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We would like to thank our customers for their continued understanding and patience in the events and aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
We are pleased to report that the situation in Cuba continues to improve with many positive developments in repairing infrastructure and tourist facilities.
Yesterday, the causeway connecting the central province of Villa Clara with the popular tourist destination of Cayo Santa Maria reopened with “some limitations”. This is a decisive step in the keys’ rehabilitation process and indicative of the massive progress that is being made in getting tourist hotspots ready for high-season which begins at the end of November.
Reports from our partners in Cuba have been overwhelmingly positive. We have been particularly cheered by Meliá Cuba’s heart-warming #AfterIrmaStories!
We have received an update from our team of reps in Varadero on the state of hotels in the area. Please see the list below for more details:
Starfish Cuatro Palmas is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Blau Varadero is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Iberostar Varadero is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Los Cactus is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Meliá Las Américas is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Meliá Varadero is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Sol Palmeras is 100% functional - Water, electricity, WiFi, bars, swimming pool and restaurants are in full operation.
Paradisus Princesa del Mar is 95% functional - The Royal Service is not yet operating.
Barceló Solymar is at 70% functional - The two swimming pools are working but the bungalow area is still under repair. The beach snack bar was destroyed, this service is being provided in the snack bar of the Arenas Blancas hotel. Two of the four specialised restaurants are open (Mexican and Spanish). All services are fully functioning in the main building.
Iberostar Taínos is 90% functional - The beach bar was destroyed but it is expected to be in open in two weeks.
Royalton Hicacos is 80% functional - The Tex-Mex Restaurant suffered considerable damage but is expected to be open in two weeks. The beach ranch services have been moved to Club Diamond. The General Manager expects the hotel to be fully operational in two weeks.
Paradisus Varadero is currently closed – The hotel suffered considerable damage. It is expected to re-open on the 30th November.
We would like to thank our clients for their continued patience and understanding throughout the events and aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
We are happy to report that clean-up efforts are going smoothly and Cuba is well on its way to a full recovery. Electricity has been restored to 86% of its working capacity and water supply systems have also been largely repaired, with 87% of the aqueduct service restored so far. The island has restored full mobile phone coverage except in the municipality of Calimete.
Cuba’s north coast and keys, home to a number of holiday resorts, sustained the most damage from the storm. The Minister of Tourism has stated that damage to hotel facilities is largely superficial and completely reparable. Tourism is vital to the Cuban economy and the government will ensure that tourist infrastructure is repaired and ready for the coming high season. Even the Jardines del Rey airport, in one of the worst affected areas, is expected to be restored by November.
In Havana, where some buildings close to the sea experienced flooding, hotels are steadily re-opening. The Melía Cohiba, which sits just 50-m from the seafront, resumed operations on Monday with all its rooms and facilities open. Cruise ships carrying tourists from Florida have recommenced ports call at Havana.
Hurricane Irma did not impact Viñales and Trinidad in any serious way.
The vast majority of those travelling to Cuba will not have their holiday impacted by hurricane damage. Any of our clients scheduled to travel to significantly-damaged area will be contacted directly to discuss itinerary options. You can read what areas have been affected on our update from the 13th September.
Many people have been gotten in touch with us, asking how they can help Cuba. The simple answer is to come, enjoy and encourage others to do the same. Cuba has done an incredible job in recovering from the hurricane and its people are as warm and welcoming as ever. The Cuban economy is dependent on tourism and your visit will help strengthen it.
We would like to thank all our customers and staff for their patience, understanding and bravery as we have worked through the disruption caused by Hurricane Irma. The safety of our customers is our first priority and we continue to follow local and government authority advice.
A successful evacuation effort meant we were able to move clients in affected areas out of danger. We offered all clients the option of flying home early, which several opted to do. While none of our clients or staff members were injured by the storm, we appreciate what a distressing and difficult time this must have been for them.
Havana’s José Martí Airport has re-opened but flights from Havana to London have not yet resumed. Our partner airline Virgin Atlantic is allowing customers booked to travel up until the 30th September 2017 to rebook free of charge to a later date. Travel needs to be completed by the 31st October.
Based on the information that we currently have, we do not expect clients travelling in the coming months to have their holiday significantly impacted by the storm. However, some hotels have been closed and there is likely to be road closures which could mean longer travelling times. Should your holiday be affected in any way, we will contact you directly to through your options with you.
Communication channels have been severely impacted by the hurricane and we are still collecting information from our staff on the ground and partners in Cuba. We will keep this page updated and contact our clients directly with information as we receive it.
We will be communicating directly with our customers travelling up to the 30th September. If you are travelling in October, November or December, we will contact you if you are due to travel to an affected area.
No major safety concerns have been issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO Travel to Cuba). Our customer’s safety is of paramount importance - we will never place them in a dangerous situation.
Please see below the latest update from the Cuban Tourist Board, received today:
Operational Airports - Santiago de Cuba (SCU), Manzanillo, Holguín (HOG), Camagüey (CMW) and Cienfuegos (CFGS).
Havana and Varadero International airports are fully operational from today (13 September 2017).
Internal flights from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (SCU) and Havana to Nueva Gerona (GER).
Baracoa, Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma and Holguín tourist resorts are all operational.
Cities in this part of the island suffered minor impact by the hurricane and are clearing the debris. All infrastructure in the cities remains fully operational.
All roads are open and operational.
All hotels in Holguín are fully operational and welcoming clients.
Santa Lucia tourist region is operational with the exception of Caracol which aims to be open by 28th September.
No hotels in the city were affected, all are fully operational.
The city is clear and with full electrical power.
These regions and keys were badly affected by Hurricane Irma. The government is working hard to get them operational in the next couple of months. The current date for this region to be open for business is the 15th November.
All roads in these regions have now been cleared and should be operational very soon.
These regions were not affected by the hurricane and are welcoming visitors. All hotels, roads and electrical power are fully operational.
The town centre of Varadero has been cleared of debris and electrical power should be restored soon.
All roads from Varadero to Havana are open and operational.
The following hotels are closed for repairs and but should open in the near future:
All the marinas in Varadero are open and fully operational.
Authorities are working hard to clear the city of debris. Infrastructure in the city was not damaged by the hurricane. However, streets close to the sea were flooded and some hotels were affected. The following hotels are currently closed:
Other hotels and accommodation in the city remain open and fully operational.
This region was not affected by the hurricane and is welcoming visitors. All hotels, roads and electrical power are fully operational.
Finally, all installations that have required repair work are being subject to a very strict supervision and inspection to guarantee the safety of our visitors.
We will continue to update our timetable for the keys in the north part of the island. They suffered significant damage and the initial estimate is that they will not be ready for our high season in November this year.
Cuba Direct has coped with many challenges over 15 years of welcoming travellers to Cuba, however, nothing compares to a major hurricane.
“We have seen it all, there’s nothing to worry about, you are in good hands” declared Martin Payne, Cuba Direct’s Head of Representation. He was speaking to a crowd of families at Havana’s Iberostar Parque Central Hotel as Hurricane Irma walloped Cuba’s central northern coast with 120 mph (195 km/h) winds. “There’s always a solution, a plan B”, he comforted, “and I will personally make sure this works for all of you.”
Cuba Direct has experienced a variety of challenges in 15 years of business, but nothing compares to a major hurricane. The uncertainty caused by a natural disaster of this scale has been stressful for our clients who have been dreaming about their holiday for months, or even years, and may be suddenly forced to change plans. “We are responsible for every step of their journey and for every memory they take back home”, states Martin.
We cannot thank enough the 44 clients who travelled with us during the past week. Some opted to leave Cuba early, others arrived as planned and some had to extend their trip because they could not travel home during the storm. All were incredibly brave, patient and understanding.
Eileen Santana, a Cuba Direct representative in Havana – her family evacuated but still assisting our guests – smiles as she remembers the story of the Birminghams, a couple who helped drain their Cienfuegos “casa particular” with buckets. “They were marvellous, fantastic people, very understanding. They even thanked us for the opportunity to experience such a storm with Cuba Direct!”
Raúl González, our Destination Manager, highlights how the entire team worked together to ensure three things: keep all our clients safe, update the information required to change itineraries and assist everyone with real solutions and advice.
“We specialise in tailor-made itineraries so our clients are often spread out in many different destinations”, explains Raúl. “When we first became aware of the threat that the hurricane represented to the entire island, we were handling 22 clients in Havana, Viñales, Varadero and Cayo Coco. This made evacuation difficult but we managed to bring everyone to Havana at short notice and sent 12 of them back home on Thursday 7th September. On that very same flight, another 13 clients arrived so we ended up with 33 guests during the storm.”
“Our biggest challenge was uncertainty regarding service availability in the places our clients were staying in or arriving at”, he describes. “Most cities were without electricity, gas or running water, so it was very difficult to cope with basic demands. We couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for our strong relationships with our partners here in Cuba, such as Cubanacán and Iberostar. They responded to our reallocations in Trinidad immediately”.
As Hurricane Irma made its way to Florida, USA, three girls in the lobby of Iberostar Parque Central asked Martin about places to go dancing at night as, with the airport closed, they had two extra days in Havana. “Now we have seen it all”, he mocks.
We are working full speed towards recovery, helping to clear fallen trees and branches within the capital and staying up to date with the reopening of hotels in Varadero and the keys. Havana, Viñales, Trinidad, Holguín and most of the other destinations are fully operational and welcoming visitors already.
Irma’s devastating effects will fade sooner rather than later, with the extraordinary effort of the Cuban people and its authorities. However, it will also become a memorable story for those who experienced it and were able to witness Cuba’s resilient and joyful spirit in the face of massive challenges.