Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hotel Florida in Havana and what happens when you put your foot down

Havana is literally a colonial architecture dump. Time stands still in Havana, frozen during the majestic 18th century and fast forward into the 1950’s. Cuba in faded glory. So obviously our voyage into this island country was to experience what time warp is like in the 21st century. A stay at one of the historical hotels in Old Havana otherwise known as ‘Havana Vieja’ to the locals will be a great start.

The colonial atrium courtyard lobby of the hotel.

I initially eyed Hotel Nacional de Cuba but this lovely hotel was tucked away far from the heart of Old Havana. We want a historical hotel in the centre where plazas and important sights are easily reached from our doorstep. Hotel Santa Isabel at Plaza Armas was also in my list but they were fully booked. I still have three other hotels to choose from and in the end the decision was placed on Hotel Florida, mainly because I love its colonial courtyard and its white and green colour scheme.

Before I booked this hotel online at Cuba Travel Network (you pay upfront) I researched high and low to make sure I made the right decision. It was when I learned about the drama on the missing windows in many hotels in Havana. So I specifically noted in my reservation—‘We need a room with a window or balcony please.’

Arriving quite late in Havana, I began to worry about the room without a window scenario. Well it seems that the stars have misaligned because we were assigned to Room 101—one of the notorious rooms indeed in Hotel Florida without windows.

NO FREAKING WAY. I simply cannot accept a room without windows after a crammed 10 hours flight?!

So I demanded my room with a window, and I stood my ground and never flinched. Hello? I PAID FOR A ROOM WITH A WINDOW gaddammit. I really and seriously put my foot down, not leaving the desk and nagging at the poor receptionist. Well, it paid off. She finally came to a solution and offered a junior suite at no extra charge for the next day before 10AM. Unfortunately the hotel was full and Room 101 is the only room available for the night. OK fine. I accepted her offer.

Here is the 4-star Hotel Florida on the legendary Calle Obispo, one of the prime streets in Havana Vieja:

This is the second floor where the suites are located.

On the right picture is the door to our room.

The view from the second floor's hallway down to the courtyard lobby.

And here is our junior suite:

Because its a suite they do not have 2 separate beds but a king size one which is fine as its big enough for us. I can stick to my own corner =)

Our own private sitting room and moi on the balcony. I love high ceilings.

The marble bathroom, antiquated and honestly I felt icky here but I have no choice. I felt icky in all the toilets of Cuba except for the one in Trinidad as it was fairly new.

Fire tree and view outside from our suite's balcony.

Florida Hotel's restaurant where we took our breakfasts.

The marble statue at the entrance of the hotel and the hotel's male mermaid doorknob.

As for Room 101? The room actually looked elegant but I almost had a nightmare after seeing the bathroom that I didn’t even think of taking a shower that night considering that we had just a long transatlantic flight. Trust me, I didn’t want to touch anything in that bathroom! The ceiling and walls were in a grand moldy state. Stale odour was also emanating out of the air-conditioning. How on earth can you breathe with recycled air? I need fresh air otherwise I will suffocate. I am also very sensitive to sanitation affairs because my skin can quickly irritate, and it did.

So we woke up early in the morning and made a bee-line for the hotel reception desk. Luckily, we were told that they are now cleaning our new room and they will bring our luggage to the suite once it’s done. We were relieved. We had breakfast and a stroll around Havana Old Town before coming back to the hotel to inspect our new room.

TIP: When booking a hotel room in a historical hotel in Havana, always check if they have windows because many hotels have rooms without one. Havana is very humid and hot, and when there are no windows but only air-conditioning and recycled air, this makes the room damp and stale. Consider as well that the buildings in Havana are old and are not that well maintained. This is granted, helaas. Most rooms in fact have traces of mold spores and bathrooms have dark tile linings.

Travel Period: May 2012
Destination: Havana, Cuba

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