I was in CUBA – my review of the SARATOGA

Note : I was in Havana at the end of July 2010,a place I have always wanted to go.. I ENJOYED it people. Hear ye!! I ENJOYED IT!!!!  . I was also humbled by its glorious past and its spirit to survive and its  sheer simplicity. The SARATOGA is a hotel in Old Havana. This review first appeared in TRIPADVISOR

The SARATOGA  has got class, Cuba style. As what people say class is difficult to define and achieved. The Saratoga can be considered as boutique and the class it has, is achieved without trying too hard, which I like.

If you wish to avoid the other popular but crowded hotels with boisterous tourists and aircrew filling up the swimming pool then the saratoga is just perfect. This is not a business hotel.  Or if you want to be hooked on to your facebook then this is not the place for you. It is a place for you to enjoy the quiet, the ambience, the smell of cohibas while sipping your mohitos or the havana blue.

Considering that it is government-owned, and a socialist one for that matter, the front office staff of Saratoga was not that bad. They may lack the entrepreneurship discretion, delegated authority and service culture but they were far from being the non smiling soviet style stereotype. . They always tried to help without being intrusive. You will be approached for contraband cigars and taxi to the airport and if you do not like it a polite no will suffice to keep that host/guest at the appropriate comfortable distance.

At first impression the lobby looked small but soon I got used to the sense of space provided for by the restaurant next to it and the 24 hrs mezzanine cafe. I must say the mojito at the cafe was the best. Breakfast spread was average and for someone who do not stuff in to avoid lunch, I found the breakfast spread to be just nice for me. The service at the cafe and restaurant was excellent. But you come to CUBA not to complain about food, because you very well know that havana is not the place for good food.

I took the junior suite. By Asian standard it was small but off course it would be reasonable if you follow the European standard. The grand capitol was the view from your room. At sun set it was quite a view. The room and bathroom were relatively new and standard of cleanliness was high. The linen, the robe and towel were the kind I liked although a couple more fluffy pillows would make it very much at home. I did not like the tiled floors, but soon I got used to be in slip-ons which I have to ask from the maid. I was first put in the suite on the top floor. My request to be moved to the lower but bigger room was favorably and politely entertained.

The rooftop restaurant and swimming pool was not well patronized. In any case  I was not in Havana for the pool.

I soon learned that luxury goods and service in CUBA was not cheap and accepted it after considering the embargo. With that attitude you will enjoy HAVANA. The superior quality cigars and the rum, the music and dancing balanced up the economics and compensate for the amount you pay for good hotels and service.

The Saratoga was strategically located. The Partagas factory was just a 100 m away and all other attractions within the Old city was within walking distance. The sights within old haban were within the 3CUC taxifare. But at night be prepared to pay more. I decided to hire the horse-drawn carriage with an English-speaking historidos as our coachman and that was just perfect to explore the city.

I liked the SARATOGA.

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