On 1st June 2017 highly-experienced hotelier Xavier Destribats, from Bordeaux, opened Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, which has, despite US feelings towards Cuba, proved highly popular with discerning luxury travellers. It is a new-build, in an 1894-vintage shell, and of the 246 rooms, even a starter room, say #493, offers 40 sq. m of space – love the clear-or-frosted wall separating the bath from bed area, and do not miss the rooftop pool and adjacent bar-restaurant. On a commendable community-spirit note, the hotel’s 400 employees donate 15-litres of blood to local hospitals, every month.
Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana’s owners, Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA, under company Carlos Latuff, are now rolling out the brand in Cayo Guillermo, an island on the north coast with sugar-white sands and transparent waters. Set to open in March, this is also the first non-all-inclusive resort for Cuba. There will be 245 rooms and suites, including six over-water villas and a 200 square meter Presidential Suite. Expect spa offerings, yoga, a proper kids’ club and a strong range of globally inspired restaurants.
Havana also expects the opening of SO/Hotels & Resorts’ SO/Havana Paseo del Prado, General Manager Jean-Philippe Hubau. With 10 floors above street level and sweeping views of the Malecon, Havana’s epic sea wall road, there are 250 rooms, including 36 suites, which are neutral, contemporary and pared down, and blessed with decent technology – a rare thing in Cuba. There’s a small spa with six treatment rooms, and, of course, a great pool. Bringing Cuba in is an aim for the SO brand, so expect DJs and vibrant foyer parties.
On the boutique side of the fence, Hotel Palacio del Cueto on Plaza Vieja from government brand Gaviota Hotels colonial diffusion line, Habaguanex, is now open on one of Old Havana’s most beautiful squares. For years it was just an empty shell behind a Gaudi-esque façade. Now this 1920 former hat factory is back in the game.
On the private side, new openings continue to come on stream. Over in the quieter, leafy district of Vedado, Kerida is a new five-room guesthouse from Alexis and Christa Hernandez, a Cuban-Swiss couple who are professional dancers. Kerida has a modern-colonial look and a handsome roof terrace.
Johnny Considine’s Cuba Private Travel is a Cuban specialist. He is offering seven-person immersion trips for €750, per person, to include transfers, food, entertainment, experiences, private Cuban English-speaking guides, tips, as well as single-room occupancy charges (international flights are not included). The two trips are 1-8 June 2020 and 14-20 September 2020. Both programmes offer:
- 2 Nights Kempinski Havana
- 2 Nights Iberostar Trinidad
- 2 Nights Kempinski Cayo Guillermo
- 1 Night Havana – Iberostar Packard