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Chef George Krumov

I have been traveling around the world a lot during my career as chef, seen many places and been exposed to different cultures and experiences. Right now I am not traveling any more as much as I used to, but I promise to let you know of anything I think is noteworthy in the service industry in the future. So, this is the place for you to share your comments and experiences with the food and service around the world. Your input will be greatly appreciated by many people around the globe who are planning a vacation, or simply looking for a place to go out for a dinner. This is, also, the place for you to say "thank you" to anybody who has impressed you, or has given you great service, because the service industry is all about that - making people feel great and enjoy their time. Write to chefgeorge@finestchef.com or use the form below to send your reviews.

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Santiago De Cuba, Hotel Club Bucanero and Melia Hotel

This was my first visit to Cuba for a wonderful vacation. The flight from Toronto to Santiago de Cuba was a breeze, the bus ride from the Santiago airport to Hotel Club Bucanero - very comfortable. The Bucanero resort is a piece of heaven, about 35 minutes from Santiago de Cuba. All the two-story chalets are made of stone. This combined with nice AC made for a very comfortable stay. We didn't stay much in the room though, only used it to sleep. Bucanero has a huge pool, open 24 h. along with the poolside free bar for the guests of the hotel. The beach had another free bar open only until 5 pm. We ate at the buffet in the resort's restaurant. The restaurant booths and furniture and the decorations on the walls gave an impression that we were on a pirate ship. The food at the buffet was delicious and plentiful, but for those who didn't want to leave the beach or the pool, there were two grills open all day. The best thing about the beach was that it had both - sand and a lot of corals and fish. For that reason snorkeling was out of this world. Looked to me like the lost Atlantis down there. The Bucanero resort is all-inclusive, so only the scuba diving was paid. The service stuff was very courteous, and not only the service staff but every Cuban we met was nice. The people are simply great, not pushy at all and very appreciative to tips. I am a good tipper, I believe in giving, but the people who thought that "tipping" is a city in China didn't get worse service than us. The people in Cuba live on very low incomes, so they really appreciate even 1 dollar, but don't get upset if they are not being tipped. You know, after so many years in the service industry, I have a good eye for those things. I almost forgot - the resort has a lot of very polite iguanas wandering around for the delight of my daughter. So far we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Bucanero, but after 4 days we had to be evacuated because of a hurricane passing very close to Cuba. Did I say "evacuated"? Wow, it is nice to be evacuated to Santiago in a 5 star hotel. The hurricane did't hit the city at all, but we heard of some flooding in Bucanero because of its proximity to the water.

Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and a former capital of the country. Melia Hotel is the best hotel in Santiago. It has 3 swimming pools, numerous restaurants and bars, live music even at the buffet and so on. We were met by a band with guitars and banjos at the check-in. The food at the buffet was more than plentiful and very good, and trust me, I know "good". However, what I liked the best about the city was its people and the unique colonial feel. In Club Bucanero, being a closed resort, you don't get the real feel of what Cuban people truly are. I enjoyed going out in the city and talking to people. They all were so nice, without exception. One bicycle-taxi driver asked me if I was from Spain - I didn't know I could speak Spanish so good to be mistaken for Spaniard. Finally I bought a box of Cohiba cigars for 40 convertible pesos ($50 CAD) for presents and a bottle of Habana Rum and returned to Canada to face reality once again. And, trust me guys, it is not an easy thing to meet reality after such a vacation where you felt like a baron. Now only the memories still linger in my mind, and the stink of dead crab that fell off from some of the seashells we brought with us. Would I return if I had a chance? Definitely!!!

George Krumov

P.S. Unfortunately Bucanero Resort got hit badly in 2012 by hurricane Sandy and is no longer in operation.

Comments:

Email: Recently, discussions among frequent Cuba visitors have leaned towards encouraging leaving the maids tips of a Convertible Peso (CUC) or so a day. The reason is that the wait and bar staff get tipped in pesos but the maids tend to get tipped in gifts, much of which is often (I'm sorry to say) dollar store junk. While it's valuable to the maids to use or trade, it is of much less value than actual CUCs cash they can spend on what they need. So more and more people are encouraging tipping housekeeping staff with pesos, not gifts but both will be warmly appreciated. Leave the tip on your pillow before you leave your room in the morning, the maid will know that it's for her. If you do decide to leave gifts, some particularly appreciated gifts due to inability to access them in Cuba even with cash are band-aids, aspirin, tampons (yes, may feel weird but it's a fact), and real professionally manufactured baseballs for the kiddies. Infants' and toddlers' clothing is also very appreciated.
name: Susana

Hotel Club Bucanero near Santiago

Hotel Club Bucanero near Santiago de Cuba

Iguana at Bucanero resort

Iguana at Club Bucanero Resort

Taxi ride in Santiago de Cuba

Taxi ride in downtown Santiago

Santiago de Cuba tour

Enjoying the pool.

View of Santiago de Cuba from Melia hotel

View of Santiago from Hotel Melia

(Click on a picture to enlarge)

Melia hotel in Santiago

Hotel Melia in Santiago de Cuba