I did two things for my champagne birthday. I played in an all weekend water polo tournament and then took off for the Caribbean island of Cuba.
Joey had never experienced scuba diving in tropical blue waters. He had also never experienced the royalties of an all-inclusive resort. For me, my one and only trip to the sunny south had been over Christmas break many years ago for my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary. Needless to say – some exotic vitamin D was long overdue.
You know you’re in Cuba when you’re wiggling your toes in the fine grainy sand of this island’s beaches and staring at the clear turquoise water of the ocean in peaceful bliss. It’s an exotic land and we had just touched down. For one whole week, this world of palm trees and Caribbean rum was our oyster.
Our resort, the ROC Arenas Doradas, was located just outside of Varadero, on the Hicacos Peninsula. With 20km of white sand beaches spanning the length of this skinny peninsula, Varadero is first and foremost a tourist town. The resort was described as a laid-back, all-inclusive hotel offering 10 bars & restaurants, plus pools and direct beach access.
We arrived in Cuba, on a direct flight from Pearson International. A 45-minute bus ride from the airport transported us to our accommodations for the upcoming week. Having booked our stay outside of peak season, we got a fairly competitive flight and accommodation rate. Despite the descriptions, the resort was a little weathered – there was ongoing maintenance on some of the buildings and other guests did not hesitate to tell us about their problematic showers, lights with no bulbs and broken air conditioners. Not that it bothered us at all. As luck would have it, we were fortunate with our room experiencing none of these issues and had a very comfortable budget-friendly vacation.
One of my favourite parts of our stay at the ROC was watching Joey’s face when he walked into the resort dining room for the first time. Food, food and more glorious food – laid out on tables for what felt like miles. I had never seen Joey move so quickly from station to station, picking up more than he would ever be able to eat. I decided to omit my plate so I could share with him.
After eating what felt like the entire buffet, we rolled out of the dining hall feeling like oompa loompa’s. As the afternoon rolled around, the pain and bloated feeling from our first dining encounter has subsided. Joey and I decided to visit the poolside restaurant for an early supper. This section of the resort was designed as more of a sit-in and dine serving style, complete with menus and waiters.
Joey’s disbelief still resonates with me: “You mean we can just eat anything on the menu and we don’t need to pay for it?!” It was like watching a kid find out that Santa Claus exists all over again. He didn’t realize that with the all-inclusive package, visitors did not need to pay for anything food-related on the resort they are staying at. That being said, tipping was always appreciated by bartenders and servers.
Over our weeklong stay in Cuba, Joey and I enjoyed living in what felt like the lap of luxury.
We toured Varadero, the closest city to our resort, numerous times. We made friends with a local Cuban, Anders, who kindly designed Cuba badges for our traveling bags. We did some extracurricular scuba diving adventures through the resort. And we took full advantage of the resort’s a la carte restaurants and open bar (tequila, sambuca, banana mama’s oh my!).
Scuba Diving both Sides of Cuba: Situated in the heart of the Caribbean, the island of Cuba has some beautiful diving opportunities on both the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts. Learn more about scuba diving in Cuba.
Leaving Canada for a week of rejuvenation in Cuba was a welcomed change from the urban business of downtown Toronto. Both Joey and I agree that given the safe and welcoming sensation we experienced in this country paired with the affordability of our stay, we would certainly venture back to this tropical island paradise in a heartbeat!
Have you had the good fortune of experiencing a stay at an all-inclusive resort? Where did you go and would you return? Let us know in the comments below.
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