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I often get asked how I manage to juggle my career with my global adventures and the blog. I am the first to admit it usually takes a lot of considered, advanced planning and the spontaneity of impulsive travel is not usually a luxury I can incorporate into my routine.

vintage cars El Capitolio Havana

El Capitolio, Havana

But just a couple of months ago, this was exactly what happened. Why waste annual leave I once asked myself? It seems one wastes it when one’s husband doesn’t confirm his own leave till the last minute. When Pumpkin left me with no more than a fortnight’s notice to plan a summer break, I was determined to become the travel genie, who could pull out a holiday from her shiny lamp, even when the clock was against her.

A Havana and Varadero City & Beach Break

One country that had been hovering in our minds for some time had been Cuba. We knew it would be unlike anywhere else we had been and would allow us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in both the culture of Havana as well as some relaxation on the white talcum powder-like, coastal stretches of the Carribean sea. And whilst it’s not exactly short-haul from Europe, a direct nine hour flight certainly implied a straightforward journey.Che Guevara photo Revolution Museum Havana Cuba

My experience with The Holiday Place

With only a fortnight to go and no time to research it, how on earth was I going to pull this together in time without blowing the rest of 2014’s budget? And this was where the mind-reading fairies at The Holiday Place flew daintily into my search engines. With a combination of 7, 10 and 14 day breaks combining both city and beach, their packages included an enormous range of hotels in both Havana and various different beach resorts with some of the best value packages I have seen for long-haul travel. All transfers could be arranged at a small cost and they even arrange visas for Cuba at no additional cost to what would be paid if you arrange it independently.

Piaza Vieja Old Square Havana

The Old Square in Havana

After sifting through hotel reviews to help me make a decision, I selected the perfectly located and well-reviewed Hotel Parque Centrale Havana and the adult-only, former Sandals resort of Royal Hicacos Varadero, I rang The Holiday Place to discuss. Their service was so prompt, efficient and seamless that I managed to book the entire trip during that phone call itself. Cuba has many other beach locations such as Maria La Gorda and Guardalavaca if Varadero does not tickle your fancy.

Hotel Parque Centrale Havana Lobby

Hotel Parque Centrale, Havana

Although the booking process was a breeze, the after-sales service is as much if not more of a test of a company. I’ve unfortunately experienced companies in the past, who have really erred in this respect. When we reached Havana, we were greeted warmly by The Holiday Place staff right at the arrivals gate and given information about a meeting the following morning with the company rep in our hotel.

Royal Hicacos Resort Varadero swimming pool

Royal Hicacos Resort Varadero

That meeting proved to be one of the most useful twenty minutes we could have spent on the trip, helping us to understand currencies, common scams, dress codes, activities to try and those to avoid, language needs etc. Meeting the reps gave us an early insight into just how laid back and fun-loving the Cuban people really are. There are plenty of excursions available to book via The Holiday Place but they don’t hound you with any pressure (the pushy sales tactic is is always a sure-fire way to put me off booking a trip.)

Truthfully, I really didn’t know much about this company until arranging my Cuban summer but after the experience I had with them, I see myself becoming a bit of a frequent flyer to their website, scouting out the best deals for my next exotic break – with destinations everywhere from the Middle East to Mauritius, it’s difficult not to get tempted!

 

Disclaimer: We were given two very exciting, complimentary excursions by The Holiday Place (watch this space for more on those!) However, as ever, I remain an opinionated little lady and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own and reflective of my honest impressions and thoughts.