Having heard that hotel standards in Cuba may be slightly lower than we’re used to elsewhere, when we booked our package holiday to Havana, we decided to pay out a little bit more to stay in one of the city’s highest rated hotels.
Iberostar Parque Central is rated the number one hotel on Tripadvisor and is classed as one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. Made up of two wings – the original colonial hotel and a newly added modern tower, it’s really well positioned for those wanting to explore the city as you’re just a few steps away from the gorgeous streets of Old Havana and a five minute walk from the seafront and the social hub that is the Malecan.
As city hotels go it’s got all you need but it would be fair to say that it didn’t have the level of luxury I’d expect from its five star rating and price tag. Personally I believe some of it is to do with the restrictions Cubans are living with, which is why you may see curtains with tears sewn up rather than replaced, dodgy looking fittings and why access to certain foods such as bacon and potatoes can be limited.
Also, keep in mind that when in Cuba access to the Internet will be rare. The larger hotels do offer WiFi, but only in main areas like reception and at an hourly charge. When you do get on the connection will be poor, so we accepted that while in Havana, we’d simply take a break from technology.
Quality of rooms at the Iberostar Parque Central
Based in the colonial wing, overall our room was lovely: spacious, with a big bed and a wonderfully large bathroom that had the best power shower Iâ’d ever experienced in a hotel (a huge thumbs up from me there, as I’m a woman with long, thick hair that means water pressure is always an important factor). However, small things like a lack of light (we had one small window), no tea/coffee facilities and restricted aircon controls did leave us a little disappointed.
You may think me overly picky for pointing these things out, which would be a fair point, but I do wonder if these things wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I’d been more impressed with the service.
The importance of first impressions
The quality of service came to our attention within minutes of entering the hotel. Used to private transfers from the airport, a seat and a welcome drink on arrival at a hotel, we were instead herded as a group to the rear of reception, where we had to find our paperwork on a table, fill in and return to a member of staff who then handed us a key and sent us on our way without a welcome smile or any information on the hotel, such as when and where was breakfast. I put this down to the package holiday experience rather than the hotel itself, but we didn’t feel hugely welcome nonetheless.
Throughout our five-night stay this feeling didn’t change, with the majority of staff not appearing very interested in helping us. Service was regularly slow (we’ve come to learn this is also part of Cuban life, rather than specific to this hotel) and in the end we found the nicest members of staff were the lovely chambermaids and doormen who we often had a laugh and a chat with whenever we left or entered the hotel.
The hotel does have lots of the facilities you’d expect from five star accommodation, such as gyms, jacuzzis etc, but the one we took advantage of the most was the rooftop pool. With amazing views across the city, we loved coming up here for a sunset drink. During our lazier days we also came up to relax by the pool, but we often found it was overcrowded and really hard to get a sun lounger. Still, when you could blag a seat, the area was a real oasis of calm away from the bustling city below.
Food at the Iberostar Parque Central
We never had dinner in the hotel, instead wanting to make the most of the Havana dining experiences available across the city, but I was impressed with the massive breakfast spread on offer every morning.
Spoilt for choice, there were local Cuban breakfast dishes alongside international choices such as fresh fruit, meats, cereals, hot breakfast and pastries. The buffet approach means you can help yourself but expect a long wait for hot drinks as you must request this from the waiters and waitresses who hate to make eye contact!
Also handy hint for tea lovers – bring your own. In this hotel I could only find red and peppermint tea on offer, so I was really happy that I’d packed my emergency bag of PG Tips. Yes, I really am that British!
Iberostar Parque Central Review – would we stay again?
In the end it’s all about expectations. Having a better understanding of what to expect in Cuba I can now say that this hotel would be considered very average anywhere else, but in Cuba it’s (sadly) one of the better choices.
Even so, if I return to Havana I would definitely consider other hotels, but I would still stay within the top-end price bracket to ensure a decent standard of accommodation. I did feel that service was poor for the price we paid, however, the rooms were lovely, breakfast varied and the rooftop pool, although overcrowded was definitely a bonus. So as a city hotel goes, overall it was a bit of a mixed bag.