourselves in the theatre for the big show and got a decent table next to the sweet innocent students and a British couple who resembled Alf Garnett and his wife.  Paulo insisted on getting his own seat away from us, right at the front, reluctantly followed by Nico.  In fact they spent half an hour sneaking back stage and reporting on the dancers they had seen in various stages of undress.  At this point I was knocking back the Spanish table wine with urgency!  Trying not to upset Alf and his wife along the way, who were trying to engage me in conversation about British politics and how David Cameron should be in the Labour party.

Finally Michael burst onto the stage with a great troupe of dancers.  Needless to say, my two were on the stage at the end of the night singing along to We are the World, getting their photo taken with Michael and trying to master the moonwalk and later asking me lots of questions about why Michael Jackson was always touching his willy.  (I couldn’t find a good answer for that one!)

We went to the lobby bar with the masses after the show where I was cornered by another Canadian claiming his British roots in Leeds.  I politely replied that Leeds was a fun city, to which he replied no its not anymore its full of Pakis!  As my jaw dropped still lower I decided it was really was time to take my children and myself off to bed, just before the wife of the bigot chipped in with the immortal line ….. we don’t mind brown people if they are suntanned just not when they are born like that.  What are you doing in Cuba then I thought to myself?  and then I remembered, they are not in Cuba they are in Varadero.

As I contently drove the straight easy road back to the city with the boys watching Harry Potter in the back of the car, I thought about the very different Cuba that I know in Havana enlightened and global ….where I meet interesting and open minded people every week, of every shade of beautiful brown, suntanned or born like that!



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6 Responses to Varadero Vulgarity

  1. Christina says:

    Oh my god!! Have always been curious about Varadero but your tale just confirmed all my fears. Don’t think I am ever going now:)

  2. Josephine says:

    pretty sure you would hate it ……… problem is children like that kind of stuff, although mine are also happy on a beach collecting shells and meeting CUban kids so I know what I will be doing next time I escape Havana! Had to try out the Varadero thing though!

  3. Serena says:

    I wouldn’t visit a place that I detested so much just for the children. I do hope the dancers weren’t too disturbed by boys peeking in on them . . . I feel a more appropriate response instead of drinking more wine (rather like the Canadians you disparaged for drinking) would have been to scold the boys and make them sit with you. There’s a reason children are not very welcome in many resorts. I have always felt that it is a mother’s duty to ensure her children are raised understanding what is appropriate and what is not. Trust me, that did not make me very popular with my children at times, but today they are young adults that I, and many others, enjoy being around, so I believe it was worth it.

    It sounds like touristy places should be avoided at all costs in the future, at any rate!

  4. Josephine says:

    well I think you have to try everything once.

    The Cuban dancers were not bothered at all about the boys, they didn’t need to be scolded at this particularly moment but believe me I do scold them when they are behaving badly towards anybody. They behaved pretty well at the resort actually and people are always happy to meet my boys as they are so sociable and generally well behaved. I think they are well aware of what is appropriate.

    It is one thing to drink a vat of rum in a supersize me thermos and another to take the edge off a surreal evening with a couple of glasses of wine.

  5. The heavy drinking by some of the visitors in Varadero is actually not a good influence on kids and due to this, it is understandable why you would not want to take your kids to such a destination again. However, your experience in Varadero also depends on where you choose to stay and so maybe if you had stayed at a different place the trip, then the experience would have probably been different.

    • Josephine says:

      I think a lot of people are missing the tongue and cheek pitch of this post! I managed to very easily keep my children away from the drunks who were mainly in one or two areas of the huge complex and even though the people were not my kind of people, they were not harmful to my children, who actually had quite a good time. It was me who found the all inclusive resort a display of greed and bad taste. ON my way out I stopped at 5 more hotels, most of them more expensive and they seemed exactly the same ……. maybe in some ways worse because at least the people in my Barcelo hotel had no pretensions about who they were, whereas the people in the 5 star places which were twice the price had more money but still greedy and probably less friendly. I went to Xanadu Mansion which had an old world charm and on a beautiful stretch of beach but I am not a golfer and it was not a place for children.

      maybe you can enlighten me where a family of 5 can stay with fun for children and good taste and food for adults but I still feel that a good casa particular (private run B&B) is the best option for a family like mine and I don’t need to drive to Varadero for that.

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